Originally a protection from intruding elements, wainscoting now serves strictly decorative purposes. Wainscotings main purpose was to cover the lower part of the walls, in houses constructed with poor or non-existent damp proofing. Believed to originate in medieval Poland, this term was used to describe the high quality oak boards that were produced there and transported to homes throughout Europe.
Traditionally constructed from tongue and groove boards, wainscoting today can be made of various materials. Ornate wainscoting is associated particularly with seventeenth and eighteenth century interior design, mainly in Victorian homes.
Today, it can be found in various home styles from arts and crafts, turn of the century Queen Anne’s, and simplified into more contemporary homes. Wainscoting gives a custom and luxurious look although it was originally something of necessity.
When specifying wainscoting in a room, it is important to remember the rule of thirds. Simply meaning, don’t place the top of the wainscoting equally centered between the floor and the ceiling. You should image the wall divided equally into three parts, typically it is placed on the lower third portion of the wall. Sometimes in larger settings the wainscoting takes up two-thirds of the wall space, as shown below.