Create a clean, paneled look with custom order paneling systems that come complete with rails, stiles, panels, cap, and molding. Photo credit: New England Classic Wood Panel System

A wall paneled in wood gives elegance, warmth, and even period feel to a room. Selecting the design, the panel, and the profile may be easy, but there are a number of options when it comes to purchasing custom wall panels. The wood to be used, the dimensions, the height, layout, and finishing all come into play. Whether it is a vibrant wood to be displayed for its natural beauty, or a stylized panel that provides depth, character, and a unique profile, budget and availability will determine the best method for the project.

Custom Wood Panels
Wood panel designs can be created by a skilled local carpenter, a design firm, or by woodworking shops specializing in custom work. Fine wood companies like French Creek Millwork in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, offer design and craftsman services. Customers come to French Creek with ideas, images, sketches, and even magazine clippings. The company then creates a design and rendering for the client’s review and approval. “There are some classic designs,” says Paul Smith of French Creek Millwork. “We have a couple of panel raises to choose from” and a wide range of moldings, rails, and styles. Homeowners often select the same panel design and profile to be carried throughout the home, from the walls, to the doors, to the complementary moldings.

The type of wood selected impacts the look, feel, and personality of a room. “It really depends on how light or dark you want the room to be,” Smith says. It is best to look at favorite furniture pieces to see how the wood ages. “Whatever color you pick, you will need to expect it to darken several shades,” he says. “Visuals help incredibly,” Smith says of the creation process. Having renderings, photos, images of existing furniture pieces, helps the design team create a panel and select the woods that will best match the wishes of the client.

Designed by French Creek Millwork, these custom panels were built at the company’s facilities and delivered ready to install.

Materials and Measurements
Once a design has been determined, the species selected, and the measurements taken, the French Creek team designs the wall panels and creates a rendering. “Anything that we do would be approved by the homeowner via a shop drawing,” Smith says. Once approved, the work of preparing the panels can begin. That work is centered first and foremost on the accuracy of the dimensions. “Dimensions are checked and rechecked before any wood is cut,” Smith says of the process. “It’s too expensive to have any mistakes.” To that end, it’s best that the homeowner have a professional work up the exact dimensions of the wall or room to be paneled. The carpenter, builder, or designer then becomes the liaison between the homeowner and the panel company.

Panels or panelized walls arrive ready for installation. They are typically created and shipped as complete sections. The custom made and finished panels can then be installed by a carpenter, builder, or the company’s own installers. Panel walls come as complete installations, with a 3/4-inch-thick frame and a 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch panel, depending on the panel design.

This is not an inexpensive proposition, however. A standard 12-by-12 room with openings for doors and windows, covered floor-to-ceiling in cherry panels could run the homeowner approximately $25,000 and take 6 to 8 weeks for completion. The beauty, uniqueness, and character of wood, however, make it a suitable purchase for the life of the home. Wood that is properly maintained and oiled will last a lifetime, and grow more beautiful as it ages.

Working with a Plan Designer

Plans for this paneled dining room wall were created using design software and used as reference material for the carpentry crew.

Another option is to have the wall designed and specified by a design firm, but created and installed on site by the carpenter or builder. In a recent project the design team of Drummond Designs, in Drummondville, Quebec, showed how this can be achieved simply and cost effectively. Starting with the home’s plans, Drummond used video footage and photos taken on a walkthrough of a local historic home as the basis for a custom design.

“We had the mandate to recreate something that would fit into the dimensions of that wall,” Ben Larochelle of Drummond Designs says of the project. More and more customers are looking for this level of custom interior work, Larochelle points out. Drummond offers this service for unique installations like kitchens and entertainment rooms, too. “You’d have to wait until the structure is up so we can have the latest measurements from the site,” Larochelle stresses. Otherwise, homeowners risk a faulty installation. Larochelle’s advice is “precision on measurements.” The rest can be achieved on site.

Working from an AutoCAD drawing, dimensions can be set, and installation made easy. The on-site carpenter or builder would then order the wood, and assemble the custom wall in the home. Drummond can create a custom interior wall drawing for about $250, and have it back to the client in approximately 10 working days.

Interior Design Services
Like any major home improvement project, it can pay to shop around before a craftsperson is hired. Kim Plavan, a certified designer with the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), points out that a clear and concise plan can save the homeowner substantially. A good drawing and clear specs will get the clients exactly what they want. “Clear, clean communications done in CAD or drawing format allow a client to price out what they want, shop around,” Plavan says. With a good drawing from a professional designer, the homeowners can make honest comparisons between carpenters, species of woods, finishes, and pricing.

Credit: Renovate with Tommy Mac