What Are the Advantages of a Plaster Cornice?

Gregory Hanson

Cornices made of plaster have both practical and aesthetic benefits. Plaster is a very durable and versatile construction material, and is well-suited to custom work in odd spaces and angles. The installation of plaster requires some hand work, but modern techniques make the process much less labor-intensive and much less expensive than it was in the past. All types of coving, including cornices, are useful for ornamenting rooms and buildings. A plaster cornice is particularly appropriate when restoring an older building or when mimicking an antique architectural style.

Plaster cornices began to fall out of fashion with the rise of the Bauhaus movement and similar trends.
Plaster cornices began to fall out of fashion with the rise of the Bauhaus movement and similar trends.

Plaster has much to recommend it as a construction material. It is sturdy and tends to dampen noise. It is also useful in rooms with peculiar dimensions, as plasterwork is normally done by hand and can be more easily adapted to a particular space. A plaster cornice shares these advantages and is a natural choice in a room where the walls are finished in plaster.

Installation of plaster remains the province of skilled professionals but is less time-consuming than it once was. Templates for common types of cornices and other decorative feature are widely available. These foam templates can be quickly and securely glued in place, and then covered with a thin top coat of plaster in much less time than it would once have taken to build an entire section of plaster cornice. More elaborate and decorative varieties of plaster cornice can be purchased in pre-fabricated sections, or assembled quickly from factory-made component pieces.

One of the primary uses of coving is to tie together the walls and ceiling of a given room. Any variety of molding or cornice can serve this function, but there are situations in which a plaster cornice is a particularly good choice. A room finished in plaster is a particularly good candidate for a cornice made of the same material in order to preserve a single style throughout the room.

Designers working to restore or replicate the look of older buildings are well-advised to think of plaster cornices. Such ornamentation was widely used in all types of construction in the Western world throughout much of modern history. It only began to fall out of fashion with the rise of the Bauhaus movement and similar trends toward simple and utilitarian design.

Restoration of buildings from the Victorian or Edwardian eras is often best accomplished through the use of period-appropriate materials, including plaster cornices. Modern structures seeking to imitate those styles will likely also employ this type of cornice. Faster modern techniques may be used in construction, but the finished product should be indistinguishable.

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