According to my daughter a “Marmite” feature is either something you love or hate. Never can this be truer than with corner and skirting blocks
Yet, surprisingly over the last few months here at Period Mouldings we seem to have been more actively involved in a number of Period homes where people have been both considering or even choosing to use mouldings such as corner blocks and skirting blocks to accentuate their lobby and staircase area.
With this “micro trend” on the rise I felt inclined to search out the origins of these features and establish why they have not made it through unscathed to our everyday life and homes today. As is usually the case when investigating period wood mouldings – it sounds easier that it is.
Like many features that are involved in the entablature, column and pedestal they owe their origins to Ancient Greek architecture. As you can see in the diagram below the skirting blocks are the modern equivalent of the plinth and the corner block are derived from the capital providing a finishing design to the column section.
However, even given these illustrious origins our purpose in this blog is to understand why corner and skirting block are still relevant to today’s buildings?
The stereotypical Corner blocks we see today are often overtly ornate and are in fact a “chasm” away from their origins where they were used to increase the efficiency of building wood casings and to avoid highly precise mitre work.
They went on to be adopted by the Georgians and gained prominence in the more public rooms but as we at Period Mouldings have undertaken work across the UK we have seen examples of these being used elsewhere in the house, including libraries, study’s and gentlemen’s dressing rooms. The examples that are most easily recognizable are similar to those detailed above at one of client’s premises where craftsmen and designers tended to us reeded architraves with a variety of patterned corner blocks. Yet we have seen also seen them used in Victorian and Edwardian houses all be they more utilitarian rather than any ornate carving and tending to be outside of the larger conurbations. Perhaps this is a matter of circumstance as the changing patterns of architecture took time to permeate from the large conurbations to the rest of the UK
When it come to the “bling” factor of course the corner block can shake off it mantle as a humble wallflower. Here the most ornate examples are an antithesis of power and money and reflected often “new moneys” first foray into personalised house building. In our case the most ornate examples we have had to create ones were undertaken for a Yoga room and for a formal dining room.
The Yoga room combined carved Yorkshire roses aside a column to provide the desired prestigious effect. The result was were able to provide the required ambience by selecting one of our standard Victorian moulds to which we added blocks that alongside the carvings formed classic frames around floor to ceiling mirrors.
While the entertaining room was completely different it was a more decadent design that was from the Victorian era and used our Ellington architraves with a square block that had intricate detailing that was hand carved.(See picture above) A large space that formally seated over 20 people it had the scope to carry the design and alongside the 450mm stepped skirting board restored a room to its former glory and offered great entertainment space for a London home.
Skirting blocks are also known as “plinth blocks” and “base boards” and are instantly recognisable when used with corner blocks.
Again their origins are from the base of the Greek column but they seem to have fared better in being used in modern buildings than there corner block counterparts.
They are readily seen throughout the Victorian and Edwardian times and although there usage declined there are still numerous of examples that occur sporadically in the Art Deco period in more public buildings like theatres.
Their purpose although simple was to joint the architrave and skirting board together can have a dramatic impact as they add gravitas to the door surround.
Yet they are often neglected and ignored even though today they can have a more practical approach in dealing with the rigours of modern life. Anyone who has the combination of children and corner blocks will spout there virtues as they protect the architrave and the skirting from the everyday knocks caused by children.
They can also be used in a modern context to solve a problem of how to connect the old with the new. In a recent project in Hampstead where a client was extending a Victorian town house with a kitchen garden room, the dilemma was how to match the old skirting with the new in terms of style and height. The answer lay in the usage of corner blocks to form a “bridge” between the two. This meant that a height of 220mm (in the old house) could be merged into a height of 170mm (in the extension) seamlessly at the point of the entrance to the kitchen area.
So why do these items appear on an irregular basis in modern homes?
This is a question that is difficult to answer.
Perhaps it is because they have a “Downton Abbey” effect in that they are seen as being part of a period drama or perhaps we all now want cleaner lines. However, for my part I am enthused by this “micro trend” and hope with a bit of “digital fuel” we can turn it into a “macro trend”.
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Or if you need some help with these items or other wood mouldings don’t hesitate to contact us at
email@example.com or give us a call on 0845 519 1554.