What is a Picture Rail?

A molding on a wall from which pictures are hung.


A picture rail is a type of molding that is installed along the wall, typically near the ceiling, from which pictures, artwork, and decorative items can be hung without the necessity of nailing or drilling into the wall itself. This architectural feature allows for a flexible and damage-free way to display items and is especially useful in spaces where the wall compositions or design preferences frequently change.

Picture rails are often found in historical homes and can be a detail that adds to the character and aesthetic appeal of a space. They can be made from various materials such as wood or plaster and may feature decorative elements, depending on the design style of the home.

In addition to serving a functional purpose, picture rails can also act as a decorative element, adding another layer of detail to a room's design. They can be painted to match or contrast the wall color, highlighting them as a feature within the space. When styled thoughtfully, picture rails can harmonize with other decorative elements within a room, such as crown molding, baseboards, and window frames, creating a cohesive interior design.


In a Victorian-style living room, a wooden picture rail painted in a contrasting color to the wall might be used to display a collection of framed oil paintings, enhancing the historical theme of the decor. In a more modern setting, a minimalist picture rail could be utilized in a gallery wall arrangement, showcasing a variety of art prints and photographs in a sleek, contemporary environment.


  • Can picture rails be installed in any room?

    Yes, picture rails can be installed in any room. They are particularly popular in living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms, but can also be installed in hallways, offices, and even bathrooms, depending on the design and functional needs of the space.

  • Are picture rails only suitable for traditional or historical homes?

    No, while picture rails are often associated with historical homes, they can be designed to fit into any interior style, from traditional to modern. The key is to select a profile, material, and color that complements the overall design of the space.

  • How are items hung from a picture rail?

    Items are hung from a picture rail using picture hooks or cords that attach to the rail. These hooks or cords can then be fitted with wires or strings that connect to the picture frames, allowing for easy adjustment and placement of the artwork or decorative items.

Practical Application

When incorporating a picture rail into your design, consider the proportion and color to ensure it complements the room's overall aesthetic. Use adjustable hooks and cords for versatility in displaying artworks, and experiment with different heights and groupings to create a visually appealing display. For a unified look, coordinate the style of the picture rail with other moldings in the room, such as crown molding and baseboards.