Wood Wall Paneling 101: Design Ideas and Considerations

April 26, 2021

When creating accent walls with durable, long-lasting wall coverings, many people choose to use wall paneling in their homes, business and office space. Wall paneling creates elegant, rich warm additions to any space. Whether you choose a wood filled with character or something with a more consistent finish, wood paneling can really enhance your interior design.

Like many wood materials, wall paneling comes in many styles and with many options. Sustainable wood wall paneling is one option that can offer many benefits to project designers looking for the perfect wall accent.

All wood wall paneling differs from other available options in several ways. Its beauty and consistency are what sets it apart and make it the right choice for a variety of installations.


Regardless of the type of paneling you choose, wood has a lot of options and benefits. When discussing sustainable wood, the label is simply to differentiate it from other types of wood being used in wall paneling, that include antique and reclaimed wood. Sustainably cut wood is wood that has been recently harvested and has not had a previous use or life prior to being milled for wall paneling.

Benefits of Sustainable Wood

Sustainably cut wood tends to have more consistency in color and texture. While reclaimed or mixed-use wood may have wood taken from several species or several areas and contain more variations in tone, color and grain pattern. The color, grain pattern and sizing of the boards are then controlled during the milling process.

You may also find more control in the sizing of the boards, which can make for a more consistent placement and easier installation. When you prepare for the installation, your planning is less difficult.


Reclaimed wood paneling also has many benefits, but differs from sustainably cut wall paneling is several ways. Rather than being made of freshly harvested wood, the wood used such as reclaimed oak paneling is likely more than 100 years old, having already been used in other applications such as barns and old buildings.

Benefits of Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed wood often shows more marks and signs from its previous life. This may be a rich patina, saw marks and nail holes. These marks are not always present, but the wood typically has more variation in terms of tone, color and grain.

Wood that has been reclaimed is always cleaned and freshly milled for its new use, but different species of wood or different sources of wood can be mixed together in one panel. This lends richness and depth to the paneling, as well as a lot more interest. When saw marks and other characteristics are present, these panels grant their history to the room. A wall panel made of reclaimed wood becomes a focal point and a conversation piece, rather than just a simple backdrop.

Like sustainably cut paneling, you can find reclaimed wood paneling in a wide selection of colors and quite a few popular wood species. And just like sustainably cut wood, the paneling is made to last forever. Since the wood has already been in use for decades, it still has many years of natural beauty. Choosing this wood is also environmentally friendly since new trees are not harvested, you are contributing to the global green movement.


One of the benefits of choosing wall paneling made from sustainable wood is the ability to select the species of wood and to know its characteristics ahead of time. Sustainable wood is available in various species, with sources that can allow you to feel confident in your choice. Each wood has its own grain pattern, personality and color tones that can let you find the right one for your application.

Many types of reclaimed wood paneling are also available in different species, and some types can be mixed together for a bold color pattern. Both can give you a beautiful look for your wall, but be sure to purchase reclaimed paneling from a reputable milling company with decades of experience.

Available Wood Species


American Walnut is another species that has a lot of popularity and instant recognizability for its color and durability. Walnut has a deep, rich color with the heartwood tending nearly toward purple and the sapwood slightly lighter in tone and color. It has a lot of variation in grain and is one of the most sought woods for cabinets and wall paneling.


American Ash is a wood that is commonly mistaken for oak. It varies tremendously from sapwood to heartwood, with the sapwood containing creamy white and light, grey-brown tones and the heartwood has a deeper, richer brown color. Ash is a classic looking wood that works well in formal and traditional settings that don’t necessarily need a dark background.


White Oak is one of the most traditional and versatile woods out there. It has a natural, blue/grey finish color with a creamy white background. White oak can be brushed or polished, formal or rustic in appearance. It works well in nearly any home, depending on the color of the finish.


American Hickory is one of the strongest domestic hardwoods available. It can be very coarse-grained and wildly varied in color and grain. The grain may be straight or dramatic and wavy, and its colors can range from creamy white to deep brown even in one plank. This is one hardwood that will create a dramatic statement in any setting.


Heart Pine has one of the most classic and traditional appearances of any wood. Pine ranges from soft to hard in strength, which means that the boards can develop a lot of character over time, with saw marks, sap and knots showing easily. This makes heart pine ideal for creating a rustic style in any home.


For a wall panel that has maximum character and appeal, consider milled barn wood. Milled barn wood is taken from old barns, then milled to give them new life and a new finish. Barnwood has many tones and shades from the weathering in its lifetime, which is part of what gives it such enormous appeal.


Douglas Fir is another well-known wood that can give you a very traditional and rustic or rustic-modern look. It has a pronounced grain and a rich pink/gold color, along with visible sap marks and knot holes. More consistent than regular pine, Douglas Fir will give you character that you can count on.


