9 Wainscoting Ideas That Will Upgrade Your Walls Instantly

Wainscoting adds instant charm to your home.

When it comes to creating a solid design foundation in any room, nothing elevates a space quicker than wainscoting. The right wall treatment can instantly solve a myriad of issues, making your room look larger, more visually interesting, and even fancier. It’s no wonder wainscoting details are a favorite of designers everywhere.

Wainscoting is a style of wall paneling added to the lower portion of an interior wall. Originating in the 18th century, wainscoting was often installed for functional purposes, like adding insulation and protecting the walls from furniture bumps. In many of today's homes, however, it's often added primarily as a decorative feature—and for good reason. Wainscoting is a beautiful (and often simple) way to upgrade your decor and it can be customized to compliment any design style, from classic and traditional spaces to old farmhouses (or homes that want to masquerade as one).

<p>Photo by <a href="https://bjorgmagnea.com/" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="1" rel="nofollow">Bjorg Magnea</a> for <a href="https://www.pjcarchitecture.com/" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="2" rel="nofollow">PJCArchitecture</a></p>

To help get the wheels of inspiration turning for your own home, we’re rounding up 9 stylish examples of wainscoting you can copy right now. From funky geometrics and moody paint hues to an artistic treatment worthy of a fine art museum, these designer ideas stand out for all the right reasons.

Related: 9 Types of Wall Paneling, From Shiplap to Beadboard

Create Opportunities for Organization

<p>Courtesy of <a href="https://www.mcgeeandco.com/" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="1" rel="nofollow">McGee and Co</a>.</p>

Courtesy of McGee and Co.

Wainscoting is a classic element found in many period homes, thanks to its functional and utilitarian roots. In this multipurpose space, a mudroom gets extra organization thanks to a peg rail that tops off the wall paneling, making for the perfect place to stash hats, scarves, and jackets.

Make a Mural Museum-Worthy

<p>Photography by <a href="https://www.ericpiasecki.com/" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="1" rel="nofollow">Eric Piasecki</a> for <a href="https://www.mendelsongroupinc.com/" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="2">Mendelson Group</a></p>

Transform a formal dining room into the perfect place to share a memorable meal by adding a touch of molding—and a museum-worthy mural. This elegant space by Mendelson Group pairs the two classic details with finesse, utilizing the wainscoting to bring subtle attention to the grayscale landscape illustration.

Bring Interest to a Staircase

<p>Photo by <a href="https://bjorgmagnea.com/" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="1" rel="nofollow">Bjorg Magnea</a> for <a href="https://www.pjcarchitecture.com/" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="2" rel="nofollow">PJCArchitecture</a></p>

Staircases are meant to be forgettable, right? Wrong! Do the hardworking zone justice by installing wainscoting up the run of the stairs as a way to add a touch of visual interest. In this space, PJCArchitecture kept things simple and timeless, with a traditional raised panel design and neatly spaced artwork.

Play With Unique Shapes

<p>Courtesy of <a href="https://sandbergwallpaper.com/karins-bukett-powder-pink" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="1" rel="nofollow">Sandberg Wallpaper</a></p>

Courtesy of Sandberg Wallpaper

Not scared of a little quirk? Us either—after all, we’re wild over the geometric twist on this wainscoting example. Instead of the simple molding or beadboard typically seen on wainscoting, a mixture of shapes (including circles and diamonds) creates a textural and visually stunning treatment that is one part twist on tradition, one part art.

Add a Dose of Drama

<p>Photo by <a href="https://www.joseph-bradshaw.com/" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="1" rel="nofollow">Joseph Bradshaw</a> for <a href="https://inhonorofdesign.com/" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="2">In Honor of Design</a></p>

The great thing about wainscoting is that it can be as subtle or as showstopping as you’d like. Case in point? This drama-packed dining room by In Honor of Design, where an inky peacock blue (In The Midnight Hour by Benjamin Moore) pairs with an equally gutsy printed wallpaper (Juniper Forest by Rifle Paper Co.) for a restaurant-worthy spot to wine and dine.

Go Tone on Tone

<p>Photo and Design by <a href="https://www.instagram.com/pennies_for_a_fortune/" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="1">Fariha Nasir</a> for <a href="https://penniesforafortune.com/" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="2" rel="nofollow">Pennies For a Fortune</a></p>

Wainscoting is a great way to add texture to a room, a subtle but important design element that can change the way your space feels and how dynamic it looks. This quiet scene designed by Fariha Nasir of Pennies for a Fortune utilizes the same dusty pink hue (Sulking Room Pink by Farrow & Ball) on the walls, molding, doorway, and ceiling for an all-over effect that feels like a cozy hug.

Fake Taller Ceilings

<p>Photo by <a href="http://rettpeek.com/" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="1" rel="nofollow">Rett Peek Photography</a> for <a href="https://www.meetwest.studio/" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="2" rel="nofollow">Meet West Studio</a></p>

You may think that adding obvious detail to your walls would make your room feel smaller or shorter, but that’s not always the case. When done correctly, wainscoting can actually trick the eye into believing your room has more height or square footage than it actually does (the same way that adding furniture can make an empty room look bigger). This elegant dining room by Meet West Studio is a perfect example of this elongating effect.

Add Just a Peek of Pattern

<p>Photo and Design by <a href="https://www.amelialawrencestyle.com/" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="1" rel="nofollow">Amelia Lawrence Style</a></p>

Photo and Design by Amelia Lawrence Style

Homeowners who are a bit pattern-phobic—but want to step out of their comfort zone—can look to wainscoting as a way to make adding a print a bit more digestible. Here, Amelia Lawrence Style covered the walls in modern flat panel wainscoting, leaving just a peek of wall space at the top for a smidge of wallpaper. Bonus: This is a great way to still incorporate beautiful paper without breaking the bank by covering a whole room floor to ceiling.

Pair It With a Built-in

<p>Photo and Design by Marynn Udvarhelyi for <a href="https://wildflowerhomeinteriors.com/" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="1" rel="nofollow">Wildflower Home</a></p>

Photo and Design by Marynn Udvarhelyi for Wildflower Home

Wainscoting is beautiful on its own—but it becomes really special when paired with other bespoke details that make your room feel totally custom. This sweet bedroom by Marynn Udvarhelyi of Wildflower Home exemplifies this ethos perfectly, pairing a traditional beadboard wall treatment with a custom built-in shelf and window seat that begs for a bit of R&R.

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