Before and After: A Tired Bedroom Wakes Up with DIY Paneling in a Surprising Shade

published Apr 22, 2023
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About this before & after
Project Type
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
Bedroom before makeover. pale gray walls, beige carpet, bay windows, tall white cabinet

Neutral paint colors continue to be a favorite among many homeowners and designers for a reason. For one, neutrals are versatile: Paints in these hues work whether a home is a historic Craftsman or a modern new-build. They’re also a great starting point for just about anyone, including those who prefer minimalist style and those who want to go full-out maximalist with tons of layered decor.

But when Becs Baker (@becs_bakers_abode) and her husband, Graham, bought this U.K. property and considered how they’d spend time in its primary bedroom, Becs wanted to leave the neutral color scheme far behind.

“The main bedroom and the rest of the house was a blank canvas,” she says. “We loved the shutters and the bay window, but we really wanted to add some color, texture, and personality to the space.”

The couple’s property was built in 1901 and underwent a renovation about eight years ago. It had a stint on the rental market before Becs and Graham claimed it as their own, and given that storied history, they were grateful to find it all “to a good standard.” But it was pretty bland, with tan carpet, gray-ish walls, and cream-colored molding. None of those helped highlight the room’s focal point: its giant bay window.

Becs had been following DIYers on Instagram who had used wainscoting to give blank walls more dimension, and she decided to bring the look to her bedroom. To start, Becs ordered pre-cut MDF panels to fit the dimensions of her space. She added them just on the wall with the bed, choosing to stop her wainscoting about two-thirds of the way up the wall. Once she glued and nailed the MDF panels into place, she followed with trim to create the rail and stiles on her board and batten — easier said than done. “It was tricky due to the angles of the room,” Becs says. “I have a physics degree, so I was cross with myself for not being able to work out the angles right away, but I got there eventually.”

Once the wainscoting was installed, Becs painted it a deep teal (Farrow & Ball’s Inchyra Blue) and carried that two-thirds line along the wall of the bay window to make sure that feature “stood out more.”

Becs chose a similar but lighter teal shade (Farrow & Ball’s Oval Room Blue) for the wall of storage. “We needed a chest of drawers to fit between the wardrobes, but our stairs are so narrow that it was impossible to buy a solid piece,” Becs says. “So I upcycled an IKEA unit to match the cupboards. This ended up saving us about £400.” Fresh brass hardware on the built-ins and the hacked dresser add a little glam.

“The chair was a bargain too,” Becs adds. “I picked it up in France years ago for 15 Euros. My mum covered it in bright green originally, which worked in our previous house, but not here. So I dyed it blue.” 

An iron-framed bed covered in plush blankets is another highlight. Becs finished the rest of the space with a navy blue rug from Kakoon, lights from Dunelm, and art from Jonathan Ford Studio. But Becs is most excited about her handiwork on the wainscoting that makes up the background.

“I’m always happy to try these things out, and I feel confident that it can’t go too wrong,” she says. “If I were to do it again, though, I would use wood filler instead of caulk. I assumed I’d be able to sand it down, but I couldn’t, so some of it looks a bit bumpy.”

Becs encourages anyone to do a similar “no drill” renovation in their own homes, noting that it’s still possible to have neutral touches if you so please. “I love being cocooned in color, but I can change the room up when I feel like it just by changing the bedding,” she says. “I’m enjoying fresh whites and creams at the moment, but in the autumn and winter, I’ll make the space much more opulent by using velvet bedding.”