27 wall panelling ideas from traditional to modern that will add character and style to any space in your home

Add character, cover uneven walls or insulate your room with these smart and savvy ideas

Bathroom with blue wall panelling
(Image credit: Future PLC / Katie Lee)

Wall panelling ideas are constantly evolving to keep up with the times. Who would have thought that one of the most popular home decor trends of the 21st century would be a look that's been around since the 1500s? 

While traditional jacobean or tongue and groove panelling still has its place in home decor schemes, modern wall panelling has been elevated with new materials, layouts and colours. Scandi-inspired blonde wooden strips, rustic shiplap wall panelling and fluting are all new contemporary interpretations that are surging in popularity. 

The enduring popularity of wall panelling isn't a big mystery, it remains one of the best ways to add character to a room. 'Panelling is a great way to add personality and depth to your space. Don't be afraid to experiment and find what works for you, but key considerations are room size, style and materials,' says Olivia Crosher, Designer and Visual Stylist at Naturewall.

If you're pondering adding some living room wall panelling ideas to your home or another room, we've dived into the Ideal Home picture library to pull out a range of inspiring ways to use this technique in your home. Plus with some tips from interior and wall panelling experts, you'll be ready to try wall panelling a room in your home in no time.

Wall panelling ideas

Panelling can take many different guises and works in pretty much any room. However the key thing you will need to keep in mind before settling on any of the ideas below is what material you will use. 

'Choose durable materials that suit the room's function. For high-traffic areas like hallway wall panelling ideas, consider robust options like MDF or hardwood. In moisture-prone areas like bathrooms, moisture-resistant materials are essential,' recommends Olivia.

1. Experiment with horizontal panelling

Bedroom with wood panels stacked on wall that flow to the ceiling

(Image credit: Future PLC)

How's this for a statement bedroom wall panelling idea? Using rustic planks of wood attached to the wall behind her bed, this homeowner then continued the panels onto and along the ceiling too, for a cosy, canopy-style feature. 

Experimenting with laying panels horizontally like this is becoming increasingly popular.  'We're seeing designers experiment with running panels horizontally across a section of the wall, or even using a mix of vertical and horizontal for a dynamic look,' explains Olivia Crosher, Designer and Visual Stylist at Naturewall 

This daring technique would work well in a room lacking any architectural features, and for a bed without a headboard. If using heavier wood panels, like scaffolding boards, be sure to consult a professional about safely attaching them to the ceiling above the bed.

2. Elevate with fluting

Beige ribbed kitchen cabinets with white marble backsplash and peach walls.

(Image credit: Harvey Jones / Swoon)

Fluting is a big trend at the moment, you'll find it on kitchen cabinets, furniture and walls as a smart contemporary finish.

'Fluting adds a touch of luxury and texture to walls. Think soft, curved lines that bounce light beautifully. It's a great way to elevate a hallway or living room,' explains Olivia Crosher, at Naturewall.

This style of panelling lends itself well to playful colours too, from peachy-pinks to delicate light blues. It the modern interpretation of the traditional tongue and groove wall panelling trend. 

2. Use panelling to frame artwork

Blue painted living room with painted moulding details on wall and blue velvet sofa

(Image credit: Sofa.com)

Adding wooden moulding to your walls will create the look of panelling, and is quick and easy to do. Simply measure out rectangles at even distances along your wall and then cut lengths of moulding to stick on to the drawn out shapes. 

Make sure you cut your moulding at a 45 degree angle so the corners slot nicely together, and paint the same colour as your wall. Hang a canvas or piece of artwork in the centre of one of the rectangles and it will create a frame for it to sit within.

3.Style nordic wall slats in a kitchen

kitchen island with black metal bar chairs

(Image credit: Future PLC)

'A popular style of wall panelling in the kitchen is the Nordic wall slat style panelling from Magnet,' explains Jen Nash, Magnet’s Head of Design. 

'While this works beautifully as wall panelling don’t limit yourself, for example using it under the breakfast bar is a great tactic, it adds interest and contrast to the kitchen - plus feeds into biophilic design bringing the feel of the outdoors in.’ 

4. Go back to black

Monochrome living room of black wood panel walls and cream sofa

(Image credit: NatureWall)

‘Charcoal Black is the perfect addition to any interior, the colour is bold yet elegant, complimenting all styling trends ranging from minimalist scandi to boho chic,' says Olivia Crosher at NatureWall.

