Wall paneling ideas – experts offer 9 simple tricks to wake up your walls (2023)

There are so many wall paneling ideas out there to pick from when you've settled on this simple trick to elevate your interiors, and it's a smart look that is easy to add to any room, and can look good in any interior setting, from a period home to a modern apartment.

Wall paneling works well for a wide range of rooms too, from bathrooms and powder rooms, creating a barrier between the wall and guarding from splashes and spills, to home offices and bedrooms, creating a sophisticated hotel feel. Wall panelling can be used to conceal problems on the wall, mask wiring and can act as a simple accent, breaking up the space and transforming the look of the decor. They can be made from a real range of materials too, from wood, to MDF, to glass or mirror and even upholstered cushion panels that work well in a bedroom to add that extra cozy feel.

If you're looking for a simple trick to upgrade your home, wood panels could be the bathroom, bedroom or living room wall decor idea you're looking for. Read on for handy hints of how to recreate this smart look

How to execute wall paneling ideas well

Unless you're prepared to do the job yourself as part of a weekend project – which is perfectly possible – find someone who really knows what they're doing as you want your paneling to line up properly, fit with the era of the house and ultimately, look perfect.

'Find a good joiner or a handyman who should easily be able to install paneling using MDF tongue and groove and moldings and always ask to see samples,' says Céline Erlam, co-owner ofIndie & Co (opens in new tab), an interior design studio based in London that specializes in creating calm, natural and understated interiors.

'For those who are up for a challenge, it's not a hard job to do yourself and there are dozens of DIY tutorials to be found on YouTube. If you're not using an interior designer or architect make sure you plan the design of your paneling well by drawing it out first and checking that your layout is the right proportions with even spacing.'

1. Use paneling to disguise a door

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(Image credit: PROjECT Interiors)

If paneling is used from floor to ceiling on the walls, it can make for a great opportunity to place a hidden door into a secret room. The door will easily disappear into the paneling, distinguishing the space and adding a bit of glamor to your home.

On this project by Chicago-based interior design firm, PROjECT Interiors (opens in new tab), the whole wall was clad in hexagon-patterned millwork, including a secret door. 'Behind the homeowner's wire-brushed and waxed American white oak desk in one of the home offices, we had Escobedo Group clad the whole wall in a beautiful patterned millwork,' explains lead designer at PROjECT Interiors, Laura Wwarnock.

'The panels are actually a hidden door that slides back to reveal a humidor and a gin-tasting bar.' The door can be opened for continuous flow, or closed and disappearing into the background.


2. Try wooden paneling

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(Image credit: Pam Maher Design)

Create a chalet-like feel by paneling your wall in wood. This gives your room a feeling of connection to nature, and can make a stylish background that doesn't require painting, only embraces the finish and texture of natural wood.

At this residence, designed by Pam Maher Design, the dining room walls were paneled in this character grade white oak that is used throughout the rest of the home.

3. Treat your wood for a dramatic effect

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(Image credit: dspace)

Another option is a darkened wood which creates a homely and cozy feel to a room. dSPACE Interiors, based in Chicago, paneled the hallway leading from the entry of the first floor powder room with charred wood. 'The effect is dramatic, says owner, Kevin Toukoumidis.

'The paneling was custom made in Chicago using this Japanese waterproofing technique called 'shou sugi ban' where a wood surface is charred to render it a deep charcoal color. The finished result, called yakisugi, is a blackening of the wood that reveals clean, distinct lines and creates an inherent textural beauty.' The designers added an oiled finish for a final touch as well, and the effect is that light bounces off the texture, casting shadows around the room.

4. Use paneling on the stairwell

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(Image credit: Paige Rumore. Design: Brad Ramsey)


Paneling isn't just reserved for the main rooms of your home, and a staircase can be a nice space for wall paneling to shine. 'The main reason we elected to add wall paneling to this stairwell was to break up the height of the two-story walls,' comments Brad Ramsey, principal designer and founder of Nashville-based, Brad Ramsey Interiors (opens in new tab).

'By taking the panels up to the height of the chair rail in the upstairs hallway, we were able to divide the large wall to give it more visual appeal,' Brad adds.

In addition, the designer used the panel design to create a hidden door for the coat closet under the stairs. 'We maintained the character of the entry without having a door breaking up the beauty of the space. A win win!'

5. Consider the era of the house

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(Image credit: Katie Charlotte c/o Cortney Bishop Design)

Although wall paneling is used throughout old and new homes, it's worth considering the era of your property before you decide on a style as some designs suit different architecture periods better than others. Modern homes tend to look great with simpler and more contemporary paneling designs as well as designs that fill the whole wall from floor to ceiling, creating the feeling of extra height. While Victorian and Georgian homes can take grander styles, wooden walls and paneling that just takes up the lower half of the wall.

'When thinking about designing paneling, it doesn’t matter what period your property is from, but It's important to do your research so you can ideally match the design of the paneling in line with the period of the house if you want something sympathetic,' explains Céline. 'This is always a key consideration in our projects at Indie & Co. as we want to be as authentic and as sympathetic as possible to the original architecture of the building.'

6. Use wall panels as a space to be creative

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(Image credit: Maddux Creative)

Update your panels with fun, contemporary colors on the lower half of the wall, and perk up the upper half of the wall with vibrant wallpaper ideas. Alternatively, pick a panel in differing geometric shapes to give the space some texture. In this scheme by Maddux Creative (opens in new tab), this works particularly well against the neutral colors of the room.

7. Try paneling in the bathroom

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(Image credit: Lisa Cunnane c/o Studio Hanson)

As well as era, certain rooms suit different paneling styles better than other. Traditionally, entrances and entertaining spaces had more ornate paneling ideas while the tucked away rooms like bathrooms had less fancy detailing, but that doesn't mean bathroom wall panel ideas lack substance! Intricate panel designs tend to suit more neutral, classic shades while modern styles can get away with more modern hues.

