Panelling and Wallpaper: Adding character to your walls

As usual the four day week has caught me by surprise and I was initially just going to show you the final tweakment to the house which is the panelling in the library. Then I thought I would expand it a little to show how we have decorated the walls in this house for those who want to add a little interest and character but don’t necessarily want the full wallpaper shebang.

library panelling at

And don’t get me wrong. I love wallpaper and have used it plenty but somehow it hasn’t really made its way into this house with the exception of the secret door bookcase paper which I still love despite it being rather tatty now – it’s been there for 10 years and I have no desire to change it.

Firstly the last  – or most recent – addition is the panelling in the library. Now I know that panelling is a massive Instagram trend. There’s barely a wall in that digital room that hasn’t been touched with some design or another from the ornate Georgianesque frames to the Jacobean boxes and everything in between (or, to be historically accurate) afterwards.

For this reason I was very slow into this. I watched and waiting wondering if it would be a passing fad or more a lasting look. Crucially I didn’t want to jump into something that I might end up feeling was just a trend and I had been influenced into (yes it happens to the beset of us).

library at

So I sat back and watched. And when I felt it was properly right for this house and that I could do it in a way that might make it feel that it had always been there and was properly part of the fabric I went in.

But I came to it via textured wallpaper – more of which below. And so the last room first. We installed the bookshelves (painted mdf) when we moved in 10 years ago and instinctively felt that the wrap them round the third wall would bring the room in too much and make it feel oppressive rather than cosy. The ceiling is very high in here and it would have felt a bit like sitting in the bottom of a bucket.

panelling at

So we left it white and gradually the trolley filled with dust and junk and the overspill of books piled up behind the chair and and we searched in vain for the right piece of art to hang on the walls. In short, it never felt finished in there.

When I first suggested panelling to The Mad Husband he wasn’t against the idea but it never went any futher. So when I did my office I decided that this room was perfect as it was, to coin a phrase, a room of my own. And like that he was sold.

panelled office at
panelled office at

Both colours felt, to me at least, a little Victorian – deep red and dark chocolate – which added to the sense that they could have been uncovered during a renovation rather than added in the 21st century. And I appreciate this may be nonsense but we all have our own personal decorating fantasies to justify what we do. If I had wanted a more modern colour I might have chosen a wallpaper or, to come to the other rooms where I have used a similar decorative flourish – painted textured wallpaper.

I love anaglypta and have written about it before. I know that for some of you it has a bad rep bringing back memories of dingy student digs and old fashioned granny flats but I have always felt that if you take this, essentially old fashioned, idea and modernise it with a contemporary colour of finish that it will work.

forest green bedrooms are said to encourage a good night's sleep bedroom belonging to
the false wall behind the bed is covered in Albert anaglypta wallpaper

First up was our bedroom. This false wall hides the wardrobe and while this is its third paper it will never feel right to to panel it as it’s clearly a modern addition. The Albert paper, however, adds interest and character to what is basically a giant cupboard. If I didn’t have the velvet bedhead another trick I would like to try is upholstering the wall with fabric and foam stretched over batons. In fact if we ever sell that bed that’s definitely what’s happening there.

When it came to my last office with the gold ceiling, I returned once again to wallpaper and this time the panelled version – it’s been a long lead in… This room was painted in pale pink eggshell with the same colour in matt emulsion above. This didn’t detract from the gold ceiling but meant it was more about texture and finish than pattern.

gold ceiling at

As you may know I moved out of this room when the 17yo and I decided to swap. I had originally offered him this room and he refused to move from his tiny one. Until he changed his mind. He happily kept the gold ceiling and hadn’t really noticed the patterned paper below. I’ll admit I was a little devious and didn’t point it out as I could see the decorating costs spiralling if we had to strip and make good.

anaglypta panels

Instead we painted it in emerald green gloss and a few weeks after moving in he asked if I was aware of the pattern on the wall and how much he liked it. That’s what happens when you live with an artist – they notice everything or nothing.

bedroom painted in little greene puck with slaked lime and mylands FTT002 gold ceiling
bedroom painted in little greene puck with slaked lime and mylands FTT002 gold ceiling

So those are my walls. We are done with panelling now. My next mission is to get a wallpapered ceiling somewhere. It may be a long wait. Where do you stand on panelling? Yay or nay?


anaglypta panels painted green
anaglypta panels painted green


Tags : panelled wallspanelling and wallpaperwallpaper
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. Do use panelling in a modern house. It can make such a difference to the feel of a room. Search Instagram and the web for ideas because there is so much to choose from. I would add that shiplap panelling would be a no no in a modern house, for my taste, apart from the downstairs loo.

  2. Yes to panelling gives character and depth to a room especially a study or dining room

  3. No to paneling. Don’t get me wrong! It is perfect for almost all other types of houses except for ours built 1960. It is just the wrong thing for the bones of this house. Not all houses likes paneling and ours is offended by it. I have tried all different types in my mind and on mood boards but it just doesn’t work.
    And I do think that it is a trend, like ship lap, but it does look lovely! It almost makes me wish that I had another type of house.

