Has TOH really never discussed picture rail moldings?
Search of the site didn't find mention of them. I'm trying to find a bit more information about what periods they were popular in. I like the idea, though I may want to mount them higher than is traditional (incorporating them into the crown molding) since I have tall passageways and will likely want to hang art above them as well as lower on the wall.
Re: Has TOH really never discussed picture rail moldings?
I'm restoring an 1896 and have also had a tough time finding historical writings on the various mouldings I'm reconstructing. Other than knowing that the picture rail is generally the lowest piece of moulding in a frieze, I don't know it's date of earliest usage. It seems that most agree that they're hung 7-9 feet up the wall, and I found a good guide for figuring out the proportions that 1800's architects used in sizing their friezes: basically, 9' ceilings have a 7" high moulding, 10' ceilings have 8 inches, 11' have 9 inches, etc. When you get into truly soaring ceiling heights, the picture rail detaches from the frieze and floats at a more accessible height with other wall details.
In my house, I set the bottom of the picture rail 7 1/2" below our 9 1/2' ceilings, left about 2" of space above it, then built up my 4 piece crown. I painted all mouldings and the 2" of plaster in my trim paint so that the plaster surface becomes part of the moulding. It looks original. That's the most I can hope for with no photographic records to guide me.