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Sophie Warren-Smith

9 kitchen wall paneling ideas that will add character and style to your space

Kitchen with dark blue tongue and groove paneling behind a white sink and along countertops, shelf, wall above painted off white.

Adding kitchen wall paneling to your cooking space is exactly the ticket for a transformative, textured and cozy look. Paneling may sound retro but it's a great visual depth. And you don't have to be a DIY pro to do it, either.

Our design experts guide us through nine brilliant options to consider, including shiplap, tongue and groove and wainscotting, and delve into the dos and don'ts to get this done on budget.

These nine kitchen wall paneling ideas are the perfect weekend project, and with our pro tips, you can add instant interest and texture to great effect.

Kitchen wall paneling ideas add charm and style 

Originating from eras gone by, wall paneling has lasted the test of time as a popular decorative element across rooms and homes of all sizes. If your kitchen's plain walls are in need of zhuzhing, our design experts have some perfect ideas to try.

Where our pros have recommended products, our shopping experts have picked matching buys highly-rated by customers to help you shop the look for your home.

The prices below were correct at the time of publishing this article.

1. Beadboard behind shelving

(Image credit: The White Company)

If you want to have a tentative go at using paneling before attempting a larger area like a wall, consider applying beadboard behind existing shelving.

"For us, beadboard is more a feature within a cupboard than on the exterior such as a door, we call it tongue and groove and it is used in the back of cupboards, especially pantry cupboards," Helen Parker, creative director at deVOL Kitchens.

Beadboard (such as the W48 x H96 inch beadboard panels from The Home Depot) make the perfect, easy-to-install backdrop to wall-shelving. You can paint it in a the same color, or opt for a contrasting accent shade for extra visual interest. 

If you don't already have them, some simple shelves, such as the 24-inch set of two white floating shelves from Wayfair, would look great on top of any wood paneling.

2. Slatted wood on the ceiling

(Image credit: Maestri Studio / Jenifer McNeil Baker)

Don't forget the all-important '5th' wall in your kitchen — the ceiling. Use this space to add a unique and dramatic focal point. Creating a design feature on your ceiling, be it paneling, painting a ceiling or color drenching is all the rage.

Eddie Maestri, founder of Maestri Studio, explained what he did in the kitchen pictured above. He says, "We selected the paneling to bring texture, warmth, and dimension to this space filled with striking black and white contrast."

Wayfair's shiplap wall paneling will do the trick perfectly, with the narrow wood strips creating a more contemporary look whilst also bringing visual warmth to a space. 

3. Team panels with wallpaper

(Image credit: Little Greene)

This kitchen features two types of wall paneling. The wallpaper has been 'framed' by raised panels, and wainscotting is seen on the lower half of the walls, reaching up to chair rail height. Together, they create a chic and luxe look.

"All-over wallpaper patterns lend themselves very well to kitchens especially when papering just a small section such as within paneling or behind shelving — adding an element of fun to the project," advises Ruth Mottershead, creative director, Little Greene.

Savvy use of your kitchen wallpaper ideas in this way is not only speedy but budget-busting too, as it requires much less papering. We think the blue and white toile peel-and-stick wallpaper from Amazon looks great in any room.

"Wallpaper is one of the quickest ways to change a space. It's simple to apply within paneling and wallpaper can radically change the feel of a room in just a few hours," adds Ruth.

4. Use panels as a visual break

(Image credit: Mylands / @thecountryhousediaries)

Be clever with how you apply your wall paneling so it becomes part of the scheme, but is still a key, yet subtle feature. 

Here, the molding around the door and on the skirtings is mimicked on the supporting wall and ceiling in-between the kitchen and living area. This is a form of wainscotting that uses thin strips to create a design, and widely available, including the unfinished ornamental molding strips at Lowes.

5. Shiplap at its best

(Image credit: Farrow and Ball)

Perhaps one of the most popular types of wall paneling is shiplap. It takes its name from the way boats were made and how the wood was laid to create a watertight seal. 

These days it's used on both exteriors and interiors as an effective way to create a practical and let's face it, stylish design trend that we all want to feature on our walls – especially if you love having a go at DIY shiplap.

The beauty of this type of wall paneling is that it can be painted easily so you can create different looks. The already-primed MDF shiplap from American Wood Moldings  can also be installed vertically and horizontally on the ceiling to great effect. 

6. Use it as a backsplash

(Image credit: deVOL Kitchens)

Beadboard is a type of wall paneling that has vertical grooves and it comes in various styles and widths. In the 19th century it was used to protect walls from wear and tear, and today it can still do that job. 

"We do also quite often use beadboard as a cladding for a wall, maybe in a utility or boot room, it adds a warmth to the room as it is often done on quite a large scale across a whole wall," says Helen Parker, creative director at deVOL Kitchens.

"We top the beadboard with a peg rail or shelf and this can give a really lovely and very Shaker feel to a kitchen."

7. Pick an irregular pattern

(Image credit: Sims Hilditch)

You can make a design feature of whichever type of kitchen wall paneling you choose by using varied panel widths to create a feature on your walls. Installing them vertically will also create the illusion of height.

Raw wood boards (such as the raw oak shiplap panels from The Home Depot) can be used successfully on the ceiling to create a textured look, and will bring warmth to a north-facing room. 

8. Team panels with tiles

(Image credit: Otto Tiles)

If you don't fancy an all-encompassing kitchen wall paneled look, then consider teaming a smaller section with one of our kitchen tile ideas, and painting your panels a color that complements.

"Adding an accent color to a white kitchen is a great way to create depth and lift the design scheme," says Damia Turgut, founder, Otto Tiles & Design.

The paneling transforms walls from plain to tactile. Damia adds, "Our clients have been creatively incorporating textures and warm neutral tones such as woody browns and terracottas in their kitchen designs."

9. A hint above the door

(Image credit: Robin Gannon Interiors)

You can be subtle with how you apply wall paneling. Try a hybrid of beadboard and wainscotting for a New England-style look.

If your kitchen is 'busy' with lots of textures already, consider using it sparsely to create a tactile feel, perhaps picking the small space above the door, or a window to lead the eye up.

If you decide to feature it across the ceiling, too, try painting it in a mid-gloss white (such as the White 01 in eggshell finish from Lick) to make best use of the natural light coming into your kitchen. 

The Home Depot PVC deluxe beadboard and molding kit takes out a lot of the guesswork and is rated 5 stars by the retailer's shoppers.

Our kitchen wall paneling ideas are easily achievable if you love having a go at DIY. It's a very effective way to transform a space. Helen agrees, "Wood on walls is somehow quite comforting and transforms a plain plastered wall so drastically that it really can be worth the extra cost."

For extra  wow factor, learn how to zhuzh up your island with our kitchen island decor ideas

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