22nd October 2018

The History of Skirting Boards

Most people don’t think twice when seeing skirting boards in homes and buildings today, as they’re perceived as a standard part of a room’s interior design. However, skirting boards actually have a fascinating history behind them, from their origins many centuries ago up to the modern era where we now have an expansive range of designs and styles available.

Origins in the Victorian era

Skirting boards are often considered to have their origins back in the 1800’s during the Victorian era, as this was when the first evidence of their usages became evident. In these times, it was a common sight to have homes embellished with skirting boards, dado rails, picture rails as well as ornate fixings and architraves. It’s been skirting boards, however, that have truly stood the test of time and remain as a core component in most interiors today.

Back then, skirting boards were primarily used for their functional benefits within a room. Generally constructed from timber, they provided an effective protective barrier to reduce risk of damage from furniture or other objects bumping up against the walls (also known as ‘kick boards’ at the time for obvious reasons). Additionally, damp proof work had not yet been established so skirting boards effectively inhibited any rising damp on the walls.

Victorian homes also faced heating challenges, since many were constructed from bricks and radiators were not yet commonplace. Skirting boards helped to add extra insulation to keep homes warmer and reduce draughts. Another side effect of having brick homes was that plaster finishings were needed at the bases of walls. These were often messy finishes and were susceptible to breakages and cracks since the techniques being used were not yet as refined as they are today. Skirting boards helped to cover up this unsightly plaster work, while adding extra stability to the bases of walls.

Even in these early days of skirting boards’ history, they had an aesthetic aspect to them. Larger, bolder skirting boards (sometimes 30cm or more in height) were often fitted in luxury homes of affluent individuals and families who could afford them. These were seen as a measure of your wealth and status, making high-ceiling rooms look even more expansive. Some homeowners would only install ornate mouldings in the common areas of their homes where guests would frequent to give the illusion of more wealth than they had. In some heritage homes, you can still see these giant skirting boards preserved from their original state.

Evolving to the modern age

During the 20th century, a shift in the purpose of skirting boards began to emerge. New inventions, practices and techniques came to light which helped make the edges of walls tidier, more sturdy, and less unsightly. Skirting boards were no longer regularly needed for insulation, or for damp proofing. Instead, they began being valued more for their style and appearance, because of this reduced practical need for them in many cases.

That’s what led to today’s modern age, where skirting boards are used for both functional and aesthetic purposes – to hide any fixtures when applicable, as well as to add a dash of style or flair to a room, or enhance the overall design of a space. They’re now available in broad array of sizes, profiles and designs, either being very minimalist to ornate and intricate or extravagant. Modern skirting profiles now offer endless choices for interior designers, architects and general home owners, from two-toned looks, to modern shadowline designs, to a broad range of colours and profile styles.

Skirting boards, architraves and decorative mouldings are sure to continue to stand the test of time, and for many years to come they’ll definitely be an integral part of the design of rooms across the globe for adding detail and character to an interior.