Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Chair Rail Height and Vertical Stripes

A few years ago I had a friend approach me with a design question regarding stripes and chair rails. She was getting ready to redo a bedroom with stripes on the bottom, solid on top and a chair rail in between. "Should I do half and half?" The answer typically is no.

When designing we always want to follow the thirds rule or fifths rule. This means that the bottom stripes should either be 1/3 of the room's height, 2/3, or 2/5 at least to look aesthetically pleasing to the eye. The next concept to consider is the actual function of the chair rail. It isn't just for decoration. Chair rails were added to a wall to prevent pieces of furniture such as a chair from hitting the wall and scuffing it up. Therefore, if you Google "chair rail height" you will immediately find several articles that a standard chair rail is placed between 32"-38". Above is an example of an 8 ft room. I have drawn the chair rail height at 36" which is the most common measurement. It is just about the height to meet the 2/5 rule. It is not only functional but pleasing to the eye.

Another thing to consider before painting stripes on the wall is how much of that bottom 2/5 will be seen? Stripes take a lot of work and time. If your are painting a nursery and most of the walls are lined with furniture it might not be worth your extra time to put up stripes that will mostly be hidden.
The next question is where do you put a chair rail when the wall is sloped. Once again there isn't always a definitive answer. Still, generally it is practiced to use the height at the shortest end of the room when applying the thirds or fifths rule (so long as the difference in height isn't enormous). Above a room that starts at 8 ft. and rises to 12 ft. is shown. The stripes and chair rail are shown at 4 ft. which would be 1/3 if using the highest point in the room, 12 ft. It's not horrendous but still looks just a little bit off.
Here we have the same room only the chair rail and stripes are at the 36" mark or 2/5 if using the lowest point in the room. The difference is only a foot but visually they look completely different.

Sometimes, considering where stripes and chair rails should end is a matter of opinion. My suggestion would be to draw out a couple of options so that you can visually get an idea of what your room will look like. If you don't have a computer program like Photoshop you can easily grab some graph paper, sketch out your room, and draw in a couple of details.


  1. Though I typically don't care for stripes, I did somebody's design with stripes on the bottom of a chair rail in their dining room and it looked pretty decent. I didn't know so much went into creating it! That's why we have experts like you :-)

  2. Thank you for sharing! I gravitate towards stripes, so I have a few rooms that have stipes on the wall. Anyhoo, thank you for sharing this at my Make it Pretty Monday party at The Dedicated House. Hope to see you again on Monday. Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse