DIY Wainscoting For Our Office

When we first toured this house, this room was devoid of any furniture, had pinkish walls (and ceiling), late 1980’s vertical textured blinds that had yellowed over the years, holes in the walls, and lovely dog pee stained carpet. It was sad. But I didn’t really ‘see’ any of that, I saw what it could be with a bit of love and a whole lot of carpentry. Aaron and I agreed right away that this would be our shared office. And as I am so very anti-girly when it comes to decorating, I knew I wanted something classic but with a touch of masculine for Aaron’s sake – I would never subject him to frilly lace and pastels.

Wainscoting has that classic look that can be formal, casual/rustic, and even industrial. It can be stained or painted. It can be simple with clean lines, or ornate. What drew me to the idea was that it adds an architectural element to the space, and instead of painting entire walls or an accent wall with only one color, I can add bold color all the way around the room without it appearing too overwhelming.

Wainscoting Remodel

We started by painting the pinkish walls bright white. We then installed 8″ baseboards, and for an extra touch we finished them off with shoe base or shoe molding. The baseboards and paneling also have the added benefit of covering up the very dated 1990’s rounded corners….

Painting the office white

Hide rounded drywall corners

Shoe base of wainscoting

Shoe molding for wainscoting

When using real paneling for the wainscoting, many people install the paneling first with the baseboards over the paneling, but 1. we didn’t want the walls too thick, 2. we didn’t want to waste paneling hiding it under the wide baseboards, and 3. we wanted the wainscoting to be about 60″ high, so sitting the wainscoting atop the taller baseboards gave us the height we were after. As our walls are textured we had to use real paneling – if we had flat walls we could have skipped the paneling and just put up the battens, and faked the paneling with just paint.

Door Skin for wainscoting

The paneling we used is actually called Door Skin, it’s made of 1/8″ thin sheets of Mahogany, yep, real wood! And it’s cheaper than actual wall paneling or plywood – 4′ x 8′ sheets of door skin was $19.99 each, whereas the same measurements of wall paneling was $25 and plywood was over $30 per sheet!

We had a tough time finding battens that were the exact width we wanted. We didn’t want skinny battens, which would look inadequate, but we didn’t want them too wide either thereby making the walls look short and blocky in such a small room. We could have gone the less expensive route and bought basic pine boards and cut them into strips on the table saw, but the time and work in measuring, cutting, sanding, negated the cost benefit. Instead we found strips of 2-1/2″ Popular that were perfect, as in no sanding and only needed a 1/4″ cut off an end to fit, sure they were pricey, in fact the most expensive of all the wood we used in this project, but it sure saved us on time and work!

We capped it all with pre-primed Finger Joint Pine trim. Why finger joint? Because it was super inexpensive (already primed was just an added benefit). I wouldn’t recommend FJ Pine for a job that required strength because the joints can be weak areas, but as a cap to the paneling it’s perfectly suited.

Now we are in the middle of filling nail holes with wood putty, and caulking seams and edges. After which we’ll prime and paint. Also we decided to go BIG with the window, so stay tuned! 🙂