10 Wall Paneling Ideas that Don’t Look Dated

Create wow-worthy walls with cool cover-ups you might never have considered.

Wall Paneling Ideas That Don't Look Dated

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Whatever your goal—adding oomph to a plain surface, hiding dings and dents, or adding interesting texture—wall paneling might be just the ticket. No, not your grandparents’ paneling that first became popular in the 1960s, those floor-to-ceiling faux bois planks that could not even be considered kitsch today. Current trends in wall paneling run the gamut from classic to modern, from simple to striking, and can often be applied in a matter of hours at up to 40 percent less than tile or natural stone wall coverings.

Intrigued? Check out these eclectic wall paneling ideas for the fresh inspiration you need to plan your project today.





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Board and batten

First used as siding for barns, board and batten is a type of wainscoting (paneling on the lower portion of a wall) featuring alternating wide wood or engineered wood (e.g., MDF) panels and narrow wooden stiles—strips called battens—between upper and lower horizontal rails of molding. Construction adhesive or nails are used to vertically wall-mount adjoining wide panels covered at the seams with vertical battens. This wainscoting is commonly painted and applied two-thirds of the way up walls in transitional bathrooms, kitchens, or mudrooms to blend rustic and modern design elements.





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Picture frame molding

Ancient Greek and Egyptian painters first used this type of molding as dividers between portraits; in modern times, it’s seen with or without artwork. Four individual strips of beveled wood or MDF molding are joined into square or rectangular units, then the assembled “frames” are mounted with construction adhesive or nails. Square picture frame molding exudes a traditional look when installed on the lower one-third of a dining room or study. For a modern twist that leaves more room inside the frames for showcasing art, mount larger rectangular frames on the upper half of a living room or bedroom wall.





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Beadboard

This Victorian-era wainscoting sports narrow, vertical wooden stiles that interlock in a tongue-and-groove system whereby the tongue (protruding edge) of one stile fits into the groove (slot) of its neighbor. Artisans of old mounted the stiles one by one between horizontal rails, but you can now buy pre-painted beadboard paneling made of wood, MDF, or vinyl and stick it to the wall using construction adhesive or nails. Traditional and timeless, beadboard mounted on the lower one-third of a wall adds romance to spaces meant for “me time,” like bathrooms and bedrooms.





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Self-Adhesive Wood Planks

Want to bring the beauty of salvaged wood to your home without the hassle of sourcing, sanding, staining, and nailing? Sold online for $8 to $16 per square foot, Stikwood is a paneling product made of five-inch-wide, one- to four-feet-long reclaimed wood planks. Simply peel off the adhesive backing and apply to walls. Natural tones like Reclaimed Weathered Wood add a rustic touch to dens and kitchens. Edgier finishes like all-black Charcoal lend a cool, contemporary vibe.





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Shiplap

Nineteenth-century shipbuilders constructed boats of wood panels with notched edges that overlapped when joined to create a watertight seal. For interior décor, such notched panels with deep seams became known as “shiplap” by the early 20th century, and today, shiplap paneling is installed by wall-mounting wood or MDF shiplap planks, either vertically side-by-side or horizontally stacked one on top of the another. The cottage-chic wall paneling has the most impact when installed floor-to-ceiling in a kitchen or den.





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Raised Paneling

Raised panel wainscoting, popularized in 17th-century Colonial and Queen Anne-style homes, features beveled wooden panels elevated above their surrounding vertical stiles and horizontal rails. This dimensional quality creates the illusion of a narrow shelf protruding from the base of the wall. Installation involves wall-mounting alternating beveled wood or MDF panels and vertical stiles between an upper and lower rail of molding of the same material. The effect is tasteful and traditional, suited for wainscoting that occupies the lower third of the wall in formal dining rooms or living rooms where a buttoned-up look is desired.





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Felt

Plush felt wall paneling comes in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and effects from the traditional aesthetic of stone to modern fractal patterns. They can be wall-mounted temporarily with metal offset clips such as Z-Clips, or with a manufacturer-approved adhesive for a semi-permanent option. The material brings a sense of quietude—indeed, felt can sound-proof a space—and softness, like a blanket that spans the full width and height of walls, which makes it well-suited to a family room or game room. For a fun, unique look, mix-and-match panels of different hues.



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Salvage

Salvaged, repurposed wood can be transformed into avant-garde wall paneling by a savvy DIYer, whether you source planks and beams from old buildings or deconstruct defunct furniture. Drawer fronts from cabinets and bureaus can be sanded and painted, the drawer pulls left intact or replaced, and then wall-mounted with construction adhesive or nails to evoke a powerfully eccentric puzzle that energizes a play room, study, or other interior designed for creativity.





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Faux leather

While a leather couch may scream ‘70s bachelor pad, wall panels made of leatherette or a similar fabric and plastic composite with a leather-like look can lend modern or classic appeal without peeling or cracking like the genuine article can. The panels are usually sold as individual squares you apply with construction adhesive to create stacked rows resembling a grid. For faster coverage, buy and mount pre-assembled sheets made of multiple faux leather panels already laid out in a grid. Because the effect is bold, consider limiting the paneling to a small section, e.g., a wall headboard in a bedroom.





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Custom-shaped wallpaper

Add a focal point with an eye-catching patterned wallpaper cutout in an unexpected shape. Outline the shape you want with a pencil on a regular sheet of wallpaper and then cut it out with scissors. Apply wallpaper paste to the back of the cutout and adhere to the wall to frame the object in front of it—be it a feature fireplace, a favorite piece of furniture or, a pedestal sink with a mirror. Leave the rest of the wall simply painted to maximize the effect.