There are a zillion ways to add character to a plain apartment, but one of the simplest and most transformative has to be molding. We’re talking crown molding at the top of the wall, baseboards at the foot, or both. It might seem like you’ll need an architect to orchestrate such a thing, but not really—this is the kind of seems-complex DIY that actually isn’t at all for a simple room. (Exception: If you’ve got a totally wacky-shaped room or tons of protruding corners, you should probably call a contractor!) Your local big-box hardware store carries molding in all different styles, and they’ll cut it down for you to the exact sizes you need. Installing it is as simple as buying a box of itty-bitty finishing nails and hammering in the molding. Seriously, you do not even need a nail gun. Here’s the whole step-by-step for how to install baseboards and crown molding—note that most of the work happens in the planning phase. The actual install takes no time!
Before you head to Home Depot, take a good long look at your room. Does it beg for a thin, minimal molding or something a bit more ornate? (We prefer the former!) Cove molding, for example, has a flat top edge and a concave slope to it—great for defining ceiling transitions without getting too frilly. And you can totally add baseboards without bothering with crown, by the way. We like the right-angled option that’s literally just thin pieces of wood, or the same thing with a really clean, simple curvature at the top.
If your ceilings are tall, feel free to make the moldings tall, but otherwise, the standard three-to-five-inch-tall pieces should do the trick.
Head into the soon-to-be-transformed room with a pencil, paper, a tape measure, and a camera. Jot down all the lengths of molding you’ll need—maybe that’s just four long pieces, one for every wall, or more like six because you’ve got a few doors in the room. Draw a little diagram as well. Where two walls meet, the molding has to be cut at a 45-degree angle so the pieces seamlessly connect—like this! or this!—but where the molding butts up against a door you might not need to bother. No need to worry about that too much yet. Your friends at the hardware store can help you interpret as much from the floor plan you just drew, and all the photos of the room you’re going to take—did you hear that? Take so many pics!
Make a list of all the lengths you need, and head to the store.
Locate your preferred molding style in the store, getting an employee involved if you aren’t sure which finish or type you want. Some moldings will come pre-primed so you can paint them easily, while others aren’t—better if you’re just going to stain them instead. Once you know the product, have them cut all the lengths you need, making sure they bevel the edges that will end up in the corners of the room to 45 degrees.
Need finishing nails? Paint? Make your rounds at the hardware store and then head home.
The most satisfying part of this whole exercise awaits! (Spoiler, this is also the five-minute part.) Lean all the pieces of molding in their designated positions (or on the floor underneath their designated positions if you’re doing crown). One at a time, hold them up against the wall and nail them in using a hammer and finishing nails. Crown molding should be nailed into the studs, but for baseboards it’s probably okay to go rogue since you’ve got gravity on your side and all. If the corner pieces seem like they’ll have a teeny gap between them, add a dab of wood glue before you hammer them in.
How satisfying is that?! Paint or stain them to suit your color scheme, then marvel at the fact that you’re basically an architect.