What to do? (with wainscoting and chair rails)

I think we’ve all seen something like this…

and hoped to never see it again, right? That day has passed, thank you very much! However, trying to figure out what to do with wainscoting and chair rails can be a challenge.

This is one of the most common issues I help homeowners tackle. If I had to consolidate advice into a sentence, it would be- when in doubt, paint it white! But there are lots of options, so let’s roll with ideas…


I love wainscoting, it adds a classic, elegance factor. These photos represent 4 solid design options to consider.

The 1st photo reminds me of the many times I’ve heard, my sister, mother, or friend told me I must keep the top color lighter than the bottom! Not true my friends, throw those rules away, they’re no fun anyway. Actually, the stark contrast is a great way to create a dramatic room. Your eye is pulled upward instead of down to the floor. Add some artwork and you’re on your way.

The 2nd photo represents a tonal approach. Understated and clean, it just screams (or shall I say whispers) effortless beauty.

The 3rd photo is a great example of the unexpected approach. The picture ledge trim and photos really bring the look together. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

The 4th photo steps away from the paint can with wallpaper. Enjoy this combination in a small room that doesn’t require tons of paper.

Chair Rails

Chair rails are very common, I see them often during client visits. The biggest obstacle they pose is the wood color- usually oak. It sort of forces earth tones that the client may not necessarily prefer.

If they really bother you, just remove them- it’s not a huge loss. If you’re willing to do some painting, coat them in white- it takes years off your room, I’m not kidding. Better yet, double their width by adding an additional rail (1st photo). Love that idea!!

I’m smitten with the fact that chair rails can look modern, as in the 2nd photo. Also, notice there is only one paint color above and below! You don’t always have to pick two shades.

In the 3rd photo we see 2 completely different colors. Consistency throughout the room allows this approach to work in an interesting way.

Last but not least, in the 4th photo we see black under the chair rail. Don’t you love this look? A lucky child lives here :) I think the contrasting, light, chipper, blue keeps the room looking young and happy.

Well, I hope the ideas open your mind to possibilities… There are many! If you have a wainscoting or chair rail dilemma, contact me anytime.

(thank you thefrugalgirl.com, Decor Pad, Decor Pad, wainscotsolutions.com, bellemaison23.com, designwithchristine.com, Decor Pad, House Beautiful, and bellemaison23.com for the photos)


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