Panelling can be at the cutting edge of simplicity itself
Elevate an interior to something special with panelling. Whether tongue and groove, solid wood, mirrored or fancy fretwork, enjoy the versatility that panelling can bring.
Dating back to the 15th century, panelling can be as traditional or as cutting-edge as you want it to be. Pared-down interpretation of classic panelling creates a calm and cohesive backdrop to antique furnishings and more traditionally furnished rooms. Authentic-looking panelling featuring crisp, deep carving may feature on bookcases, a chimney piece and discreet cupboards within the panelled detail itself.
This attention to detail ensures the panelling becomes part of the structure of the house – just as the architectural mouldings, windows and doors have their place. Use the panelled format to steer the architecture – as walls, screen dividers and even hidden doorways.
Less costly interpretations may come by way of an inexpensive MDF framework, destined for a chalky paint finish. This three-dimensional surface application covers a multitude of sins while adding enormous depth. Symmetry is the key word here – panels need to be meticulously planned and the finished article a study in neat detail. Where space is squeezed, look to replace an area or elevation of panelling with mirrored glass, similarly dimensioned, ideally opposite a window, doorway or archway, to bounce light and create a feeling of space.
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Use a grid-shape of panelling to bring textural relief on large expanses of wall. Lofty staircases are a worthy cause – one does not need to entirely panel the interior, a single feature elevation will suffice. Translate this decorative device for use on the fireplace elevation or in behind the master bedroom four-poster or on a dramatic headboard – the regular pattern offers texture and grounding to the main focal point of the room.
Go large with the panelling treatment using large square panels for a less busy decorative solution. Emphasise the beauty of natural timber in this treatment, matching the grain and colouration with an exacting eye.
Simple painted panelling creates an informal Scandinavian feel. Employ long, narrow, vertical panels as your design and give a sense of height to an averagely proportioned interior. Use broad abutting panelling and recreate the breezy, uncluttered look of an American east coast home. Simplicity is key, with a colour scheme of cream, grey and green-blue, mixed with simple wooden furniture, louvred shutters and polished wooden floors. Classic tongue and groove panelling offers another tool with which to create a relaxed feel in any room and is a great quick fix for imperfect surfaces!
Line out studies, attic bedrooms, cloakrooms and bootrooms, painted in smokey hues for instant ambience.
Horizontal panelling on the walls creates an altogether different flavour and works brilliantly as a backdrop to cameo arrangements of chests or tables with a collection of pictures over. A wall created out of horizontal strips of oak or walnut gives a marine quality to a bathroom and may incorporate cubbyholes for toiletries, and the perfect wall on which to set handsome bath controls.
Get creative with some alternative panelling solutions – MDF fretwork can yield striking results. Paint the fretwork in a contrasting colour to the background walls and you have an exotic graphic wall of pattern and texture. Choose more unusual materials for your panelling media – acoustically friendly leather, the unique lustre of stretched horsehair or Japanese-styled taut paper, within a sycamore framework. There are endless choices, each producing individual solutions.
Caroline Palk, BIID member, runs Ashton House Design, C2 Linhay Business Park, Eastern Road, Ashburton, TQ13 7UP. Showroom open weekdays 9am-5.30pm, Saturdays by appointment. Telephone 01364 653563 or visit www.ashtonhousedesign.co.uk and follow Caroline on her Room for a View blog.