Go Retro With a Modernized Wood Paneling Look
Explore how this revamped design element from the 1960s and 1970s brings a cozy and textured touch to walls and ceilings.
From patterned faux wood lining a carpeted basement to sleek panels gracing mid-century modern living spaces, the wood paneling from the ’60s and ’70s is iconic. For a long time, many sought ways to revamp or paint over these wall treatments. But if you’ve held off on updating that paneled lounge area, good news! The look is back! Contemporary interior trends are again embracing the warmth and tactile richness of wood paneling.
The allure of mid-century modern decor is on the rise, leading to a resurgence in wood paneling to recreate that vibe. Coupled with a renewed appreciation for 1970s style and the growing popularity of nature-inspired designs, it’s clear why wood paneling is making a strong comeback. However, if the trio of “wood,” “wall,” and “paneling” seem nightmarish, take heart — today’s panels are warmer, lighter, and more thoughtfully integrated than before.
Modern Wood Paneling
Den paneling from the 1960s often showcased deep woodgrain, primarily in finishes like walnut or red oak, exuding a distinctive mid-century flair. However, many of today’s designers aren’t sticking strictly to the same deep colors reminiscent of that era. The current trend leans more towards paler wood finishes, occasionally painted, and showcases the adaptability of the materials. The choices in wood variety, panel width, and grain direction are endless. Yet, it’s important to note that the updated take emphasizes genuine wood tones and grains, differentiating it from the rustic or bright white panels often seen in today’s farmhouse or cottage designs.
Specifically, slat wood panel walls and decorative elements are gaining traction. Slender, thick-cut wood slats, set vertically with gaps, form an eye-catching and dimensional pattern. This effect is intensified when contrasting a paler wood with a darker backdrop.
The installation process also sees some modern twists. While wall-to-wall paneling remains a cherished look for its cozy, nostalgic feel, it’s not the only option. Experiment with panels covering only three-quarters or even just a quarter of the wall for an interesting twist. The modern mindset also entertains inventive ideas like using wood panels to break up open spaces or highlight specific room features.
How to Incorporate Wood Paneling
Modern interiors now blend various woods, styles of paneling, and installation methods — including the nostalgic red tones and varied faux paneling widths — for a refreshed, distinctive, and contemporary design.
The wall paneling trend offers several options for your home, from single wood planks to pre-assembled MDF panels, and even innovative solutions like adhesive-backed boards. The complexity and cost of these products vary. For instance, hardwood tongue-and-groove panels might be labor-intensive and pricey to install, while options like wood-patterned vinyl wallpaper present a more affordable and straightforward alternative.
In the past, panels were typically prefabricated, and similar styles can be found today. These sizable panels frequently use wood veneer (delicate wood layers affixed to a base such as plywood or MDF) and come in either a flat version — a sleek sheet emphasizing attractive grains and tones — or a design resembling distinct planks like shiplap, beadboard, or slat panels. Standard sheet panels, usually 4×8 feet in size, can be easily sourced from home improvement retailers, with prices ranging from $15-40 for every 32 square feet, depending on the material and dimensions.
Individual wood boards, such as tongue and groove, shiplap, or separate slat installations, generally come with a higher cost and demand more expertise and effort during installation. Costs fluctuate based on the kind of wood and its finish, ranging from cost-effective pine to pricier options like mahogany or Brazilian hardwoods.
Installing each piece of wood separately demands a higher level of accuracy and patience compared to using panel sheets, particularly if you aim to cover an area larger than a feature wall. If you’re not exceptionally adept at DIY tasks, taking on wood paneling may not be the wisest choice. Getting a polished result entails meticulous attention to details like well-cut edges, flawless joins, and the precise alignment where the paneling encounters windows, corners, or other architectural elements.
Online tutorials offer insights into the basics of setting up shiplap walls. However, it’s a challenging endeavor, made even more challenging when working with tongue-and-groove boards or setting slats one by one. Using a panel sheet simplifies the process. But if DIY isn’t your thing, be aware that the complexity of the task will influence the cost of professional installation.