Monday, January 19, 2009

Historic Interiors: All About Beadboard

Anyone who enjoys the “cottage look” no doubt loves beadboard. I thought I would give some tips about incorporating beadboard into your home, whether historic or not, in an accurate manner. Beadboard can be found all over old homes, inside and out. Outside, it was used commonly for porch ceilings, garage doors, and occasionally on eaves. Inside, it was inside cabinets, stairwells, utility-type rooms, closets, and (a bit more rarely) as a wainscot on the lower part of a wall. Victorians used it in utilitarian rooms. It was affordable, since it was often milled out of scrap lumber. So it became a cheap way to cover walls of “non public” rooms. Some sources conflict on whether it was widely used in bathrooms... Some state it was used before ceramic tile became available, others say it wasn't widely used in bathrooms until much later. (I say it is adorable in bathrooms, so go for it if you want.) Eventually, the look caught on in country homes, so you started seeing it creep into other rooms as well. With Arts & Crafts, beadboard took on a less ornate look and began being used in a less utilitarian manner.

Beadboard was used on the inside of cabinets then. Cabinets now often have it on the doorfaces, which is pretty, but not historically accurate is that is your cup of tea

Although the beadboard sold at Home Depot is in sheets like paneling, authentic beadboard was in tongue and groove strips, much like a hardwood floor. It wasn't made in sheets until after WWII. Victorian beadboard (which is what you see replicated at Home Depot) had the two grooves that make the “bead.” There were many styles made, with varying sizes and widths of the grooves. You will notice at the hardware store, they give it names like “Cape Cod” and such... but this is all about marketing and notsomuch anything historical. There were many styles of beadboard back then, and you can bet the Victorians were not lining up to ask for “Cape Cod” beadboard.

Craftsman didn't have the bead-grooves and was much less ornate looking – just solid planks. Kind of like strips of wood though a lot lovelier than the 1970s paneling you might have grown up with. Purists with a Craftsman home will not want to use the Home Depot “Victorian” beadboard. (Those with Victorians, or newer homes that they want to give a cottage look, feel free to use the hardware store sheets.) But to the Craftsman purists – good luck. No one is making this style beadboard and you will have to make your own. (Yikes!) I have some good resources on making your own if anyone is interested.

It is very hard to find pictures of Craftsman beadboard... but this would be close, although they would have stained it and not painted it

There are also a few companies now that make a plastic or laminate beadboard that can be installed in bathrooms as a tub surround or shower panel. These are uber expensive and subway tiles end up being a lot cheaper. Since the oldsters certainly didn't have plastic beadboard in their bathroom, I tend to shy away from that being a preservationist... but if you love beadboard and don't mind the look, that is another option.

Finally, I found a company making beadboard wallpaper. All I can say to that is: Don't!!!
Note: to those with existing old school beadboard (like my porch ceilings) that has been painted, you can simply flip each board strip and may luck out and have original wood finish on the other side. Currently, my porch ceilings are painted white, but I plan to paint the front porch ceiling pale blue. I am told, in the South, it is good luck to paint your porch ceiling blue. Heaven knows I have a ton of blue paint laying around. (I have a Goldilocks stash of paint around as I tend to buy a few different shades and put them on the wall until I pick one that is “just right.”)

This poor thing is not my ceiling, but it looks like it is getting the TLC it needs

So, next time you are at the hardware store with the hubby, you can point out the “Victorian-styled” beadboard and let him know that real Victorian beadboard was tongue and groove planks. ;)


Anonymous said...

Hello Puck. I just saw a comment of yours at Color Outside The Lines. I am glad I visited here. I also rescue bully breed dogs as they are so misunderstood! Normally I have a house full of dobermans but presently have a retired greyhound, a pit and a stray cat that showed up. All are best friends.
Now to the subject. It is VERY historical accurate to paint your porch ceiling pale blue, even here in New England. It is said to deter insects and mosquitoes. I have also heard about the good luck down South. My house is on the National Register with a bead board porch ceiling painted blue.
G in CT

puck said...

Good for you on the doggies!!

We have 2 rotts, Check and Nash. Nash is our new boy. I rescued him from a menonite puppy mill as they were about to kill him since he was 8 months and no one else wanted him. They say purebred, but he looks to have part doby in him as well. Check is a purebred that came from a humane society.

We also have Bunny, an American Pit Bull Terrier. Our town seized her as part of BSL, long story short I kicked their ass in court because all my dogs are service animals. I am diabetic and they are all medical alert dogs.

We also have 2 cats that are from the humane society.

The cats LOVE Bunny the Pit. And Nash loves Bunny, which makes Check a bit jealous. And all the dogs are extra careful and gentle around the kids.... expecially the baby. He loves to feed them treats.

I just decided to do some FYI type posts since I get such a laugh out of Apartment Therapy people debating whether subway tile is in or out... How can something that has been around that long be out? Some people are too trendy to understand classic details, I guess.

Glad you found me! I love Artie's blog.

Brown Eid Girl said...

Hi Puck. I've visited you a couple times recently. Your house is dreamy. Houses are my "thing" too, but I've not had the nerve to post about my tastes yet, for the very reasons you mentioned. I don't have any formal design training, I just know what I like. And I LOVE subway tile. It's funny how you can sort of get an idea of someone's personality just by reading a blog post or comment. Some of them take these things way too seriously.

Helen said...

I want to thank you for this most informative post ..... I think I'm going to learn a lot from you, Ms. Puck!

puck said...

Helen - I really hope I can be of help! I am glad you enjoyed the post... I have more subjects in mind - I just have to find the time!! :)

Anonymous said...

Puck, I put my money in classics as well as they never go out of style. Subway tile is great!

I understand all the jealousy and jockeying for positions. My greyhound has been here for four years. The pit and cat arrived two weeks apart about three months ago. My cat, Kenny, loves the pit, Lucy! And they play all day. The greyhound, Cleo, is jealous of their bond and feels left out but she rules the nest! Greyhound is from, pit saved from an animal shelter and cat showed up on his own. I love the name Bunny for a pit!!!!
G in CT

Holly said...

Hello, Thank you for the interesting post! I am trying to research beadboard, as there was some used in our historic dependency. The structure is dated at 1850 - 1864 for construction. The kicker is, the beadboard used on the interior walls is placed horizontally, not vertically. It goes from floor to ceiling. The dependency was most likely the house servants' quarters. The structure is located in Central Texas. We are trying to restore it to the original time period for interpretation. finally get to my point...I was wondering what your sources on use of beadboard was and if you would mind sharing them.

Thanks again!

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Remodeling Guy said...

Hi! I was on the hunt for beadboard pictures for a post on the subject and I came across yours. I love the picture you have of that antique cabinet on the stone wall. I mean, really love it. Is that your house?

I hope you don't mind me including that picture with some inspiring shots of beadboard. It's really more so I can stare at it for hours myself!

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