Up until the '70s, wood paneling was a popular choice (mostly out of convenience and affordability), but like avocado appliances and orange shag carpet, the design was ultimately exiled. But as all trends do, the home décor staple has since been reinvented into something modern and not the least bit dowdy.
Today's wood paneling is a far cry from the dingy den and shabby basement installations from the past. These days, it's a statement that adds character to any space, from rustic to contemporary. While it retained its texture-inducing, warm feel, wood paneling has cast off the tacky stigma and made a complete comeback. Scroll through for 36 rooms that prove a wood accent wall is actually cool. This is not your grandma's wood-paneling.
Think plywood's only for construction? Think again. In the past decade or so, plywood has become a staple for designers looking to attain a modern, minimal, or industrial aesthetic. The warm, natural look pairs with just about anything—case in point, this pink, gold, terrazzo, and plywood bathroom that is somehow both soft and edgy.
Think of shiplap as the modern-day wood paneling. One day, our kids will talk about shiplap the way we talk about our grandma's basement. But we're not just tooting our own horn when we say shiplap is a much cooler, not so in-your-face version of '70s paneling—Joanna Gaines would agree.
Use Reclaimed Materials
Sourcing reclaimed wood before installing an accent wall will make all the difference in your final design. Worn, aged wood like in this living room brings so much character and charm to a modern design. Plus you're giving new life to used material and keeping it out of the landfill.
While you can purchase reclaimed lumber in bulk, do your due diligence first and scour Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace for cheap or free options locally.
Flip Your Flooring
Updating your hardwood floors? Invest in some extra yardage of wood and extend the installation up to the ceiling. Running the same material from the floor to an accent wall adds tons of visual interest, not to mention warmth in a simple and surprisingly minimal way, like in this modern wine cellar.
Expose the Rafters
Those in an old house probably know the woes of crumbling drywall and lath. If your ceiling has seen better days, considering nixing it all together and exposing aged ceiling joists for a rustic look. Just be sure to give it a thorough cleaning or coat of paint and ensure your space meets local fire codes.
Paint Dated Paneling
If you're working to update an outdated wood-paneled wall, go ahead and paint over it. Your space will still benefit from the same texture but in a more modern way. Even if you decide to install new paneling and paint over it, the name of the game is texture, and that will shine through.
Get the Monochrome Look
Make a statement by painting all your wood features one color like in this bright blue kitchen. Wood cabinets, backsplash, trim, and even the ceiling all get the same paint treatment for a modern, monochrome look with plenty of personality.
As it turns out, wood can be just as architecturally interesting as drywall, and this arched wood wall is all the proof we need. With a little creativity, you can stretch the bounds of what people think of wood paneling. Such intricate millwork as seen here feels straight out of a historic mansion.
Embrace the Darkness
From dark colors to deep wood tones, there's nothing quite as cozy as a dark and moody treatment. Whether you're installing new or updating a room stuck in the past, opt for deep, rich hues to maximize your wood paneling like in this cozy and rustic office.
Make a Bold Move
Another way to put your spin on wood walls? Brighten it up with a bold color. We can't get enough of the daring purple palette in this playful mudroom. Everything from the built-ins to the skater-themed wallpaper hints at traditional design with a modern edge.
Leave It Au Naturel
Wood in its natural state is a wonderful canvas to work with. Pair it with a playful color palette for an eclectic vibe, or plenty of neutrals for a minimal feel. No matter which design direction you take, you can't go wrong with a warm-colored natural wood to start.
Paint It Black
Perhaps more accurately: Stain it black. We're just a little obsessed with this chic black and white bathroom complete with gold accents. The black-stained walls are so textural and don't hide any of that beautiful wood grain for an extra dramatic look.
Wood paneling may be a traditional element, but that doesn't mean you can't have fun with it. Pair it with a playfully patterned wallpaper and whimsical decor to modernize and freshen up a room. We love the combo in this playroom that doesn't take itself too seriously.
Shiplap is usually installed horizontally, giving you clean lines that run across a wall from left to right. However, designing a space with vertically installed shiplap visually stretches the room upwards giving the illusion that it's taller. It's a simple swap but it makes a major difference.
Wood accent walls can do much more than add warmth and sophistication. Placing wooden slats vertically and horizontally in a grid pattern from floor to ceiling creates a texture unlike any other wall treatment. Painting it a fresh white brings balance, leaving your room looking sophisticated and never boring.
Wood paneling doesn't need to extend up to your ceiling to make a statement. Wainscoting—a type of panel molding that covers the bottom half of a wall—is the most classic of wood accent walls. Dressing it in white and pairing it with a subtly contrasting wall color isn't a bad idea either.
