Explaining the difference between coving and cornice

Introducing a moulding into your home can provide you with countless benefits. You can greatly enhance the aesthetic quality of the room, as well as provide a number of practical advantages. Before deciding to implement one, however, there is a choice to be made: should you choose a coving, or a cornice? Keep reading to find out.

In simple terms, cornices are ornate, covings are simple. This works as a general rule of thumb, but it is important to note that this rule has its exceptions, so decorative cornices can still be relatively simple. It’s in the detail that the true distinction can be made.

Covings form a steady line along the ceiling with the profile being a very traditional quarter-circle (or “C” shape). Standard covings can come in various sizes, with the most common one being 127 mm (or 5 inches). However, this number does not refer to the height or projection of the coving. Instead, it denotes the imaginary diagonal line from the wall to the ceiling that will be filled by the coving. While covings are mostly simple in design, there are many stylistic options to choose from, so make sure you pick one that suits your needs the best.

Cornices, on the other hand, can be incredibly intricate and complex in many respects. From varying degrees of depth to intricately ornamental carvings, cornices require a lot more thought and effort to be crafted and implemented properly. However, if you manage to choose the ideal design for a specific type of interior, you can greatly enhance the look of your home, leaving a lasting impression on visitors.

So which should I choose?

While it all comes down to personal preference, the fact that cornices are more visually striking comes at the consequence of them being hard to implement. Only a master craftsman can truly ensure that your cornice won’t end up a disaster. Covings, on the other hand, are much simpler to implement, and therefore cheaper, which is why they were an incredibly popular choice in the post-world war period. In the end, it’s entirely up to you – whether you want to spend more on a more elaborate product or spend less on something more simple, there really is no wrong way of going about it.

A handy guide to cornices

When talking about architecture, especially that of the classical and neoclassical movement, cornices are a term that is often brought up. The word itself comes from the Italian term denoting a “ledge”. In English, the word has come to be used purely in the context of architecture, describing a horizontal moulding that can be found at the top of a building or piece of furniture.

How do internal and external cornices differ?

In the context of buildings, when we talk about cornices we mean either the ledge near the top of the building exterior that is usually decorative in some way, or the interior plaster mouldings decorating the walls just below the ceilings in many homes. While the external cornice can serve an important practical purpose as it protects the walls from excessive rain water, interior cornices have a purely aesthetic purpose.

A brief history of cornices

Cornices have been present in our interiors for centuries. They have been decorating walls and pillars ever since the Georgian period. While they started off as pretty simple, they later evolved into various directions. During the Regency period, cornices became more ornamented, while the Victoria period saw a return to older styles like Gothic and Neo-Baroque. The Edwardian period, on the other hand, came back to a more simple approach, utilising minimal ornamentation and clean lines.

Historically, external cornices served an incredibly important purpose by diverting rainwater from the walls. Nowadays, considering architects employ gutters and other, more effective means of doing that, such as eaves and gutters, their purpose is purely aesthetic, much like that of the interior cornice that comes in a myriad of shapes and styles.

Cornice styles through the ages

Throughout the years, the use of the interior cornice has changed in ways both subtle and profound. At the beginning, from as early as the Georgian period, any rooms in the building that had the purpose of receiving and entertaining guests had cornices that were much more decorative and robust, while those used in private chambers were more bare-bones. These designs were heavily inspired by the Classical period, as well as the English Baroque. The most popular design from that period was the egg and dart – a simple design that nonetheless adds an air of sophistication to any interior. The Georgian period also gave us simpler cornices with sheer horizontal lines – a pattern that is universal and ubiquitous, perfectly complimenting even contemporary homes. The Regency period introduced cornices with more intricate designs, such as leaf patterns, while the Victorian era added a whole plethora of diverse designs inspired by the Gothic and other periods that can still be used to great effect today.

Fibrous plaster and you – implementing cornices into your home in the most practical way

Many people still value the aesthetic qualities of cornices and want to have them implemented into their homes. This is, of course, a perfectly valid choice, and we now have the means of creating the most reliable cornices in history. With fibrous plaster, creating strong, eye-catching cornices is easier than ever. It is still only easy by architectural standards, meaning you’ll get your cornice done quickly and professionally – but only if you trust professionals to do it. Do not attempt to install a fibrous plaster cornice in your home by yourself, as it requires years of professional experience to be applied well.

Why plaster

A building material used in architecture for centuries, plaster remains a popular material for interiors to this day. It can serve both a protective and decorative purpose, most often used for mouldings nowadays. Manufactured from dry powder and water, then applied to the desired surface, plaster is easy to apply and mould into any shape you may desire.

The great advantage plaster has over many other decorative materials is the fact that it can be easily worked with any tool. Even sandpaper is enough to achieve the desired shape. At P & J Interiors, we use various metal tools to achieve the fine details that our mouldings are known for. It is also possible to create the decorations in advance and later attach them to the plaster with an adhesive. However, it is important to remember that while plaster is a versatile decorative material that can be moulded to fit any taste, it is not a strong material that can really only be reliably used fir finishing, rather than load bearing.