The term wainscoting comes from the Middle English word “wagenschot”, which means “a board of a wagon”. Wainscoting is an interior design element that consists of several components.  A base board which runs along the floor, a top rail, vertical stiles, and panels, applied to the lower portion of a wall. Wainscoting has been used for centuries to add architectural detail, protect the walls from damage, and insulate the room from cold and moisture. Wainscoting was originally used in medieval Europe to cover the stone walls of castles and manors. In the Victorian era, wainscot was used to keep out drafts and can be found very commonly in homes. Later, it became popular to create elegant interiors in homes and public buildings.

Wainscoting can be used in hundreds of ways to decorate your space.  The height of the Wainscot will change the room and create character in many ways.  Typically a wainscot is one third the height of the wall.  A paneling that goes to the ceiling is a paneling, not a wainscot.

A short wainscot 32-36” high with a chair rail can serve to dress up an informal dining room.  A second panel can be added above the chair rail to increase the formality of the space.  In a child’s room, a shelf can be added on the top of the wainscot to display trophies or artwork.

A library or office, and also benefit from a wainscot which matches the desk, shelving, or bookcases.  


The most common forms of wainscot are:

Beadboard: This type of wainscoting consists of narrow vertical planks with a groove or bead between them. You can also buy a panel with the grooves cut in it to appear as individual planks.  It creates a cozy and rustic look that is suitable for cottages, farmhouses, or country-style homes. The solid wood planks can be prone to warping or swelling in humid environments.

Raised panel: This type of wainscoting consists of rectangular panels that are thicker in the center than on their edges.  This elegant look creates depth and interest.  It creates a classic and formal look that is suitable for traditional or colonial-style homes. Raised panel wainscoting is durable and elegant, but it can be expensive and difficult to install.

Flat panel: This type of wainscoting consists of flat panels that are recessed with the surrounding frame. It creates a simple and modern look that is suitable for contemporary or minimalist-style homes. Flat panel wainscoting is versatile and easy to paint, but it can be boring or plain if not well-designed.  Some often call this Board and Batten wainscot but I believe this to be an error.  

Any of these choices can be dressed up with trim moldings that hold the panels in place.  From a simple Ogee, a cove mold, or a quarter round, you can achieve major impact.

Wainscoting is a great way to enhance the appearance and functionality of your walls. It can add charm, warmth, and sophistication to any room. However, not all types of wainscoting are suitable for every home. You should consider factors such as your budget, your style preference, your wall condition, and your room size when choosing the best type of wainscoting for your home. Contact us if you need a design for wainscot in your home, office, or anywhere you would like.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *