This Is the New Way to Do Wainscoting

published Apr 30, 2022
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black and white room with futuristic furniture and decor, tic tac toe spay paint on wall
Credit: Rikki Snyder

There’s so much to take in — and love — in Miles Willis McDermott’s Small/Cool NYC space, Wanderlust Fulfilled.

Step in the chic black and white lounge, and you’ll want to recreate the layered arch accent wall — not to mention add the cowhide sling chairs, the playfully naughty boucle flail pillow, the mod white storage console, or “the most photographed couch in America” to cart your immediately. But blink, and you might miss the genius design detail behind the furnishings. McDermott’s fresh take on wainscoting is simple yet genius.

Credit: Rikki Snyder

McDermott nailed a Greek key pattern on the lower third of the walls using stock lumber. “If you look closely, you’ll notice it’s made entirely out of the same size plank — just nailed at different orientations!” McDermott says. The black Greek key design adds architectural interest and helps to anchor the space, like most wainscoting does, but it also keeps the eye moving, staying true to McDermott’s high-contrast, bold-patterned, playful style.

Adding three-dimensional wall texture — picture frame moulding, board and batten, beadboard, paneling — is incredibly popular in the home projects space this spring. McDermott’s describes his version as an “inexpensive trick to achieve an expensive look.” It’s also proof that there’s more to wainscoting than your usual planks and boxes!

How will you iterate on McDermott’s design? The same stock wood trick could help you create a plus sign pattern, a zigzag or chevron, or more freeform Tetris-like shapes. Happy nailing and painting!

Small/Cool NYC is a shoppable, in real life and digital home design showcase full of decorating tips and tricks from your favorite designers. Visit us from April 22 to May 15, 2022, on weekends (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) from 11 am to 7 pm ET at 515 Broadway in Soho, New York City. Check out our event schedule and the whole virtual experience online at and follow along on Instagram @apartmenttherapy. Thank you to our sponsors BEHR® Paint, Toyota Corolla Cross, Ashley, Yogi® Tea, and Chasing Paper for making this experience possible.