'The tones and textures found in the wood slats provide an added layer of texture and create depth, making it easy to use design techniques that interior designers focus heavily on. There is also the opportunity to pair this product with any colour or material palette within any room – it is so versatile!’

5. Layer panels on panels

Bedroom with navy blue wooden wall panelling behind bed

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you've chosen to go for a wood panelling backdrop to your bedroom, don't think you can't double up with a wood panel headboard too. 

Here while the wall panels are slim lengths of wood attached in a vertical formation and painted a deep, navy blue, the headboard features a pattern of panels arranged in a herringbone design and left untreated for a natural finish. The two designs layered on top of each other add interest and depth to this modern country bedroom.

6. Cover a chimney breast with rustic panels

Living room with fireplace and black charred wood covering the chimney breast

(Image credit: Future PLC/Chris Snook)

Just a few years ago, it was all the rage to cover a chimney breast in a statement wallpaper, but if yours is looking a bit dated, how about a quick fix by covering it in wood panels instead? 

The rustic boards used in this eclectic living room give the appearance of being slightly weathered and worn, which can be created by giving bare boards a 'wash' of paint, rather than a covering. You could even use an extra length to make a rustic mantelpiece to match.

7. Combine textures for a cosy setting

Bedroom with wooden wall panelling behind bed

(Image credit: Future PLC/Katie Lee)

Wall panelling doesn't just have to be used in rooms with no architectural features or interest, even if a space DOES have these things, you can still embrace it, as it will only add to the overall look. Pairing a wall covered in raw wood panels of different widths and lengths, with a bare brick wall, creates a cool, industrial feel, reminiscent of a loft apartment. The two textures combined also create a cosy, warm feel, perfect for a bedroom.

8. Create height with vertical slats

White bedroom with wall panelling behind bed

(Image credit: Future PLC/Katie Jane Watson)

'Vertical slats are everywhere!' says Olivia Crosher at Naturewall. 'They add a touch of Scandinavian coolness and create a sense of height, perfect for smaller spaces. We're seeing them in all sorts of materials, from classic wood to sleek painted finishes.’ 

Here a plain, white box room was given a new lease of life, by adding a simple strip of wood panel. Using lengths of MDF and attaching to the wall with a strong adhesive, the homeowner then used the offcuts to create an abstract pattern to the wall beside it too.

9. Choose decorative panelling in a small room

Bathroom with freestanding bath tub and black wood paneling behind the bath

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

‘Decorative panelling helps establish a more delicate look in homes, and panelling can certainly add grandeur to a room, as well as create a sense of spaciousness.,' says Zoe Goff, Product Manager Richard Burbidge. 'This is why it's the perfect addition to a smaller room.’   

Mixing ornate ribbed and portrait bathroom wall panels makes the walls in this petite space stand out, adding a sense of drama and grandeur.

10. Consider panelling as an alternative to tiles

Bathroom with blue wall panelling

(Image credit: Future)

Panelling is a great way to make a statement in a bathroom instead of tiles, and you can top it with a narrow shelf to provide storage for toiletries or candles that will make bath times all the more relaxing.

But surely wood panelling will warp in a steamy bathroom? Not if you get a suitable material. 'Panelling with a half-round bead profile can be made on moisture-resistant MDF sheeting,' says Joan Madeley, co-founder of The English Panelling Company. 'It looks like the real thing after painting, and is perfect for boxing in pipeworks.'

11. Create a French cane room divider

Bedroom with French cane paneled screen behind bed

(Image credit: The White Company)

For a breezy, boho luxe look, back panelling with cane webbing. It works as a room divider to conceal an open wardrobe or it’ll create a statement feature in place of a headboard. A clear oil or varnish on a light wood panel complements the rattan finishes and white linens, but for a different decorative effect, they could be given a dark stain or painted black. 

Before stapling the webbing, make sure it is soaked in water first to make it pliable. If the panel can be seen from both sides, repeat the panel frame on the back for a neat finish

12. Cheat with a wood panel wallpaper

Faux panelled wallpaper

(Image credit: I Love Wallpaper)

When you want wood panelling without the cost or work involved, you can fake it altogether with a clever printed wallpaper. Slim slatted wall panels instantly conjure up a minimalist, luxe look but the pre-made panels come with a hefty price tag. Modern designs like this Contemporary Wood Slat in Light Oak, £16 per roll, I Love Wallpaper enable you to get the look without having to do the DIY involved, meaning walls are in immaculate condition – aside from a coat of wallpaper paste.

