Add texture and visual design to your walls with these wainscoting ideas! We have traditional and unique styles to show off!
The Ultimate Guide to Wainscoting:
25+ Stylish Wainscoting Ideas
Wainscoting is a classic way to add texture and interest to the walls of any room and are a beautiful detail to add to your interior design. There are many styles of wainscot. Deciding what style and height of wainscoting, however, can be as tricky as choosing the color of paint! We’ve rounded up nearly 40 stylish wainscoting ideas that we’ve shown here on Remodelaholic to help you decide what look is best for your home.
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Wainscoting can be used for many different reasons. Most commonly, wainscoting is used to add interest and texture, even without adding color, but don’t worry if you want to add color that is easy too! There are many common questions when it comes to wainscot lets answer some of them now:
Why is it called Wainscot?
We aren’t exactly sure of the origins of the word, but it most likely comes from the German word for “wall-board”. The wood for wainscot paneling originally came from a specific oak tree known as “wainscoting oak.” even now, with common used materials such as MDF being so different the term “wainscoting” is here to stay.
What types of wainscoting are there?
Literally your imagination is the limit. Today we are sharing options for breadboard, board and batten, Shiplap, picture-frame style and non traditional ideas.
Where to put wainscoting in house?
There are literally no hard and fast rules about where to use wainscot. Literally the only limit is you need a wall. It can used in any room, hallway, staircase, accent wall, or even an outdoor wall if you are nuts about it the space become to busy.. Traditionally it is popular for living rooms and dining spaces specifically, but a boring hall can benefit from the structure and interest of wainscot without having to be busy.
Can wainscoting be painted?
Of course, if you are the homeowner, its up to you! If you have old wainscot and you want a change, paint it! The wainscot doesn’t have to stay white or even a traditional wood look, you can definitely add a bold color to any wainscot wall. If you are afraid to paint the wainscot itself the wall color above the wainscot can be a great place to add a punch of color.
How to paint wainscot?
This question could be a whole blog post on its own, so let me give you just a couple guiding ideas.
- Prep work is king. If you have wood paneling wainscot you will need a stain blocker to avoid bleed through. If this is new wainscot don’t skip caulking crack, patching and sanding for the best finish possible.
- If you can spray it, thinned out light coats will help to avoid heavy texture and will give it a furniture grade finish. Be sure to get some experience of using a sprayer on a piece of furniture before testing it on your walls for the first time, to avoid big mistakes.
- Smooth paint finish is important, if painting by hand, avoid using a nap roller. A foam roller will be best preferably with a rounded foam end (and not a plastic cap) this foam end will help you roll into the corners of the moldings.
- Consider watering down your paint slightly when brushing on. This will give you a little more time to work with the paint before it dries to avoid brush marks. Get the paint on with a brush then smooth it with a foam roller with minimal paint
- 3 coats is ALWAYS better than one. I know that feels counterintuitive, who wants to paint something 3 times? But heavy coats of paint look sloppy, leave drips, dribbles and ugly texture. Take your time and when in doubt just add a second or even third coat of paint.
Can wainscot be modern?
Usually when I think of wainscoting I think of traditional wall treatments, however there are modern options. Thinking of different geometric shapes for example could modernize a wainscot look like these amazing 3d panels or check out these great options as well. See below for more options, but just know options are endless.
How do you figure out spacing on Wainscoting?
We have a full tutorial on figuring out spacing for board and batten or other picture frame or shadow boxes wainscot check out the link above for specific directions. And check out our installation tutorial here is you are interested in understanding all the nails, glue, and diy wainscoting details your heart desires.
Adding a little extra wainscoting can help dress up a standard chair rail and make it an architectural feature:
shared by My Cottage Charm
Wainscoting helps enhance the structure and design of the room. Merely by splitting the wall into two sections and giving the eye a line to follow, wainscoting helps the room feel bigger. Molding and wall treatments can also help a tall space feel fitting instead of echoey-large, such as this tall 7-foot wainscoting in this extra-tall 14-foot entryway, shared by Design Dump.
Wainscoting can also be a wonderful solution to disguising some of your home’s quirks, such as oddly placed utility access points. The Modern Parsonage shared how they hid their plumbing access by dressing it up to match the wainscoting.
