Designers Are Betting on This Wall Treatment as the New Shiplap

Cedar walls were once relegated to mountain cabins, ’90s basements, and Swedish saunas. In its worst iteration, the rustic wood paneling is glossy, tinted an orange-red hue, and mixed with things like Tiffany lamps and laminate flooring. But a crop of designers is reimagining the finish for 2020.

Sure, shiplap is charming, but nothing beats the warmth and subtle evergreen scent of unpainted timber—pine, cedar, oak, or otherwise. The trick to making it look modern: Go for a light matte finish and elevate the material with vibrant textiles, punchy paint colors, and eye-grabbing art. These designers have the formula down to a science.

Go Light and Airy

Portland, Oregon–based designer Max Humphrey is unsurprisingly a fan—his Americana aesthetic lends itself perfectly to the cozy style. By staining the wood a lighter tone and mixing in paler furniture, he breathes new life into this classic look. 

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Channel the Swiss Alps

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY JÉRÔME GALLAND; DESIGN BY PIERRE YOVANOVITCH

On the other side of the Atlantic, Pierre Yovanovitch is also adopting the look, most recently at Le Coucou, his latest project in Méribel, France. Tainted pine paneling is quintessential in the Alps, but he makes it feel brand-new by keeping his palette monochrome. In this room, for instance, a rusty red–dotted carpet mirrors a painted ceiling in the same hue, while a small framed print echoes the color scheme.

Lean Into the Cabin Vibe

Bedroom with wood-paneled walls
PHOTOGRAPHY BY LAURE JOLIET; ARCHITECTURE BY BESTOR ARCHITECTURE; INTERIOR DESIGN BY REATH DESIGN

Frances Merrill of Reath Design doesn’t shy away from a good wood-paneled wall. She loves to underline the rusticity of the planks with other cabin-inspired touches: checkered table skirts, oil paintings, patchwork quilts. And by keeping the lines of the furniture clean and modern, space feels anything but dated.