The photo above shows two examples of a cornice with brackets and modillions.  (The brackets are the larger elements located at the columns, and the modillions are the smaller elements in between.)  One cornice was probably built in the 1860s, the other was built recently.  The most obvious difference between the two is that the modillions on the historic example are equally spaced whereas they are not on the recently built cornice.  Another detail that is often overlooked by architects and designers these days is the small bed molding that caps the top of both the brackets and the modillions.  This molding is important because it integrates the brackets and modillions with the cornice.  Without this bed molding, the brackets and modillions appear to be randomly selected parts that are tacked onto the cornice; with the bed molding, the brackets and modillions appear to be individual parts of a larger whole.  What would be even worse would be brackets and modillions, each with a different profiled bed molding. 




The photo above shows two different modillion designs that are available from Fypon.  Fypon manufactures urethane moldings and architectural elements that are cast into molds or are extruded, producing elements that when painted are indistinguishable from similar elements made of wood.  The advantage to the urethane products is that they don’t deteriorate or provide a food source for termites, and their manufacture is easier to produce than having a carpenter produce the same elements out of wood. 


One modillion has an integral bed molding, but it is flat on the back; the other one doesn’t have any bed molding.  


If I were to design a modillion cornice, and selected the Fypon modillion without the integral bed molding, I would have to make sure that the contractor knows that the bed molding is an added component, otherwise he would likely want to charge an extra for the inclusion of the bed molding.  Notice also that the same modillion would need to be shimmed at the top so that the when the bed molding is installed, it doesn’t extend below the scalloped profile of the modillion.  That could also be an extra if the contractor is not aware that shimming is needed, and he needs to reinstall the modillions with shimming in addition to the installation of the bed molding.


That being considered, I may decide to design a cornice using the modillion with the integral bed molding.  The problem I am confronted with now is that I must find a matching bed molding to install in between the modillions and cut and cope each one.  What is the possibility of me finding in a Fypon catalogue a bed molding that matches the profile of the bed molding on the modillion?  How would I know that it matched unless it somehow indicated that it matched?  If I was able to find the exact same bed molding profile, I am still dismayed that I have to cut an cope a bunch of small segments for the in between moldings because of the flat cut on the back.


So here’s my suggestion:  Why not have urethane modillions and brackets with integral bed moldings, except that the back of the each could be pre-coped to fit up against a continuous bed molding.  The brackets, modillions and the bed molding by itself could be grouped together so that an architect can select the components and know for certain that they all belong together and will work together.      

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  1. tokyobling says:

    Beautifully written and wonderfully argued. Is it possible that the manufacturers fail in this aspect because of a, being undereducated about the classical orders of architecture and b, not having enough of a demand for whole facade/room solutions? I personally have never seen the point of having the odd classical element in a building, but a lot of people (and your second photograph proves this) seem to be "shooting from the hip" when it comes to the decoration of their buildings. Still, I think I prefer, despite the higher costs, classical architecture that is actually made from the "classical" material, plaster, lath and wood!I have a feeling I will be a regular at this blog.

  2. robin says:

    I feel your pain. And I’m ust a homeowner at Home Depot trying to figure out the difference between a cyma and a a corona and which ones will work together

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