6 Ideas for Country Wainscots

Plain-spoken wainscot treatments create architectural interest for farmhouse walls.

Architecture magazines are keen to present high-style homes and decorating—that which is fine, large, urban. But the old house you inhabit was likely built in what was then a rural area, or in an early suburb. The house may not fit into any particular “style,” or be ornate, or have high ceilings. Its rooms would not have had expensive wallpaper imported from France or England hung above a mahogany linen-fold wainscot.

Board wainscot in a Federal house.

1. Board Wainscot

Original woodwork in the dining room of an 1811 Federal house in Newport, Rhode Island, includes a simple board wainscot topped by a chair rail. 

2. Victorian Beadboard 

A varnished wainscot of beaded boards dates to the 1896 update of this bathroom in a simple Victorian farmhouse.

Victorian beadboard in a restored bathroom.

3. Cottage Beadboard

Beadboard continues to be the wainscot of choice in bathrooms and kitchens; this bathroom in a new old house has a typical cottage painted wainscot.

Cottage beadboard.

4. Paneled

In an 1840 country Greek Revival house, a panel and molding detail is confined to the area under windows in the dining and living rooms.

Paneled wainscoting in a Greek Revival dining room.

5. Early Planks

A vine stencil fancies up the Federal-era parlor in a house with a 17th-century core; the wainscot is made up of three horizontal planks.

Early plank wainscoting.

6. Battened Wall

A wainscot with horizontal emphasis is topped by vertical boards and battens for a fully paneled wall treatment in the parlor of an 1885 summer house.

Board-and-batten paneled wall


Tags: OHJ December 2013 Old-House Journal Patricia Poore wainscoting walls

By Patricia Poore

Patricia Poore is Editor-in-chief of Old-House Journal and Arts & Crafts Homes, as well as editorial director at Active Interest Media’s Home Group, overseeing New Old House, Traditional Building, and special-interest publications. 

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