Here’s the Skinny on Whether you Should Shiplap Your House

I read this advice the other day on a blog talking about shiplap. When you read this, tell me if this statement helps you decide if you should install shiplap in your home:

“We love how easily it brings a historic vibe to any space that is refined and thoughtful yet casual.”

Huh?

Are you any further ahead now in making a decision on whether you should install it in your home?

No.

Here’s how you’ll know.

Is your house countrified or modern farmhouse?

Seaside or beachy?

Cottage?

Here's the Skinny on Whether you Should Shiplap Your House | Maria Killam

From Garden and Gun

My caution is, as with any trend, it isn’t appropriate to every house or design situation.

If you have a spacious house with a farmhouse feel, or a beachy cottage where a painted wood panel finish fits and makes sense, by all means, go for it.

But if, like many of us, that is not your situation, and instead you have a regular new build in the suburbs, or a house from the 80’s or 90’s with a two story foyer and great room, shiplap is NOT GOING TO WORK. Instead, it will look contrived, trendy, out of place and, in the end, tacky.

All those modern 70’s homes with tongue and groove cedar ceilings? If you paint out the wood, you will actually end up with a shiplap look which suddenly looks beachy. Not a fit with this architectural style either.

I do think the related trend for reclaimed wood walls  is definitely on the wane.

The rustic wood panelling looks pretty here (below) contrasted with a glam chandelier, but it is the one feature I would easily tire of in this room.

Looks great as long as the decorating in the room coordinates with it. However, a new look would necessitate a new paint job on the ceiling as well.

Here's the Skinny on Whether you Should Shiplap Your House | Maria Killam

 Whitney Donáe via Pinterest
Same for the wood accent wall in this kitchen below. It could look like 70’s panelling pretty quick.
Here's the Skinny on Whether you Should Shiplap Your House | Maria Killam

A good place to indulge in the trend if you don’t have the architecture to support it, could be in a powder room.

Here's the Skinny on Whether you Should Shiplap Your House | Maria Killam

Hi Sugarplum

Here's the Skinny on Whether you Should Shiplap Your House | Maria Killam

via Williams & Spade

Here's the Skinny on Whether you Should Shiplap Your House | Maria Killam

Via pinterest

It works in this bedroom (below) because it’s countrified. And, faux shiplap is probably a good solution to popcorn ceilings in some cases.

Here's the Skinny on Whether you Should Shiplap Your House | Maria Killam

Via Pinterest

If you don’t have the architecture for it, you could use it in isolated rooms in smaller applications if you must (below), but I would not recommend installing it all over your living room walls, or your kitchen backsplash or your fireplace unless the look of the rest of the house absolutely supports it.

Here's the Skinny on Whether you Should Shiplap Your House | Maria Killam

The White Buffalo Styling Co.

In case you’re wondering if I like shiplap? Yes it definitely adds interest, as long as it works with the style of your home.

I recently had a visit with a couple who are huge fans of Fixer Upper. The wife joked that Joanna Gaines was her husbands girlfriend.

They live in a builder home from the 80’s with a small oak kitchen and small great room with the staircase attached on one side.

They showed me a photo of the wrought iron X staircase they were going to install in their house.

Here’s an inspiration photo below:

x-staircase

via fixer upper

I looked at the photo of the about-to-be-installed staircase and looked up at their stairs and I must admit I was speechless.

If I’m in your house and I’m not talking, it’s because I’m calculating how devastating my bad news will be.

Sometimes I start carefully, by asking questions.

How much have you spent on this already, I inquired?

“$600” replied the husband. “And spent two weeks building it in my shop.”

“Okay good”, I said “Because you can’t put that staircase in here. It will become the most important feature of this end of the house, and it doesn’t work at all, with your style of home.”

The wife looked relieved. She said “I didn’t think it was right and it seemed too heavy”. The husband paused for a minute and then said “I’ll turn it into a gate instead”. Next he put his arm around me and started walking me around the house asking other questions.

Whew, crisis averted.

When you’ve seen as many homes as I have in my career, this kind of advice is easy for me. But I would rather you asked me BEFORE you did that much work.

It’s the same with shiplap. Since the Gaines are apparently single-handedly responsible for bringing this trend into existence, I thought it was a good place to tell the staircase story as well.

The lesson of the day? Every trend you love CANNOT go in YOUR house. Loving something should not get confused with “Will it work here?”

The minute you install it, and it becomes obvious that it clashes, you’ll stop loving it.

Just this morning, I received a blurry photo from a reader who had stumbled upon my website. She sent me a photo of a kitchen with newly installed granite. It looked like the cabinets were whiter than the creamy/black granite but it was hard to tell from the bad picture.

