Welcome to the DIY diary. Each entry covers a new home improvement project. Here designers Will Glaser and Aubrey Ament show you how to install wall paneling in a kitchen.
Will Glaser and Aubrey Ament built their relationship on creative collaboration. The couple first met at a ceramics class 12 years ago and bonded over a love of design and DIY projects. Today the duo runs GLAM Studio, an interior design studio in New York. With their recent purchase of a 140-year-old Brooklyn brownstone, the couple put Glaser’s woodworking skills and Ament’s design expertise to work.
Despite their previous renovation experience, Glaser and Ament were surprised at how extensive the conversion of the two-story fixer-upper with a ground-level garden studio had to be. “Will and I have extreme optimism syndrome,” admits Ament. “We thought we’d buy an apartment that’s basically move-in ready.” The couple quickly adjusted their expectations. Glaser did most of the build himself, minus the specialty work like plumbing, electrical, roofing, and tiling. As Ament was pregnant at the time, she contributed conceptually with design ideas. “I helped as much as I could until I was too shaky to help anymore,” she recalls.
To prepare their garden studio apartment, which they now rent out on Airbnb, the couple wanted to modernize the kitchen while retaining the essence of a Victorian home. Wainscoting, a type of partial wood paneling once used to protect against scuffs, provided a solid opportunity to give the studio an architectural nod to a bygone era. Inspired by trips to the Merchant’s House Museum, Glaser and Ament went for DIY paneling using traditional tongue-and-groove bead panels. “We thought it would be nice to bring back that texture and materiality,” says Ament. “We wanted that cozy atmosphere. We felt there was an opportunity to really look back on that time.”
To reflect a contemporary look, Glaser paired the beadboard with a 5.5″ straight baseboard and 2.5″ straight rail. To keep the space from becoming too antique, they layered the paneling with mid-century-style appliances and contemporary furniture. “I think you can get an authentic feel and be true to the context without being overly specific,” says Ament.
With authenticity in mind, Glaser masterfully constructed the perfect Victorian-esque DIY panelling. Here’s how he pulled it off and how you can recreate the look step-by-step.
Step 1: Decide on the height of the wall covering project
Glaser and Ament knew they wanted an open shelf about 24 inches above the counter. This feature dictated the height of their paneling project, which was 60 inches from the floor. Once the measurement was complete, they used a laser level to trace the top line of the beadboard across the room. Glaser recommends using a laser level for optimal straightness.
Step 2: Cut Beadboard to Length
The grooved end of the beadboard should line up with the corner to begin with. Using the penciled line as a guide, use a miter saw to cut the first few pieces of the beadboard, Glaser instructs. “Before you cut more, test to make sure it fits well from the top of the baseboard to your top-hat line,” he says. Since the corner itself may not be straight, make sure those first few boards go in as plumb (straight up and down) as possible.
Step 3: Attach the beadboard to the wall
To attach the planks to the wall, Glaser recommends applying construction adhesive to the back of the beading and then attaching the wall paneling. Use a pneumatic nailer to attach the boards to the wall. “Hold the tool at a slight angle as you nail to better secure the beadboard to the wall,” says Glaser.
Step 4: Adjust the last piece of wall paneling
As you add each piece, Glaser suggests continually checking the bubble level. Putting the final piece of paneling in place was difficult, especially since Glaser’s brownstone is more than a century old and the walls are anything but straight. When you get to the end of the line, you’ll almost certainly need to trim your final piece to fit, Glaser says. To do this, the paneling is cut lengthwise with the grain. To get a decent fit, score your piece on the wall and cut with a jigsaw. “The corner piece gives you some wiggle room. You don’t have to be too crazy to get a perfect fit,” he says.
Step 5: Consider outlets and trim
If the wainscot will cover an existing outlet or paneling, pencil in the lines to know where to go. Cut out the outlet shape before sticking the beadboard to the wall. Glaser prefers to use an oscillating multi-tool, which is handy for making quick, precise cuts. A handsaw or miter saw and chisel can also work.
Step 6: Mount the DIN rail
After you have all your parts in place, Glaser usually measures the lengths for the DIN rail and installs them with glue and nails. “Your cap rail should have a notch in the back so it can slide over the top of the beadboard to hide imperfections,” he notes. “I would recommend butting the inside corners and mitering the outside corners.”
Step 7: Caulk the Gaps
If your scribe isn’t perfect, Glaser says you can easily smooth it out with paintable white caulk. “Because our fairing is very old and covered in layers of paint, we really needed to refine these small parts. It won’t be perfect, but one of the biggest things I’ve learned from caulking is that using a wet sponge will help smooth out your line,” he says.
Step 8: Paint the Wall Covering Project
Since the garden level doesn’t receive much natural light, Ament decided that a tone-on-tone cream color would provide the right contrast to make the wainscoting stand out. The couple painted the walls Benjamin Moore Simply White (OC-117) and chose Benjamin Moore Grand Teton White (OC-132) for the wall paneling.