Wall paneling gives you more options and personalization and color customization than any other form of wall cladding. You can choose from not only different species of wood, but also different color finishes and textures, which can let you compliment a wider range of styles and designs.

Because you have these options, it’s possible to make more out of your interior design by selecting your wood to match existing wood and finishes already in play. For example, if you want to include an accent wall in your living room, which is open to a kitchen where you have oak cabinets, you can select oak paneling in a finish and color that will complement your kitchen. This can give you a more cohesive design and appearance.

Reclaimed wood also lets you make more of your design, but by setting the tone and style for the space. Using milled barn wood, for example, will let you bring a rustic-modern vibe to your home.

Beyond matching or complimenting any other wood finishes, there are a few more considerations to make when choosing your wall paneling. This includes the amount of light in the space, where the wall will be placed and how much focus it gets in the room.

For example, spaces that are darker or don’t have a lot of natural light may do better with a wall panel that has been given a very light finish, like Gray Barn wood Paneling.


This lighter finish will maximize the light existing in the room, but still has all the warmth and beauty of wood showing through the light finish. This is also an ideal color for small rooms because the cool undertones can help make a small space appear larger.

For spaces that need more character and need a focal point as well as a finish for the walls, it’s better to choose a panel that has more character. This may mean choosing something with a rustic finish where the knot holes and texture will become an accent on their own. It may also mean selecting a more prominent grain for your wood, such as unfinished or clear finished white oak.


With its strong grain and variation from light to dark, this is a wall panel made to stand out from the crowd. You can also mix a lot of different accent colors into the room, simply pulling from the different shades within the wood, and all of them will be sure to match the style. This type of setting is ideal for informal rooms, where you want a slightly more exotic and different impact from the decor.

More contemporary settings that need a statement piece should consider opting for a very dark wood finish that won’t compete with other colors and statements already in the room. For example, using Black Walnut for a wall panel would make a dramatic backdrop to other colors and accents in the space.


When you want to make a formal, impressive statement either in a home or a business, it’s hard to go wrong with classic white oak. White oak in all its finishes is beautiful and tasteful. It helps create a more formal atmosphere and is therefore ideal with nearly any setting that is meant to impress.


White oak’s consistency is what makes it ideal for these settings. It doesn’t vary tremendously from piece to piece, so it has a quieter presence that sets the tone for the rest of the space.


Wood paneling is ideal for a wide range of applications. You can use it in residential designs, restaurant layouts, office space and business lobbies for a variety of functions.

Ideas for Installations

Kitchen islands and peninsulas where the different wood grains and direction of the paneling can either contrast or complement the cabinetry – This adds dimension and interest to any kitchen design.


Slab-style cabinetry, which can use the paneling to create a unique, more interesting looking slab door – Rather than a single piece of wood, using the paneling to face the doors adds more variation to the design.


Accents to surround another area – This may be in a lobby, where you want to highlight a brand name, or it can be in a living room to highlight a picture window. Either way, using wood wall paneling to frame and accent an area can create a very striking appearance in any space.


Full wall coverings are also a possibility with wood wall paneling. Using multiple paneling boards across a single wall adds a lot of character and warmth to a room. Having paneling that doesn’t quite line up with one another can add a lot of dimension as well, giving the walls the appearance that they are longer than they are.


It’s also possible to wrap corners around walls to turn a corner with wall paneling. This gives the wall a thicker, more substantial presence. You can also use this technique to cover columns as well, adding more interest to an otherwise plain space.


Wall paneling can also be used to help create more dimension in a space. Offices or seating areas where you need to divide open space can get a lot more character by building walls from wood wall paneling, rather than other types of dividers.


Wall panels install easily on any clean, dry and stable substrate. The paneling boards are designed to fit into one another to make a smooth installation.

Always do a dry fit layout before installing. Measure the space you will install them on, and mark off a space of the same size on the floor nearby. Fit the individual boards together in the space, and make any necessary cuts to the edges using a circular saw.

Begin installing from the bottom row up. Use an adhesive to attach the individual boards to the wall, then nail them securely into place. Take careful measurements of where any outlets or switches are located and use an extender box inside the outlet before piecing carefully around the outlets. Use your dry fit to make sure that the measurements for the outlets work out and that the pieces you cut will fit around them. Double-check their fit on the wall before using adhesive. Whenever possible, install up to the bottom of the outlet first, then start with a new row above, filling in cut sections on the sides.


Wood wall paneling gives you a ton of custom design options. For that reason, it’s important to reach out directly to the manufacturer with your specifications. This includes measurements of the space, color, style and finish of the wood species you want, as well as details about the area you will be doing the installation.

Please feel free to reach out to our sales experts at Elmwood Reclaimed Timber for advice on wood wall paneling you want to consider for your next design project.

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