Design Ideas

There’s a must stop Sally and I make every Christmas when we visit her mother and step-dad. It’s South Front Architectural Antiques, We’re always filled with excitement and anticipation because we never know what we will find or discover. This year did not disappoint.

Adventure at South Front Architectural Antiques; Wilson Kelsey Design

At about 18″ in diameter, I saw this copper pot as a planter in an urban loft.

copper pot; Wilson Kelsey Design

If I had been working on a Federal Period renovation and needed a mantel, I would have scooped this up in a hurry. Totally pristine!

Period Mantel; Wilson Kelsey Design

This 5′ x 7′ gilt mirror probably isn’t the right piece for over the mantel.  But I could see it standing on the floor in the right foyer or in an edgy living room.

Large Gilt Mirror; Wilson Kelsey Design

We found this delicately scaled arm chair tucked in a corner of the second floor. All it needs is a small Mid Century Modern glass top coffee table beside it. (I wanted to bring the chair home even though we have no room for it.)

small arm chair; Wilson Kelsey Design

But the chair I truly lusted for was this one. This Art Nouveau chair, in need of full restoration, could be the centerpiece of any room. (I might have to commission a second one.)

Art Nouveau Chair; Wilson Kelsey Design

Art Nouveau Chair; Wilson Kelsey Design

Art Noveau Chair; Wilson Kelsey Design

The old foundry molds were incredible. Very West Elm… The large panel-like mold was for the front of a boiler or something of that sort. I find myself wondering how I could incorporate a fireplace into it as part of a feature wall.

Foundry Patterns; Wilson Kelsey Design

I can see the potential with the collage on the wall behind for one of two applications. Very stark modern where the patterns become very sculptural or in the quintessential brick and beam warehouse/loft.

Foundry Patterns; Wilson Kelsey Design

And last but not least, this corner bench. I’d love to be able to incorporate it into a breakfast nook in a Belgian Style inspired kitchen.

Corner bench seat; Wilson Kelsey Design

I guess Sally and I are going to have to find a few good projects in order to put these finds to good use!


John Kelsey, Wilson Kelsey Design

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Recently, Sally and I have had the opportunity to work on a project that took several years to complete which gave us great experience developing pricing/estimates for multiple French architectural trim options comparing wood to plaster matching the wood profiles to “can you be clever?” A great example is the crown molding in the project. The following examples are from the living room/dining room, foyer, family room and master bed room.

Let’s start with several images of crown molding from our Paris trip we showed the client to which they said, “Yes, I love it!”

Crown with decorative onlay in an Haussmann Style apartment.

crown with decorative onlay; Wilson Kelsey Design

Even with many layers of paint, the lamb’s tongue shines thru.

Decorative crown; WIlson Kelsey Design

French cove moldings. This is in an apartment we visited on the Left Bank.

Left Bank Apartment; Wilson Kelsey Design

In the Grange showroom on the Right Bank. Beginning to see similarities?

Left Bank French cove molding; Wilson Kelsey Design

The roots of these coves? Let’s look at Chateau Vaux Le Vicomte, built in the mid 1600’s.

Vaux le Vicomte Cove; Wilson Kelsey Design

Vaux Le Vicomte Crown; Wilson Kelsey Design

Jumping into the time machine, we arrive back at our job site  and the cost comparisons in which we were involved.

In the living room/dining room and master bedroom, we selected a two piece White River crown with decorative onlay from their Mon Reale Collection. Starting with the Master Bedroom. (Please excuse the photographs. They were taken during construction)

French Style master bedroom; Wilson Kelsey Design

And the living room.

crown during construction; Wilson Kelsey Design

Almost done… Awaiting delivery of antique sconces from Trianon Antiques. Dining room is to the left, same crown.

Living room crown; Wilson Kelsey Design

As a two part molding for White River molding the installed price was about $45/lineal foot. In plaster, the price was about 3.5 times as much per lineal foot. As an aside, the gas fire places in the master bedroom and living room are from Town and Country. Wonderfully engineered “frameless” design, they generate great flames with minimal heat output. The master bedroom mantel is Francois & Co. The living room is from Chesneys. Both have fab customer service, engineers and shop drawings. The floor is a premium grade 7″ walnut plank floor.

In the foyer, a large 4 piece cove molding was created from White River trim to enhance the height of the room.

French style foyer crown, Wilson Kelsey Design

A close up detail…

French style foyer crown detail; Wilson Kelsey Design

This cost about $65/lineal foot installed. In plaster, we were looking at costs of three times as much.

The family room was much less formal and less costly. Looks remarkably similar to the Grange showroom crown…

family room crown; Wilson Kelsey Design

It is a three piece molding made from Forester Molding, installing at just under $20 per lineal foot.  For comparison in plaster the molding cost about three times as much.

Then there were the “can you be clever” rooms – the children’s rooms. There we were able to keep the installed cost down to under $15/lineal foot by using Forester trim. Simple crown and a small piece of applied trim a few inches below the crown. The client wanted the second piece of trim on the wall so that the overall effect would appear larger.

two piece crown; Wilson Kelsey Design

By way of contrast, we recently designed a crown on another project using separate pieces of trim in which the second piece of trim was applied to the ceiling. The effect being the crown reaches our on to the ceiling. Much more if a cove effect, without the expense of a true cove. Far more effect in my opinion.

ceiling inside corner, wilson kelsey design

ceiling outside corner, wilson kelsey design

Over the past 12 months, Sally and I have learned it is possible to create delightful French style crown molding across a broad range of price points.  It’s a very satisfying feeling.


John Kelsey, Wilson Kelsey Design

Every home has a story to tell. We’d love to help you tell yours. Please contact us here.

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Last spring, Sally and I prepared and video taped a 90 minute presentation about French Style based on our trips to Paris that we presented as part of Boston Design Week. The premise was to share our knowledge and what we have learned about how to create French Style in Your Home. The presentation was broken down into 4 parts.

1. Differentiating French from English Influence

2. Architectural Elements of French Style.

3. Decorative French Style: Room by Room

4. Modern Examples of French Style

In Differentiating French from English Influence, Sally and I illustrate how different stylistically the United States was from the French during the late 18th/early 19th centuries due to our English influence and heritage.

First, the French are sexy.

Sexy French Style

While we’re reserved, stoic. (Especially we New Englanders.)

English stoic

French food has been turned into a high art form.

French food

While our Colonial/Puritan heritage tells us food is fuel.

Colonial food

French interiors are dramatic.

french interior; photo by Wilson Kelsey Design

Compared to our Colonial Period interiors.

colonial interior

Clearly, our English heritage sent us down a different fork in the road. This will become more evident in this video and those that follow.

Who knows what would have happened if the outcome of the French and Indian War had been different? We might be speaking French!



 Part 2 explores the architectural building blocks of creating French Style in your home.


John Kelsey, Wilson Kelsey Design

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