Adding character to a BIG wall for under $100!

September 04, 2019

Hey there! Thank you for your excitement about our recent dream trip to Italy. I was thrilled so many of you enjoyed reading about it. I'll share more soon!

Remember that list of DIY projects I wanted to complete before the holidays? Well...I forgot about one. I've wanted to do this forever, but I wanted to hold off until I knew exactly how I wanted it to look. I figured it out recently and knocked a project of the list...that I didn't put on my list. 😂

Remember when I painted our morning/dining room walls a deep, moody blue? We still love it!:
Dark wall dining room with built in window seat

When I painted and built the bookcases, I planned to add trim of some kind to this wall. I liked it as it was so held off on installing anything. 

After time I realized I wanted to give it a bit of interest -- it's such a big wall! I ended up going with a very traditional but simple design using the same wood trim I've used in the past (at the old house) many times. 

It's simple decorative molding from Lowe's that runs about $6 for an eight foot piece. I'm not sharing a photo step-by-step here because I've shared this wainscoting tutorial before -- it's actually a GREAT way to dip your toe into DIY projects.

You'll need to cut the molding at a 45 angle to make boxes on the wall. This time I went with a set of longer ones on top and smaller boxes below: 

Upper and lower skinny trim on walls

I painted them before I put them up this time and did a final coat after I filled the gaps and holes. 

It's the same satin sheen as the walls. I am thrilled with the bit of elegance it adds to the room!: 
Wainscoting trim on walls

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I went with three large sets -- the sections on the ends are the same size (around three feet wide) and the middle section is the largest. It works great with the long buffet we have in the room: 
Adding character and interest to wall for under $100

Be sure to check out this post on how to do your own wainscoting, but here's a quick list of steps and tips!
  1. Determine your design and how many pieces of trim you'll need. 
  2. Determine your spacing -- I went 2.5 inches on each side of the wall, from the bottom and in between each box. This is totally up to what appeals to you!
  3. I left a little more space at the top in case I add crown later on. I matched it to the height of the thick DIY door trim
  4. You'll need a hand saw and miter box or a saw to cut your wood at 45 degree angles. 
  5. I started with the vertical pieces to get the spacing right, but any side is fine. I find it helps to only nail one end of the trim in, then add the connecting piece. This allows you to make small adjustments as you go. 
  6. No matter how well you measure and cut, some squares may be off slightly, so I recommend measuring as you go, instead of cutting all of the pieces at once. 
  7. I used a nail gun to install them onto the wall. You don't need to hit a stud each time -- this stuff is lightweight and will stay on the wall easily. 
  8. I don't recommend using glue -- EVER. I've learned the hard way over the years that you should only do that if you are absolutely positive you'll never take it down. Otherwise you'll have really fun drywall fixes. ;) 
  9. You can caulk after the trim is up if there are any gaps. I didn't find it necessary this time. 
  10. Finish up by touching up corners and holes with filler and more coat of paint on the trim. 
The final result is a subtle but beautiful detail that amps up the look of any room!: 
Dark contrast wall with molding

It isn't a hard DIY, it just takes a lot of time. Painting takes the majority of the time for sure. I've tried it both ways -- painting before I install and painting after. Neither one is better than the other. I didn't want any brush marks along the trim so I opted for painting before this time.
Adding character with simple molding squares on walls

Total cost was around $85 for the trim. I think it makes a BIG difference in here! It's definitely a traditional look, but the dark color makes it feel more modern. 

As far as I'm concerned, you just can't go wrong with this stuff! Let's look back at how this room looked almost two years ago and compare it to now: 
Long chandelier over farmhouse table

Cyberspace by Sherwin Williams dining room

It looked pretty back then too -- but now it feels more like us, with the contrast and trim (and that window seat!): 
Before dramatic dining room makeover

How to install wainscoting on walls

There you go! I just LOVE it! I have always loved the beauty of trim -- it adds so much to a space! If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments. :) Have you tried this simple look in your home?

You can see the sources for many of the items in this room below (just click on the picture):

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  1. Totally stunning, and really completes the custom feel of the space.

  2. Such a gorgeous space! I love how small the change is – but it makes such a big impact! ❤️✨

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  3. Oh my gosh!!! I love how that wall turned out. Sometimes I'm not a fan of added molding but in this case it really makes the room. Very very pretty. Great job!

  4. I absolutely love this Sarah! So elegant! I've been meaning to do this in my formal living/dining/foyer but haven't gotten around to it yet. Yours turned out so beautifully! I've been noticing this on TV sets recently whenever they characters home is supposed to be really expensive. It was in Annaliese's apartment on"How to get away with Murder" and in "A million little things" in Delilah's house. An I the only weirdo who sometimes follows TV shows just to ogle the sets? Anyway, love this, and especially the way it helps to"bring it in" when you have overwhelmingly large walls in new construction.

  5. I just adore how you add interest, layers, and texture to your home - and yet it doesn't feel cluttered or too busy! Always so impressed by your vision!

  6. Your room was pretty before but this takes it to another level! I love how it turned out!!

  7. Such a cool idea and looks so classy! I also love the wall color!

  8. I thought it looked great before but WOW! What a difference. Thank you for all of the amazing inspiration for woodwork!

  9. Perfection!!! I love the character it adds to the space. This is why I love following you. You always take a pretty room and turn it into something so much more.

    Have you thought of adding similar trim to your blue fireplace? That would look cool too!

    1. I have a slightly different plan in mind for that! :)

  10. We added the premade ones you can buy at Lowe’s to the ends of our cabinets and under a window seat. Love the detail they added.

  11. This is gorgeous. I would like to do this in my hallway. currently the chair rail, box moldings and wall under chair rail are all semi gloss. Will it look ok if above chair rail i paint the wall flat and boxes semi gloss (top and bottom would all be the same taupe color). thank you


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