'For example, the hallway and living room are more likely to have grander or more sophisticated style paneling, and this would have most likely come down to a status thing; these were the rooms where guests were received,' explains interior designer Céline Erlam, co-owner ofIndie & Co (opens in new tab). an interior design studio based in London that specializes in creating calm, natural and understated interiors.

'Whereas a powder room or bathroom might suit simpler and more modest styles, so are better suited to a tongue and groove design.'


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(Image credit: Little Greene)

Wainscoting is paneling just on the lower half of the wall and it works particularly well in high traffic areas like entrance halls and for powder room ideas, plus you get to play around with color and wallpaper more, either sticking to the same tones or mixing it up a bit.

'Wainscoting over fully paneled walls works particularly well in hallways and powder rooms as a way to protect the walls from scuffs and marks,' says Céline. 'Usually painted in a more durable grade of paint such as eggshell - we like to use intelligent finishes - which are easily wipeable so easier to clean.'


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(Image credit: James Merrell)

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Paneling creates the opportunity to be playful with color and pattern and provides a great way to mix the old and new. Traditional paneling in a vibrant hue works so well, and by picking one tone and using it on the painted paneling as well as the wallpaper above (no matter the pattern), helps add personality while keeping a sense of harmony. Shiplap paneling is a more modern and simple design, which looks good painted in either a classic white shade or something a bit brighter and bolder.

'Keeping the paneling the same color as the wall can give a great subtle texture to the space. Or for those who are feeling more daring it's a great opportunity to be more playful with color and can look fab mixed with the right wallpaper,' adds Céline. 'We love the combo of Midbec’s Apelviken wallpaper (opens in new tab) with Oval Room Blue (opens in new tab) from Farrow & Ball.'

How can I make my panel walls look good?

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(Image credit: Maisons du Monde)

Wall paneling has really made a comeback over the past few years in interior design trends and because it comes in a variety of styles, there's a paneling idea to suit most schemes.

If your home already has paneling and you want to bring it to life, then consider painting your paneling in a bold hue and match that exact color to the remaining walls or woodwork too for a dramatic effect. And if you're after a hit of pattern, either wallpaper the remaining walls above in something jazzy or create a two-tone effect by running a line of tape and opt for contrasting paint colors on your paneling.; this works particularly well if you're after a very modern, graphic look.

Does wall paneling make a room look smaller?

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(Image credit: Acupanel)

Wall paneling doesn't necessarily make a room feel smaller. It depends on the type of cladding you get and how you choose to install it. Darker finishes, whether original wood or paint ideas can make a room feel small. But you can also install light-coloured cladding to open your room up.

There are advantages to darker tones and woods though as they can can be used to make a room feel cozier and more intimate.

Consider adding vertical planks of wood to a wall; it could help the space seem larger as they'll draw the eye upwards towards the ceiling.

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How do you make wood paneling effects? ›

Once the panel strips are attached and the filler is dry you can paint on your wood primer. This is

How do panelling make a room look bigger? ›

That said, if you're adding vertical planks of wood to a wall, it could help the space seem larger as they'll draw your eye upwards towards the ceiling. If you're worried about a small space feeling smaller, opt to use a light colour such as grey or white to help reflect the light.

Should panelling be darker or lighter? ›

Darker panelling can create a stunning, dramatic effect whilst lighter colours can create a calm ambience, perfect for rooms with lots of light.”

How do you make a simple panel DIY? ›

The Simple Panel can be obtained from Nook's Cranny for 810 Bells. The item's panel pattern can be customized either by using 1 Customization Kit or by Cyrus at Harv's Island for 1,000 Bells. When customizing the item's panel pattern, the player can use one of Sable's patterns or their own custom designs.

Do you cut paneling face up or down? ›

The easiest way to cut wood paneling without splintering is face down with a circular saw. A circular saw cuts in an upward motion. Therefore, the face of the paneling will come out neat and clean.

Is Wall Panelling a good idea? ›

Affordable, versatile and eye-catching, wall panelling is a smart way to instantly transform your home, whether that's adding character to a new-build or enhancing that sense of old-world grandeur in a period property.

How do you brighten a room with paneling? ›

Apply white paint to the doors, window frames, baseboards, molding and other trim pieces. White paint provides a light, modern contrast against dark-toned paneling. Decorate the area with white accessories such as wood blinds, area rugs, wall hangings and table lamps.

What colors make a room look bigger and brighter? ›

So, what colors make a room look bigger? For an optimum effect, go with soft tones like off-white, blues, and greens, and always remember that brighter rooms feel bigger and more inviting. And here's another hack: Try painting your wall trim and moldings in a lighter color than your walls.

How can I make my walls look like wood? ›

Choose a low-luster latex paint that matches the undertones of the type of wood you want your project to mimic. For example, if you want the surface to bear resemblance to mahogany, opt for coral or dark red. For lighter woods like walnut or maple, select a shade of gold or orange.

What is the cheapest way to cover paneling? ›

1. Repainting Old Wood Paneling. As they say, repainting is one of the easiest and cost-effective ways to revive any room. Reminder: wear safety clothing when using paint, paint thinner and paint remover.

What paint finish is best for panelling? ›

Satin is the most popular finish for interior painting projects and is the all-around best choice to use on wall paneling. With a satin finish, you will get a medium sheen that is easier to clean and more durable than matte and eggshell finishes.

What thickness should panelling be? ›

You want 9mm thick boards as this will give you the best panelling effect, 6mm is too thin and 12mm is too thick. So you really only have 2 options, first option and this is the best option is to go for the 2.44m x 1.22m x 9mm (this option will be dependent on the size of your car).


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