Chair rails.....in or out? That was a question a reader posed to me awhile back and I honestly think there are so many benefits to this mid-wall molding. Historically, the chair rail was used as a way to protect walls from being damaged when dining room chairs were pulled away from the table (SMART!) Then there's the Shakers, who used chair rails with pegs to hang up chairs for easy sweeping (EVEN SMARTER!) Nowadays, I think it's safe to assume that most chair rail is used for purely decorative purposes.
Not only does the railing add visual interest but it could help break up large, overwhelming sized walls. In addition, I'm a huge fan of old-house charm, so I personally like the classic touch it can bring to a space. There's a variety of ways to make the most of your chair rail, it really all depends on your own personal taste and style of home.
Chair rails with two-colored rooms; one shade on the top and a different shade on the bottom seem to be the most popular. This technique works really well in older homes, because most of the time these aged homes are already sporting fancy-schmancy architectural details (think crown molding and ceiling medallions) and this is a fab way to highlight those features. Of course, modern builds can pull off the two-colored look as well.
Source: House of Quiana
Source: Blesser House
Source: City Farmhouse
Source: Decor Pad
Of course, if you're not looking to go the classic route, then I recommend sticking to just one wall color in your space. As you can see, the railing still adds visual interest to both dark and lightly colored painted rooms.
Source: Style Me Pretty
Source: Leann Ford Interiors
A more modern twist on the chair railing would be to paint it the same color as the room. As seen in the space below, you can still maintain visual interest by adding an unexpected element to the space.
Source: Design Mom
Wall Paper and Chair Rail Combo
Then there's my favorite; the chair rail and wall paper combo. This is the technique that was mostly used historically back in the day. Luckily, we have peel-and-stick wallpaper nowadays, so need to commit yourself to an insane asylum trying to remove it.
Source: Decor Pad
I've always been in love with this grasscloth wallpaper/chair rail combination from Thrifty Decor Chic.
Source: Thrifty Decor Chic
If you really want to spice things up, place the wall paper below the chair rail instead of on top. This is especially fun for kid's spaces.
Source: Up to Date Interiors
If you're working with dark or light wood chair rail, then in most cases it's best to go with two colors, but remember it's your home, do what you love! Typically the darker colored is suggested to go on the bottom and the lighter shade on top. If it's switched it may make the room looked weighed down. This space below has an added feature by using chalkboard paint below the railing. This works for a farmhouse style home or even a kid's space.
Source: Next Luxury
Here's a room where the darker colored paint is above the chair rail. This usually can be pulled off in homes with tall ceilings.
Source: Magnolia Country Canvas
This combination of plaid wall paper, marble walls, and dark railing really caught my eye.
It's got a nice masculine touch!
Source: BHG Home
This space below is fun and ecletic with it's dark railing and floor to ceiling wall paper.
Of course, there's always the option to build off of your chair rail by adding other wall treatments and moldings. This space below with the painted pink bead board and dark chair rail is a fun and fresh! Wouldn't this be sweet for a girl's bathroom?
Source: PMQ for Two
All in all, don't be afraid to embrace your chair rail! Aside from the visual interest and character this molding can bring to your home, it also encourages you to experiment with your decor. So whether your working with existing chair rail or wanting to add it to your home, have fun with it!