16 wall paneling ideas – modern and trad panel designs for every space

Decorate living rooms, bedrooms and even small spaces with wall paneling ideas and designs that are far from dated.

White wall paneled living room with yellow sofa and grey upholstered
(Image credit: Project by: The Fox Group. Photography credit: Scott Davis.)

Wall paneling ideas have come a long way and are no longer reserved to historic homes. Now, many of the best decorative moldings are often more budget-friendly, sustainable and easy to DIY. 

Installing new wall paneling, be that shiplap, wainscoting, or a simple chair rail, can be a good way to return character to a home that has been stripped back, to fill in gaps in an existing scheme, or to help a new addition to blend in. 

Whether you're looking for classic wood paneling ideas for the bedroom, or for modern paneling looks to bring your living room or another area of your home to life, there's no better way to add more design interest to a room than with this wall covering. Plus, be it wood or MDF that you choose, wall panels can add to the natural shape of a room, enhance space and even insulate and protect walls. From how to choose the right type of paneling, to different style considerations and even how much wall paneling costs, we have you covered.

1. Raspberry board and batten bedroom wall panels

traditional bedroom with pink panelling, lamp shade, four poster wooden bed and black picture frames with flowers

(Image credit: Jeremey Philips)

Intricate dark wood paneling is not to everyone’s taste, and when used full height it can feel a little imposing. There are many more subtle options that go just half way up the wall, like with board and batten paneling, and that can be painted in a softer more colorful shade to add warmth and interest.

Love this look? Check out how to install a DIY board and batten wall

2. Half wall trad molding

Traditional wooden wall paneling in a living room with eggplant couch and wooden coffee table

(Image credit: James Balston )

Not sure where to start when choosing paneling? How about the era of your home? Ornate, heavy wood paneling would look natural in a Victorian home, but could be out of place in something built in the last few decades. Taking cues from the style and history (or lack thereof) of your house is an easy and failsafe way to ensure your paneling choice suits your space. Try combining this with the latest living room ideas for a unique look.

3. Nautical shiplap wall paneling

Nautical style living room with white shiplap wall panels, blue patterned couch and upholstered fabric foot stool

(Image credit: Ian Mankin)

Shiplap wall paneling is a great way to add a modern stamp to a space, especially if you give yours a fresh coat of white paint. It's also a pretty budget-friendly DIY if you're watching your bank balance.

4. Low picture-frame wall panels

white living room with traditional wall paneling

(Image credit: Jo Lemos)

Wall paneling should mimic the style of the home you live in. DIYer and Real Homes Real Expert panelist Jo Lemos added traditional trim to the lower third of the living room in his 1930s home to suit the style of the architecture. 

"Our last two homes have been a new build townhouse and a 1930s red brick semi-detached and we have added DIY paneling to both," he explains. "The type of paneling should be sympathetic to the property but you can also have some fun with it."

5. Dark wainscoting wall panels

Home office with wooden desk, central white bookcase and dark painted wainscoting wall paneling

Project by: The Fox Group. Photo

(Image credit: Project by: The Fox Group. Photography credit: Scott Davis.)

Molded wainscoting paneling adds depth to this home office. The contrast of dark walls with white furnishings adds a modern finish to the space.

In addition to choosing wood paneling that suits the style and history of your home, there are other aesthetic considerations, for example, whether you should use paneling on an entire wall, or just a portion of it. The degree to which you use paneling in the room will have a major impact on the visual effect.

6. Light gray bedroom wall paneling

Grey wainscoting frames bed with white linen

Project by: The Fox Group. Photography credit: Scott Davis.

(Image credit: Project by: The Fox Group. Photography credit: Scott Davis.)

Wall paneling can create soothing interiors so works well to decorate a bedroom space also. Try choosing a light color for an even more relaxed space.

7. Sustainable wall paneling designs

Wooden wall paneling with black leather seat, neutral carpet and contemporary black coffee table plus reading light

(Image credit: The Residency Bureau)

With many homeowners looking to improve their existing space with sustainability in mind, color and pattern enthusiast Amy Vroom of The Residency Bureau  created textured wall panels from recycled wood tiles. 'For this Seattle basement, I wanted to add depth and texture to give an otherwise long room, dimension. By using recycled wood tiles at one end of the space, it created a focal point for the room and warmed up the cozy TV and reading area.'