The versatile wallpaper can be used to create a stand-out feature wall, as a central wall panel to frame furniture or a fireplace, or as a half-height wall in living rooms and bedrooms.

13. Incorporate open shelving into panelling

Kitchen with wall panelling behind sink unit and open shelving

(Image credit: John Lewis & Partners)

If you’d rather not have kitchen cabinets on the wall but still need the storage, panelling will echo the traditional detailing of a Shaker kitchen without closing up the space with a cupboard. It is also the perfect hardwearing material for backing open shelving ideas or pantries.

 ‘A popular style of panelling in kitchens is tongue and groove panelling (this is available as part of select ranges at Magnet),' explains  Jen Nash, Magnet’s Head of Design. 'Not only does it create a beautiful design and texture for your space but is also a highly durable material, making it perfect for the back of pantries or open shelving.’ 

14. Immerse the room in one colour

Living room with mustard sofa and burgundy wall paneling

(Image credit: Earthborn)

If you’re going wall to wall in one colour, the addition of panelling will create an instant lift by creating light and shade on what would have been a flat wall. 

By painting all of the woodwork in the same colour, from skirting to architrave and the shutters in the same colour, it means come the night time, it will create a completely cocooning immersive atmosphere with this deliciously warm colour.

15. Use panelling in place of a headboard

Panelled headboard behind bed

(Image credit: Earthborn)

Looking for an upgrade for a divan bed? Take a twist on the traditional wooden headboard with a striking panelled section. Make it a super-sized statement by taking the panelled piece right up to the ceiling. Painting the wood in a deep charcoal not only helps envelop the sleeping space, it gives a smart finish worthy of a boutique hotel.

Pile up the back of the bed with cushions for a comfortable place to rest your head when it comes to the Sunday lie-in.

16. Keep it simple with Shaker

Office with desk and chair and white wood wall paneling

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Ideal for small rooms, this classic, unfussy design will subtly smarten up any space. It's great for making white rooms look less bland and won't steal the limelight away from any statement furniture.

These strips of 4 inch MDF have been butted up to make rectangles, and pinned to the wall before painting. You could also build out to create a display ledge or bookshelf.

17. Add grandeur with a Jacobean-style grid

Wall panelling idea in jacobean navy blue walls

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

This large-scale grid adds impact when used over the full height of a wall. It's a historic style, but simple enough for modern spaces, too. Paint it in a flat eggshell, continued onto the skirting, and match it to your floor for an immersive effect.

Adding beading onto the edge of the panelling creates an elegant feel. Here, we've used 6 x 1inch panel framing with inset quadrants of around 40 x 40cm.

18. Panel over a structural feature

Living room corner with grey chaise and cushions and off white wood paneling

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Clad an unused chimney breast by building out a frame, and covering it in two styles of panelling. Dividing the panels at dado height will provide a small ledge for a display.

Here, we've used panels measuring around 50 x 50cm, created by attaching strips of 2 x 1in timber. The dado shelf is in 2 x 1in timber with a small moulding attached. Below the dado, we've added 2 x 1inch timber with 2 inch gaps.

19. Make a statement with jewel tones

green themed bedroom with carpet flooring and wall painting

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

 'Jewel tones like emerald green or deep navy can add a real wow factor to your wall panels, especially when paired with lighter furniture,' Olivia Crosher at Naturewall.

This green bedroom idea is the perfect example, using simple wall panels to add texture to the jewel tone to create a soothing space.

20. Protect walls with panels at dado height

Dining room with table and chairs, grey paneled walls and detail lamp

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

This style is practical in hallways, where walls can get knocked in passing, and in dining rooms, where pushed-back chairs hit the wall. Plus, as it only covers the lower third of the wall, it won't dominate.

Create the perfect backdrop by painting the walls, shutters, panelling and architrave in the same colour. Consider a striking dining room colour scheme to add life and extra personality.

21. Cheat wall panelling with a headboard

Bedroom with wooden paneling behind the bed

(Image credit: Future PLC/Chris Snook)

If you live in rented accommodation or aren't ready to commit to wood panelling in your room, you can always fake it with a headboard like in this simple white bedroom idea. This bleached rustic design is far wider than the bed and adds an extra layer of texture and colour to this room.

However, what is even handier is you can easily attach accessories to it, without permanent damage to your walls.

22. Panel a third of a wall

Dining room with table and chairs and half wall wood paneling

(Image credit: Future PLC/Alun Callender)

Here, Jacobean-style panelling adds some period drama to a dining room. It's full of character and a little more formal than tongue and groove. Run the panels only a third of the way up the wall to make a ceiling seem higher.

