The Ultimate Guide To Wall Panelling

Want to panel your walls but don’t know where to start? Here’s everything you need to know about wall panelling.

What is Wall Panelling? 

Wall Panelling is a really clever way of decorating interior walls via the application of wall panels, these panels give texture to a room that might be lacking a bit of oomph or personality. Wall panels bring charm and character to any room. Typically wall panels are flat and cut into a specific shape, commonly a strip of material which can be used to form geometric shapes such as squares, rectangles and even hexagons! These panels are glued to the wall to create a uniform design.

Believe it or not panelled walls aren’t a modern phenomenon, this decorative wall technique dates back hundreds of years. 

A glimpse inside the beautiful Haddon Hall and its stunning wooden panelling courtesy of Miniature Treasures http://miniaturetreasures.blogspot.com/p/inspiration_23.html

When Were Wall Panels Invented?

Wall panelling has a history as rich as its aesthetic. Many of the panelling styles we see today evolved from early wall panelling methods. In the 13th century, wall panels were created as a necessity. Wooden wall panelling was used to provide insulation and protection from damp that seeped through the stone walls used to construct homes at the time.

Time went on and it became more popular, it was seen as a means of adding a decorative flourish to a room as well as providing warmth. It was even favoured by King Henry III – also known as Henry of Winchester, King of England, Lord of Ireland, and Duke of Aquitaine. He went to great lengths to achieve his panelling goals, he imported the wood from Norway and used it to adorn the rooms at Windsor Castle. 

King Henry III image credit Wikipedia https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_III_of_England

As the centuries passed, panelling became a fine art. Decorations and embellishments were added, and the style of panels transformed into ornate and intricate pieces. When the English renaissance reared its head, decorative panelling became more muted and simpler in its design. Wooden panelling became a staple in the country manors and grand houses. They were a common feature in classical Georgian interior design. 

In the 18th century, a new style of wall panelling emerged. Generally referred to as Wainscot panelling. It takes its name from the Danish Wainscot Oak. The Wainscot style can be recognised by it’s position on the wall, typically the panels only cover the lower portion of the wall, with a dado rail above. 

Wainscot Panelling from Next Luxury https://nextluxury.com/home-design/wainscoting-ideas/

Wall panelling has developed more and more as the years have progressed, with Georgian panelling, Victorian wall panelling and the striking Boiserie panelling style – you will find many beautiful examples of this type of wall panel in the Palace of Versailles. 

A stunning photos of Boiserie Panelling at the Palace of Versailles captured by Alex https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/548172585874093793/

In the 21st Century we have seen a resurgence of the panelled wall trend, a culmination of all of the different panel styles developed over centuries. Now available in your home. 

Wall Panel Terminology 

Picking the perfect panel can be tricky (almost as tricky as saying that quickly). There are so many wall panelling ideas out there it can be overwhelming when you’re looking for a little panelling inspo.

If traditional panel patterns aren’t your thing, there are some striking and fashion forward wall panel styles on the market. In the last year we’ve seen a huge upward trend in the popularity of panelled walls. Victorian walls are increasingly in demand, alongside Shaker, Jacobean and Georgian style wall panels. There are an abundance of styles to choose from. Social media is flooded with quirky wall designs in a myriad of different applications. It seems as though everyone is embracing the wall panel trend, from exclusive interior design experts through to the domestic market. 

Sometimes it can be hard to differentiate one wall panel style from another. A lot of panelling designs have been confused over the years, with Shaker style mislabelled as Jacobean and so on. Perhaps you’re unsure of the name of the wall panel style you’re looking for – we’ve listed the most popular wall panel types below:

Slat – MDF Tongue & Groove Wall Panelling – This type of panelling is usually made up of 100mm – 120mm  wide slats. These strips are then placed alongside each other vertically across the wall. Most commonly they are fixed up the lower portion of the wall and topped off with a dado rail, however they can cover the wall from floor to ceiling, and also be placed horizontally – it’s really down to your preference. 

A fantastic example of Slat Tongue & Groove Wall Panelling from Greenbank Interiors https://greenbankinteriors.com/how-to-transform-your-hallway-with-traditional-panelling/

Shaker – The shaker style wall panel is extremely popular right now. You can recognise Shaker style panelling by the evenly spaced rectangular shapes as seen in the image below. The Shaker is a classic form of panelling – often found in elegant estates and high-end hotels. You might recognise the pattern as it’s also used on the front of cabinets. 

Shaker style cabinets from deVOL Kitchens https://www.devolkitchens.co.uk/kitchens/shaker-kitchen/strawberry-hill-kitchen

Jacobean  – This style of wall panelling is constantly confused with the Shaker style panels, however it’s completely different. With the Jacobean design the panels are square in shape and when installed they look like a chessboard. This is a popular choice of wall panel in interior rooms such as bedrooms, dining rooms and living rooms. 

Jacobean style wall panels courtesy of Rock My Style https://rockmystyle.co.uk/panelling/

Geometric – The Geometric wall panel pattern is a newcomer, think of it as wall panelling with a modern twist. Geometric panelling is fantastic if you’re looking to accentuate one wall, a lot like a feature wall it’s usually only installed in one area. The Geometric panels are commonly made up of very slim strips, these are then positioned to create a contemporary design. The fine strips can be placed horizontally, vertically and diagonally. Once the entire wall is painted it reveals a very clever and cool aesthetic. 

