Beadboard Renovation Adds Classic Detailing

Allison Beatty

Beadboard is a mainstay in many old houses, lending a classic yet casual look to kitchen cabinets and ceilings. This fun accent element is now moving throughout the house, from the bathroom to the front porch ceiling. Here's how to blend beadboard into your next home renovation.

Beadboard hails from 18th and 19th century Europe and was often installed in casual, cottage-type houses. Many Europeans used beadboard to lend a softer feel to their vacation homes, for example. The look then expanded to the United States and was widely seen in Victorian, Queen Anne, English Country and many Cottage style houses.

Accent Your House

Today, there are many ways to use beadboard to accent rooms. This can be done as part of a major home renovation or in a few "quick fix" projects around the house. Just make sure the style blends with the age and architectural style of your house.

Also, try to blend in the vertical grooving with other decor in the room and throughout the house. This can be done by repeating the beadboard in a few different areas or coordinating it with other grooved accent pieces.

You may want a traditional old house kitchen with a beadboard ceiling that is painted white, for example. Pair it with white painted cabinets for a crisp, bold look or combine it with stained wood cabinets for a little contrast. Add in striped details in the window treatments or in tabletop vases.

Here are a few other ways to add beadboard during a kitchen renovation:

The ceiling – a classic touch that brings to mind grandma's old farmhouse. Paint it white for a crisp look that blends with white cabinets or stain it a yellow pine color to complement knotty pine cabinets. Add decorative molding for the finishing touch.

The cabinets – many of today's kitchen cabinet manufacturers incorporate beadboard designs into their product lines. If you want to bring it to the forefront, look for a cabinet with beadboard recessed into a picture frame style door. For a more subtle touch, add beadboard on the vertical wall inside any glass cabinets. With the right lighting, the beadboard will add a nice accent behind decorative glassware. 

The walls – beadboard often is used as wainscoting to designate the bottom half of a wall. While this is common in a dining room, it also can be used in a kitchen breakfast nook or adjacent breakfast room. The design then can coordinate with similar accenting on the kitchen cabinets.

All the Variations

While many people associate beadboard with a white painted surface, it can take on many different appearances. The original beadboard panels were tongue and groove paneling that incorporated routed details. These grooves or beading give it texture and dimension.

The width and spacing of the grooved sections can run a wide gamut, from thin sections closely fitted together to wider pieces with a larger gap between each section of beading. Some panels come with flat trim pieces that create a picture frame layout around the beadboard, while other straight panels are finished off with narrow horizontal molding.

Where to Buy Beadboard

When buying beadboard today, you can visit a local lumber yard or look for unique sections in a salvage yard. If you want a one-of-a-kind design for your renovation, you can employ a custom woodworker.

Many old house enthusiasts prefer the rich look of natural wood, prefabricated materials warrant consideration too. They often require less maintenance, but will supply a different look. There also are several types of wood and finishes to consider. Most beadboard can be painted or stained. If you plan to paint it, look for the pre-primed variety to save some work.

Beadboard around the House

While the kitchen is a popular spot for beadboad, don't limit yourself to that room. This versatile accent can be added in any room. Among the options are:

  • The front porch – If the renovation of your four square includes refurbishing the front porch, how about adding beadboard on the ceiling? This section under the roof then can be accented with period lighting to showcase the design. Tongue and groove flooring also will blend in.
  • The bathroom – there are many opportunities to add beadboard during a bathroom renovation. Try a vanity and medicine cabinet with a beadboard front. Then blend in the design with wainscoting around the lower half of the wall. Expand the theme with a thinly striped shower curtain and cabinet hardware with subtle grooves.
  • The hallway – add a little drama in the foyer with beadboard that wraps around the room and leads up the staircase.

There are many ways to use beadboard to accent your house. Whether you are working on a full bathroom or kitchen renovation or just looking to spruce up one wall, beadboard can do the trick. As you plan, think about the style of your house and where this type of grooved paneling can make a statement.

About the Author
By Allison E. Beatty

Search Improvement Project