'Panelling looks at its best if it is one-third or two-thirds of the way up the wall, or full height,' says Jon Madeley, co-founder of The English Panelling Company. 'If panelling runs only half-way up the wall it can run the risk of making the ceiling look lower than it is.'

23. Paint half-wall panelling a light colour

Entryway with half wall wood paneling, coat hooks and shoe storage

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

As we've mentioned, panelling half a wall can run the risk of making a ceiling look smaller than it is. Avoid this by painting the panels in a pale shade such as this grey, but keep it slightly darker than the wall.

Make any radiators or pipe work blend in by painting in the same shade as the panelling, to avoid detracting from the panelling itself.

24. Make a feature wall out of reclaimed wood

Rustic wood paneling with wall shelves and blue cabinets

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

Reclaimed wood can be a gorgeously eco-friendly way to create a feature wall in a kitchen. It can be a little more expensive than other forms of tongue-and-groove panelling, if you purchase it from a specialist.

However, if you are willing to do a bit of rummaging at a salvage yard and put in a little elbow grease with a saw and sand paper, it could be a great way to score serious style points on a budget.

25. Paint panelling in blush pink for a modern twist

Study area with pink wall paneling and desk and chair

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Tongue-and-groove wall panels are perfect for painting in a whole range of colours. The sky is the limit on your colour choice, but on-trend options include pale pink and dark charcoal grey.

If you're considering panelling as a DIY project, these boards are very easy to put up. As the name suggests the boards are designed to slot together and are 'secret nailed' to supporting patterns.

The newer lookalike versions consist of sheets of MDF with the v-joint profile already routed. They're stable and can even be fitted to a wall that's not perfectly flat.

26. Frame a large window with panels

Bathroom with green half wood paneling

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

A large window shouldn't get in the way of adding wall panelling in your bathroom. Jacobean style panels do a great job of mimicking the shape of the window and framing it.

Faking the panel look is easier than it looks – simply use thin strips of MDF to create a grid. Space the strips out as close together or far apart to achieve the size of panel you're going for and paint in one colour to achieve the look.

27. Mix it up

A corner of a country living room with wall panelling and a leather armchair

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Polly Eltes)

Add further character to walls by mixing up wood panel finishes, from top to bottom. This charming country living room captivates with a fusion of fixed vertically planks on the lower potion of the wall, with a wider set Jacobean-style grid above. The decide adds interest and height to the lower level ceiling, perfect as for a small living room idea in a country cottage.


What is the cheapest way to panel a wall?

The cheapest way will always be to panel the wall yourself. If you're doing it yourself, firstly that means you'll be saving the cost of labour, which in most cases is the highest pay-out you'll have to make. And then even the materials can be as cheap as chips! A simple pallet board can be taken apart and its panels used on the wall.

MDF is in expensive and easy to use. Or even have a trawl of secondhand sites such as Gumtree, Ebay or Freecycle to see what boards, or woods people are throwing out. A quick sand and a lick of paint will transform it in minutes.

How do you attach wall panelling to a wall?

' Use a suitable wall adhesive on to the back face of each strip, a spirit level will make sure your strips are square, secure with a nail gun into place,' says  Zoe Goff, Product Manager at Richard Burbidge.

A wall adhesive like 'no more nails' should do the trick to hold it in place before securing with a nail gun. Alternatively, if you live in a rental you can attach wall panelling or acoustic wall panels to a wall using removable command strips.

Does wall panelling make a room look bigger?

If you're adding vertical planks of wood to a wall, it could help the space seem larger as they'll draw your eye upwards towards the ceiling.  If you're worried about a small space feeling smaller, opt to use a light colour such as grey or white to help reflect the light.

'For small spaces, a single wall can increase the perceived size of the room. So can wainscoting – lower half-wall panelling. Keep the panels thin to avoid closing things in,' adds Olivia Crosher, Designer and Visual Stylist at Naturewall.

Rebecca Knight
Deputy Editor, Digital

Rebecca Knight has been the Deputy Editor on the Ideal Home Website since 2022. She graduated with a Masters degree in magazine journalism from City, University of London in 2018, before starting her journalism career as a staff writer on women's weekly magazines. She fell into the world of homes and interiors after joining the Ideal Home website team in 2019 as a Digital Writer. In 2020 she moved into position of Homes News Editor working across Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, Gardeningetc and Ideal Home covering everything from the latest viral cleaning hack to the next big interior trend. 

With contributions from