HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines put shiplap, the white-painted decorative pine paneling, on the map with their constant use of it on their show. The wood pieces, which were originally used to waterproof ships, have grooves cut at the top and bottom of each board so they overlap to form a tight seal, and are often used on walls, ceilings, and siding.
Although we love how shiplap infuses a space with a farmhouse or nautical feel, there are some options that work just as well if you’re looking for a fresh alternative. Ahead, top designers share their favorites.
Reeded or Fluted Panels
What It Is: “A reeded or fluted flexible panel is typically made of wood, but can also be fabricated in metal or upholstery," Kira Obermeier, the founder and principal of Kira David Design in Lincoln Park, Illinois, says. "One example, called Tambour, is a great alternative to shiplap because it provides visual dimension while feeling a bit more bespoke.”
Where to Use: Walls, ceilings, cabinetry
Reclaimed Wood Planking
What It Is: “Reclaimed wood planking, which comes in a wide range of colors, textures, and styles, is sourced from old structures like barns, factories, and warehouses, and gives you a similar effect to shiplap," Becky Shea, the founder and creative director of BS/D in New York City, notes. "Ones like Stickwood even come in an easy-to-apply peel and stick option.”
Emma Kemper, the owner and principal designer of Emma Beryl Interiors, adds, “Variation is inherent to the product—it's the kind of thing where you need to embrace imperfections. However, I suggest buying extra pieces if you want a more uniform look so you can put aside any pieces that you don't like.”
Where to Use: Walls, bathrooms, kitchen islands, ceilings
Nickel Gap Boards
What It Is: “Nickel gap has a sleeker profile and a more modern feel than shiplap, yet is often overlooked,” Kevin Ten Brinke, the principal of KT2 Design Group in Boston, says. “While shiplap consists of overlapping boards that rest on top of each other, nickel gap boards are spaced a nickel's width apart.”
Where to Use: Ceilings, mudrooms, exterior siding, and soffits
What It Is: “Caning is created when wood and rattan is woven together. It has a honeycomb design that looks just as great as shiplap on walls. You can use it in a multitude of ways to add shadow, dimension, and interest,” Lucy Penfield, the owner of Lucy Interior Design in Minneapolis, notes.
Where to Use: Accent wall, headboard
Board and Batten
What It Is: “Board and batten is a technique where wood strips are laid on a wall in a horizontal, vertical, or grid pattern or design,” Erin Coren, the principal designer at Curated Nest in Westchester, New York, says. “Depending on the height of the ceiling, different applications work best. For a low ceiling, I love applying it vertically to draw the eye up. In a large room, I like to apply it as a large-scale grid.”
Marika Meyer, the principal of Marika Meyer Interiors, adds, “Board and batten is a great way to add texture and interest to large swaths of drywall for a more contemporary look. It’s traditionally assembled with 1-foot-wide planks and 1/2-inch-wide strips, but you can play around with the scale and spacing depending on the size of your space.”
Where to Use: Mudroom, hallways, stairways, powder room, dining room, or bedroom
What It Is: “You can achieve the same subtle texture you get with shiplap using plaster, a decorative coating used on walls and ceilings that has an artful movement to it,” Kirsten Krason, the co-founder of House of Jade Interiors, says. “Beyond looks, it also provides insulation and soundproofing benefits.”
Where to Use: Fireplace wall, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living room
What It Is: “If you like the subtle texture that shiplap offers, but don’t necessarily want the hassle of cutting and installing wood planks, consider grasscloth or a textured wallpaper as an alternative,” Amber Dunford, the lead stylist and design psychology expert for Overstock.com, says. “You still get a beautiful pattern and texture, but with less effort or commitment, especially with the availability of peel and stick sheets. In fact, you can find removable wallpaper in shiplap style.”
Where to Use: Powder room, nursery, dormer window, feature wall
What It Is: “Long, porcelain tiles are a great alternative to shiplap and can mimic wood, stone, or wallpaper when used thoughtfully, adding a layer of texture and warmth to a room," Melinda Kelson O'Connor, the principal of Melinda Kelson O’Connor Design in Philadelphia, says. "The look works in a range of house styles from modern to more rustic.
A great tile alternative to shiplap is a handmade clay tile called Zellige, which originated in Morocco in the 10th century, adds Danielle Chiprut, the owner and principal designer of Danielle Rose Design Co. “The beauty of this tile is its subtle texture and handmade charm, which is exactly what makes shiplap so universally appealing,” she says.
Where to Use: Bathrooms, mudrooms, powder rooms, sunrooms
What It Is: “A herringbone-patterned accent wall is a chic and fresh way to bring a subtle visual dimension similar to shiplap,” Mimi Meacham, the founder of Marian Louise Designs, says. “You can use wood or tile to create this effect.”
Where to Use: Accent walls, ceiling, kitchen islands
What It Is: “Molding applied to a wall is a great alternative to shiplap,” Rebecca Johnston, the founder and principal of RJohnston Interiors, Los Angeles, says. “I like to use flat stock and panel molding to create decorative details and love that this wall treatment works with any design style—from farmhouse to classical.”
Kerri Pilchik, the owner and principal designer of Kerri Pilchik Design in Ridgewood, New Jersey adds, “Lately, light wood tones have been in favor, but I’ll always love crisp white applied molding. Just make sure the proportions and scale are right for the ceiling height and wall width when applying it to walls.”
Where to Use: Focal walls, ceilings, stairways, and hallways