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Wainscoting Ideas | 30 Distinctive & Unique Designs

Wainscoting Ideas | 30 Distinctive & Unique Designs

Wainscoting ideas can go far beyond the classic plain paneling topped by a chair rail. Take inspiration from one of the 30 ideas we’ve found below to give your walls a unique look. Read on to see the inspiration.


Disclaimer: The information included in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal, financial, or DIY advice. We highly suggest consulting a professional before attempting any DIY home improvements or repairs.


30 Unique Wainscoting Ideas

Walls often get overlooked when it comes to home décor. Once a paint color or wallpaper is chosen, the focus shifts to floor coverings and furniture. 

You can do more than paint or paper your walls to create a unique look. Whether you prefer subtle or bold décor choices, here are 30 wainscoting ideas to help you dress up your walls.

Read Next: Popular Home Styles

1. Angled to Match a Staircase

For a piece on wainscoting ideas, a number of wood panels painted white below the stairs

victory.dv/Shutterstock

Raised-panel wainscoting painted white adds visual interest beneath the stairs, and matching panels cover the staircase wall. Unlike most stairwell wainscoting, the panels match the angle of the ascent, giving the stairs a unique look. The angled panels create a more cohesive look than straight up and down paneling would. 

2. Formal and Fancy

Formal and fancy wainscoting idea with striped wallpaper above white wooden paneling

littlenySTOCK/Shutterstock

When you want a formal look, try wainscoting with an intricately carved upper rail that also serves as ceiling molding. The matching rails painted a complementary shade from the formal wallpaper have a distressed look to give the illusion of age. 

3. Dramatic Flair

Black 2x4 wainscoting in a matte finish with black silk bedsheets on a low bed sitting on tan wood flooring

Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

Board-and-batten wainscot panels used on an entire wall and painted black give a bedroom a modern look. The dark panels are understated but give the room a dramatic flair and a point of interest besides the bed.

4. Wallpaper Wainscoting

Wallpaper wainscoting ideas with a style that resembles carved stone from the Victorian era

M.ilker09/Shutterstock

Wainscoting helps lower wallpapering costs, but you can combine paneling with wainscot-look 3D wallpaper or use the paper on the entire wall for an elegant look that’s hard to achieve with paneling alone.

5. A Lovely Landing

White wainscoting paneling with dark brown flooring with white balusters

Jorge Salcedo/Shutterstock

Add interest to the landing at the top of a stairwell with standard-height raised panels and a small, basic chair rail. When the height of the panels matches the banisters, it creates a pleasant visual balance. 

6. Minimalist Panels

For a piece on wainscoting ideas, a blue suede chair sits in front of a simple minimalist wainscoted wall

Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

When you want other features to get the focus, try minimalist flat panels in a classic style. A simple design and a thin chair rail add interest when you look at the wall but stay in the background to frame the other bold elements in the room. 

7. A Paneled Archway

Paneled archway wainscoting idea in a half-wall décor idea with beige painted walls above

Ursula Page/Shutterstock

Basic short wainscoting goes from ordinary to eye-catching when a matching design decorates the inside of an archway. The element creates a dramatic look to an already interesting architectural element and pulls the rooms together more than a simple color can do. 

8. Monochrome Effects

Larege room in Scandinavian style for a piece on wainscoting ideas

gmrbrown/Shutterstock

Classic white wainscoting with tall rectangular panels matches the look of the tall rectangular doors and creates a pattern that’s pleasing to the eye. Rectangular bevels on the doors and the monochrome color scheme give the room a balanced, relaxing look.

9. Simple Craftsman Style

Craftsman wainscoting idea in a simple room with a brown couch with brown wall accents

Artazum/Shutterstock

White board-and-batten paneling creates a Craftsman-style look that can be the backdrop for any décor. The Quaker style works for a classic Craftsman décor theme or provides a neutral foundation for a more modern aesthetic.

Read Next: Aesthetic Room Ideas

10. Shiplap Style

Shiplap style wainscoting idea in a graphic image below a sign that says relax with framed pictures around it

Doubletree Studio/Shutterstock

Instead of traditional wainscoting, shiplap panels topped with a thin chair rail look dramatic beneath a photo wall or a large painting. Shiplap panels taken to the ceiling or higher than standard chair rail adds even more dramatic flair. 

11. Mixed Styles

For a piece on wainscoting ideas, a photo of a sitting room decorated in the nautical style commonly found on an East-Coast home

Breadmaker/Shutterstock

Standard raised-panel wainscoting gives a mantel-like look behind a couch in a sitting area. Wide, shorter panels continue the wainscoting below large windows to add new angles to a room full of different shapes and colors. 

