On Trend: Dining Room Wainscotting

When we talk about decorating trends, we know that some are transitory. For example, while advancements in wallpaper make it easier to put up (and remove) now, for years this decorating idea fell out of favor but is making a return to popularity.

However, wainscotting is different. It almost doesn’t seem fair to call it a trend. As a trim carpentry feature, wainscoting has remained consistently popular for decades. 

A decade or two ago, chair-rail alone was chosen as a trim carpenter’s accent for many formal dining rooms. Now though, for many rooms and especially for dining rooms, wainscoting is a  finishing touch that gives the space an air of sophistication and polish. 

What is Wainscotting?

Wainscotting is a decorative wall trim. Extending part of the way up a wall, it’s reported that these panels first made an appearance in the 14th century when the Dutch used them to protect the lower parts of their walls from chairs, boots, spurs, and more. Later, wainscotting was added to homes to help insulate walls.

Today, this trim still adds protection to our walls with class and character. Its handsome look dresses up an office or living room, but it really shines in places where it also protects the lower parts of a wall, like mudrooms and kitchens. As we’ll see, however, all of the great properties of wainscotting come together when used in a dining room.

Types of Wainscotting

Today, wainscotting is less of a specific type of trim and more of a design idea. So the types of wainscotting that can be used are varied. While some designers will say that even tile can be wainscotting, it’s generally accepted that the term refers to wood trim or paneling – or what is commonly called “paneling effects” or “shadow boxes.” These are just a few common types of wainscotting. There are many more.

  • Beadboard – these are grooved panels that can be fitting together or have additional trim placed in between. A trim profile or two can be added as a top cap.
  • Board and Batten – slightly different than other types of wainscotting, board, and batten frequently uses the existing wallboard with boards installed over it. Board and batten can be at half height or can go floor to ceiling.
  • Picture Frame – just like its name implies, this wainscotting looks similar to a picture frame. Between the top and bottom trim and spaced out along the wall, rectangles of trim are applied in the shape of a frame. Sometimes the entire wainscotting section is the same color, other times the wall or panels match the color of the upper walls while the trim is painted in a contrasting or complementary color, often white.
  • Raised Panel – Using beveled panels, raised panel wainscotting is one of the oldest and most traditional types, and is likely what first comes to mind when you think of this trim style.
  • Faux Wainscotting – Faux wainscotting is essentially the use of a chair-rail with shadow boxes or wall panels constructed below the chair-rail. In this case, the existing baseboard can be integrated into the new faux wainscotting design or a new baseboard can be installed as part of an overall new trim carpentry look. The difference with faux wainscoting is that the new chair-rail and new shadow boxes are installed directly on top of the existing drywall. Then the entire lower part of the wall, from the chair-rail down to the baseboard, is painted in a semi-gloss finish to give the illusion of a full-scale wainscotting appearance.  

Why Wainscotting is the Perfect Addition to Your Dining Room

In a dining room, wainscotting brings together all of its best features and benefits. With the classic and refined look of this trim style, a dining room goes from typical to elegant and refined or simply more polished and finished looking. 

When topped with chair rail, wainscotting protects your walls from bangs and scuffs as family and guests move their chairs in and out from the table. Cleaning up on wainscotting tends to be quick and easy, as most offer a smooth or gloss finish. This can be especially helpful for families with young children. 

Wainscotting is a beautiful and classic decorating choice that is also functional. Easy to clean and offering protection for your walls, it also elevates the look of a dining room from common to extraordinary. If you’re interested in finding out how simple it is to have wainscotting added to your dining room, contact TJ’s Painting & Renovations. 

Our highly talented Main Line trim carpenters and master carpenters will be happy to let you know how quick and easy it would be to add this timeless look to your home.