Beautiful Rooms: Panelling for All

This week I have fallen down the rabbit hole that is panelling. There’s no doubt that it’s everywhere at the moment and I have succumbed in my own house in my newly redecorated office. That said it’s one of those classics that is having a moment (like brass) rather than a fad that will pass (like the recent mania for all things shiny copper).

elegant panelling via @alicegraceinteriors
elegant panelling via @alicegraceinteriors

And the other thing about panelling is that you can find a style to suit most houses and as long as you take the time to get that right you won’t go wrong. As it were. So, as Nicola Harding said in our recent podcast interview make sure you match the style to the house. Large grand Georgian style panelling won’t work in a new build and tongue and groove (also known as matchboard) is perfect for smaller rooms and country cottages.

So this rooms today show a variety of panelling but, in many cases, it’s not the first thing you notice about the room and that’s the other key point. It adds a feature and should enhance a space but unless it’s original to the house then it’s not there to be the star of the room. Merely to add a layer of decor. It can make large spaces grander and small spaces cosier.

mint green panelling via anthropologieeu
mint green panelling via anthropologie

For lots of great examples follow @alicegraceinteriors on instagram whose sitting room is at the top of this post and whose account show lots of different versions in different colours. Note how the panelling acts as an extra picture frame to the art on the walls. This type is best in period houses, by the way.

Above is this rather fabulous mint green under the staircase (try Arsenic by Farrow & Ball) but you can see it’s much more low key and runs along the bottom part of the wall only. It also appears to have a narrow shelf on it which has been used for a vase of flowers. This might be a good trick to use in a hall (you could put holes in one of the panels to allow radiator heat to escape) and might even be better than a single radiator cover which often looks out of place. This way you could incorporate it along the whole space to the bottom of the stairs. Then you could either carry on up – keeping it flatter so it didn’t take up too much space – or simply take the colour up on the flat wall.

panelling and twin beds via @themodernnlakehouse
panelling and twin beds via @themodernnlakehouse

Two rather charming bedrooms next. Both using panelling and this is the sort of panelling you can use in any period of house. If you live in a new build terrace it might even help with soundproofing from the neighbours. Actually same goes for Victorian terraces, which also have very thin walls. That said you might find the ceilings are too high to carry the look. Sometimes it looks better if it goes only half or two-thirds of the way up.

It also looks really good in a loft bedroom (or any room with a sloping ceiling) as, traditionally – in period houses – this sort of tongue and groove panelling would have been kept to the servants rooms or the back of the house so that fits with the attic look. I have used the above style in my office with a narrow shelf along the top which acts to rest pictures that I can easily change around as the mood suits me. Below, if you look closely,  is a more random pattern chosen by @follyandthegarden. You can buy similar beds in Ikea and Samantha, of @themodernlakehouse,  talks often about junk shop and salvage finds and buying from other interiors accounts on instagram who are having a clear out. If you do instagram, and I’m aware that not all of you do, then these two and Alice are both good to follow.

green panelling and twin beds via @follyandthegarden
green panelling and twin beds via @follyandthegarden

Finally, what about this as a showstopper of a bathroom. I have only recently discovered Waldo Works and I love what I’m seeing. Here the cabinetry hides all the working parts and you can see it also hides two sets of doors. Bathrooms are one room where I would say it doesn’t matter on the period of the house  – anything goes as it’s a self-contained single use space. Here, he says the green bath only came with that blue surround so the room was done to accommodate that. Is this bringing you round to the idea of colour baths yet?

turquoise panelling in bathroom via waldoworks
turquoise panelling in bathroom via @waldoworks

I hope you have enjoyed our Monday stroll through some beautiful rooms on instagram and have left feeling inspired for your own spaces. Come back tomorrow when I will be speaking to the interior designer who created those stairs (as well as finding out his predictions for interior design trends and directions following this year of living at home). Wednesday’s Ad Break is all about shopping for vintage furniture and on Thursday the podcast is back for a new series with a review of the newest interiors books on the market and on Friday I’ve got a peach of a house for you to poke around with the Househunter. Do subscribe so as not to miss anything if the world opening up again means you might be out and about more. I have a long awaited haircut next week and a two day shoot for a brand for which I will have to have a covid test before I can go on set so real life is coming back at me.

Tags : panelled wallspanellingwall panellingwood panelling
Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. Thanks, what a lovely little Monday read.
    I really like all of these room and I absolutely would love to have some paneling in my home (bedroom, maybe hall), but it is a modern new build, so I worry it’d look a bit out of place. Should I just admire paneling from afar and forget about it in my house or is there some “modern” paneling options out there?

    1. I have seen photos of panelling that look very modern (I believe in Living Etc). The outline of the decorative element is always a flat piece of wood, perhaps three inches or more in width with no beveling of the wood. The effect of these panels is very modern. It looks similar to Jacobean paneling but each square/oblong is not connected to each other. But if you look at a picture of Jacobean panelling, I bet that might work too, especially if it is chunky and painted in a modern color.

  2. Fallen in love with the bathroom. Amazing colours. However, I note the art is on matching cupboards either side of the fireplace. Is there a method to stop the picture frames swinging about when you open the cupboard doors? I would dearly love to know because I like the idea of putting framed pictures on doors.

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