12. Molding and Wallpaper

Grey wainscoting paneling in a wavy molding style with floral print on half of the wall

Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

A big, bold wallpaper design that would overwhelm a room turns one wall section into a work of art. Simple molding used to create the look of wainscoting doesn’t end at chair-rail height but creates a huge panel next to a wallpapered section to give it balance. 

13. A Clean Palette

Roundup of wainscoting idea with white painted wood paneling below a blue painted wall

gmrbrown/Shutterstock

White wainscoting against a colorful wall creates a clean palette that lets colorful furniture pop in a way it wouldn’t against the painted wall. The white pulls all the colors together and creates a deliberate look to avoid a jumble of colors. 

14. Simple and Functional

Simple and functional wainscoting idea with vertical shiplap and a shelf molding above below a simple white painted wall

Tanya NZ/Shutterstock

Basic vertical-panel wainscoting painted white serves as more than wall protection and décor. The paneling topper is a narrow shelf suiting for plants, picture frames, and tchotchkes instead of a standard chair rail. 

15. Add Texture

Simple wainscoting idea with old copper vase style wallpaper above the paneling

ezjay/Shutterstock

Shiplap panels leading up to a thin chair rail to top it off. The simple and subtle look leads to a heavily patterned wallpaper that would be overwhelming on the entire wall but looks dramatic above neutral-colored wainscoting. 

16. A Neutral Backdrop

Simple wainscoting with neutral painted walls in a small half bathroom with dark floors

Breadmaker/Shutterstock

White, flat-panel wainscoting creates a plain background to showcase elegant furniture like a small table with drawers. The curves and intricate details stand out against the Craftsman-style walls. 

17. Create an Illusion

As an example for a piece on wainscoting ideas, a wardrobe under the staircase in a nice and open home

Kuprynenko Andrii/Shutterstock

Use wainscoting on an entire wall on the side of a staircase to add interest. Knobs set in the center of some panels give the illusion of drawers and cubby holes. 

18. Dramatic Accents

Example of wainscoting in both black and grey paneling in different styles

Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

An entire accent wall done in board-and-batten wainscoting and painted black can be a canvas for any accent color you want to shine. Black with gold accents creates a dramatic wall and a motif to carry into the rest of the room. 

19. Highlight the Molding

Grey wainscoting idea with white paint trimming the molding in back of a blue couch

rose_yunus83/Shutterstock

An entire wall done in wainscoting with molding looks anything but plain when the molding used to create the designs is painted white against a colored background. 

20. Fill Empty Spaces

For an example of wainscoting ideas, a room with white paneling next to beige walls above the bed

ThreeDiCube/Shutterstock

Low wainscoting that’s more like an extended baseboard rings the room. In such small spaces, the empty walls would look too busy with portraits or décor. The look of wainscoting with simple white molding keeps the walls from looking bare and gives the room a lopsided appearance.

Read Next: Baseboard Styles

21. The Classic Look

Wall painted bright yellow above a white wainscot half-wall

SF photo/Shutterstock

A simple white beadboard topped with a chair rail gives the basic wainscoting look made more dramatic when topped with a texture-painted wall, here in vibrant yellow, but any color will stand out above the traditional white. 

22. Vertical Panels

Wainscoting idea in a stairway with vertical molding halfway up the wall below the railing

Jessa Lowell/Shutterstock

Vertical panels painted white lead up a stairway with the chair-rail top painted the same color as the walls and the handrail. The white wainscoting gives the appearance of movement up the stairs. 

23. Behind a Backsplash

Kitchen wainscoting idea behind backsplash with tan granite in the foreground

Brett Taylor Photography/Shutterstock

To cover the wall space between a backsplash and a bathroom mirror, a white beadboard topped with a chair rail adds some white to set off the beautiful granite and keep the wall from looking bare. 

24. Repeating Motifs

Wainscoting idea with repeating square motifs that match the four picture frames on the wall above the molding

DotExe/Shutterstock

Create the look of flat-panel wainscoting with molding added to walls in squares mimicked by the picture frames that hang above. The repeating pattern used throughout the room pleases the eye and creates a sense of balance. 

25. Dark and Bright

Dark wainscoting painted black with sheer curtains covering the old windows

metriognome/Shutterstock

Dark wood flooring leads up to darker wainscoting to add a dramatic look to any room. The combination of dark and light is beautiful in black and white, with the dark floor and walls leading to white upper walls, furniture, and accents.

