Decorating with Wainscoting?

Bailey asks: Mr. Kate! I moved into a new house recently (yipee!) But, down my hallway is this horrible Wayne’s Coating. It’s kinda blah…I painted it but I’m just not loving how this stuff looks. Do you have any idea on how to deal with it? I don’t have a huge budget, but I want to do something interesting! Thank you! I love your blog!!

Answer: Hi Bailey! May I first say thank you for your support and second, I love that you call it “Wayne’s Coating” – I’m not quite sure who Wayne is and what he’s coating but I want to find out more! But seriously, that made me laugh and congratulations on your new house! Wainscoting, aka wall paneling that only goes partially up the wall, is a detail found in many homes. Wainscoting should be treated as a decorative element because it adds contrast and dimension and there are so many things you can do with Wayne and his coating! Wainscoting “was originally meant to provide a damp-proof wall cover for poorly constructed or flood-endangered houses, but it is now mostly used for decorative purposes.” (source) I like it because it adds an architectural detail, much like crown molding, etc. and it also gives you the opportunity to play with different colors and patterns on one wall because you have a natural divider.

There are different kinds of wainscoting, some is just beadboard with a moulding on top and some has more details like square or rectangle inlays with additional moulding. See what kind of wainscoting you have and then look at the inspirations photos below to get some ideas. Some inexpensive paint is often all you need!

  • This wainscoting is very detailed with the inlayed rectangles. I love how they painted it all a bright turquoise next to a white stucco wall. If you have wainscoting like this you could also paint the inside of the rectangles a different color for more contrast and to highlight the design.

  • Some more examples of bright colored wainscoting against neutral/light colored walls. I like the row of hooks just above the moulding. Wainscoting provides a natural dividing line so you can hang things above.

  • This is beadboard wainscoting that is found in many bathrooms in older homes. You can try painting it a peaceful color and incorporate the window moulding as well so it feels like a cohesive color flow throughout the room.

  • I love this example of leaving the wainscoting white and painting the wall above it. This is a very inexpensive solution and with a bold color and some complimentary art, it can be a great look!

  • This is fantastic! I love how they’ve hung art and frames directly onto the wainscoting. Also note the very contrasting wall color choice against the white beadboard wainscoting.


  • Stripes! Stripes look great painted above or on the actual wainscoting. Vertical or horizontal, either look great!

  •  Wallpaper above the wainscoting is also a great option. Wallpaper costs more than paint but you get the benefit of pattern and/or texture. This can be a great look in a dining room or hallway. The good thing is you only have to cover the top half of the wall with wallpaper so you won’t have to buy as much!

  •  Add a thicker moulding above your wainscoting and use it as a picture rail!

  • This bathroom was spruced up using frames with fabric inside of them, basically creating a wainscoting look without the permanence….  see moreDIY fabric framed art. You could also put wallpaper within the moulding squares of your wainscoting and save even more money.

 I hope this gave you some ideas for your own wainscoting – comment below and let us know what you end up doing!

 (images via houseandhome, apartmenttherapy, countryliving, decorpad, thibautdesign, chicposh.blogspot, greigedesign.blogspot, mama-says-sew.blogspot, timotocuica.tumblr)