8. Brightly painted Shaker wall panels

Green panelled walls in a master bedroom with a metal bed, yellow and pink throws, and patterned cushions

Painted wood wall panels give this bedroom a modern lift

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

Modern wall paneling is all about bright colors. We love this hot turquoise Shaker wall paneling in the bedroom which you could totally DIY. 

Points of caution with interior paneling? If yours is original and beautiful wooden paneling and in good condition, don't impulse paint it. First, make sure you're certain paint will give the look you're after. Then, if you're 100 percent certain paint is the way to go, make sure to prep your surface properly. Depending on how it's finished, that may mean sanding or deglazing it (or both!), then wiping it clean with a damp towel and a dry microfiber cloth. Equally, carved or intricate panel designs can be tough to paint since paint can easily pool in crevices, so use a light hand or hire a pro.

9. Painted tongue-and-groove wall panels

Bedroom with painted purple wall panels, patterned bed linen and decorative frames

(Image credit: Christy)

For cohesion in a bedroom or living room space, paint half wall panels in a color that is present in your soft furnishings and other decorative elements around the room. This purple tongue and groove paneling adds all the relaxed vibes to this bedroom space.

Where paneling is not used full height, paneling tends to look best installed at either one-third or two thirds of the room’s height, although this may be influenced by features such as fireplaces or windowsills.

10. Complement white wall paneling

White painted wall panels in danish dining room with mirror gallery wall

(Image credit: Iben and Niels Ahlberg/inagency.dk)

Add character to white wainscoting wall paneling using mirror ideas to create a gallery-esque finish. Not only does it look cool and clean cut but it also enhances the space.

You should also consider the size of the individual panel frames. Larger areas look good with bigger frame sizes, while small, awkward spaces tend to suit reeded paneling or beadboard.

11. Floor to ceiling oak wall paneling

Distinctive-Country-Furniture-oak-linenfold wood wall panels

Traditional oak linenfold panelling, Distinctive Country Furniture shows how wood panelling for walls creates a timeless look

For a dramatic and almost gothic finish, consider wall paneling ideas of the past with floor to ceiling oak panels. This look is more expensive but will add charisma to your property, and possibly even increase your home's value.

12. Layer wall paneling with frames

White wall paneled living room with yellow sofa and grey upholstered

(Image credit: Project by: The Fox Group. Photography credit: Scott Davis.)

Wall paneling makes the perfect backdrop for gallery wall ideas also. Choose white or another color that best complements the rest of your interiors, and the artwork you'll have on display, for a really modern look.

13. Pair wood with wallpaper

Wooden wall panelling with patterned wallpaper, complete with dusk pink printed sofa and lighting and period decor

Pimpernel wallpaper in Aubergine/Olive, £72 per roll, Morris & Co highlights one of many gorgeous wall panelling designs available

(Image credit: Morris & Co)

The best wallpaper ideas often ride solo but if you choose a busy or floral pattern, teaming this with classic wall panels can actually complete the look and add a little more zest to traditional rooms that need it most.

14. Wallpapered wall paneling

Graham & Brown wallpaper of the year Tori over wall panelling with purple velour couch and modern coffee table

Graham & Brown Tori teal wallpaper on wooden panels is the perfect example of decorative panelling 

(Image credit: Graham & Brown )

Another way to play with wallpaper and wall paneling ideas is to wallpaper over the paneling. An ideal DIY if you've inherited worn wood paneling and need a quick fix as those exposed grooves and trim will add design interest to every space.

15. Enhance space with 2D paneling

2D wall panelling in living room with green couch and green painted wall

(Image credit: Teer & Co)

To enhance space with wall paneling, Simon Teer of Teer & Co says 'Unconventional wall paneling layouts and compositions, like those that can be achieved using our versatile 2D and 3D Wall Paneling, can also help retain a sense of space in a small room. These modern paneling systems allow creative minds to imagine and realize innovative feature wall installations that, when used in moderation, do not overwhelm but enhance small spaces and still bring the acoustic, microclimate and wellbeing benefits that we should look to integrate into our rooms.'

