Ah, the Wonder of Wainscoting

gray paneled living room

Wainscoting (pronounced “Wayne’s coating” and derived from Wainscot oak) is a decorative wall paneling originally used to protect and insulate the bottom half of stone colonial homes. Whether made from traditional hardwood, softer plywood, MDF (medium density fiberboard), plastic, or vinyl, this painted or stained ornamental feature is timeless and adds style, warmth, and elegance to any interior.

Wainscoting involves many layers of panel and trim materials.  These can include, from top to bottom, the chair rail cap, apron, horizontal top rail, vertical styles (or stiles), panel, molding, bottom rail, base cap, and shoe molding.  In addition to professional installation, wainscoting comes in pre-cut kits but an experienced DIYer with patience and precision can tackle the task, too.

It is typically installed on the bottom third (or half) of the wall and found in foyers, stairways, and living and dining rooms. And the wall space above the wainscoting is typically painted a different color or adorned with wallpaper.

There are five types of wainscoting: raised panel, flat or recessed panel, beadboard, overlay, and board and batten. 

Raised panels are beveled and installed on top of rails and styles while flat panels are recessed behind them resembling a framed picture.  Beadboard is an inexpensive, more casual form of wainscoting and consists of thin, vertical, interlocking/tongue and groove strips placed next to each other; beadboard is most often found in kitchens and baths. A combination of raised panels centered on top of flat panels often lined with molding is a more formal and expensive alternative. More of a basic grid pattern, board and batten has a long history but finds itself at home in contemporary settings too when used on one focal wall and painted a distinct color from the three adjoining walls.

Because wainscoting is timeless, it will always be in style. So, go ahead and add it to your home and enjoy the dress-up character it will bring to the space.

With many satisfied clients since 2008, Barbara Graceffa owns and operates Secretary of the Interior in Quincy, MA offering decorating services at reasonable rates. If you want to suggest a blog topic or have a decorating, downsizing/decluttering or home staging project needing professional help or are interested in hosting a workshop or quilt show, please contact her via her website www.sec-interior.com or phone 617.921.6033.

By Barbara Graceffa

Barbara Graceffa, CEO of Secretary of the Interior, serves decorating clients; assists with professional organizing, home staging and moving assistance; teaches on these subjects; and delivers quilt lectures and trunk shows.

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