Panelling ideas for walls – that bring warmth and interest to your interiors

From traditional cladding and decorative mouldings to innovative designs using wood, these ideas show how to use it in your home

Panelling ideas
(Image credit: Adrian Briscoe)

When it comes to traditional panelling, there are many styles available to suit the age of your house and personal taste. Some incorporate a richer effect, such as hand-carved friezes and pilasters, others have a traditional aged and polished finish, and some, such as the Tudor linenfold, are highly decorative.

It is entirely personal, but a typical approach would be to match the style of the panelling to the period of a house. Georgian houses, with their high ceilings, typically suit full-height panelling featuring simple rectangular shapes. 

Houses dating from the 16th and 17th century will tend to favor panelling made up of smaller squares. A cottage, meanwhile, might suit plank and muntin walls, a technique that uses large oak beams as a frame with oak panelling in between. The Victorian typically opted for panelling at dado rail height in their houses.

See: Wallpaper ideas – gorgeous decor for every room

1. Paint on architectural details

Panelling ideas for walls

(Image credit: Adrian Briscoe)

For a rustic, homespun feel, clad walls in irregular-width planks and paint on decorative details. Using the same mustard yellow for the faux dado rail border and the stencilled frieze helps to bring the space together.

2. Treat wall panelling like a piece of art

Panelling ideas for walls

(Image credit: Edina Van Der Wyck)

Without a focal point, such as a fireplace, modern rooms can lack character. One way to address this is by creating a feature wall of decorative panelling. Setting it in a wooden frame elevated the panels into artwork and the wood theme continues here in the choice of furniture.

3. Pick a bold shade

Panelling ideas for walls

(Image credit: Adrian Briscoe)

Panelling ideas for walls do not need to look period or rustic, as this modern bedroom scheme shows. Painting the stacks of square Jacobean-inspired panelling in a dark hue creates the perfect backdrop to offset strong pieces of furniture and accents of color.

See: Bedroom ideas – designs and inspiration for beautiful bedrooms

4. Add detailing with paint

Panelling ideas for walls

(Image credit: Jan Baldwin)

Dado rail panelling was traditionally used to protect the walls from chairs knocking against them, but there is an aesthetic at play element, too. The painted border here helps to create the illusion of further panelling detail without the expense of the real thing.

5. Create a super-sized headboard with panelling

Panelling ideas for walls

(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

Add an extra dimension of softness and luxury to a bedroom by having a three-quarter height wall of fabric-backed panels behind the headboard, as shown in this scheme by Helen Green Design. An additional bonus is the sound insulation it offers from the world outside.

6. Fake panelling ideas for walls to add instant character

Panelling ideas for walls

(Image credit: Dominic Blackmore)

Instead of the real thing, opt for a wallpaper such as this design by Andrew Martin. The intricate grain details and clever use of shading create an authentic wood panelling look ideal for a more contemporary setting.

7. Create a contemporary feel with fluted panelling

Panelling ideas for walls

(Image credit: Day True)

Fluting is a trend that we've picked up on recently. It's often used in architecture to create texture and interest, and here it's been added as a partition wall to create a character feel within a modern room that's limited on architectural detailing. The warmth of the wood used for the panelling makes a minimalist decorating scheme instantly more welcoming, too.

Panelling ideas for walls

(Image credit: Michael Sinclair)

8. Fix panelling widthways to exaggerate a room's proportions

Panelling ideas for walls

Fitting wall panelling horizontally will make a room feel wider or longer, making it a great trick for small rooms, such as bathroom. Painting it in a pale color will further emphasize the room's proportions.

If using panelling in a bathroom – or any space with lots of moisture in the air – choosing a material that can withstand the atmosphere is a must. Wood will warp, so should be avoided.

See: Country bathroom ideas – family bathrooms and ensuites with a gorgeous rustic look

9. Make wall panelling the focal point

Panelling ideas for walls

(Image credit: Ophelia Blake Interior Design Studio)

Panelling for walls can be a work of art in itself – and it needn't be solely architectural. Here, bespoke panelling made from wood is the accent wall of our dreams, created to dominate and set the tone for this living space. 

10. Create a country feel with decorated wall panelling

Wall panelling ideas

(Image credit: Future)

If you are searching for cottage decorating ideas, there's no doubt that panelling ideas for walls will be high up on your wishlist. Cottages tend to have uneven walls, which a skilled carpenter can regulate with a skilled approach to create the panelling. However, if you like your cottage's irregularities, hanging a wallpaper with a panelled effect can be an excellent compromise. 

And if you choose one with an extra decorative detail, such as a floral motif, you will have the chocolate box effect that's so sought after.

Is panelling cheaper than drywall?

Panelling does not tend to be cheaper than drywall because of the careful trimming of the wood that you will need to do. And, unlike drywall, panelling isn't necessarily designed to be sound-proofed. Instead, panelling for walls is often purely decorative – and that's where its value lies.

Jennifer Ebert
Jennifer Ebert

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. 

Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.