Walls That Wow

Trend Report: Wall and Ceiling Panels Can Transform a Room

Three local interior designers share their ideas for taking walls from dull to distinct.

By Kim Doleatto March 29, 2022

A bedroom with shiplap walls and ceiling.

Shiplap on the walls and ceiling.

Wall and ceiling panels can transform a room from "whatevs" to "wow" by adding drama with sculpted lines and patterns. With home trends taking slow but sure steps away from the stark and simple looks we've seen for years, wall panels hearken back to a more classic design that’s seeing a resurgence. 

“People thought they wanted all modern but realized they didn't necessarily like living with it,” explains interior designer Tanya Burley of Tanya Burley Interiors.

While decorative paneling may be gaining steam, “it’s not a trend, it’s a tradition,” she says.

After all, did we ever really break up with shiplap, the OG of wall paneling? Joanna and Chip Gaines of Fixer Upper fame seldom approach a remodel without it. 

Originally, shiplap was a wooden board often used on the walls of sheds, barns, and other rustic buildings as insulation and protection. Grooves cut into the top and bottom, allowed the pieces to snap in place and form a tight seal. Used today as decor, it gives a cozy and classic finish to coastal settings, as pictured below on both walls and ceilings in one of Burley's client's homes.

Below, Burley combines wall panels with updated lighting for a smooth partnership between contemporary and classic. 

Wall panels in a staircase area.

Wall trim and panels paired with a modern staircase.

Other, more modern patterns are just as swoon-worthy.  

"It really is about personalization. People want to have fun with their environment," says Amanda Patella, an interior designer with Chic on the Cheap. "They're looking at bolder choices, itching for a creative outlet and want to be in a space they love more than ever."

Below, she framed a series of rock 'n' roll posters in a client's hallway. The dark finish gives the whole scene a bold, elegant look and contrasts with the colorful art.

A hallway with posters framed in wall trim and panels.

Wall details frame posters in this rock 'n' roll themed remodel.

"These are the treatments that make spaces stand out. Having a barrelled ceiling and adding beams and details gives extra 'frosting' to the whole room," says Rebekah Errett-Pikosky, an interior designer with Clive Daniel, who says a recent client was looking for something unique their bedroom stand out.

A wall panel with a customized pattern.

A wall panel with a customized pattern.

Meanwhile, a new take on a chevron pattern on the back bedroom wall below spices up a neutral color palette, below.

A headboard wall stands out with a custom wall panel design.

This bedroom headboard wall stands out with a custom wall panel design.

For those wondering about how wall panels can intermingle with hanging art, it can work. "I think having art over these kinds of walls can give an extra layer of warmth," Errett-Pikosky says.

A shiplap wall and ceiling cutouts in a study.

Wall panels don't put a pause on artwork. 

Paneling can also transform ceilings and anchor a room, like this project below by Burley, which was inspired by traditional African mission churches. 

Black beams cross a shiplap ceiling.

Black wooden beams contrast against the white shiplap ceiling.

The ceiling design centers the room and "adds interest," says Burley.

Ceiling panels and trim can also carve out spaces to frame details like the mica-laced wallpaper below that Patelli says emits a soft sparkle against this glam chandelier.

Gold wallpaper on a ceiling cutout in a home.

Panels create nooks for wallpaper.

When mapping out panels, it's nice to start with design elements to lead the project, like these two mirrors below that Errett-Pikosky's client wanted to incorporate.

A sitting room with paneled walls and ceiling.

Mirrors on either side of the television inspire the wall panel design.

And for those who don't want to commit a whole wall or ceiling, panels on a door instead can show off a slice of unique pattern and texture.

A blue farm door sports wood trimming in geometric shapes.

Geometric patterns can live on doors too.

So how should you get started? 

Find a carpenter or a good craftsman, since "the corner details are crucial," says Burley.

All three interior designers agree the price range can be huge. "We've done them from $6,000 to $40,000 for one wall," says Errett-Pikosky.

However, if you're just doing one wall with shiplap, for example, it's not cost-prohibitive, says Burley. And newer options have hit the market, like laser-cut 3d panels made of PVC, adds Patella. The lightweight material makes the load-bearing easy on walls and doesn't require a skilled carpenter to cut and hang.

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