HGTV's Jenny Marrs uses this 13th-century decorating technique to add charm to a living room

When elevating a space, the Fixer to Fabulous designer turns to a historical trick that is as practical as it is good-looking

Bright living room with off white painted walls and paneling, spacious seating area with two gray three seater sofas, purple cushions, dark wood flooring with cream rug, twin gray table lamps, fireplace and piano
(Image credit: Future)

We often watch HGTV for contemporary design quirks that may influence how we decorate in the future – but sometimes, designers remind us of historical features that have an unwavering place in modern homes. And this is the case with Jenny Mars. 

The Fixer to Fabulous designer has renovated countless historic houses around Bentonville, Arkansas, meaning she is often tasked with accentuating their original charm and features. Her solution often involves installing wall paneling – a century-old decorating trick that instantly emphasizes the home's heritage. However, we don't need to live in a historic home to experiment with this technique. 

According to the HGTV website, Jenny accentuates a living room by installing wood paneling to maintain the original charm of the room while creating a luxurious aesthetic – and designers understand why this look is so timeless. 

Wooden paneling first emerged as a form of wall decor in the 13th century, when King Henry III imported wood from Norway and used it to line his rooms at Windsor Castle. In the decades and centuries that followed, decorative paneling evolved into a fine art. 

This feature has excellent thermal insulation properties, but alongside its practical assets, homeowners, designers, and artists alike have used wood paneling for its ornate aesthetic – seen firstly in the embellished linen-fold paneling that became popular in the 15th century.

Today, wood paneling is similarly admired for its good looks – hence why it is so admired by the likes of Jenny Marrs. But what makes it so eternally sought-after? New York-based designer, Artem Kropovinsky, says it comes down to three key factors. 

'Firstly, wooden panels are admired for their timeless charm, that stems from their natural origin,' he says. 'Secondly, their adaptability allows for customization to match any home decor style. And thirdly, their durability ensures longevity. Lastly, they instill a sense of warmth and sophistication in any setting.'

living room with white panelling curved sofa and white fireplace

(Image credit: Jonathan Adler)
Artem Kropovinsky headshot
Artem Kropovinsky

Based in New York, Artem Kropovinsky, founder of Arsight, has a decade of global design experience. Prioritizing minimalism, sustainability, and authenticity, Artem, alongside his team of professionals, works on projects in the US and worldwide.

'Should you be contemplating incorporating wooden panels into your home, I would strongly recommend it. These panels, with their enduring appeal and stylishness, can add a layer of warmth and sophistication to any room.'

While (we expect) most panels remained neutral in the 13th century, Artem says that we should play with color today. He recommends experimenting with light gray wooden panels that 'are a more contemporary look' compared to their traditional counterparts. However, despite their modernity, they don't sacrifice a warm and welcoming atmosphere. 

Their compatibility with an array of colors and styles renders them a flexible option,' Artem says. Convinced? Sometimes future design trends are rooted far in the past. And we would say that's the case with Jenny Marrs' go-to. 

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.