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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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.
- 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.