Wainscoting: Architecture’s Little Black Dress

via New England Classic

via New England Classic

Always elegant and in style, a little black dress is the backbone of a woman’s wardrobe.  Its understated classicism is dressed up without being over the top. It holds its own while letting the beauty of its wearer to shine.  I’ll go out on a limb here and suggest that wainscoting is the little black dress of architecture. It adds refinement and reinforces the framework of a space.  Coco Chanel even said, “Fashion is architecture; it is a matter of proportions”.

Wainscoting (also spelled wainscotting) is wood paneling installed typically on the lower portion of a wall. It is made up of three parts: baseboard molding, chair rail molding at the top, and a panel in between.  While a lone chair rail was developed to guard the wall against nicks and scratches from chair backs, wainscoting didn’t function to protect walls from bumps and bangs. Originating in England in the 16th century, it was applied to stone walls to help combat dampness and moisture in informal cottages and retreats. Though construction practices and waterproofing has improved, wainscoting hung on through the years and took on a decorative role.  Its odd name hails from Dutch or German wagenschot, or “wagon planking”.

Wainscoting comes in three styles: raised panel, flat panel and bead board.  Resembling a picture frame, raised panel is the most historic and refined of the three styles.  Flat panels offer a clean look with its accentuated vertical supports and are popular in Arts & Crafts and Craftsman interiors.  Lastly, with its thin “beaded” vertical slats, bead board has an informal “cottagy” look and is often used in conjunction with flat panel construction.

Traditionally, wainscoting height follows the one-third rule – divide the height of the room by three to determine the wainscoting height.  This dimension is often added to – either a few inches or dramatically so –  to two-thirds height or full height, or somewhere in between.   Wainscoting less than one-third the ceiling height will make it will look meager.

Although running vertically is the common direction, horizontal wainscoting gives an contemporary spin. Staining or painting it white is most popular nowadays.  But painting it a color is actually more historically accurate, and effects range from subdued modern to punchy.

Check out some fashionably fabulous wainscoting examples below.  See how it dresses up a space?

via Tobi Fairley Interior Design

via Tobi Fairley Interior Design

via TimCuppett Architects_UrbanHomestead

via Tim Cuppett Architects, Urban Homestead

via TimCuppett Architects_Alderich Place

via Tim Cuppett Architects, Alderich Place

via Benjamin Moore

via Benjamin Moore

via houzz

via houzz

via houzz

via houzz

via Echelon Custom Homes_Camden Cottage

via Echelon Custom Homes

via decorpad.com

via decorpad.com

via Donna DuFresne Interior Design

via Donna DuFresne Interior Design

via w.b. builders

via w.b. builders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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