Wall to Wall: WOOD

Credits for Lincoln Park Mediterranean Home
Architecture, Design & Construction by BGD&C Custom Homes
Chicago Custom Home Builder: BGD&C Custom Homes
Photography: Tony Soluri

Nothing adds richness, texture, warmth and interest to a wall like wood. Whether it’s a study, a den, a dining room or even a bathroom, wood paneling and millwork bring the wow.

With more people working from home these days, home offices and libraries are taking center stage, and wood makes these spaces cozy and sophisticated.

Yes, wood paneling is back. But we’re not talking about that orangey glossy knotty pine in your parents or grandparents’ basement. “I think some people might have PTSD from that sort of 70s and 80s paneling,” says Taryn Lund, senior project manager at BGD&C. “But when it’s done right, it can be really stunning. I think people are moving toward more natural materials, and people like the warmth of wood.”

The tones on paneling these days are much warmer and browner, and wood “brings a lot of texture to a room,” says Taryn Lund. “It almost serves like wallpaper to bring interest to a wall.

In terms of types of wood, people are sourcing reclaimed and found woods, but walnut and oak remain king. Walnut is particularly popular because it complements both bright whites and moody colors that are so popular now, such as black and charcoal gray. “Walnut brings those colors to life a bit,” Lund says. Both walnut and oak are “tried and true materials that look good and wear well.”

Credits for Lincoln Park Transitional Home
Architecture, Design & Construction by BGD&C Custom Homes
Chicago Custom Home Builder: BGD&C Custom Homes
Interior Design: Kadlec Architecture + Design
Photography: Nathan Kirkman

Built-ins are just as popular as they’ve always been, to provide storage and display for books, decorative objects and more. Any built-in is going to look high end because it’s intentional, and by its nature, custom. That’s a very different look from a piece of furniture against a wall.

Many clients like having built-ins hidden behind paneled doors, with the millwork integrated. “Or it’s painted to match the trim so it’s all cohesive and part of the room,” Lund says.

Though built-in open bars aren’t as popular as they once were with BGD&C clients, it’s another option to personalize a study, den or man cave. BGD&C clients work with a designer from the conception phrase a custom-home project, plotting out what they want to display on shelves, be it books, art objects or a combination, and then the unit is planned to accommodate. Nothing is left to chance.

Molding is still popular, but in a more transitional aesthetic that is classic but pared down. “Trim on the whole is definitely getting simpler,” Lund says.

Credits for Lincoln Park English Home
Architecture, Design & Construction by BGD&C Custom Homes
Chicago Custom Home Builder: BGD&C Custom Homes
Interior Design: Suzanne Lovell
Photography: Tony Soluri

And though people tend to think of wood walls and millwork for traditional libraries and studies, “it’s pretty versatile,” Lund says. “Wood can be done in a very modern fashion. It depends how you detail and finish it.” A high-gloss finish on wood with a lot of grain and very minimal detailing, will look modern. Clean, straight lines and the integration of, say, some metal details, could also create a very modern look.

And wood needn’t be confined to studies, libraries, dens and formal dining rooms. “You can consider doing it in any room,” Lund says. In a bathroom, for instance, a wood wall could bring “a real warmth and contrast to tile and stone.”

Or consider a wood accent wall in a bedroom behind the bed instead of a headboard. “Wood is really versatile,” Lund says. And durable: “It’s why you see it in homes that are 100, 200 years old.”

Long-lasting, versatile, warm and rich– wall to wall wood is here to stay.

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