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Creating Custom Wood-Paneled Walls

Custom wood-paneled walls add classic character to period homes. Here, some considerations on design details and installation options.
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Create a clean, paneled look with custom order paneling systems that come complete with rails, stiles, panels, cap, and molding. Photo credit: New England Classic Wood Panel System

A wall paneled in wood gives elegance, warmth, and even period feel to a room. Selecting the design, the panel, and the profile may be easy, but there are a number of options when it comes to purchasing custom wall panels. The wood to be used, the dimensions, the height, layout, and finishing all come into play. Whether it is a vibrant wood to be displayed for its natural beauty, or a stylized panel that provides depth, character, and a unique profile, budget and availability will determine the best method for the project.

Custom Wood Panels
Wood panel designs can be created by a skilled local carpenter, a design firm, or by woodworking shops specializing in custom work. Fine wood companies like French Creek Millwork in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, offer design and craftsman services. Customers come to French Creek with ideas, images, sketches, and even magazine clippings. The company then creates a design and rendering for the client's review and approval. "There are some classic designs," says Paul Smith of French Creek Millwork. "We have a couple of panel raises to choose from" and a wide range of moldings, rails, and styles. Homeowners often select the same panel design and profile to be carried throughout the home, from the walls, to the doors, to the complementary moldings.

The type of wood selected impacts the look, feel, and personality of a room. "It really depends on how light or dark you want the room to be," Smith says. It is best to look at favorite furniture pieces to see how the wood ages. "Whatever color you pick, you will need to expect it to darken several shades," he says. "Visuals help incredibly," Smith says of the creation process. Having renderings, photos, images of existing furniture pieces, helps the design team create a panel and select the woods that will best match the wishes of the client.

Designed by French Creek Millwork, these custom panels were built at the company's facilities and delivered ready to install.

Materials and Measurements
Once a design has been determined, the species selected, and the measurements taken, the French Creek team designs the wall panels and creates a rendering. "Anything that we do would be approved by the homeowner via a shop drawing," Smith says. Once approved, the work of preparing the panels can begin. That work is centered first and foremost on the accuracy of the dimensions. "Dimensions are checked and rechecked before any wood is cut," Smith says of the process. "It's too expensive to have any mistakes." To that end, it's best that the homeowner have a professional work up the exact dimensions of the wall or room to be paneled. The carpenter, builder, or designer then becomes the liaison between the homeowner and the panel company.

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