DIY Decorative Wall Panels

Big blank white walls can be a challenge to decorate, especially if you’re renting and can’t paint the walls. One solution to add both architectural detail and color is to build simple wall panels – you can paint them, or add wallpaper and even install lighting and shelves on them. They dress up the wall, while adding color and function at the same time.

Materials:  hardboard panel (1/8″ thick x 4 ft x 8 ft ~ $9 per panel) or 1/4″ thick plywood, 1″ x 2″ x 6 ft pine boards (~$2.50 each), paint or wallpaper.

Step 1: Cut your hardboard panel to size (you can have this done at the hardware store also) and cut your 1″x2″ pine boards so they make a frame around the hardboard with the narrow side against the edge. You’ll want to select pine boards that are perfectly straight on all sides, otherwise, they won’t work well for this project.

Step 2: Apply wood glue to the narrow side of the 1″x2″ and clamp it to the rough side of the hardboard, flush with the edge – you’ll want to use several clamps and using a scrap piece of wood like a furring strip  on the other side of the panel will help transfer the force of the clamps more evenly while using less clamps.

Step 3: Reinforce the corners with screws: drill pilot holes with a counter sink drill bit, put in screws and cover up the screw head with wood filler.

Step 4: Sand and paint panel or add wallpaper.

Step 5: Add a french cleat at the top of the panel to hang on the wall

Additional customization ideas:

a) You can add a shelf or a coat rack to the panels. You’ll need to glue in place a piece of wood to the back of the panel so you can attach these with screws.

b) You can also add wall sconces by drilling a hole using a hole saw bit (1 1/2″ diameter) – the cord for the wall sconce goes through the hole and runs behind the panel and you can control the on/off switch using a receiver and wireless wall switch.

The possibilities are endless with these panels! They’re perfect to add color and can create an organized and functional entryway like in this apartment by adding DIY coat racks, a message board and a DIY shelf/charging station:

And they can also add architectural interest and texture to an otherwise boring room, like I did here by creating a wall that incorporates banquette seating in my dining room:

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