A Geometric Panelled Feature Wall courtesy of Zoe Olivia http://zoeoliviablog.co.uk/how-to-create-a-modern-feature-wall/

The Different Materials Used For Panelling

When it comes to wall panelling products, you have options. There are two primary types when it comes to the materials you can use for panelling, we have the contemporary option of MDF or the traditional technique of wooden wall panels.

So what’s the difference? Firstly, cost – MDF is the more cost effective choice. Wooden wall panels are expensive and the installation should be carried out by an experienced carpenter – unless of course you know what you’re doing. MDF wall panels are considerably easier to install yourself, they require less time and skill – you can also replicate a number of wall panel styles with them. You can buy mdf wall panels online either as a kit or simply the sheets of mdf which you can then cut to size yourself. 

16th Century Style Oak Wall Panelling by Distinctive Country Furniture https://www.distinctivecountryfurniture.co.uk/

Installation overview

In regards to installing MDF wall panels, it’s a fairly straightforward process. We’ve included both the DIY MDF wall panelling and the MDF wall panelling kit process. 

If you’re purchasing sheets of MDF, firstly you’ll need to select a thickness. For wall panelling we would recommend using 9mm MDF as it has the rigidity needed and the depth, the depth  will allow the pattern to protrude from the wall just enough to give it texture. You will need to measure your wall and the panelling design, with these measurements you can then mark and cut out the strips of MDF you need to make your pattern. To fix the strips to the wall, you need to apply glue in a zigzag motion to the MDF and then press firmly against the wall. Once dry you can then proceed to prime and paint your panels. 

When it comes to MDF wall panel kits, the above applies but you don’t have to worry about measuring and cutting all the strips down yourself as they come pre-cut for you. However, you will need to trim them down in some places depending on the style you’ve chosen.

Although it’s a relatively easy process, mistakes can be made. Check out our article on The Top 5 Mistakes People Make With Wall Panelling to avoid any blunders. 

When it comes to painting wall panelling you really want to pick the right colour to complement your design. But keep in mind that there are no restrictions, only your own imagination. It’s about picking the right shade for not just the room but your personal tastes too. 

Image Credit: Earthborn, woodwork painted in Nutkin Eggshell No 17, Country Homes & Interiors range https://www.idealhome.co.uk/all-rooms-ideas/wall-panelling-ideas-229783

If you want to transform your bathroom into a spa-like sanctuary –  a light, neutral or muted tone would be best. Or maybe you want to switch up your dining room with some panelling and exude an inviting aesthetic, try a shade that’s deep and rich in colour. 

If you want to mix it up a little, you can combine wallpaper and wall panels. If you’re looking for an attention grabbing combination, a lively print merged with the uniform design of the wall panelling is a really stylish way of breathing life into your home. 

Image Courtesy of Graham & Brown https://www.grahambrown.com/uk/tori-teal-wallpaper/

How easy is it to wall panel a room?

It all depends on the method of wall panelling you pick. Wall panel kits are typically less effort, more cost effective and quicker than DIY Wall panelling. However, both of these options are quicker than traditional wood panelling which as we’ve mentioned already – requires installation by a professional. 

Which rooms can I panel?

Wall panelling isn’t restrictive, you can panel any room you like – maybe not the garage but you can certainly panel your bedroom, bathroom, dining room and the rest.

Shaker Bathroom wall panelling as featured on https://www.industville.co.uk/products/swan-neck-outdoor-bathroom-wall-light-brass-globe-glass?epik=dj0yJnU9Ml9ZNEQxRUVRNGxuaEJPbjlLVnBFbHJpWFdsdUR6SUsmcD0wJm49dGxodVhNNzh0R212TW5WYXp3UTdndyZ0PUFBQUFBR0QteDRv

The versatility of the wall panelling trend means it can fit in with any aesthetic, be it traditional country farmhouse decor or quirky metropolitan townhouse interior design. There are no rules, apart from MEASURE THE AREA BEFOREHAND and PRIME YOUR MDF. The rest is simply a guide. 

We would strongly recommend only using MR MDF in rooms such as kitchens and bathrooms. MR stands for Moisture Resistant, this doesn’t mean it’s waterproof just that it has a higher tolerance for moisture than standard MDF. Which is really important in rooms where it might get splashed on the odd occasion. 

Will wall panelling make my room look smaller?

There are several different factors that can contribute to this – the height of the wall panels, the amount of natural daylight your room receives and the shade in which you decide to paint your panels and the rest of the room. When it comes to selecting a height for your wall panels – a larger room is better for floor to ceiling installations. In a room where you only receive an average amount of natural daylight it would be best to keep the tones neutral to maximise the space. Ultimately, if you’re looking to make a small room appear bigger it would be more preferable to use a lighter shade. 

How much does it cost to do wall panelling?

It’s hard to say without knowing the space of the area you’re panelling but typically for solid oak panels it’s usually around the £300 to £400 per square metre mark, this doesn’t include installation. With MDF panelling being the more cost effective solution you can expect to pay around £20 – £50 per square metre, however you will need to pay for adhesive, primer and paint on top of this price. Whichever option you choose, always ensure you go to a reputable supplier, scour their reviews and discuss the best options for your living space. 

Panelled Wall Inspo We Love

If you’re still stuck for panel wall design ideas – we’ve included a gallery of some of our favourite styles of MDF Wall Panelling below.