Chair Rail Ideas for the Living Room

Think chair rails are only for the dining room? Think again! Despite the name, a chair rail isn’t always used to protect the walls from the backs of dining chairs. Historically, chair rails were used to divide walls into more visually pleasing proportions. And indeed today chair rails can still be deployed to trick the eye, lowering a very tall ceiling or making a smaller room seem taller by placing the molding higher on the wall. They can also provide a useful separation between different colors and textures.

The term “chair rail” was actually first used by the Shakers, who nailed pegs onto a rail in the middle of a wall to hang chairs on in order to make cleaning and sweeping easier. How practical! Nowadays, most people don’t hang their furniture on the wall, but chair rails remain an excellent way to add character and interest to otherwise basic rooms. Bedrooms, dens, playrooms, and offices are all great spaces for a chair rail.

Check out the following molding ideas for a living room to get tips on how to introduce a chair rail into your home.

Crisp Divisioncrisp division

The crisp white chair rail and white paint underneath keep this living room fresh while the grasscloth above adds another element of texture.

Rich Purplerich purple

Punchy purple doesn’t take over this living room when a chair rail molding is used to divide the walls.

Sophisticated Basementsophisticated basement

In this small family room, a simple chair rail and complimentary paint colors add a touch of sophistication and coziness to the space.

Traditional Hometraditional home

A bright and vibrant wallpaper would overwhelm this sitting area if it covered the entire wall, but adding a chair rail molding and paneling keeps the room light and fresh.


A double chair rail creates a fun border in the playroom! Chalk paint, corkboards, and clips encourage creativity, and maybe even some organization, too.


In open concept homes, the chair rail and wainscoting help to distinguish the living room from the adjoining kitchen space.


Painting the chair rail the same dark gray as the crown molding, window casements, and baseboards highlights the classic architectural features in this stately home office against the contrasting light gray walls.


Coastal vibes and modern design intersect in this Rhode Island hotel. Two chair rail moldings are placed at even intervals to break up the chunky texture of the wallpaper.

Elegant Living Roomelegant living room

Keep things subtle by painting your chair rail and other moldings in a monochromatic color scheme. The molding provides barely-there interest while letting larger pieces, such as the mirror and chandelier shine.

Picture Railpicture rail

A close relative to the chair rail, the picture rail, is placed higher on the wall and was traditionally used to hang pictures from. This type of placement can either extend the bottom color higher on the wall or allow for just a small pop of color above.

Eclectic Styleeclectic style

Painted an unexpected color, like this gray, this chair rail idea retains its traditional leanings, especially with the fireplace and spool chairs, but achieves a more modern feel.

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