Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wainscoting - Practical or Decorative

Wainscoting has been with us for centuries, and for good reason.  Originally it served a practical purpose as protection to the lower wall against chairs bumping into expensive wall coverings, or for that matter - just plain old plaster.  In other words, it saved the walls from scrapes & scratches. Today wainscoting is used as more of a decorative element rather than protection.

Let's look at several examples through the designs of Sarah Richardson - one of my favorite designers, to get an idea of how wainscoting is used today.

Here she uses a simple chair rail as a decorative accent to the living room walls.  The two paint colors are repeated in accent pillows and accessories throughout the room to pull the look together.

A combination of chair rail and inset panels allow for a tri-color paint scheme to compliment this dinning room. Often wallpaper is applied above the chair rail.

Recently, a commonly used wainscoting is bead board, shown here in a mud room application.

Now all three of these examples are covering the lower third of the wall, but you don't necessarily need to keep the wainscoting to this particular height.  It all depends upon the ceiling height, proportion, scale, and affect you are after. 

Below, the wainscoting is a little lower, matching the height of the windowsill. 

Here, it's a lot higher.  In this particular case, it adds a lot of texture to the neutral room.
Done correctly it can make a room seem taller and more spacious. 
The contrasting wall color creates interest and makes a great surface for highlighting artwork.
 Leaning artwork and special mementos on the ledge here adds a focal point to the corner.
And then again, you don't really have to use millwork to achieve the same affect. The color contrast keeps the focus lower in the room and lets that high soaring ceiling just melt away.

I personally don't have any wainscoting in my home, but I think it can be a practical way to add a little interest to your walls.  
So which of these rooms resonates with you and your style?

Happy Wednesday!



  1. Dana @ chocolateandsunshine.coMay 15, 2014 at 9:17 AM

    Cyndi, I don't have any wainscoting either but I really want it. I watch the same Sarah shows you have and each time I viewed one of her projects I wanted to add the wainscoting, too. Love these projects. They add so much home value, too, because they stay with the house. Great post!

  2. Thanks Dana. You're right it adds character and value!


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