The phrase "wood walls" should no longer conjure up images of gloomy paneled basements or cabins sheathed in dated, knotty pine. Today's wood walls are riding high on the decor trend curve.
Some pay homage to wood walls' early or mid-century roots. Wainscoting, that charm-filled wall treatment in old timey colonials and capes, might now be painted a dramatic deep violet, decked out with a lattice motif, or be given an exaggerated scale higher or lower than the standard chair rail.
Then there's the reclaimed wood wave, popularized by celebrity renovators Joanna and Chip Gaines of HGTV's Fixer Upper series. The couple frequently use rough-hewn boards from old barns and farmhouses. Fans of their Waco, Texas, store Magnolia Market can buy T-shirts hash-tagged "shiplap."
Designers suggest creating feature walls with either a sleek contemporary look or a rustic modern vibe. Horizontal, vertical, herringbone or mosaic patterns add depth and dimension.
Peter Glassford of San Antonio, Texas, fused his studio art background and his marketing and design job with a high-end Mexican furnituremaker to create sculptural installations with the tropical hardwood offcuts left over from furnituremaking. He now produces mass-market collage squares representative of his original signed art. The dramatic 3-D designs, which can be lacquered in custom hues, evoke the abstract expressionist work of American sculptor Louise Nevelson. (peterglassford.com)
"Each panel is unique, like a small curation of random shapes that celebrates chance, free of patterns," Glassford says.
Architects are adding wood feature walls to contemporary homes. Angela Robinson used horizontal boards on a bedroom wall at Inn the Estuary, a bed and breakfast in Nanoose Bay, British Columbia. The panels blend a modern sensibility with a respect for the wilderness.
"I love to incorporate natural textures and materials," says Robinson. "Wood adds warmth and, depending on how it's finished, can make a space feel more traditional, contemporary, rustic or refined." (angelarobinson.ca)
When using wood, appreciate its characteristics, Robinson advises.
"Keep in mind that wood is a natural material that dents, scratches, swells and ages in time. I think that the more wood is used and aged, the more unique and beautiful it looks."
If you're interested in trying wood tiles, check out sites like pebbletileshop.com, which sells wood reclaimed from old Southeast Asian fishing boats. Marine-grade material like this makes a great kitchen backsplash. There's also a good selection at naturalmosaictiles.com.
Woodworker Jerry McCall of Sacramento, Calif., band-saws reclaimed wood into thin planks that can be adhered to a wall with adhesive or peel-and-stick tabs. His company, Stikwood, offers weathered versions of the planks, as well as oak, fir, maple and cherry boards. Salvaged flooring from sports arenas, complete with game markings, makes a unique statement. (stikwood.com)
McCall thinks the appeal lies in wood's warmth, history, and a comfort and calmness it brings to a space.
"The perfect antidote to the chaos of our modern lives," he says.