Beadboard: How To Decorate With This Timeless Design

Hyde Evans Design,

Beadboard is an attractive design element that you can add to walls, nooks, cabinetry or other parts of the home. According to Old House Journal, beadboard "is edge-matched—that is, milled with a tongue on one side and a groove on the other so that the boards fit together to make an integrated surface like strip flooring." In other words, individual piece of wood are milled then installed in vertical "stripes" on the wall.

Beadboard was popular as far back as the 1880's as a decorative way to cover walls to hide water damage and protect walls from furniture. People who restore older homes recognize the craftsman ship of vintage beadboard and often invest time and money to restore it. 

Because beadboard is a vintage look, it can be greatly appealing to those looking for a warm, elegant way to decorate their walls. And because of the vertical striping it makes on the walls, beadboard can lend a hand in making a wall look more interesting than just plain drywall. Here are some tips for adding beadboard to your home.

Types of beadboard

Traditional beadboard is constructed of individual, narrow boards of wood. These may be painted or simply varnished. Usually the tops and bottoms of the boards are covered up by a piece of moulding or trim to hide uneven edges. Real wood beadboard is expensive so some homeowners choose to purchase beadboard pre-made panels, usually made from inexpensive pine, MDF or PVC.

These generally are sold in hardware stores by the panel and are usually designed to be painted once installed. 

How to choose beadboard

Real wood beadboard is the most expensive but looks the best. Mostly because solid wood can be milled to a nice depth, and give your beadboard wall the shadowing you're looking for.

Additionally, real wood can be refinished so that overtime you can fill in scratches or simply refinish the wood. A good craftsman can also help you determine how thick the boards should be and decide any finishing details. MDF can be a cheaper alternative, so can PVC. Just be aware that some PVC panels can give a plastic look, and may not hold up over time (this is especially important if the paneling will be installed in a high traffic area). 

Where to install beadboard

Beadboard was traditionally used on walls. Sometimes it would cover the entire wall and sometimes it would be placed below a chair rail on the lower part of the wall - this is called wainscot. It's most common to see beadboard in hallways, living rooms, bathrooms and dining rooms. But we can also see it in kitchens and bedrooms too. It's best to add beadboard in areas in which you won't be pushing furniture directly against the wood, mostly because you don't want to cover up this lovely detail. 

In kitchens, we tend to see beadboard on cabinetry, on the walls of a recessed area (like a nook) or on the base of a kitchen island. You can purchase cabinet fronts with a beadboard design, or try adding beadboard ready-made panels to your existing cabinet fronts.


In bedrooms, try a beadboard headboard, nightstands, or as an accent wall behind the bed. In bathrooms we usually see beadboard as a wainscot treatment, but you could also finish a bathtub surround piece with beadboard too.