As a Kitchen Designer, a big part of your skillset is designing with wood products.

Early on in my career I began expanding my product knowledge by incorporating mouldings and millwork into my kitchen designs.

stained wainscot trim in kitchen
A small amount of wainscot goes a long way

My first design project beyond Kitchen cabinetry featured wainscoting.

I had inserted a desk into a niche and that wainscot panel was the little something needed to tie that area into the rest of the kitchen.

The client loved it and that project gave me the confidence to expand my product offerings beyond cabinetry.

Read on to learn about the history of wainscot and how you can creatively incorporate it into your Kitchen Design Business.


Wainscoting is a classic wall treatment that can elevate almost any room.

The basic definition of wainscoting is a type of wall covering laid over the lower portion of a wall to contribute to the decor or support the room’s overall construction or both.

Originally, wainscoting was developed as a practicality by providing insulation and to cover up any damp that infiltrated cold, stone walls.

Soon though, it became recognized as a decorative technique, adding detail to a room.

Most wainscot applications are applied to the lower portion of an interior wall, and finished differently from the remainder of the wall with wood being the material of choice for wainscoting.

Sizing Wainscoting

Using classical proportional guidelines, wainscot should be applied to the bottom third of a wall.

Installed in this way will make the walls appear taller.

Wainscoting should never be installed halfway up a wall cutting the room in half, since it throws off the proportions of the room.

This half and half installation will make your room’s walls appear squat.

Another acceptable installation height for wainscot is two thirds up the wall, celebrating a room with high ceilings.

It is important to choose the wainscot height for a space to evoke the overall feel you want in the room.

This first example with the wainscot installed on the bottom third of the room produces a light, airy feel, while the second examples with the high wainscot has a warm, cozy feel to it.

Wainscot Style

When consumers and designers first think wainscoting, they often think of traditional or classic decor style in formal rooms of the home.

And it is true that this wall treatment is perfect for traditional styled spaces.

Wainscoting provides the detail to walls in traditional spaces that would be lost with a smooth painted wall.

Wainscot treatments can also work well in decor styles other than traditional and classic.

It can be the perfect wall covering in a transitional or contemporary room. It all comes down to the mouldings chosen for the treatment.

Mouldings in the form of chair rail, baseboard and panel mouldings with angled or liner lines are best for these style.

Additionally, Farmhouse or Scandinavian decor styles work well with wainscoting punctuated with horizontal boards of shiplap or bead board.

Wainscoting in Kitchens & Baths

Wainscot paneling can be the perfect addition to a Kitchen design.

The Kitchens in the examples above would feel unfinished without the wainscot wall treatment the designers included.

As I mentioned earlier, installing a bit of wainscoting in a project more than 20 years ago got me hooked on including wainscot paneling in many of my Kitchen designs.

Another room that is ideal to include wainscoting in is the bathroom.

It is a great way to add texture to this small space and make a design statement in the room.

I love how wainscot panels elevate the powder room and recommend it for this room often.

Wainscot Design

When designing wainscot paneling, the sky’s the limit.

Experimenting with traditional patterns is a great way to go. Layering on trim pieces can produce some fantastic looks.

Last week I wrote about the mouldings and millwork at the Belleview Inn, highlighting some great examples of this in their wainscot treatments.

Having fun with wainscot patterns can also produce unique looks for your rooms.

It is amazing what can be accomplished with a few pieces of simple trim.

The way you choose to embellish your wainscoting can give the room a cottage look, a classic look, an art deco look and more.

If you are including wainscot paneling in a kitchen area, you could also bring that pattern on to the back of an island or peninsula for a one-of-a-kind installation.

Another way to add uniqueness to wainscoting is with paint and wallpaper.

You could include the same wainscoting throughout a home, but make it special in each room by applying a different paint color or inserting some wallpaper accents.

As you can see, including wainscot paneling as a design element in your designs makes sense.

For some of you, it could become a signature element along with being a great profit center!

As always, I love to hear your thoughts on anything I blog about. Please leave me a comment below.

Jan Rutgers has been designing kitchens and products for over 25 years and is a recipient of Kitchen & Bath Design News’ Top Innovators in 2020 for the Kitchen & Bath Industry. She has designed more than 1000 kitchens learning valuable skills with each one! Her experience in Kitchen Design, Millwork Manufacturing and Product Development has led her to create VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN where she educates and mentors people passionate about the Kitchen Design Industry.

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