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21 Wainscoting Ideas to Add Character and Charm

by on Nov 2, 2023

Wainscoting is a beautiful and classic addition to any home architecture. This design style includes adding wood panels, chair railing (framing), or decorative moldings to the lower half of the walls. Used to make a space feel enchanting, it’s also practical because it protects the walls from everyday wear and tear. Whether you are remodeling a traditional, modern, or eclectic home, wainscoting is a versatile way to add character and charm to your living room, bedroom, and more. 

Check out our list of 21 wainscoting ideas, each with unique tips on how wainscoting can take your interior design game to a whole new level.

1. Keep it Classic

The classic raised panel look of traditional wainscoting is all about a timeless look. The design includes raised panels, creating an aura of elegance. It’s a perfect choice for formal dining rooms and living spaces and can even serve as a beautiful feature of your entryway. You can select from different panel profiles to match your own home’s overall style.

Image by Yorkshirehousebuild

2. Try beadboard

Beadboard wainscoting gives off a relaxed, cottage-style feel. Forming narrow vertical planks with beading in between, it’s ideal for coastal, rustic, or country-themed interiors. Beadboard wainscoting is often chosen for kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms, creating a warm and charming energy.

3. Layer on board and batten

The board and batten wainscoting design is a rustic and straightforward choice. It features wide vertical boards interwoven with thin battens (a strip of solid wood). Complimenting farmhouse, country, or shabby-chic aesthetics, this design can be painted in various colors to align with your decor.

Pink board and batten wall wainscoting with grey tile floor and white round rug.
Image by Soul and Lane

4. Picture It

Picture frame molding adds an artsy touch by creating a series of rectangular frames on your walls. You can adjust frame size and spacing, making it a great choice for your entryway or hallways. The frames can be highlighted with opposite colors to add depth and personality to your space.

5. Grab some shiplap

Shiplap wainscoting has grown in popularity in recent years because it gives off a rustic, cozy feel. It is often used to create an accent wall or infuse a cottage-inspired vibe. Featuring horizontal wooden planks with slight gaps in between, its versatility makes it a suitable choice for both traditional and modern homes.

Shiplap wainscoting in a bathroom.
Image by Lauren Lunney

6. Go modern

For a clean and contemporary look, modern flat panel wainscoting is a go-to option. This design features smooth, unadorned panels, creating a sleek, minimalistic aesthetic. This one is for you if you live in an urban apartment or a modern home and its simplicity allows it to adapt to various interior styles.

Modern Flat Panel Wainscoting against a white wall near stairs, wood flooring and black framed paintings.
Image by Novero Homes

7. Add some dimension

Recessed panel wainscoting adds depth and dimension to your walls. Achieved by installing panels that are set back within a frame, it creates a three-dimensional effect that’s well-suited for formal dining rooms, libraries, and offices.

8. DIY

If you’re on a budget or feeling up to a do-it-yourself project, faux wainscoting can provide the illusion of wainscoting using trim pieces. This technique adds visual interest to your walls while keeping costs in check. While it may not offer the same level of wall protection, installation might be easier, and it’s a creative way to enhance your home’s aesthetics.

9. So french

French boiserie can make any room feel luxurious with intricate, ornate details. This style includes richly carved woodwork, gilded accents, and elaborate decorations, making it a perfect choice for elegant living rooms and dining spaces. It also adds a touch of opulence and historical charm to any room.

French boiserie modern bedroom wainscoting in beige with floating light
Image by Boco Do Lobo

10. Shelves, shelves, shelves

Combine function and style by adding shelves to your wainscoting design. This feature is especially useful in kitchens, home offices, or family rooms, as it provides storage and display space while adding a custom touch to your walls. Shelves can be changed to meet your specific needs, thus adding an element of personalization to your space.

White shelf over beadboard wainscoting with purse and bags hanging
Image by Soul and Lane

11. Two-tone is better than one

Two-tone wainscoting adds a beautiful visual while also creating contrast to your interiors. By painting the upper portion of your wall a different color than the color below, you create a dynamic, dramatic effect. This method adds depth and personality, making it an ideal choice for rooms in need of a bold and unique touch.

12. Reflections

Mirrored wainscoting is where functionality meets sophistication. In spaces like powder rooms and entryways, mirrored wainscoting adds an air of elegance and creates an illusion of more significant space by reflecting light. This choice provides both practicality and aesthetic appeal. Feeling bold? Try varying wall panel sizes.

Mirrored wall with wainscoting panels behind dining room space with grey and cream chair
Image by Tlynn Eva

13. Go geometric

Want to grab attention? Try geometric patterns! Whether your vibe is herringbone, chevron, or hexagonal patterns, it will add a contemporary twist to your home. Geometric patterns are also great for modern or mid-century styles.

14. Lighten up 

Elevate your room’s aura by adding hidden LED lighting to your wainscoting. This subtle and modern touch offers a warm glow in your home, perfect for bedrooms, media rooms, and home theaters. Hidden lights can change the atmosphere and draw attention to your room’s design.

LED and recessed light wainscoting, long rectangular shapes on floor outlined in black and black entry table with two black lamps.
Image by Doris McCall

15. Texturize

Want walls you’ll want to touch? Try textured wainscoting. Materials like metal or wood can be used to create a dramatic design. This style is perfect for spaces in need of a layer of depth, such as formal dining rooms or studies. Plus, guests won’t want to keep their hands off these panels.

16. Upholster

Upholstering adds an opulent and cozy feel to your space. It incorporates padded panels covered in fabric or leather, offering both a tactile and inviting experience. Upholstered wainscoting is a luxurious choice for bedrooms and dining areas, adding a touch of warmth and comfort.

Beige upholstered wainscoting in bedroom, with cream bed featuring a grey throw pillow.
Image by Behance

17. Give it a wood finish

If you’re feeling more of a rustic vibe in your home, reclaimed wood is the way. The character of aged wood, complete with its knots and spots, offers a sense of history and charm. Reclaimed wood wainscoting is ideal for eco-conscious homeowners looking for a sustainable and rustic aesthetic.

18. Add a pop of color

Adding a pop of color to your wainscoting design by using colored panels can inject personality into your space. In areas like the kitchen, colored panels can be used to add light to an eating area or create an accent wall, adding a focal point to the room’s design. This choice is expressive and can tie into your overall decor.

Turquoise wainscoting panels with palm plant in red planter over red rug
Image by Paper Stitch

19. Take up space

Full wall wainscoting extends from floor to ceiling, making a bold statement. This design, often picked for grand entryways and formal dining rooms, captures attention and boosts a room’s aesthetics. In spaces with high ceilings, full wall wainscoting can serve as a gorgeous focal point.

Full wall wainscoting with cream wall, brown dining table and chairs
Image by Annie Mescall

20. Vertical, maybe?

Vertical strips can add height to your walls and make your space feel bigger. This style is very useful in rooms with low ceilings. Consider adding mirrors, wallpaper, or even playing with different colors to help maximize the space.

Vertical cream colored wainscoting panels with beige framed mirror and grey table.
Image by One Kind Design

21. Off the rails

Wainscoting with plate rails combines function and form by adding a convenient ledge for displaying decorative plates, art, or collectibles. This design is well-suited for dining rooms, kitchens, and cozy breakfast nooks, offering storage and a personalized touch.

If you’re looking to update your home or simply add more elegance to a room, wainscoting is a versatile design element that can enhance the beauty and character of your home. No matter what wainscoting idea you try, it’ll be worth the compliments. Thinking about adding wainscoting to your bathroom? Check out this post, From Chic to Cozy:  25 Bathroom Wainscoting Ideas.

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