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Does Wainscoting Make a Room Look Bigger?

5 reasons why it might not be the best idea

By Blake Lockwood | Curated by Blake Lockwood | Reviewed by Blake Lockwood

Blake Lockwood, the seasoned interior designer behind Decor Snob, has made a name for himself with over 30 years of industry experience. As a member of esteemed associations such as the NCIDQ, CIDA, NAAB, and CCIDC, he upholds high standards in his work.  His content is always people-first, reliable, and engaging.

Does Wainscoting Make a Room Look Bigger

Wainscoting does not make a room look bigger. Wainscoting makes a room look smaller.

I hate to break it to you but, if you’re looking into making a room look and feel bigger, then wainscoting might not be right for you. It is known that wainscoting makes a room, look smaller rather than larger, but it does depend on the color you use to paint the panels and the height of those panels.

Wainscoting is mainly used to protect the lower part of a wall and to make a room look more elegant, instead of using it for sizing purposes.

How Can I Use Wainscoting to Make a Room Look Larger?

Before I completely put you off the idea of using wainscoting, there are some things you can do with wainscoting to make the room look slightly bigger.

Height of the Wainscoting

You need to consider the height of your ceiling. If you have a lower ceiling, you will want your wainscoting to be smaller as this will help the room to look bigger. To make a room look bigger; you want your wainscoting to be a lower height. Ideally, if your ceiling is 8-foot high, then the ideal height of your wainscoting will be 32 inches. For a 9-foot high ceiling, the perfect height is 36 inches.

Color of the Wainscoting

Paint can define your room by the color you use. You don’t want to paint the wainscoting a dark color; this will make it feel much smaller. If you want a room to look and feel bigger you need to use a lighter paint, light paint makes a room feel more open and also makes it look much brighter which will undoubtedly support making the room feel bigger.

Where Should The Wainscoting Go?

The general location that people will place their wainscoting is between the chair rail and baseboard. You will likely have a baseboard in your house, but if you do not have a chair rail, then the recommended height ranges between 3 and 5 feet, this depending on the size of your room and personal preference.

Wainscoting can change the look of a room depending on what you do with it, for example, explained that if you have a narrow window, tall wainscoting can make the room look larger, but it can also bring the ceiling down and make the room look shorter. It ultimately depends on the look you are trying to get.

Again, if you have a chandelier, it is recommended that you fit your wainscoting to the same level that the chandelier hangs, this can help a room to feel and look larger.

What Styles of Wainscoting Are There?

There are numerous styles of wainscoting that you can add to your room. Some of the styles are wood wainscoting or non-wood wainscoting, I have listed and explained a couple of these below.

Wood Wainscoting

Some of the styles of wood wainscoting are raised panels, flat panels, overlay panels, board and batten and beadboard. Beadboard is the most popular type of wainscoting used.


Beadboard will give your house a Victorian look. Usually, they are fitted in spaces like bathrooms, kitchens and hallways, which are more informal. If you want to use this style of wainscoting for rooms for a more formal area like your bedroom and dining room, then suggests combining flat panels with tongue and groove beadboards.

Non-wood Wainscoting

Alternatively, if you don’t want wood wainscoting, you can get non-wood wainscoting. Some of the styles you can go for is: PVC plastic, embossed metal, ceramic tiles, embossed MDF, shaped MDF, and embossed drywall.

Embossed Metal

If you are looking for something a bit more unique, going for embossed metal might work for you. It isn’t commonly done but can make the room look beautiful and classy.

Ceramic Tiles

Ceramic tiles are the perfect type of wainscoting to go for in a bathroom; you can even combine this with beadboard wainscoting to get a classic appearance. The benefit of using ceramic tiles is that it also provides water resistance in case of splashback, as well as the tiles being durable.

Final Thoughts

If the only reason you are looking into wainscoting is to make your room look larger, I would not recommend wainscoting due to it usually making a room feel smaller. There are many other ways that you can make a room look larger.

If you like the idea of wainscoting for its elegant look or you want to protect your walls, but are worried that it will make your room feel smaller then there are ways that you can overcome it. You will want to use light colors and lower wainscoting, and this will help you to get that feel of a larger room. See also our article on Wainscoting Ideas.

For small rooms that already don’t have much space, the paneled look of wainscoting would not look right and will only make less space more visible. Ideally, wainscoting works better for bigger rooms, but depending on the height and color used, it can make that bigger room feel smaller, so keep that in mind when you are considering wainscoting.

Photo: Marker Girl Home

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