Say you live on the Upper West Side in NYC (for example, but this exists in other areas of the city as well) and you have a space that has OLD crown molding and picture molding. If you are considering painting the room, and don’t have the funds to change out these details (or do a skim coating on the wall, for that matter), here is what I suggest:
Paint the crown molding and the picture molding the same color as the wall, BUT use a SATIN finish. (The wall finish should be MATTE). This way, you still delineate the detail, but can disguise, somewhat, the fact that these details are in bad shape. When you paint these details in a white color (the customary treatment), this brings attention to them and you may not want this if they are in really bad shape.
Typically, in these old buildings, where there are literally dozens of layers of paint, the edge of the wall to the molding has no “real edge” and the painter cannot make a clear/straight “cut” line. The effect is a line that ends up looking very sloppy. Which is sad because you just had the place painted! However, when using this method that I describe above, the painter must still take the same care to get the lines as exact as possible. The fact that the COLOR is the same, but the finish is different, does not give license to do a sloppy job.
Here’s to straight lines!!