Ways to Dress Up Your Walls
Plain drywall walls are a standard feature of most American homes. But they are a blank canvas for much more interesting design ideas achievable with paneling and trim.
Wainscoting, or paneling that comes partway up the wall, is an easy way to add architecture to an otherwise unremarkable room. In a formal house, large flat panels of wood, either painted or stained, can be dressed up with detailed trim for an elegant look.
Fully paneled rooms are often found in historic homes and are a great way to get a dose of established, traditional style in a contemporary home. If budget permits, adding paneling in a lovely wood like butternut, walnut or even limed oak adds incomparable depth and warmth to a space.
Libraries are an obvious place to use paneling; and it creates an atmosphere than men in particular seem to love. But paneling can help achieve a clean, contemporary look as well.
Grand columns and wainscoting take this living room to the next level. For a chic design, use white detail against subtle colors to add elegant dimension. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Dunier of Dunier Design
Warm and Inviting
Interior designer Joelle Nesen blended rustic contemporary wainscoting and molding with sleek modern furniture pieces to create a vintage vibe that's inviting. Don't be afraid to mix and match design styles to personalize your space.
Add instant charm to a boring wall by staining wood paneling in a warm tone. The golden hue in this cozy bedroom evokes an inviting sense of comfort and cheerfulness. Photo courtesy of Kathryn Greeley of Kathryn Greeley Designs, Inc.
"Just like with ceilings, I love the chance to use something besides Sheetrock on walls," says Doug Davis of Tracery Interiors. "Horizontal 1x6 tongue-and-groove planking with a little bit of space between the boards (install with tile spacers for a quick way to get this look) makes a room feel warm and interesting."
Houses from the Arts and Crafts period often have heavy, dark paneling and woodwork, and they're usually very plainly trimmed. A cabin or lake house is a great place to use this look to reinforce the simplicity of a rustic design scheme. Similarly, beach houses with simple white-painted paneling have an airy, low-maintenance vibe.
In a bungalow or cottage, beadboard wainscoting adds texture and dimension without diminishing the casual charm of this style room. Striped rugs, slipcovered furniture and beadboard wainscoting combine for a no-fail recipe for breezy style.
More Design Ideas
In a traditional house, there's nothing more charming than a trellised room. Originally popularized by legendary decorator Elsie de Wolfe in her Trellis Room at New York's Colony Club in 1907, treillage, as it was known, is the practice of covering the walls of a sunny room with lattice, bringing a note of the garden into the house.
Among current design stars, New York decorator Meg Braff is an expert in the use of Chinese Lattice wallpaper to achieve the effect of a latticed room without the labor.
Decorator Tom Sheere's breathtaking renovation of the Lyford Cay Club in the Bahamas includes a dapper bar area wrapped in Tom's Lyford Trellis wallpaper for Quadrille.
A cost-effective alternative for paneling is to apply a grid of 1x6 boards to a drywalled surface, suggests Doug. Paint the grid one color and the wall surface becomes the "panel" and the boards, stiles and rails will instantly come together to mimic a high-end treatment.
For the do-it-yourselfer handy with a miter saw, adding distinction to any room is as easy, and inexpensive, as buying a few lengths of trim and measuring out your room-transforming design.