Victorian cornices are handsome additions to formal rooms. Encircling the room at the junction of the wall and ceiling, they add a visual importance to the overall design and decoration of the building.
Unfortunately, it has become the practice to paint cornices all white, by some mistaken thought that this is correct. Research that I have done on several period cornices – ranging in date from 1862 through to paint schemes of the 1970’s on historic cornices – shows that the colours became progressively paler, from the rich tones and hues of the Victorian period, through pale turn of the century colours to finally, the white “paint-it-out-so-we-cannot-see-it” vision of the 1950’s, which sadly visually obliterated the historic cornices that survived, and is a scheme that has been perpetrated by painters and owners everywhere to the present day.
Cornices were meant to harmonize with the overall decorative scheme of the room. Wall colours were complemented, accent colours introduced, colors sympathetic to the wallpaper were used, and – probably – colours of the now-long-disappeared carpet were worked into the color scheme of the cornice. Even touches of gold, to match picture frames and gently reflect the light from the brass chandeliers were used in cornices.
Below are several planned color schemes for cornices from the late Victorian period. They are rich and detailed, and worth inspecting for ideas and suggestions for colors. They must be accompanied by a warning however. No actual cornice that I have researched and microscopically analyzed color chips from has ever achieved the several detailed colours of these recommended schemes.
Actual cornices that I have researched have limited themselves to around three colors, with the main deep cove being the most brilliant color, with coordinating accent colors on both sides. A slim gold fillet below the cornice has been found, with another encircling where the ceiling touches the cornice. The gold fillets were included to ‘finish’ where the wallpaper or ceiling papers touched the cornice.
To research the colors of your cornice, you may use a gentle form of the “Bull’s eye” method of finding your original colors as outlined in the article titled:
Finding the original Colors of my House