Wood as a decoration and enhancement to a room is a wonder to behold: consider patina, texture, craftsmanship, warmth, artisanship – all there in the beauty of natural woodwork and how it takes hold of the senses upon entering a room, captivating us with its warmth and delighting us with its threedimensional beauty.
It is well known that one of the trademarks of any fine home, from Europe to the U.S., is the employment of superior architectural woodwork. From the 15th century on, one can trace the development of artisan-crafted wood paneling, set into interior frameworks, as they worked their way into our homes. Purposeful, wood paneling was a means to seal off drafts or to insulate a room from the sometimes frigid quality of a stone wall; but more so wood was an exemplary vehicle for artistic expression through the intricate carving of motifs and repetitive patterns upon it.
Note that the Palace of Versailles has many fine examples of complex and elaborately carved paneling.
By the 18th century, the beauty of wood wall interiors incorporating wainscoting or boiserie was at its heyday. And yet, like all forms of custom craftwork, the scarcity of materials and the rising costs of woodworkers pushed the decorative wood wall into the homes of only the very wealthy. But wood walls are also found in other applications: log homes of the American pioneers were incredibly beautiful in their natural state, carved to fit snugly, one log atop the next, interlocked. The first log cabins built in the U.S. were constructed in what is now southeast Pennsylvania in 1640; walls were either left natural or, later as log homes hit their stride, the interior walls were covered with lath and plaster, so that they could then be layered with wallpaper or paint.
Today, while the fees are still high for custom work, inventive technologies have afforded many homeowners the opportunity to enjoy the luxury of wood without prohibitive costs. Wainscoting can be picked up at your nearest home improvement center, interlocking together easily through tongue and groove. Beautiful moldings, chair rails, panels and more can enhance a dreary area, bringing warmth and beauty with natural good looks.
Of course, beauty doesn’t always go without its cost. Though price will vary depending upon the type and grade of wood selected, whether it is carved or embellished or left to show its natural beauty, in general, an eight square foot wainscoting kit can cost around $80 and from there, on upwards into the hundreds and thousands of dollars depending upon many factors. One woodworking company estimated that a 12′ x 12′ room, excluding openings such as doors and windows, covered floor to ceiling in cherrywood panels, could cost upwards of $25,000 and take six to eight weeks to complete.
Note also that, as you probably could have guessed, the type of wood selected will make an impact on the emotions evoked in a room. For example, maple, a lighter more modern looking wood tone, will offer up a different response than a dark wood like ebony.
When decorating, think not just about the various kinds of paneling, but also doors, mantles, columns, cornices and moldings, too.