26. Colorful Accents

White bathroom wainscoting idea with salmon bathroom towels hanging from the drywall alongside same color floormat

Artazum/Shutterstock

White Craftsman wainscoting used in a bathroom without a chair rail and hooks installed at the top lets towels serve as an accent color and part of the décor. The clean lines of the flat panels set off other patterns in the room. 

27. Unused Spaces

Wainscoting idea of a half-wall in the popular square pattern below a salmon-painted wall

Ursula Page/Shutterstock

An unused nook with lots of angles gets dressed up with classic raised-panel wainscoting with an extra-wide bottom foot and a mirrored chair rail at the top. The wainscoting takes an unusual, small area where many walls meet from an eyesore to a showcase. 

28. Dark Wood

Colonial style bedroom with dark wood wainscoting halfway up the wall with small picture windows below the angled ceiling

Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

A Colonial-style attic bedroom gets weight and color from dark wood wainscoting that covers the straight portion of the walls with dozens of squares and bevels. The dark wood adds weight that anchors the room. Without it, the ceiling angles would become an unfortunate focal point. 

29. Tile Wainscoting

Diagonal white subway tile wainscoting below rounded top tiles

Lagui/Shutterstock

Ceramic tile wainscoting in bathrooms is a modern look, but the type of tile you use determines the tone of the entire room. Handmade tiles or tiles with unique shapes, colors, and textures can give a room an old-world feel. Forego a chair rail for shaped tiles at the top to complete the antique look. 

30. A Cohesive Look

Wainscoting idea in the entryway painted white with tan wooden flooring

C Woods Photography/Shutterstock

Huge wainscoting panels cover the entire wall behind a staircase and extend into the next floor and above the archway at the base of the stairs. The pattern continues around the archway and beyond the stairs to draw the eye up and along the wall. 

Things to Consider

If you’re thinking about adding wainscoting to a room or changing out the wainscoting you already have in place, keep some things in mind to prevent yourself from being limited by the classic styles you’ll find in most home improvement stores. 

  • Don’t be afraid of color. Traditional wainscoting is usually stained wood or painted white, but using color can change the entire look of your room. Raised molding or bevels painted an accent color can upgrade installed wainscoting and set a new tone. 
  • Don’t be afraid of texture. Flat-panel and raised-panel wainscoting give different looks, but you can create the illusion of wainscoting panels with molding added in shapes and sizes you want. Bevels and elaborate bottom rails and chair rails can turn basic wainscoting in a showpiece, too. 
  • Don’t be afraid of detail. You can create intricate detail on wainscoting panels by adding molding or wooden appliques for a Victorian or antique look around the room or only on select panels for accents. 
  • Use wainscoting for balance. If the room is heavy with furniture, angles, curves, and other details, plain wainscoting in a neutral color can create a backdrop without adding fussiness to an already busy room. 
  • Create the illusion of panels. One of the least expensive ways to create the look of fancy wainscoting panels involves cheap wooden molding arranged in shapes and patterns directly on the wall. You’re only limited by the type of molding you can find. Using molding is a great way to create the look of massive panels that take up most of the wall. 
  • Cut your wall-covering costs. If you love the look of expensive wallpaper, use wainscoting to reduce your costs. Simple wainscoting will also balance out detailed patterns and give the eye a place to rest to keep the design from becoming overwhelming.
Click for Frequently Asked Questions

What rooms should have wainscoting?

Wainscoting helps make large rooms more inviting and intimate, so living rooms, dining rooms, hallways, foyers, and staircases are all great candidates for wainscoting.

What are different styles of wainscoting?

The five main styles of wainscoting are flat panel, beadboard, overlay, board and batten, and raised panel. Each one has its own pros and cons, but everyone type can have a place in your home.

What is modern wainscoting?

Modern wainscoting is a type of improvement in which wooden trim and panels are installed on a wall, and modern wainscoting is when the homeowner uses wooden pieces with very little detail to them. Think of this style as having more of a board and batten look.

What is the best material to use for wainscoting?

The best type of material to use for wainscoting is lumber or MDF. Both are easy to work with, relatively inexpensive to buy, and easy to cut. Plus, both of these materials hold up well over time and can be painted to match the rest of your home.

Which Wainscoting Ideas Do You Like the Most?

If you love one of these wainscoting ideas, you can probably find a room that can benefit from a new look. Small rooms like bathrooms or guest rooms are good places to start to keep the project simple. Small rooms are also easy to change if you find you don’t like a look you’ve created.  

Look around your house to see which rooms could most benefit from one of these trending wainscoting styles. You’re limited only by your own creativity, so don’t forget to have fun while you’re adding beauty to your home.

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