Like an ex-boyfriend who returns to you after getting in shape and cleaning up his act, wood paneling is back and better than ever. Greener, more stylish and nothing like you remembered, this once maligned material looks fantastic. You know you couldn’t stay mad at it forever. It’s time to let wood paneling back into your life.
Once a popular choice for interior walls, wood paneling was banished long ago along with avocado bath tubs and orange shag carpet. During its years wandering the home decor wilderness, wood paneling reinvented itself as something both retro and modern. While it retained its rustic character, it cast off the tackiness and toxins to achieve a total comeback.
While the thin 4×8-foot fiberboard panels with the faux wood surface haven’t regained their full popularity, designers have flocked to reclaimed wood and various veneer panelings. A variety of producers have emerged offering new and unique wood paneling products, and some designers have even begun to incorporate it into iPhone and iPad skins.
Originally popular throughout 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s for its inexpensive price and simple installation, wood paneling rapidly became so popular it was found just about everywhere. Cheap composite imitations become standard and eventually everyone came to see them as common and trashy. Homeowners moved on to drywall, not just because it’s cheap and fire retardent, but also because it is easily painted.
Much has changed since wood paneling’s heyday in the 1960s. You’re more likely to see it hanging horizontally than vertically, and there’s greater emphasis on using wood that’s weathered, scratched or marred in some way. Whether as an accent wall or simply to add a splash of texture and color, wood paneling has returned to take its rightful place in the home.
TYPES OF WOOD PANELING
Fiberboard Panels: Like the cheap ones people walled their basements and attics with, these are an engineered wood substrate with the wood design printed or glued onto it. Prices start at around $20 for a 4×8-foot sheet, this product is easier to install and doesn’t require the numerous stages and difficulties of installing drywall. Styles run gamut from trashy to fairly realistic.
Veneer Wood Panels are made with a thin layer of wood adhered to the surface of plywood or particle board. A fraction of the cost of real wood boards, but more than fiberboard panels, they usually have the appearance of real wood boards or else a repeating pattern like in the image below.
Iconic Panels, like the reclaimed wood veneer ones below from B&N Industries, display intricate patterns that are truly eye catching.
Reclaimed Solid Wood Panels take wood from demolished buildings, old gymnasiums, ripped up flooring, and more. The used panels have a lot more character than new panels.
WHERE TO GET WOOD PANELING
- Viridian Reclaimed Wood has a great selection of wood paneling made with reclaimed wood.
- Decorative Panels International makes green wall panels in modern and old-fashioned styles—in case you miss the old attic look—and they avoid using toxic ingredients and formaldehyde like many others producers use. Check out this great article Retro Renovation did about them and wood paneling in general.
- FauxPanels.com has a wide variety of fake wood paneling, including interlocking faux bamboo ones for your own tiki bar.
- B&N Industries offers high-end iconic panels, infused veneer panels, reclaimed wood iconic panels.
- Elmwood Reclaimed Timber provides wood paneling for many businesses and restaurants. It’s a great source for design inspiration as well.
- States Industries makes a number of FSC certified products and wide variety of styles.
TIPS FOR USING WOOD PANELING
Wood paneling may be back, but it’s still in its infancy and best used in moderation. Unless you want your home to look like a hunting cabin, it’s suggested you don’t use wood for the floors, ceilings and walls.
If used properly, wood paneling can…
- Add color, texture to a room
- Provide a more rustic feel
- Make the room simultaneously look modern and retro
- Save you money
- Adds depth and warmth
- Provide a touch of kitch
- Come off as a contrived attempt at irony
- Feel dark and gloomy
- Create a busy look that is distracting
- Feel like being buried alive in a spacious pine coffin
- Inspire a person to write a novel told from the perspective of a termite living inside a log
- Feel like a lumberyard or a sawmill
- Increase the likelihood of splinters