16. Lofty hallway wall paneling

White hallway wall panelling with wooden floors

Project by: The Fox Group. Photography credit: Scott Davis

(Image credit: Project by: The Fox Group. Photography credit: Scott Davis.)

Half wall paneling up the staircase to match the rest of the hallway pulls the lofty appearance of this entryway together perfectly.

17. Add character to a new build with board and batten

green board and batten wall in a bedroom

(Image credit: Jo Lemos)

New construction homes, like Lemos's townhome, above are packed with modern amenities, but they often lack the charm of older abodes. Board and batten paneling feels modern enough for new homes, while still adding a touch of character to the space. Take a cue from Lemos, and paint the trim a bold color for extra oomph.

18. Spice up the bedroom with an earthy scheme

Habitat red and yellow bedroom with wood paneling and blue bed side lamp

(Image credit: Habitat)

A favorite of ours on the color chart, dark yellows exude a fiery hue reminiscent of tasty saffron, cumin and turmeric.

These are all spices that contain powerful antioxidant and mood-boosting properties. So adding color to your diet and your interiors can contribute to a happy heart and mind!

To create an even warmer master bedroom idea, incorporate wood wall panels and heavy fabrics in warm shades, or a busy pattern on an accent wall. Mustard and ocher shades in particular will radiate warmth in any room.

If feature wall ideas get a thumbs down, a statement ceiling is another ultra-modern way to update a bedroom space. Sunny yellow shades compliment most other colors – especially bold ones like blues or reds.

19. Add yellow to paneling (or fake it with wallpaper)

Mustard paneling wallpaper by Mineheart

(Image credit: Mineheart)

Paneling in the bedroom adds sophistication to a period bedroom design. But if your wall panels are white, it's time to consider going against tradition with a unconventional color scheme such as yellow!

But if you're not blessed with these features in your bedroom, then faux is the way to go. This wallpaper in a wood paneling effect means you can combine the flexibility of wallpaper and create an ambiance of classic Georgian elegance.

This eccentric wallpaper has beautiful fine detail and is perfect for creating a feeling of grandness reminiscent of stately homes and classic English manor houses.

So pop your pinkie up and pass the tea and scones. This is the perfect way to create a British vintage bedroom design without the need for citizenship!

How to choose the right wall paneling for your home

With all the types of wall paneling out there, which should you choose for your home? It all comes down to the architecture of your space. 

"Choosing wall paneling is really is up to what you like but, there are a few things to consider," says Jo Lemos, a DIY blogger and member of Real Homes' Real Experts panel.  "Will it fit in with the other features of the property? Parisian Avant Garde style paneling is better suited to a stately building rather than a new build, and likewise a modern paneling may not work well in an old cottage. If you are looking to install paneling yourself, research paneling designs for the age of your property to get an idea of what best fits."

For example, Lemos installed simple board-and-batten paneling in a new construction townhome, painted a dark green for a bold statement. When he and his partner moved to a 1930s home, however, they switched up their paneling approach to something more fitting of the era. "For our 1930s living room I wanted to go a bit more formal so I used a decorative picture frame molding. I didn't want the paneling to be too ornamental, as houses from this period were stepping away from paneling and leaning more towards more widely available wallpaper," Lemos explains.  

Is real wood paneling or MDF paneling best?

Solid oak paneling is expensive, and is typically only installed new in order to match  existing elements or suit historic requirements. In which case, it's often best to work with a specialist who can create custom trim.

Most wall paneling on the market today is made from MDF, with the intention that it is painted. Once installed and painted, it would be difficult to distinguish it from real wood wall panels.

Provided the walls are fairly level, installing MDF paneling is a relatively easy DIY job. If the walls are uneven or slanted, it's a good idea to consult a professional. 

"You can use all types of wood for this paneling. MDF is smooth and easy to use, it can even be bought in precut strips which are not prone to any bowing," Lemos says. "You can also buy smooth planed batons which is more cost effective. Many large DIY and home improvement stores will have a wide variety of decorative moldings that can be used, these can vary wildly on price depending on how elaborate they are but give a really nice finish."

What much does wall paneling cost? 