    1. Yes to panelling gives character and depth to a room especially a study or dining room

  4. I LOVE the anaglypta panels, especially painted the emerald gloss! I would never have realised it was patterned wallpaper rather than an original feature of the house. Now I’m wondering how I can use this trick in our house, built in 1920 but fully gutted and renovated by the previous owners in a style that totally destroyed any original features or character in favour of the grey glass-and-chrome open plan look that seemingly every freshly renovated house seems to have in Toronto. I’ve been trying to un-bland the house since we moved in, so I appreciate all these ideas. I don’t think panelling would look right, but textured wallpaper is an avenue I hadn’t yet thought of and will explore. Thanks!

  5. Mmm, I would choose a book, mix a drink and be lost in that perfect library for hours. Cheers from Canada!

  6. I like the panelling in your library – the colour, the height and the reasons why you chose to install it all blend in with the interior choices of the rest of the room. When the lock down is lifted here (May 20) I am waiting for ship lap boards to warm up a bathroom, which is cold and clinical looking right now.

  7. Yes to both – I’ve got plenty of wallpaper at home, and last summer I “fake paneld” my living room wals with Anaglypta wallpaper painted in F&B Green smoke. I’ve even got a fake wall, very similar in size to the one in your bedroom, covered in some more structured wallpaper – it’s the TV wall in the living room, and it’s been there for 8 years, currently on it’s forth colour (a very dark, but warm, grey), and the pattern is still there, amazingly!
    So, I am definitely on the same page with you regarding these things (and most others, really), and I am a huge fan of your work. But I have to say something about the paneling in your library…
    I do realize that things look different on photos, than they do when you’re standing in the room, so I may be wrong – but the height of the paneling looks odd to me. I appreciate that it’s probably the standard height, and the same as your office, and maybe even your son’s room, but I still think it would have looked better if it matched the height of the bookshelves. Maybe I am wrong, because I never stood inside that space… or maybe the photo is the perfect tool to help us realize something we don’t see when we are inside the room. In any case, I think it would really make a huge difference (for the better, of course) if you picked somewhat larger pictures and hung them so that the top edge was in alignment with the bookshelves, or even 10-12 centimeters higher…
    Sorry about the uncalled for advice, I hope it won’t bother you too much! Lovely home just the same, that goes without saying! Have a great day.

    1. For goodness sake! If sorry, why say it? For the record, love your home and your writing, KWS. Thank you.

  8. The panelling in both rooms looks like it’s always been there.
    Am thinking of panelling a wall behind my bed but like you feel the need to sit back and wait.
    The room has recently been painted (July 2020) and I don’t want to repaint it.
    Am nervous that painting the panelling in the same colour may result in a different tone to the paint.
    Decisions, decisions 🧐

  9. Love panelling!! Never ever considering painting textured wallpaper before. It looks fantastic!

  10. Yay to panelling in the right place! Am thinking about using it in our very cold (single brick) kitchen diner. Hoping might be useful insulation ….

  11. I like a lot of the panelling that appears in Nicola Hardman’s work – bathrooms especially. But much as I love looking at those pictures, I know I would struggle to live with the realities of dust, fluff and limescale gathering features in what are very hardworking rooms. The library panelling here is great – helps add cosiness where the room is open to the hall (I am not very comfortable in open-plan spaces). We have panelling in our dining room, which I assume is original (house is 1910). The room is 10 foot high, big north-facing windows and a large fireplace. The panelling wraps right around the room, and comes up to my second rib, apart from where it runs under the windows. It is a lovely thing, but it’s painted dark brown. The picture rail is dark brown, the five foot high fireplace is dark brown, the enormous window frames are dark brown, the door is dark brown…it’s all a bit much. I’m frightened to start with the paint because it would be easy to get wrong, and once you begin, you have to keep going until you get it right. I”m going to start with lightening up the walls, take the lighter colour over the picture rail, add some more lighting, ditch a dark piece of furniture, then maybe paint the windows and the panelling and radiator beneath, and creep up on the room in that way!
    Elsewhere, I’ve just stripped a lot of textured wallpaper from the sitting room in preparation for painting, but I think it will remain in a bedroom, and just be given a new paint job. I had been thinking this was a lazy compromise, but Kate’s use of textured wallpaper has made me embrace this option more joyfully.

  12. My old house was over 100 years old and full of beautiful features and I absolutely loved the panelling and picture rails and all that gubbins, but my new place is only 3 years old so I feel it’s sadly a bit too fake of me to put it in.

  13. Anaglypta. I have always loved it and am really glad it is back. This blog post today has been really inspiring for me. Thanks!

  14. Def yes to panelling. I have it only in our master bedroom behind the bed … and I love it! Looks great and adds a point of special interest. It’s painted F&B Oval Room Blue to tie in with the not en-suite bathroom a few steps across the landing.

Comments are closed.