Panel Discussion: Wood Paneling Rebound

via boingboing.netRemember the good ‘ole days, playing endless games of Sorry and Yahtzee in the basement on a rainy day? Bliss as life was, happy memories of my childhood home are overshadowed by recollection of wood paneling…dark and lurking like an older brother taking advantage of my substandard Monopoly skills.

Wood paneling became popular after WWII until the 1970s as an inexpensive alternative to drywall for finishing off living spaces, especially new basements and dens. Aside from being durable, it was easier to install than drywall, which contributed to its popularity. Its drawbacks were many. Paper overlays that mimicked wood grain looked fake, and the funky sheen didn’t help. Its aura? Dreary and unnatural.

Real wood plank wall paneling is another story. Frequently made from solid knotty pine, it usually has a smart, grooved edge. Unfortunately, I’ve never come across it without a cloying, orangey stain and high-gloss finish. It’s also often installed in the whole room – including the ceiling. Wood grain is beautiful, no doubt, but unless you’re going for a super rustic Paul Bunyan cabin aesthetic, it can be too much. (Having said that, my Maine driver’s license will likely be revoked.)

Aside from the lingering stigma of wood paneling, it is back in style, and has thankfully dropped the “dark side” persona. The use and treatment of wood paneling is also different than in previous decades.

via Shari Misturak, IN Studio & Co.

via Shari Misturak, IN Studio & Co.

Solid wood planks, particularly reclaimed wood, are extremely popular. Designers and architects are using reclaimed planks in their found state to let the natural characteristics of the wood inform the space. Texture, patina and dings and dents from its previous life are sought out. Otherwise, paneling using new wood tends to be made from high-end species, such as the custom-made walnut veneer panels designed by Shari Misturak that create 3-D floating planes.

The feature wall is another change. Wood paneling is focused on a wall or two rather than wrapping the entire room in wood.  Emily Jagoda’s Tilden project makes great use of a feature wall – with a portion of the ceiling additionally clad in finished plywood.  Searl Lamaster Howe Architects’ reclaimed wood feature wall contrasts with the surrounding white walls and moves the eye upwards to complement the room’s architecture. An entire wall clad in the beautiful, grey wood wouldn’t have the same dramatic effect.

via Searl Lamaster Howe Architects

via Searl Lamaster Howe Architects

Painting existing wood paneling to lighten a space and create uniformity is common. Fellow blogger Christina Katos commented that her kids were so frightened by the “scary faces” in the dark pine knots of the paneling of their playroom, that they wouldn’t even enter the room again until she painted it white.

Many people disagree about painting wood paneling, but if is hindering use of the space, it’s a worthwhile step. Historical Concepts gave their painted wood paneling in an antique look by using a 50/50 ratio of water to paint. Meanwhile, the white painted shiplap wood paneling by Structures Building Company provides a clean backdrop in its Charleston Cobbage Hall project.

Check out some great examples of updated wood paneling that won’t give you nightmares:

 

via The Construction Zone Ltd.

via The Construction Zone Ltd.

via Structures Building Company

via Structures Building Company

via Emily Jagoda

via Emily Jagoda

via Historical Concepts

via Historical Concepts

via Moger Mehrhof Architects

via Moger Mehrhof Architects

via William Hefner Architecture Interiors and Landscape

via William Hefner Architecture Interiors and Landscape

via Barnwood Naturals LLC

via Barnwood Naturals LLC

via Studio Shicknetaz

via Studio Shicknetaz

via Moss Design

via Moss Design

 

via Lynn Gaffney Architect

via Lynn Gaffney Architect

via Tom Stringer Design Partners

via Tom Stringer Design Partners

Comments

  1. Nice feature. I would like to add a note of caution to this promotion of wood paneling that is made from RECLAIMED material. It’s true that every part of a tree can be used for something; 3 million products are made from trees! And all wood can be considered for “re-purposing” if it proves workable. However, be careful about AVAILABILITY ISSUES. Our company does all custom architectural woodwork and cabinets. We have had several projects in the past few years (mostly driven by the desire to earn a LEED credit) and in each project, the Design Professional selected a reclaimed wood based on a small sample or not even a sample but, a photo of a project (similar to those shown in the article here) and decided that’s what they want to use. In each project, the material was no longer available or what was available did not look anything like what was used in the photo or, you could only get some of what was needed. In one case, the project required many more board feet of material than was ever going to be available so we had to “re-saw” the available boards to 1/10th” thick and laminate that onto MDF to create the boards that were never going to be available. In another case when the material arrived, 80% of it was NOT usable. Reclaimed wood is not returnable as it is not graded like other lumber and therefore has no measurable defect limits for you to use to justify it’s return when found to be unsuitable for production of your project. You will be buying the material AS IS. Full of cracks, honeycombing and warp is not unusual. Additionally, if the wood is sourced from an outside structure like a barn there is a high chance that any insect, nest, larve or egg might be present in the voids of the old wood. Since there is almost no chance that the reclaimed wood is going to be kiln dried to kill that stuff, when the time comes for the eggs to hatch out, they will be hatching out in your projects interior. You may not want 2,000 moths eating the church vestments or what ever the case may be so you will also need to have it fumigated. Using reclaimed wood requires that the Design Professional go the extra mile to verify what the actual material looks like, not the sample. Availability questions include: What is the Specie? Where it is from (you must get verification by at least a zip code of where the wood was SOURCED, not the dealer, Get an actual tally of what is available in the “look” (not just the specie) that you desire. Write something that you get the dealer to agree to and sign that states that “the material will be sound lumber, free of pith, doze, shake, wane and warp.” And that “the dealer will accept the return of all unsuitable lumber at their cost.” Find out when the material will ALL be available. Often the dealer is going to want the material paid for in full ahead of delivery. Owners of buildings are generally not too keen on this. You are fully paying for material sight-unseen with no chance of return or refund if the material doesn’t work out. Above all, when you see photos of projects with reclaimed wood on it. Know that there is more to the story. Protect yourself by being better informed about the verification of the source and the actual materials quality, availability, price and warranty.

    • Karen Egly-Thompson says:

      Thanks for your thorough and thoughtful comment, Margaret.

    • Good comments overall but it sounds a bit biased against reclaimed wood. As one of the largest vendors of antique wood products I can assure you that many of these issues can and will be addressed by reputable dealers with large inventories. We have over a million board feet of reclaimed wood inside our warehouse and we are almost always able to match specific client needs up with something we have in stock. At present we have over 30,000 square feet of heart pine, chestnut, maple, cherry and walnut paneling in stock. Yes chestnut is more and more a limited supply issue but in the last week we have moved over 2,000 square feet and still have material in stock. Using old material has many advantages, the look, patina and grain patterns are what most of our clients want but the back story (history) of the wood is also important. Other factors including environmental implications are important to most of the folks we sell to. It does take some skill to work with antique wood but we have many high end contractors in our area that prefer working with re-purposed wood because it gives them a chance to show off their woodworking skills. We are also finding that in many cases we can compete with price of new wood of similar species and quality.

      • Karen Egly-Thompson says:

        Jim, thanks for your contribution. I love the look of reclaimed wood and the additional benefit of it having some “history” associated with it. Bridging your comment with Margaret’s concern of pests in antique wood, is there a process your company uses (or are aware of) to mitigate pest infestation – subjecting the wood to high heat, etc.?

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