Custom Wainscoting for $4.49 a Square Foot
Tall panels built from stock parts (and a hand-me-down chandelier) dress up a plain-Jane dining room, stairwell, and entry on the cheap
In the last stages of a big remodel, between low finances and sheer exhaustion, it's easy to put off finishing a space. Homeowners Annmarie McCarthy and Mark LePage of Chappaqua, New York, know that first-hand. After adding on to their 1934 Tudor cottage, they spent nearly two years living with a hastily painted dry-walled box of a dining room. Tired of waiting to save up for a pro to finish the space, "We bit the bullet and decided to do it ourselves," says Mark.
Sending the kids to their grandparents for a few weekends, the duo (both architects) got to work sketching out wall frames inspired by old paneled libraries. They made five mock-ups from scrap before choosing one ornate enough to give the space presence but simple enough to blend with the rest of the home. In his basement workshop, Mark cut poplar boards and stock trim. Then he installed the 350 square feet of paneling—plus crown molding salvaged from a job site—while Annmarie helped paint. A rewired fixture replaced a bare bulb to complete the transformation.
Shown: Six-foot-tall paneling adds a hefty dose of old-house charm while a palette of creamy white and chocolate brown warms up the space.
The newly built dining room, used daily for meals and homework, lacked character.
Adding the wainscot panels to the wall leading to the living room and up the main stairwell visually enlarges the dining room and provides a continuous look.
Nose-and-cove molding conceals the seams between the stair's skirtboard and adjacent wainscot panels, giving the area a finished look and adding another level of detail.
The plate rail has a groove cut into it to hold up kids' art projects.
Homeowner Mark LePage says,"We used poplar boards because they're inexpensive but still hard enough to stand up to regular abuse from kids and pets."
Mounted clear poplar 1x boards for the rails and stiles: $643
Installed a 5/4x4 plate rail and supported it with 3-inch crown molding: $192
Trimmed the frames' interiors with 1 13/16 panel molding: $482
Finished baseboards with 1 1/8 cap and ½ quarter-round for shoe moldings: $80
Finished the stair skirtboards with 1⅜ nose-and-cove molding: $14
Used low-VOC adhesive throughout: $11
Installed crown molding salvaged from a job site: $0
Used 2 gallons of primer and 3 gallons of paint for the walls and woodwork: $150
Rewired an old brass light fixture received as a gift: $0