Raise It Up
If you're a fan of wainscoting, you don't have to stop at half of the wall—extend it as far up as you desire. This elegant wainscoting includes a large grid pattern board-and-batten style on most of the wall to create depth and texture. A coat of gray-green paint creates a stunning contrast to white walls and warm wood floors.
See It Through
A partial screen like in this sleek dining room is another great use of the wood accent wall. It creates the feeling of privacy and separation without closing off the space. It also adds an awesome sculptural element to a room, so much so that you can get away with very minimal styling.
Play With Orientation
If you're unsure of which type of wood wall speaks to you, why not use a combination? The walls in this cozy reading nook start with vertical running wainscoting, then flip to horizontal halfway up, re-inforcing the modern cottage vibe.
You've seen vertical and horizontal installations before, but you'll want to keep this new take on hand for renovation inspiration. Paired with a rough stone floor and vintage-inspired styling, the diagonal wood panels in this woodsy bedroom expertly toe the line between modern and rustic.
Forget what tradition dictates and totally reinvent the wood wall. This modern bedroom uses asymmetrically spaced wood strips and gives the whole wall a fresh coat of white for a modern take on the concept that feels so fresh.
How you install wood and the shapes you choose to include change everything. Create a geometric pattern with distinct shapes, angles, and colors for a wall that really makes a statement. It takes a creative eye but the outcome will always be a stunner.
Think Outside the Box
Break out of the box with a non-traditional wainscoting pattern, like the symmetrical floor-to-ceiling rectangles in this fresh stairway. DIY a style that suits you using wood panels and trim, then paint to match your existing walls for a seamless look.
Make It Seamless
Sleek, minimal design calls for an equally sleek, minimal wall treatment. This modern dining room is giving us major Mad Men vibes with its Mid-Century elements, including a seamless walnut wall. It's the perfect contrast to the adjacent floor-to-ceiling windows.
Mixing different types of wood finishings is the coolest way to make a statement in any space. We love how this light wood headboard wall contrasts the medium tone hardwood floor, and how the dark vintage desk pops against both. The final look is modern and totally unique.
Take advantage of the top ledge on a partial accent wall for styling with art and small décor.
Sometimes the smallest details make the biggest impact, like in the case of this modern kitchen island. The dark navy paneling pops against a fresh, light backdrop and vertical lines add a subtle touch of texture for an overall chic effect. Wood stools stand out against the dark paneling and really complete this look.
Incorporate the Furniture
Why stop at the walls? With a little careful planning (and maybe the help of a carpenter), streamline your interiors by integrating furniture right into your wood walls. This modern meditation room is all the convincing we need—it's sleek yet surprisingly intricate with subtle details like a narrow shelf for decor.
Wood walls are a timeless choice when it comes to libraries. Just take a peek at this traditional meets modern library living room—a white ceiling and sofas keep it fresh and light while wood walls that double as bookshelves bring all the formal, classic feels, complete with a rolling ladder.
Accent the Right Places
A wood slat accent wall (or two) is a great way to draw attention to a space, no matter the size. However, using it modestly almost makes an even bigger impact. Carve out a special space, like a reading nook or flanking a fireplace, and line with wooden slats for a warm and inviting feel.
Who said your ceiling can't count as your accent wall? As long as you keep the rest of your walls clean and minimal, the ceiling will take center stage every time. A good tip is to pair it with your wooden floors for a cohesive layout.
Warm up the Kitchen
There's a reason wood cabinets have been around for centuries—they're reliable and, with the exception of the dreaded orange oak popular in the 80s and 90s, are fairly timeless. Whether you lean more classic or modern, incorporating wood cabinets in your kitchen can get you there.
Upgrade Your Backsplash
There's no rule that says backsplash has to be made of tile—mix it up with wood planks set vertically (or horizontally, or diagonally, or however you please). Stain and seal for a warm, organic vibe, or paint to your heart's content. With the right care, it's just as durable as tile and can be refinished or painted whenever you're looking to change things up.
Dress up Built-ins
If you've ever thought about installing built-ins or are lucky enough to have them already, consider lining the back of exposed shelves with wood for an extra textural pop. Leave the wood natural for contrast or paint the same color as your built-ins for a subtler effect.
Skip the Headboard
You've no doubt seen DIY headboards while scrolling through Pinterest. Take it up a notch with a full accent wall of wood in lieu of a headboard for a totally striking statement. Paint it any color you want or leave it natural for an organic touch.
Channel Spa Vibes
Take cues from this ultra-modern bathroom and create your own self-care oasis with floor-to-ceiling wood walls. If you're willing to put in the work, a DIY version of this room using wood slats and LED light strips could capture the serene spa vibes on display here.
Take It Outside
Wood privacy fencing certainly isn't a new concept, but we love how this little backyard oasis puts a modern spin on the idea. The wood acts as a beautiful backdrop to the private patio making it a heavenly spot to relax with a cocktail or doze in the sun.