Adding Wainscoting to the Home Office

July 25, 2016

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A couple weeks ago we introduced one of our new room projects to you–a dedicated home office/studio–and this weekend, after a lot of planning and a trip to Ikea last weekend to pick up desk supplies, we finally got cracking on it.


It’s a pretty vanilla room to start with, and although it’s in the basement, it gets a good amount of sunshine throughout the day. When we were planning the furniture, our desk, lighting and the walls–it was the walls that kept stumping me. Would an interesting paint color be enough to turn it from vanilla into something more “us”? It didn’t seem so. Then, we turned to wallpaper–which I definitely loved the idea of. But it would have been pretty pricey and this small of a room couldn’t get by with just an accent wall. So, we decided to apply a wainscoting to all the walls.


We still have a lot of work to do before it’s done, but this is how far we got on Saturday (a long 10 hour day) and it’s already added so much dimension and interest to the room.


We’re using 1 1/2″ MDF trim boards, to not overwhelm the room, attached with liquid nails and a nail gun. But before we could start trimming it out, we removed the baseboards and added filler MDF for the trim to sit on top of and we’ll add the baseboards back on right before we paint.

Chris started by adding the top and bottom trim pieces near the floor and ceiling, then attached all the verticals and lastly the horizontals. However, the trim is not complete yet. We’re going back in and adding molding to the inside of each panel.


We picked up this “Raw Colonial Moulding” from Lowe’s for the inside and trimmed out one section to see how it looks before calling it a day.


I think it will add something very special and a much more finished look, but I’m not sure the inside moulding is beefy enough–or maybe its just that the wood tone is too close to the wall color. Verdict is still out.



Once we get the inside moulding on, we’ll reattach the baseboards, caulk until we can’t caulk anymore, and then give it all a coat of paint. I’m thinking a warm gray-green–similar to this space we’re pulling a lot of inspiration from. Anxious to see it all come together!

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What do you think?

  1. Ashley K says:

    Hey Julia! Wondering if you can tell me how big each rectangle is? We have an offcentered window we are trying to work around. Any tips, tricks?

  2. What did you do to address the overhang where the mdf boards meet the baseboard or door trim?

  3. Sherry says:

    Julia, which nail gun and compressor did you use?

  4. Brandon Marcum says:

    Can’t wait to see the final product! This reminded me that we need to finally post our shaker panel project.

  5. Anitra says:

    Gosh that’s going to look so good painted (it already looks good!)! How nice to have natural light in a basement!

  6. Alison G says:

    Wow, that looks like lots of work…makes my arms hurt.

  7. Jen says:

    What did you do on the inside and outside corners? Did you miter the vertical pieces?

  8. Mary says:

    I love this. But what prevents me from trying it is uneven floors & ceiling. How do you handle it? Or hasn’t it been an issue?

    • Julia says:

      Our walls aren’t perfectly square, the ceiling differs by 1/4″ from one corner to another on one wall and 3/8″ on another. So we made sure our baseboard was perfectly level. Then we made all of our measurements from that, cutting some vertical pieces ever so slightly longer than another. There’s slight differences, but not noticeable this way. Also, caulk is your friend.

  9. Lynn says:

    I love the effect but just a comment, I don’t believe this is wainscoting. Wainscoting is applying paneling to the walls, usually below a chair rail. I don’t know what i would call this…it’s almost like a coffered effect but on walls instead of ceiling. In any case, very creative! It definitely gives people an option for architectural interest in an accessible way.

  10. Leslie says:

    You could consider the paint color that Dana @housetweaking used on the trundle bed post today – gorgeous!

  11. Amanda says:

    Oh my goodness, what a project! It looks amazing and I can’t wait to see the finished product! I can’t even imagine how exhausting this project has to be – so much caulk!

  12. Kates says:

    Ohhhhh I have wanted to do something like this to the stair wall that visible in our kitchen!!! I can’t wait to see how this turns out!

  13. chaley says:

    We just completed something similar in a large bathroom, and the caulking was insane- but so worth it! I can’t wait to see what you do next. One note regarding the inner trim, one of the things that makes the inspiration photo look so great is that the inner trim slightly extends past the main trim. This casts that beautiful shadow line for each box, showing off the great detail!

  14. Lisa, London says:

    Farrow and Ball, Manor House Grey :). Love the new dimension the room has taken definitely not vanilla!

  15. Janine says:

    I have done this to my half bathroom but then the textured walls between the molding started to look unfinished to me. Now I am thinking about going back and adding thin plywood between to get the complete smooth wood and a higher end look. Have you considered this or does the texture from your walls not bother you? I guess in a bigger room the cost might make it prohibitive?

  16. Jessica says:

    I vote for beefier and more detail like your inspiration photo. And technically this is panelling, not “wainscoting”.

  17. gigi says:

    Everything you have done in your home is beautiful. Could you blog a bit about what do Faye and Greta do while you are working on an in home project. How do you keep young children entertained while trying to accomplish work at home.

    • Julia says:

      This particular project was 95% Chris while I tended the girls on Saturday. That’s generally how our projects go. And then during Faye’s nap, I jump in and there’s a big blitz for 2-3 hours. Sometimes, if it is a two person project, we wait until after they go to bed, or hire a sitter for a few hours so we can both focus.

  18. Christina says:


  19. Christina says:

    Personally, I’d like something a wee bit thicker but paint the inside trim to see if you’re happy with the “beefiness” before you trim out all those squares! ??

    Ps–the wainscoting is ??

  20. Hayley says:

    What a great idea to add interest to a smaller room! Just started reading your blog after stumbling across your Podcast (recommended by Young House Love Has a Blog)! Yall are awesome!

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