The cost of wall paneling varies greatly depending on the type you choose. A simple picture frame molding kit can be as little as $10 per set, while solid oak shiplap can cost upwards of $30/sq.ft.

In general:

  • Expect to pay around $12-$30 per square food for solid oak paneling, plus installation.
  • Expect to pay around $2 -$15 per square foot for MDF paneling, which are best painted in water-based eggshell.

Buying reclaimed wood paneling

It is possible to purchase original wood paneling that has been salvaged from historic homes or even barns (typically called barn board).. While it adds authentic aged character, quantity can be an issue. Be certain of your room’s dimensions, and what proportions suit the style and period of your home.

Salvaged wood paneling can often be found through architectural salvage shops or antiques dealers. The same goes for barnboard, though it can sometimes even by found though homeowners and farmers who are removing or repairing an old barn.

Is wood paneling outdated?

"Of course, we typically find traditional style darker wood wall paneling in older historic buildings that is complementary to and simply ‘of its time’, which may be viewed by some as outdated but should be celebrated, maintained and remain largely in the original form it was created," notes Teer.

That being said, if you're looking to modernize existing wood paneling in an old home, or add a seamless look to retrofitted paneling, as we've seen, paint is your friend. While neutrals are always a good choice, a bold paint color can be especially dramatic paired with traditional paneling.

Does wall paneling make a room look smaller?

According to Teer, there are a few key factors that'll play into whether your paneling makes your space feel more open, or more enclosed. "This will depend on 1) the level of natural daylight, 2) the height of wall paneling, 3) the natural wood tone or color palette if wall paneling is painted to finish, and 4) the tone of accompanying plain walls, ceiling and flooring," he says. "Simply put, a lighter wood wall paneling tone, like ash or oak (or light color palette if painted), will certainly help us avoid making a room feel smaller."

Adds Lemos, "As a general rule do not exceed 1/3 as a paneling-to-wall ratio. In other words, the paneling should generally stop 1/3 from the floor or less than 1/3 from the ceiling. The closer you get to 50:50 the smaller you will make the room feel."  

Where to buy new wall paneling

  • Home Depot sells basic wood paneling like shiplap and beadboard, as well as picture-frame molding both in stores and online.
  • Lowe's. Like Home Depot, Lowe's sells a selection of popular wall paneling and trim.
  • Wayfair has a good range of wall paneling options, including more elaborate and decorative versions.
  • Architectural Depot. Looking for something a little more intricate or unique? Try Architectural Depot, where you'll find carved crown molding, chair rail, geometric wall paneling, reclaimed wood options and more.
  • Vant. If you prefer upholstered wall panels, Vant sells them in a beautiful range or fabrics (Ideal for city-dwellers looking to soundproof).

A short history of wall paneling

Wall paneling originally served a practical rather than decorative purpose: in the days before insulation was used in buildings, applying an extra layer of timber would help to warm up rooms with cold stone walls, and would also cover up damp patches.

Early examples from the 13th Century Europe tended to be plain vertical boards, but over time wood paneling evolved to become an art form and was often carved with beautiful designs. Today, you can choose between traditional polished wood and colorful painted MDF.

Framed paneling became popular starting in the 14th Century, and was usually oak, which might be left plain or be carved with decorative detail. Elaborate linenfold designs, which resembled folded linen, emerged as a trend in the late 15th Century, while in Tudor and Jacobean times the fashion was for small squares or rectangles, with the wood either left unfinished or treated with wax or varnish. The paneling was often topped off with decorative carved capping.

In the Georgian era, paneling took on a more classic appearance, with larger, simple panels of painted softwood. Over the period, paneling for walls saw a change and full-height styles began to be replaced by dado-level paneling.

The Victorians continued this trend for shorter sections, although paneling did become less popular until the Arts and Crafts movement, where simple oak designs installed to eye-level were preferred.

Kaitlin Madden
Kaitlin Madden

Kaitlin Madden Armon is a writer and editor covering all things home. In addition to Real Homes, she's written for Architectural Digest, Martha Stewart Living, Refinery29, Modern Luxury Interiors, Wayfair, The Design Network, and lots more. She graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in journalism and currently lives in Connecticut with her husband, two sons, and black lab.