Detail from the living room of The Home Guru, showing “cove” crown molding in white on white.

Detail from the living room of The Home Guru, showing “cove” crown molding in white on white.

When I sat down with my lawyer Dan Tota of Durante, Bock & Tota PLLC in Yorktown Heights, it was to discuss his project of installing crown molding in his home but, after we talked for a while, I was as interested in the “why” of his project as the “how.”

“After working all day in a high pressure job, dealing with intangibles, it’s a welcome change to come home and make something that’s tangible with my hands,” he said. “There’s a lot of enjoyment in doing the job and, if you do it well, it gives you continued satisfaction again and again whenever you look at it,” he continued. “Of course, if you botch the job, nobody wants to be reminded of it afterwards!”

“Would you consider yourself a handy person?” I asked him. “While I’m an attorney now, I actually grew up working as a mechanic, so I know how to work with my hands. At the same time, I’m realistic about those projects I know I can do and respectful of those I can’t. Also I’m fortunate to have friends who are contractors who can advise me when I need help.”

Besides personal satisfaction, Tota pointed out the marketing value that improvement projects add to the house looking forward to the time when he chooses to upgrade to a larger home. His most recent project was adding crown molding to his entrance hall, living room and dining room. In my opinion, crown molding is the most immediate “dress-up” upgrade an interior can give itself at the least expense.

Crown molding is literally the crowning touch in that it draws the eye upward in much the same way curtains hung at ceiling height do, while providing that smooth transitioning from vertical to horizontal. I would say that good proportions are magnified with moldings and, in effect, it’s the finishing touch. In fashion, it might be compared to the collar on a shirt or the cuff on a sleeve.

When I first visited the condos at Trump Park Residences in Shrub Oak, the first upgrade detail I noticed in the hallways and units themselves, one of which I ended up buying, was the generous crown molding, in this case a big simple cove molding, a full seven inches wide for ceilings that are almost nine feet high. Cove molding features one big dramatic curve that makes a much bolder statement and avoids the busyness a more complicated crown can add, and that impressed me.

But not all crown molding has to knock you over in size to be dramatic. A simple eight-foot ceiling room can become much more dynamic with a simple but strong four to five-inch crown molding, and adding a five-inch base molding. By emphasizing both the base and ceiling, the room has much more character and strength. Of course, you can always get a good carpenter to do the job for you and I recommend mine at the end of this piece, but if you’re a DIY enthusiast, the two basic pieces of equipment your need are a miter box and coping saw, coupled with a lot of patience in calculating the amount of molding you need and angles at which to cut it.

All of that can be found on line with graphics that easily demonstrate the process better than I can describe it in the limited space here, but let me share a couple of tips from Dan’s experience to save you some grief: “I chose a molding that wasn’t too thick, four inches, so that the saw didn’t have to be as big, and if your ceilings are the standard height of eight feet or a little more, that serves very well,” he advised. “Another good tip: instead of choosing a natural finish, go with the molding that is primed white. That forgives a lot of sins if you’re not perfect with your cuts. If you’re working in white, mistakes can be better concealed with putty or caulking until you get the hang of it.”

If you need a good carpenter to do the job for you, my guy is Michael Lavelle who can be reached at (914) 482-7178.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester ( His real estate site is, and his blog is To engage the services of The Home Guru and his team to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.

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