5 Paint Ideas for Chair Rails That Will Take This Feature From Ordinary to Inspiring

Want to elevate the look of your chair rails? These clever paint ideas will help you enhance this decorative element

A living room with a painted chair rail and wallpaper
(Image credit: Marie Flanigan Interiors)

Chair rails or dado rails are moldings that run horizontally along the walls. While centuries ago these were designed as a functional element to protect walls from potential damage by chairs, today these tend to be purely decorative additions, used to give depth and character to a space. But when painted, or used in conjunction with other wall treatments, these can add endless charm and appeal to homes.

We found some of the best paint ideas for walls that include chair rails to inspire you to either install your own, or upgrade the ones you already have.

1. Paint the chair rail a stand out tone

A living-cum-dining room with a blue painted chair rail

(Image credit: Filippo Tommasoli. Studio credit Olbos Studio)

For a statement look, consider painting the chair rail a bold color, while leaving the walls neutral. This will create a major moment as otherwise, this simple architectural trim would have been missed. Plus, many colors go with blue, which means your interior won't feel restricted.

'The elegant blue of the chair rails wraps around the whole Parlor level holding together the colorful accents and toning down the light to guarantee a feeling of calmness,' says Giorgia Cedro, founder of Olbos Studio. 'It injects a palette in the dining space where the color tones of the textiles and the geometries of the chandelier are in dialogue with the original painting by the client, Jenny Chow, entitled Party of Six.'

2. Pair a painted chair rail with wallpaper

A living room with a painted chair rail and wallpaper

(Image credit: Marie Flanigan Interiors)

Make any room feel like its own unique space with the help of ornamental molding and patterned wallpaper. To balance the busy living room wallpaper pattern, the chair rail and door frames flaunt a cool shade of grey.

'Incorporating a chair rail can be a gorgeous way to add layers, texture, and color into a room,' says Marie Flanigan, founder of Marie Flanigan Interiors. 'For this space, it was imperative to balance the landscape with additional visual interest so that the room felt light and open despite using lots of color saturation throughout. When thoughtfully painted to complement the hues within the landscape, the chair rail becomes a seamless bridge between the artistry on the walls and the surrounding decor.'

'This intentional pairing not only frames the scenic beauty but also introduces a tailored element, inviting a sense of curated elegance into the room,' says Marie.

3. Consider a two-tone effect

A dado rail with two tones of color above and below

(Image credit: Ferm Living)

If your room still feels too one-dimensional even with the inclusion of chair rails, consider bringing in two tones for creating a layered, cozy look in the room. This paint technique for walls and panelling will create a forever decorated look in your home.

'A good way to create a two-tone effect is by keeping to one main bold color and using another lighter one to keep the environment uncluttered, increasing the calming mood,' says Rachel Brimacombe of MW Architects.

4. Create a color block effect

A dining space with beige arches and blue walls

(Image credit: Bespoke Only)

Color blocking walls and panelling across rooms will create interesting sightlines, and the entire home's scheme will feel fluid yet dramatic.

'We like most hues of green and sometimes, a deep chocolate when creating a palette,' says Melissa Lee, founder & principal at Bespoke Only. 'The traditional blue and cream combo in this colonial home mixed with a touch of Nordic influence results in a spectrum of subdued, hazy hues that reflect softly by the panoramic natural exposure.'

5. Blend it with the walls for a seamless look

A staircase with an all white wall

(Image credit: Paige Rumore Photography. Studio credit Brad Ramsey Interiors)

And finally, for a seamless, calming look, consider painting the chair rails the same tone as the walls. This will give the room a neat and orderly look, and make it appear larger. Consider this look for hallway, study, or staircase walls.

'The main reason we elected to add wall paneling to this stairwell was to break up the height of the two-storey walls,' says Brad Ramsey, founder and principal designer of Brad Ramsey Interiors. 'By taking the panels up to the height of the chair rail in the upstairs hallway, we were able to divide the large wall to give it more visual appeal. In addition, we utilized the panel design to create a hidden door for the coat closet under the stairs. We maintained the character of the entry without having a door breaking up the beauty of the space. A win-win.'

Design Editor

Aditi Sharma Maheshwari is the Design Editor at Livingetc. She is an architecture and design journalist with over 10 years of experience. She's worked at some of the leading media houses in India such as Elle Decor, Houzz and Architectural Digest (Condé Nast). Till recently, she was a freelance writer for publications such as Architectural Digest US, House Beautiful, Stir World, Beautiful Homes India among others. In her spare time, she volunteers at animal shelters and other rescue organizations.