Beadboard paneling might be the solution for bathrooms, blah ceilings, busy hallways, and more—especially to get a home that looks cleaner with minimal effort.

By Lauren Phillips
Updated: March 26, 2019
Brett Taylor/Getty Images

Beadboard paneling may not have the cultural appeal and relevance of shiplap or the up-and-coming feel of board and batten siding, but this trusty little paneling can pack a mean decorating punch. Initially used to help protect walls in high-traffic areas of 19th-century homes (think service hallways, storage closets, and the like), beadboard is now an excellent wood paneling option for entryways, mudrooms, bathrooms, hallways, and more.

The millwork of beadboard has raised beads and recesses carved into it—hence the name—that help disguise both the joints where the strips of wood connect and any potential scuffs, scratches, and nicks. Beadboard paneling traditionally consists of thin strips of wood with tongue-and-groove-style seams, but modern iterations often use large panels of pre-connected beadboard planks for easier installation. (Yes, even easier than figuring out how to install shiplap.)

Like board and batten wainscoting, beadboard wainscoting or paneling can be installed vertically (the traditional orientation), or horizontally for a more modern feel. Many older beadboard installations feel dated, but contemporary applications in bathrooms and ceilings use fresh paint colors (typically white, though nearly any color other than natural wood hues can work) to help it feel new again. Full beadboard walls aren’t as common as partial walls and wainscoting; most uses pair white beadboard paneling with a thin strip of wall above. Beadboard ceilings are also popular: The look is a classic one that fell out of favor but is now making a comeback on outdoor porches and indoors, in all sorts of rooms.

Beadboard’s construction makes it a durable pick for bathrooms and kitchens, where there tends to be a lot of moisture lingering in the air, and in humid climates because the built-in space for expansion means the wood will not crack—that’s why beadboard is a classic beach or lake house paneling choice. The same features that make beadboard great for humid spaces also make it great for high-traffic ones: A few scuffs and dings on a beadboard wainscoting or wall will only add to the room’s relaxed charm rather than make a space feel dingy and unclean.

Where does beadboard not work? In many formal spaces. The relatively raw millwork makes beadboard feel inherently casual, so it may not be a great choice for a formal entertaining space, such as a dining room. Otherwise, beadboard can go almost anywhere.

It works especially well for indoor-outdoor spaces, including porches and patios, and those mentioned above. Beadboard can help determine the look and feel of a space: Add it to any kitchen to boost those vintage kitchen décor vibes. Beadboard can even add to the rustic, welcoming feel of a farmhouse kitchen.

Scroll on for beadboard ideas that could mean the difference between a home that looks lived-in and clean, sans daily scrubbing, and one that looks like it could use a new coat of paint.

Beadboard Ceiling

Beadboard Paneling

Beadboard Bathroom

Beadboard Walls

Beadboard Wainscoting

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