Warm Ways to Add Modern Style With Woodwork

Give your rooms a designer look with a contemporary take on millwork, from simple shiplap to geometric paneling. Take inspiration from these rooms, which are as rich in decorating ideas as they are in architectural detail.

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February 19, 2018
By: Amanda Lecky

Photo By: Emily J Followill

Photo By: Jane Beiles

Photo By: Amy Bartlam

Photo By: Laura Metzler

Photo By: AVID Associates

Photo By: Garrett Rowland

Photo By: Red Egg Design Group

Photo By: Stacey Brandford

Photo By: Amanda Kirkpatrick

Photo By: John Woodcock Photography

Photo By: Mirador Group

Get All-White Right

The all-white kitchen is a classic look that never goes out of style. But it can look a little...plain vanilla. Designer Lauren Davenport Imber of Davenport Designs took care to avoid this pitfall by applying millwork to the walls for architectural interest. "By using a neutral color palette on the walls and cabinets, it allows the space to feel more open and grand than the actual square footage would normally allow," she says.

Consider Contrast

In this streamlined bath, the design team at Kelly & Co. Design demonstrate the attraction of opposites, treating humble shiplap wood paneling to a crisp coat of white paint, elevating it from country to cool; black granite sinks and black barn lighting fixtures stand out against the white for a modern look.

Build in Warmth

Creating a sense of enveloping comfort is important in any bedroom, but in a large space with walls of glass getting just the right balance between "open" and "soothing" can be a challenge. In this grand Malibu bedroom, designer Katherine Carter of Katherine Carter Design solved that problem by lining one wall with vertical panels of whitewashed wood, adding texture and natural richness to the simple space—without detracting from its ocean views.

Master Geometry

The simplicity of a design like this one is a lesson in the concept of "less is more." The bold horizontal pattern of the wood paneling behind the bed takes the starring role in the room’s decor, but the subtler shapes of the bed frame and bedding play have important parts to play, too. The effect is modern and sculptural—and easy to achieve in your own home.

Develop Character

Contemporary spaces can verge on stark—and even dull. But adding interest with architectural detailing can balance the simplicity of a modern space, and it’s easier than you might think. Any home center offers a variety of wood trim that you (or your contractor) can apply to walls to create the look of paneling, or of lattice, as designer Kerra Michele of Kerra Michele Interiors did here.

Divide and Conquer

To lend the feeling of different "rooms" to a flowing floorplan, designers have to get creative. Here, the team at AVID associates used rich walnut paneling around the cased opening between the living and dining areas, creating a visual delineation between the two spaces and adding richness and warmth to both.

Remember the Finishing Touches

In a stairwell designed to show off colorful pop art, white was the natural color choice for the walls. But instead of painting plain drywall, designer Ghislaine Vinas of Ghislaine Vinas Interior Design installed horizontal wood paneling; the effect is still as crisp and clean as any art gallery, but the subtle pattern adds a more finished, interesting look to the space.

Show Some Modern Love

For better or for worse, wood paneling was a standard element in midcentury modern rooms. Today, designers like Andrea Bazilus of Red Egg Design Group are taking an updated approach, creating geometric patterns that reference midcentury style in a more sophisticated and streamlined way.

Embrace Vintage Elements

Using the power of paint to highlight "outdated" features can give them a hip new attitude. Designer Sarah Richardson took this approach in a down-at-the-heels foyer, painting wood paneling a neutral gray and double doors an acidic yellow, for a new look that’s fun and funky, and in perfect keeping with the vintage style of the house.

Preserve Charm

A sensitive renovation can mean balancing old and new, so that the finished spaces reflect the modern lifestyle of the present without erasing the legacy of the past. In update of this historic New York farmhouse, the design team at Hendricks Churchill LLC did just that, creating a quiet, streamlined look while maintaining a rich architectural structure with paneled walls and gray-painted trim.

Reach New Heights

Lofty ceilings are enviable for the way they create a bright, open effect, but how do you keep equally soaring walls from looking huge and empty? The team at J & J Design Group added interest in this elegant living room by applying narrow pieces of molding to the walls in a simple geometric pattern, for a look that is at once modern and classic—the perfect complement to the transitional style of the room.

Play With Pattern

To lend character to a large living space with vast expanses of glass, the team at the Mirador Group treated one wall with painted paneling in a simple grid. The rectilinear design repeats the pattern of the mullions in the windows and patio doors and draws attention to the fireplace, without distracting from the views of the landscape.

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