Get Onboard With Wainscoting
Help traditional rooms stand out with decorative wall paneling touches that use contrast, color or perspective
I'm a freelance writer and design enthusiast who believes the best design is collected, not decorated, and that homes should always be as comfortable and functional as they are chic. In addition to writing for Houzz, I work as the Head Copywriter for Layla Grayce and Zinc Door.
I'm a freelance writer and design enthusiast who believes the best design... More »
When you walk into a home with wainscoting, you can almost feel the traditional richness. A type of paneling originally created to cover the lower part of walls for functional reasons, such as protecting against dampness and everyday damage, wainscoting has evolved and is now used mainly for decorative reasons. However, whether it was added to your home in the 1800s or last week, it provides a wonderful opportunity for distinct architectural detail that can truly be amplified if treated correctly in your decor. Prepare to bring your paneling to the next level with these ideas.
Complement it with a wall application, such as a mural. The juxtaposition of wainscoting’s textured panels with an engaging visual such as a mural creates a compelling combination that stands the wainscoting on edge. When paired together, the distinction of each becomes enhanced.
Here’s another example, with wallpaper rather than a mural. The whimsical nature of the wallpaper paired with the exactitude of wainscoting is the perfect combination of modern meets traditional.
Paint the wainscoting the same color as the walls, but in a different shade. In this photo, deep blue walls feel refreshed when combined with the lighter blue of the wainscoting. Leaving the wainscoting white would obviously also help to brighten the space, but color is a more contemporary choice.
Here is the same idea, but reversed: The wainscoting is a darker shade than the walls. This application can be a good choice for rooms with lower ceilings, as the lighter wall above the wainscoting can trick the eye into thinking they're higher.
Avoid pairing white wainscoting with white walls. If you prefer lighter neutrals instead of lots of color, choose different shades for the wainscoting versus the wall, even if they vary only slightly. When everything is all white, the beauty of wainscoting doesn’t get a chance to stand on its own.
If you choose to paint the wainscoting an unexpected shade, pull it into the room through the decor. In this bedroom, pink linens help to create cohesion with the pink color chosen for the wainscoting.
Though this is generally a common practice, try to keep the wainscoting and surrounding molding the same color. This way, the architectural detail will feel continuous, resulting in an elevated sense of harmony throughout the space.
If you decide to hang artwork above the wainscoting, look for pieces that represent similar elements to the paneling’s details to maximize its presence. This windowpane reflects the vertical lines and thick border of the wainscoting.
Frames that are about the same width as elements in the wainscoting will also help create a connection between the two and pull the unique detailing of the paneling up the wall.
When the wainscoting runs fairly high on the wall, consider complementing it with wide pieces of artwork. This helps to play on a sense of expanded width accomplished by the wainscoting.
If renovations are in your budget, consider complementing your wainscoting with a unique element, such a wall cutout. Finish it in a frame that is in the same color or reflects similar details of the wainscoting. This works especially well when there is also molding at the top of the wall, as the three elements of architectural detail create a vertical line of connection from floor to ceiling.
Ideabook updated on April 26, 2012.
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