On top of the photo she had written HE LOVES THIS.

Her email to me was this:

“HELP! I saw your post and I think you are amazing. I’m really struggling choosing a backsplash. I would like your opinion on what kind of backsplash to get that matches my granite. Please reply as soon as you see this email. I need my backsplash by Monday.”

This was my response:

Hopefully the cream in your cabinets matches your granite, and if so you should install CREAM subway tile.

The end.

Anything else will be hideous and SCREAM a designer was NOT THERE.

Hope this helps, Maria

If the cabinets were white and your countertop is taupe and cream, then I would probably choose white to go with the cabinets (and ignore the countertop) because a backsplash is more visual. You could also choose a taupe backsplash but it’s hard to get the undertones right with hard finishes because you don’t have 10 options, you only have 1 or 2 if you’re lucky.

Back to the point of my point. If you feel you have to LOVE every single hard finish that goes into your house, you will most likely end up with a mess.

Then, after the mess has been installed, you’ll call a designer, cross your fingers and hope for magic.

Magic is hard to deliver after you’ve already made all the most important decisions so take my advice and study the style of your house.

Then decide what should stay and what should go.

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  1. Maria, this post is why I have been reading your blog for the past few years. You are the voice of reason in a world of “trend chatter.” Your advice has assured me to be patient and get to know my house before just slapping some paint on the wall or making a more costly decision. Thank you, thank you for sharing your insight! 🙂

  2. I love this article! Funny thing is I recently installed a rustic wood wall! I knew when I put it in it was trendy. My husband and I are very handy. My comment to him as we were installing it was this is trendy, and we will be ripping it out in the future! I have an architectural issue with the house and I needed a cheap way to advert attention. I can’t tell you how many compliments I get from my wall. Pretty much every visitor loves it. Ya it’s trendy, I knew it when it was installed, and I’m embracing this trend. 😉 I keep the rest of my home as timeless as I can.

  3. So agree with you that it does not work in every home but would also add that even if it does not work with your home’s architecture, if you love the look go ahead and use it as an accent wall in a bedroom or a child’s room. But I must disagree that the trend is waning…wood accents will always be popular, and I would caution against making a definitive statement like that as a designer.

  4. Whether interior design or fashion one can easily ruin ‘the look’ with too many trends going on at once. Solid advice as always! Beautiful new website!

  5. As for shiplap .. my grandparents had it in their place in three rooms. They had 130 year old barn that was converted to a house like in the 1920s. The home looked like a common wood sided pre 1900 home. They had plaster too. I never thought it was out of place there. Seen plenty of what I call “working man” (pre 1940s) homes that have some shiplap here in IL. Once this trend goes then what – fabric covered walls?

  6. Yes, thank you! I walk into homes in my suburb and these houses look absurd. They were all built in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. It is one thing to expose existing shiplap (not my thing but at least it’s authentic) but to install shiplap? Be realistic as to what you can do to your house that is appropriate for the reality of it.

  7. What a timely and well-written post! Several comments mention barn doors as being in the same “trendy” category. Are there times when a barn door is appropriate if there is no room for a typical door – say to avoid electrical in the wall or expensive construction? I would love to know your thoughts, Maria.

    • Yes absolutely there is a time and place for a barn door or a slider like that. . . it should just suit the style of the house. Maria

  8. My child has a standing appointment every week in an office with a TV, and every week I see Fixer Upper, whether I want to or not, and I am not an HGTV viewer. After about six months of halfway watching this show I thought, “I am going to count how many times they say the word ‘shiplap’ in one episode”. It was absurd.
    And, oddly, I have a 1911 farmhouse. There are some spots, (shoddy “renovation” from previous flippers) where shiplap actually might be a good solution to some problem areas. (Hello, angled ceilings in a carved out room that was originally attic and are now popcorn, killmenow, but I just cannot even do it).

    Thanks for the great advice, I’m taking one or two areas at a time and trying to make them work both color-wise, and also maintaining the integrity of the home. It’s not always easy to eschew the trends, I have had large rooms painted dark colors (no grey), there are some wooden elements that I refuse to paint, we aren’t knocking out walls for open floor plans. I question those decisions at times, but this home was owned by one family (and a “flipper”, bless their hearts) before we bought it, and I maintain that it should be “liveable”, but a 1911 home with 12 foot ceilings and actual rooms can’t bow to mid century modern or grey everywhere with puffy furniture and still maintain its integrity. I may not always make the correct choices, but no one is going t be ripping out boards in ten years when they are the harvest gold and avocado of the 2010s.