5 ways to fake wall-panelling - smart alternatives to get the luxe look for less

No, you don’t need to spend a fortune

Dining room with wooden furniture and wallpapered wall panels above sideboard
(Image credit: Future PLC/Dan Duchars)

If you love wall panelling you’ll be happy to know that you don’t have to shell out your hard-earned money and hire a professional to install it in your home. Instead, there are so many ways to cheat wall panelling.

Yes, if you’ve found a wall panelling idea that you love, you don’t need to worry about remortgaging your house to bring it to life. By doing it yourself, you’ll be able to save yourself a huge amount of money while adding another idea to your long list of budget decorating ideas

To help you out, we’ve put the ultimate cheat guide to wall panelling, including five alternative ways to panel your walls without spending a fortune or needing to take a ‘DIY for beginners’ course. 

5 ways to cheat wall panelling

Whether you want to living room wall panelling ideas to your home or add some panelling to a kitchen we have no doubts that one of these five ways to cheat wall panelling will work a treat. 

Plus, we’ve outlined all of the tools you’ll need for this job, so you can know exactly how much it’ll cost you.

1. Use wallpaper

Picture of dunelm natural wood panelling wallpaper

(Image credit: Dunelm)

When you think of the best wallpaper ideas, you probably think of feature walls and bold prints. But wallpaper comes in so many different shapes and forms, and now countless brands offer faux panelling wallpaper to help you cheat your way to a panelled home. 

Whether you’re after subtle shaker-style panelling or you prefer the natural look of slatted panelling, it won’t be hard to find exactly what you’re after.

These wallpapers can certainly pass as the real deal, and in our opinion, hanging wallpaper is much easier than installing proper wood panelling. Plus, you even have the option of choosing wallpaper in pinks, blues, and greens - which means you can take away the added step of painting your panelling. 

Wallpaper can also be a great option for those who change their home decor on a regular basis. Margaret Larson, from Sustainable Furniture, explains, ‘Wallpaper can be used to provide a quick and affordable illusion of wall panelling in your home. And although this approach is nowhere near as effective as real panelling, it provides a non-permanent solution that can be changed whenever you’re looking to update your interior.’

2. Use MDF panels

Bedroom with mint coloured panelling and pink art on a gallery wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/Kasia Fiszer)

While MDF is often frowned upon in the furniture world, it’s generally considered to be the perfect option for DIY wall panelling. Not only is it a very cheap material, but its smooth sanded surface and precision finish also make it a fairly low-maintenance material to work with. 

It's generally considered that there are three options if you choose to use MDF to panel your walls. The hardest option is to buy full MDF sheets from your local hardware shop and cut them to size yourself, as seen in this bedroom wall panelling transformation.

However, Margaret says, ‘Planning is key with this DIY as you want to make sure your panels are cut precisely and will fit together perfectly, as slight inconsistencies could create a tacky appearance in close proximity.’

Alternatively, some brands even offer MDF wall panelling kits, which include individual MDF slats that are already cut to a specific size, which means they’re ready to be glued onto the wood and then painted. 

However, the easiest way to use MDF to cheat your wall panelling is to buy MDF panels, like the Homebase panels below. While you’ll need a few of them to cover a whole wall, they’re incredibly easy to install, and the finished product gives off the illusion that they are individual slats. 

3. Use beading

Wood panelling can really make a statement and create a focal point in your chosen room, and while many people prefer a modern look, there are others who prefer the intricate details of Victorian panelling. 

Paying a professional to install Victorian wall panelling can cost you a fortune, though, which is why beading could be the saving grace you’ve been looking for. 

Traditionally used for door frames and skirting boards, beading can also mimic the exact same look as Victorian wall panelling. To create one panel, you just need to cut the beading to size using a mitre saw and stick four pieces together (two long and two short) to the wall in a rectangular shape. You can then continue this to fill the wall. 

Blue bath in bathroom with white panelling behind it.

(Image credit: BC Designs)

If you’re looking for a stunning hallway wall panelling design idea, covering the lower half of your wall with this beading technique can add a splash of character - especially when painted a different colour to the top of the wall. Then, separate the plain wall and the panelled wall with a larger dado rail. 

The same idea can also be used for bedroom wall panelling ideas. Sarah Lloyd, Paint & Interiors Specialist at Valspar Paint, says, ‘Painted wall panelling creates a chic back frame for your bed headboard, as well as incorporating more texture into the overall space. Why not try decorating your panelling in a slightly darker shade, adding to that gorgeous wintery feel, to your walls and ceilings to make it more of a focal piece, as well as adding warmth and depth.’

4. Use photo frames

dining area with panelling bold stripes wall and wooden dining table with chairs

(Image credit: Future PLC/Carolyn Barber)

If you don’t have the time to cut pieces of MDF or beading but still want to cheat your way to having perfectly panelled walls, may we suggest something a little rogue? 

When we saw a TikTok video where @feliz.interior used picture frames to create beautiful faux wall panelling, it’s safe to say that we were blown away. It was something we had never thought of before, but it is such a simple way to add panelling to your walls when you want to do as little DIY as possible.

For her video, she used six EDSBRUK frames from IKEA, removed the inserts so only the frames remained, and then stuck them to her wall using glue. But at £29 per frame, there are definitely cheaper ways of doing this. 

You could either trawl your local charity shops or Facebook Marketplace for some bargain frames, opt for smaller sizes, or you could buy them in bulk to make them even cheaper. 

Plus, you have the option to choose plainer frames or go for something more decorative and intricate. Margaret also adds, ‘It is easy to experiment and play around with this DIY; if you want to panel your full walls, use large frames both vertically and horizontally, or you can even just panel the lower half of a wall to achieve a Victorian-inspired interior.’

5. Use paint

Wall panelling is generally brought to life through wooden panels or frames installed onto the wall, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you have a small living room and are conscious of the fact that forcing your sofa just a few inches forward could affect your floor space, you’ll be happy to know that there is an alternative. 

Dining room with wall panelling, coloured picture frames and seating bench

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

In fact, we have interior legend Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen to thank for this crafty idea. His wall panelling paint hack was brought to life on Channel 4’s Changing Rooms, and we saw him use masking tape and a variety of different paints to paint rectangles on the wall to create the illusion of wall panelling. 

At the time, he said, 'This is so straightforward, because what I've done is, I've picked the colour that we've got the wall in, and then I just went one lighter and one darker, which gives you the shadow and the highlight.’ 

Of course, you’ll need a little bit of creative vision to do this yourself, but if you get it right, you’ll save yourself some serious cash - especially if you use tester pots! 


How to do easy wall panelling?

The traditional way to DIY wall panelling is to cut MDF strips yourself and then stick them to the wall as per your desired aesthetic. However, you don’t have to do that. 

There are so many other ways to cheat wall panelling, and one of the easiest ways to bring this look to life is to use wall panel wallpaper or beading. Both of these hacks are incredibly easy to complete and will give you a similar look without you needing as much DIY skill. 

How do you make wall panelling look good?

Opting for a unique panelling style (such as a shaker-style or Victorian style) is one of the best ways to make your panelling look good. This will draw the eye to the design, while looking more interesting and intriguing. After all, wall panelling is just strips of wood stuck to the wall! 

Painting your wall panelling will also help to make it a real statement in your room, especially if you’ve only panelled half of your wall. Then, you can paint your wall panelling a different colour to the wall colour. 

Now you know the 5 ways to cheat wall panelling, it’s time to start cheating! 

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.