Taller wainscoting ideas with a ledge on top provides a great place to add décor, especially if you intend to switch it out frequently.
And styles? There are so many different styles of wainscoting!
Beadboard is a wonderful wainscot material because it is quick to install and doesn’t require as much of the measuring and math as many of the other styles of wainscoting do. Check out these bead board wainscoting ideas. And as a bonus, you can often keep your existing baseboard intact and still update the wall (or for an extra nice finish pull of the existing baseboard and reinstall on top of the bead board after installing the panels or boards.) This baseboard becomes the bottom rail of the wainscoting.
And The Reformed Ranch installed a tall beadboard wainscot in a farmhouse dining room.
You can also add a ledge to beadboard wainscoting like we did in our Logan House bathroom
or install the beadboard horizontally like we did in the half bath that we added to our Logan House.
Board and Batten Wainscoting
Justin and I have used board and batten in most of our homes. You can alter the height to fit your style and the room, and choose an installation method to fit your budget, time, and skill level. The main feature of this wainscoting style are the stiles (or vertical wood elements) that help to break up the expanse of a wall. If it is half height and a top rail to break up the wall and finish of the wainscot perfectly.
You can keep it going full height and cover the entire wall, right up to the ceiling, like we have done in our current house.
You can also split up the board and batten style to make a paneled wall with stacked squares like these:
And board and batten is a great wainscoting style for stairs and stair walls… so long as you’re willing to do some angular math!
Picture Frame Wainscoting
Picture frame style wainscoting is another popular style, especially in older homes where you need more classic styles to match the architecture. The particular beauty of this design is the depth and detail of the moldings themselves. See some picture frame wainscoting ideas.
and Involving Color shared here:
Did you know you can even buy kits for creating the picture molding look so if you feel like starting at the lumber store is more than you can do at this moment try this:
You can also change things up and have two-tone picture frame molding like Little Miss Penny Wenny installed in her master bedroom:
Or add a little oomph to the picture frames by using paintable textured wallpaper to look like carved wainscot like Suzy’s Sitcom did:
Or you could follow this great tutorial from The Mustard Ceiling and have a wainscoting that mixes the styles of picture frame with the thicker boards like board and batten:
Non-Traditional Wainscoting Ideas
If you’re looking for a wainscoting that will add architectural interest AND oomph, there are plenty of non-traditional and unique wainscot styles that will set your home apart from builder grade. Try one of these:
barn door wainscoting (and full tutorial!) by Traci Monson
There are also many great 3d wall panel options for a modern wainscoting here.
striped painted tall wainscoting shared by Little Blue Chairs
trellis wainscoting by Watch Me Daddy
and one of my favorites
horizontal plank wall wainscoting by us here at Remodelaholic 🙂 Nowadays people call this shiplap, but we did this before Joanna and Chip made that popular.
Wainscoting for Every Room!
Try it, try it, and you may; try it and you may LOVE IT, I say… (Sorry, apparently I read Green Eggs and Ham too much!)
on the stairs and in the hall (by Sawdust Girl)
in the living room (by The Thriftress)
in the entry (by Willow Wisp Cottage)
in the basement (by Dixie Delights)So, what do you say? Have all these wainscoting ideas inspired you to let this Sam-I-Am convince you to love
green eggs and ham, er, wainscoting? Or or are you already on board the wainscot train, heading straight to awesome?
For more stylish wall ideas, check out these:
DIY Stamped Wall (with a DIY stencil!)
Creating Beautiful Storage Space Within Bathroom Walls
3-D Wall Panels with Board and Batten
Elegant Paneled Wall Treatment
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Originally posted 8.12.2013 // Updated 2.3.2021 // Update 6/6/2022
Cassity Kmetzsch started Remodelaholic after graduating from Utah State University with a degree in Interior Design. Remodelaholic is the place to share her love for knocking out walls, and building everything back up again to not only add function but beauty to her home. Together with her husband Justin, they have remodeled 6 homes and are working on a seventh. She is a mother of four amazing girls. Making a house a home is her favorite hobby.