Many period properties, particularly ones built in the 19th and early 20th centuries, originally had coving and cornicing in many of the rooms.
A room without coving can look bare - it’s amazing what a difference it makes. As well as being decorative, coving is a good way to hide hairline cracks and other imperfections. It also makes it easier to get a neat line between a different wall and ceiling colour when painting.
Styles of coving changed over the years, so try to match any coving you buy to the period of your home. If you have coving in some rooms, this is the best indication of the style, or your neighbours’ homes may have original coving you can copy. Specialist coving companies sell popular period-style designs and some can match existing coving, and repair and restore it.
Period coving is made of plaster, and many coving specialists make and fit plaster coving, but I wouldn’t recommend putting it up yourself because it’s very heavy. DIYers should play safe and stick to lighter coving materials, which are easier to work with and won’t be potentially dangerous if they fall down. The lightest and easier coving to use is expanded polystyrene, but there are other DIY-friendly types, including polyurethane and duropolymer.
As well as getting coving that’s the right period for your home, it’s important to get the right size for the room. Big rooms with high ceilings can take large, more elaborate designs, while smaller rooms with lower ceilings are better suited to narrower, plainer coving. Coving can, of course, be used in modern properties to add interest to a room, but it tends to be a plain, concave design.
It’s a good idea to buy coving with pre-cut corners, as cutting the corners yourself can be tricky. Even pre-cut corners don’t necessarily fit perfectly because rooms in old houses often aren’t square, so you may have to do some clever filling. Always use the adhesive recommended for the coving you’ve bought and have some panel pins to hand - you may need them to keep the coving up while the adhesive dries. You’ll need to use lots of paintable caulk or flexible filler to fill in and around lightweight coving - this is time-consuming, but necessary to get a good finish.