Detailed Woodwork Found in Vintage Homes

Bring some charm to your home with one of our favorite materials--beaded-board wainscot. Here are the basics.
Julia Hamilton / photography Jean Allsopp

Paint tricks and expensive artwork are not the only ways to add interest and creativity to your walls. Once they are covered in wood, walls become more durable, and they also take on vintage flair. It's not uncommon to find an old house with beaded-board details, but if you like the look, it's not difficult to add it when working on a newer home.

Sometimes the wood for beaded-board wainscot features a ridge running down the center and edge of the board; this allows a single tongue-and-groove board to resemble two separate ones. A newer material, a lightweight 4- x 8-foot wooden panel inscribed with parallel rows of vertical ridges, is also used for wainscot. While the effect isn't as authentic, the panels are easier to install than individual pieces of beaded board. Because some panels are only 1/4 inch thick, they can be applied over existing drywall.

Adding Interest
To re-create some of the detailed woodwork found in vintage homes, beaded-board wainscot is often applied at plate rail height--about 48 to 60 inches from the floor. Installation at chair rail height--about 36 inches--is also common. During the process, individual tongue-and-groove boards-- each with a precut ridge, or bead, on one long edge--are attached to walls using construction adhesive and nails. The repetition of the vertical boards creates rhythm around the room.

Finishing Up
Edge beaded-board wainscot with a substantial baseboard, and install a proportional wooden cap rail that gives a finished border. You can paint the wainscot to match the wall above, but a slightly darker color will emphasize the trimwork. Highlighting baseboards, cap rails, and the trim surrounding windows and doors with white or cream paint also works well.

This article is from the Favorites 2005 issue of Southern Living.