Milwaukee/NARI Members Cover the Angles of Mantels and Moldings

Nov. 16, 2009

Even a plain mantel or subtle molding adds distinction and character to a room, becoming an interior focal point. When a house is sold, these features often become selling points that are showcased in photographs.


Styles and materials for molding and mantels are virtually infinite, whether painted or wood-grained, ornate or minimalist, antique or modern, rustic or sleek. Petite mantel choices can be as effective as a towering style. Stone and plaster are timeless materials for mantels. Wood and stone can be combined, as in a cherry mantel with a contrasting white marble top.


Members of the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council, Inc., the area’s leading home improvement and remodeling industry resource for more than 48 years, offer tips for homeowners selecting mantels and moldings.


Pat Holewinski, manager at Arrow Millwork Co., Inc. of Greendale, has seen a recent industry shift in customers seeking more unusual, creative, and individual molding effects. “In the last seven years, the business has changed,” he notes. “It’s all to the taste of the customer now. They put their own stamp on what they’re doing. They’re willing to go the extra step to find just the right one—it’s like buying drapes. It’s become so specialized.”


Homeowners have gained knowledge through access to the Internet, home improvement shows, magazines, and TV shows, he observes. “They don’t want the standard 2½-inch casing anymore. They use 3½-inch casing with more detail. It becomes something special that they have in their house. People look at woodwork more now, and the cost of moldings is more affordable as an item than a lot of elements.”


Mentioning local trends, Holewinski says a popular choice is MDF (medium-density fiber board) paint-grade molding, in a wide range of styles. It costs less than wood. He adds that 80 percent of all molding is left unpainted while the remainder gets a color coat.


His advice to consumers: Start with basics. “We work in steps. It’s a process,” Holewinski observes. “We discuss their tastes to find out if they like modern, for example, or prefer something more decorative. There are many, many more choices available now to homeowners.”


Holewinski notes that the current remodeling demand for molding is greater than for new construction.


Mantel Choices

Jim Wirtz, president of Jim Wirtz's Woodworks, Inc. in Mukwonago, points out that many homeowners want to add a new mantel and moldings while making them look original to the house’s era. Others aim to restore mantels and moldings to rooms from which they were removed, or simply to enhance the beauty of an existing room.


Trends in Milwaukee include shelf-type mantels, suitable for holding family memorabilia or holiday centerpieces. Wirtz says oak is very popular in Milwaukee, both in original and added features. “In remodeling, you follow suit with what is there. You pick up features in the house and try to duplicate them as much as possible,” he notes.


For fireplace surrounds, he sees many customers choosing stone, such as granite or marble horizontal hearths with vertical stone tiles to match. “Granite is probably at its peak right now as far as popularity,” he observes.


Cheri Ware, co-owner of Ware Design LLC in Delafield, points out, “From a price point of view, cast stone also is a good option. You get the stone look without the expense.” Cast stone is made out of resin or a resin/stone particle mix.


Decorating Principles

Ware states, from a design standpoint, settling on a mantel or molding is like accessorizing clothing. “It’s like choosing jewelry for a really nice dress. When choosing a mantel, the proportion and scale of the architecture of the room matter. Before I counsel clients about materials, we have to decide on the size. Mantels and trim have to be chosen in context to window and ceiling heights,” Ware says.


She explains, “When it comes to the materials, it again is in conjunction stylistically with what’s going on with the floor. Is it carpeted, or wood, or does it have an area rug? We take into account what style the house is, and what kind of furniture is in the room. Then the world’s your oyster, because within each style, there are so many possibilities.”


The Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council was chartered in July 1961, as a Chapter of the National Home Improvement Council. In May of 1982, the National Home Improvement Council merged with the National Remodelers Association to form NARI – the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.


The Council’s goals of encouraging ethical conduct, professionalism, and sound business practices in the remodeling industry have led to the remodeling industry’s growth and made NARI a recognized authority in that industry. With over 900 members, the Milwaukee Chapter is the nation’s largest.


For more information or to receive a free copy of an annual membership roster listing all members alphabetically and by category, and the booklet, “Milwaukee/NARI's Remodeling Guide,” call (414) 771-4071 or visit the Council’s Web site at




Caption for Attached Photo: Three dimensionally carved lions in white oak anchor this mantel by Jim Wirtz’s Woodworks, Inc. The mantel stands 62 inches high and seven feet wide.

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