Picture rails are a traditional feature of a home most commonly found in the Victorian era. They are usually a strip of wood – most often Pine, Sapele, Tulipwood or Oak – which is attached to the wall of a room in a horizontal position. Usually the design would match that of architrave, ceiling moulding or a dado rail in the same room. The picture rail would usually be placed at a height similar to the top of the windows, but that can vary.

Today, picture rails are often retained in a traditional home and utilised for their primary purpose, for hanging pictures from. But there are a number of variants to this idea, which can be used to modernise the picture rail concept and help to maximise the appearance of this attractive feature, or make the most practical use of it.

Our range of expertly designed and styled picture rails can be fitted in a room where there is a suitable height and wall space available, so it doesn’t look too cluttered. And in terms of contemporary ideas you can choose from:

  • Hanging pictures: Okay, this is maybe not the most leftfield of suggestions, but you can be creative in how these are hung, ie. in a uniform pattern or in a sequence of different-sized frames. You can also use different materials to hang your pictures, such as chain, thread and even a rustic rope look creating a more modern appeal.
  • Propping pictures: If you have a deeper rail or one with a groove in it, then you can use the rail for propping or stacking picture frames on, rather than hanging them. This typically works better if the rail is lower down the wall, and of course there has to be sufficient ‘ledge’ to prop the frame up safely, but this can be an arresting way to utilise the rail a little differently.
  • Hanging artefacts: The concept of the picture rail extends itself to hanging almost anything from it, so as well as pictures, you can utilise your interior design skills and hang any kind of decorative items such as shells, glassware or jewellery.
  • Paint them: Even if you decide not to use a picture rail for its primary purpose, it can still become a statement feature of the room. You can paint it in a contrasting colour to your walls, but one which matches your architrave, skirting boards or ceiling moulding. Or you can use it to ‘frame’ a colour. So the wall could be white above the picture rail but a different colour below it until you come to the skirting board, which is white again. Or the rail can act as a dividing line between two colours.
  • A hook for shelving: By its very design, if you can fix a hook to a picture rail then you can use the hook for other things. A set of small shelves can be hooked onto the rail, for example, and on there you can store pot plants, flowers, stand-up photo frames or any kind of decorative ornament.

So there are plenty of innovative ways you can utilise a picture rail before considering its main design purpose, and as long as the picture rail design matches other elements of the room, this could be the contemporary design idea your home has been looking for.

Take a look at our extensive range of traditional wood picture rails.

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