Blame it on the fixation with post-pandemic coziness or the trending New Classic design style, but traditional wainscoting is officially back. In a big way. But this time around, this character-rich look isn’t reserved for Victorian homes and 20th-century country clubs — spaces from all walks of life are sporting board and batten, picture molding, and more in equal measure.
“It’s actually the contrast in periods that makes this look especially interesting,” says Havenly designer Kelsey Fischer. “These days, there are so many ways to use wainscoting that feel fresh and modern.” Ahead, find 10 of her creative, trend-forward wainscoting ideas that are anything but stuffy.
1. Add bold paint
Wainscoting already adds character to your home, but if you want to double down on personality, layer in a bold paint color. From our favorite deep blue Hale Navy to our 2022 color of the year Spilled Wine, a vibrant paint color will give that wall texture a trendy update. And if you’re really wanting to go all out and create an immersive paint mood, consider the cozy monochrome look.
2. Take it to the top
While traditional wainscoting stops roughly halfway up the wall, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to decorative wall paneling. Take your pattern up to the ceiling to fill up a large blank wall, highlight tall ceilings, create a statement design feature, or a combination of all three.
3. Ground an awkward layout
Pro tip: You can use wainscoting to create symmetry or visual continuity in a room that has an awkward layout or unusual architectural features. In this bedroom, for example, the wall paneling helps offset asymmetrical windows.
4. Go large-scale
Intricate paneling can easily overwhelm a small space, but large-scale wainscoting, like the above board and batten, can actually make a room feel more spacious. It adds texture and visual interest without going overboard.
5. Camouflage unsightly features
You can also use wall paneling to conceal architectural features that you dislike. In the above entryway, for example, the textured wainscoting camouflages the radiators and helps them blend with the walls.
6. Decorate a large, blank wall
In modern homes with especially tall ceilings, artwork doesn’t make a dent when trying to decorate and fill wall space. A wainscoting treatment will add floor-to-ceiling texture and create a timeless “feature wall,” so to speak.
7. Go high-contrast
For an eye-catching wainscoting moment, opt for traditional neutral paneling on the lower half of your walls and polish off the top with a bold paint color. The high-contrast palette feels modern, while the actual paneling leans traditional.
8. Pair it with wallpaper
Who says you can’t have wallpaper and paneling in the same room?! Not only does this approach maximize your wallpaper budget, you’re essentially doubling down on visual interest and texture.
9. Create a Styled Ledge
For even more visual interest, establish depth with your wainscoting treatment to create a shallow styling ledge. The monochrome paint blends the panel with the walls for a minimalist appeal, but you can style the ledge for much-needed texture and character.
10. Mix modern and traditional
Traditional wainscoting can help highlight classic features in a home, like this living room fireplace. But when juxtaposed with modern furniture and decor, the look feels balanced, unexpected, and alluring.