If your walls could talk, what would they ask you? Would they beg you to finally commit to one of the seven grey paint swatches you have applied and stewed over for months (pssst. . . just go ahead and pick one! Any of them will be great!) Would they tell you to remove that 1980's wallpaper? Would they tell you that your walls shouldn’t resemble your Instagram feed? Would they tell you that there is more to walls than just, paint, wallpaper, photos and art? Walls can certainly be so much more.
Ever since I can remember, I have felt drawn to old stately homes. I love going on historic homes tours and taking in every detail. There is something very special about bygone years where true craftsmen took pride in their work and weren’t in such a hurry to complete their projects. Old homes often radiate a sense of pride in ownership, and the artisans that built them have left a masterful mark that continues to be en-joyed by generations.
One of the features of old homes that I appreciate the most is the millwork and wainscoting master carpenters so meticulously crafted. It appeared for a while that fine carpentry was a dying art form. Yet, lately I have observed a new trend in the DIY world. Homeowners are discovering that a little bit of trim can bring about a tremendous transformation. They have found that there can be more to walls than just paint and artwork. These brave and adventurous homeowners are bringing millwork back and are gracing their homes with new textures, allowing their once dull walls to come to life.
Shiplap is a type of millwork that most people are familiar with. It is a simple, yet classic-looking wall treatment that has gained tremendous popularity. I discovered a darling powder room at my friend Cathy’s house one night when she had our family over for dinner. The walls in this lovely bathroom were covered in shiplap. This was not your typical white shiplap, but was rather painted in Sherwin Williams Peppercorn. I loved how she carefully used value changes in this room! The peppercorn paint contrasted beauti-fully with her white sink vanity.
I quickly learned that Cathy had a passion for carpentry, a creative talent she inherited from her grandfather. Personally, I have always wanted to learn carpentry skills, but never felt brave enough to go about it alone. I offered to assist Cathy with her next wainscoting project and, in exchange, she taught me a new skill. To my surprise, I found it wasn’t to difficult if you have the right tools.
With a miter saw, pencil and a nail gun powered by an air compressor, we were ready to get to work. I was so thrilled with the transformation, and grateful to add carpentry to my repertoire. Not to mention, I believe I have a newfound love for power tools! Other tools that were useful to have on-hand were a trim remover tool (in case you make a mistake), caulk, spackling and a sander. To save time, we cut a scrap piece of wood to about 18” and used it as a spacer in between boards. It prevented us from having to measure the width between boards each time we had to nail in a trim piece. Overall, this was a very inexpensive project. Cathy was even clever enough to purchase her oak trim pieces from Habitat for Humanity’s RESTORE at an incredible savings.
Adding wainscoting to a wall is beautiful, but it can also be functional. Wainscoting on mudroom walls or in a bathroom can offer greater stability for hooks and towel bars that often fall out over time when attached with drywall hooks. Taller wainscoting in stairwells, or floor-to-ceiling wall treatments can substitute for artwork. It is hard to find artwork to fill walls with high ceilings. Wainscoting can bring just about enough texture that you may not miss the art at all.
When filling in your nail holes, I suggest you use wood filler or spackling. Both can be sanded down and will be more discrete than caulk, which can not be sanded. I think you will find that in all you do, if you are brave enough to try, you can accomplish great things. You may have a desire to do your own millwork, but you are not ready to invest in the tools necessary, you can rent them from many hardware stores or hire a carpenter.
Below I have included a lovely sampling of millwork projects. When choosing a wainscoting for your home, you should go with a style that suits your existing home style. There are modern or contemporary millwork designs and pattern layouts, traditional millwork, or of course shiplap for those of us that have craftsman style or farmhouse style homes.
I hope you will be inspired by these wainscoting ideas and you choose to keep alive this wonderful tradition of craftsmanship. So, maybe the next time your walls seem to be talking, take a moment to listen! I know you will soon discover that your walls are capable of making a big statement!