Go with the grain

The walls and ceiling of this house in Sydney features sheets of ply set with within steel portal frames.
The walls and ceiling of this house in Sydney features sheets of ply set with within steel portal frames.

Wood-lined rooms are enjoying a revival and the choice of materials has never been greater. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by James Merrell.

Anyone old enough to remember the 1960s and 70s will recall the fashion for cladding interior walls with thin wooden planks and tongue-and-groove panelling coated with various shades of orange/brown varnish.

Wood can inject a nautical look

Wood can inject a nautical look

Most of it was stripped out in the 1980s amid cries of “urghh, how could they?” But now, 40 years on, wood-lined interiors are fashionable once more.

Those planks are very much on trend thanks to the retro revival but there’s also a whole host of other options.

If you’re looking for inspiration, the best guide I’ve found is Wooden Houses by Judith Miller. It’s a hefty coffee table book full of fabulous photographs featuring everything from properties built entirely from timber to the decorative use of wood in our homes.

As ever, Judith, co-founder of the Millers Antiques Price Guide and an expert on TV’s Antiques Roadshow, has done plenty of research and traces the development of wood as an integral element in architectural design history.

The yellow panelling in Athelhampton House.

The yellow panelling in Athelhampton House.

She believes that lining or partly lining a room with wood offers an experience that is hard to beat: “Not only is the texture and patina of the wood captivating but the sensual warmth it exudes is enveloping. In many different forms, whether as fully round or split logs, hewn planks or elegantly carved panelling, wood has been a popular interior lining for hundreds of years, and though there are many new materials available, it remains the most versatile.”

She adds that decorating a wood-lined room can be liberating. “It encourages its own ethos, which dispenses with the need for endless discussion on the merits of one wallpaper over another. The fundamental decision that will influence the look of the interior is whether to oil, stain or paint.”

■ Wooden Houses by Judith Miller is published by Ryland Peters and Small, £30, rylandpeters.com

From panelling to ply...

A wooden ladder with throws and rugs draped over its rungs 
creates a gorgeous vignette.

A wooden ladder with throws and rugs draped over its rungs creates a gorgeous vignette.

Here are some ideas from Wooden Houses showing what’s available if you want to add wood to your walls

Split logs: The use of split logs gives a rustic look but make sure they are dried out and expect some movement and cracking for the first few months in situ. Be careful that you don’t end up with a room that resembles a sauna and consider cladding just one wall. This is especially effective in a bedroom, where it can double as a giant headboard. To make it easier and less time-consuming you can have a gap between logs.

Whole logs: Wooden Houses features a stack of whole logs stuck together against a wall. A wooden ladder with throws and rugs draped over its rungs leans against it to complete a gorgeous vignette.

Folk art: One highlight of Judith’s book is a Norwegian log cabin with interiors decorated in 1782 by the artist Olav Hansson. They feature painted patterns, people and even an elephant on the ceiling of the bedroom. Apparently northern Europeans would paint scenes and patterns on their walls during the long winter evenings to make their homes more colourful and inviting. Those who aren’t brave enough to try could hire an expert. There are a number of talented mural artists in Yorkshire.

Painted wood always works well

Painted wood always works well

■ Panelling: “This first evolved in Europe in the 15th century as a way of draught-proofing rooms. A series of panels, known as wainscoting, consisted of rectangular wooden boards set in a moulded framework. As fashions changed, craftsmen began carving and embellishing the panels,” says Judith. The 17th century oak panelling at Athelhampton House, which features in her book, would translate beautifully to a contemporary room. Keighley-based Oakleaf.co.uk makes exquisite replica panelling .

Wood planks. This is one of the easiest ways of lining a room and works especially well in kitchens and bathrooms. The obvious layout is vertical but wide horizontal planks can be very effective. They all look best when painted. Be brave with colour and try a soft or dark blue, creamy yellow or fashionable grey.

Ply. If you love retro style then consider cladding a room or one wall in sheets of ply, which adds warmth and texture to the interior. Mid-century architects loved this idea.

The Acorn Wellness Retreat, near Harrogate, has incredible wood interiors, including wood-lined rooms and tree trunk dividers fitted by Haresign Design. It’s a good place to look for inspiration.

Wooden Houses by Judith Miller

Wooden Houses by Judith Miller