Designing with Wainscoting in Renovated Homes

Greg Keefer

Wainscoting is a versatile wall covering with a wide variety of stylish applications. Home renovators can put this paneling to creative use in bathrooms and hallways, or as an architectural style element for more stately rooms. Homes restored to their original grandeur often use the simple pattern in wainscoting as a backdrop to era-specific furnishings and design.

Wainscoting Today

Modern wainscoting consists of tongue-and-groove boards used on the lower section of a wall. The top edge is trimmed with molding to create a stunning and distinct break on an otherwise plain surface.

But old homes that are being restored need as much authenticity as possible. The wainscoting that can be picked up at the home improvement store may work fine; however, you can do much more to improve the design and effect to restore the home's original look.

Designing with Wainscoting

Designing with wainscoting is relatively easy and doesn't require the expertise of an interior designer. A splendid architectural appearance can be achieved by simply nailing or gluing it to the wall. There is something to be said for a remodeling product used in older homes that inherently looks good without a lot of expertise necessary.

Those who could afford fine homes in the late 1800s used wainscoting extensively. The paneling could reach as high as five or six feet from the floor and was often sectioned into rectangles or squares by cross boards that lay flush or nearly flush to the paneling. The effect is stunning on homes today but expensive to duplicate.

Stairways are an excellent and overlooked place where designing with wainscoting can achieve new heights. The pattern of choice is one of smaller vertical pieces of wood bordered on top by molding that reflects the height and slope of the post railing. The visual effect adds to wainscoting designs on the first floor and blends them into the second story of a house in a natural way.

The Goal of Wainscoting

Historically, wainscoting was used to line formal living and dining rooms, entrance ways, and hallways. It could be ornate with detailed molding along the top that rivaled the finest craftsmanship of the time.

This decorative purpose also belied the original use of wainscoting - as a physical barrier over cold plastered walls.

Modern remodeling and restoration projects do well to create the same level of craftsmanship and varying patterns from room to room. The wood can be made to match existing doors, frames, built-in window seats, and on-wall pillars of oak, cherry, or mahogany. The wood flows together in a seamless and eye-pleasing manner.

Designing with wainscoting is limited only by the imagination. Your project may take time but the end results are worth it.


About the Author

Greg Keefer has been a police officer since 1981. He's also been a do-it-yourselfer remodeler with lots of experience in how to do things right and how to do them wrong. He enjoys shar

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