A dado rail (also referred to as ‘chair rail’) is the rail that runs around a room at approximately waist level. Traditionally they have always been painted in the same colour as the rest of the woodwork, but this can create a ‘white stripe’ around a room – drawing attention to a something that is essentially functional rather than decorative.
If you have a dado rail, it allows you to use either two colours or a colour and wallpaper within one room. If you want the room to look bigger it is best to use the stronger colour below the rail and the lighter above, e.g. Cat’s Paw No.240 below and String No.8 above. This gives the impression of the room ‘opening out’. For the rail and woodwork, try using a sympathetic white such as Off-White No.3 to avoid a stark contrast. If the stronger colour is in the top area it can feel as if the walls are closing in on you. Alternatively, for a cleaner more contemporary feel you can use one colour from the top of the dado rail down to the bottom of the skirting.
It has become increasingly popular to paint panelling in one solid colour – the same from the bottom of the skirting to the top of the dado rail. This gives a very clean and contemporary feel, especially when painted in a fairly strong colour such as Charleston Gray No.243 or Blue Gray No.91. And, there is a great historic precedent for this – many Georgian houses were painted in this way.
However, if you wish to pick out panelling it is best to use three tones of the same colour. Try Old White No.4, Lime White No.1 and Slipper Satin No.2004 or String No.8, Matchstick No.2013 and White Tie No.2002.
For best effect, the darkest colour should be used on the stiles and rails (the outside of the panelling), the mid colour should be used on the panel fields (the flat inner parts) and the panel mouldings should be painted in the lightest colour.