Adding wainscoting to a room can really define the space and add character to your decorating scheme. There are hundreds and hundreds of different options for choosing what type of wainscoting you want to put up on your walls. Wainscoting comes in any shape imaginable from angled panels to oversized squares. You can find options at your local hardware store or find companies online that allow you to customize to your space, color preference or style.
Wainscoting isn't just the boards that are installed flat against the perimeter of your wall. They also include pediment heads and pilasters (often found above doors or entryways) as well as top cap molding that acts as the "finishing touch" along the top of your wainscoting panels. If you know you'd like to install wainscoting, but don't know where to begin with the style you want, browse online galleries or talk to someone at your local hardware store for help. Flip through your favorite shelter publications or look up home decorating books. It will only take a little research to find the style that best suits you.
When you've settled on ordering your wainscoting, one option will be to have it come unpainted. If you decide to customize your own wooden wainscoting, you'll want to lightly sand the surface and run a wet rag over it. Once it's dry, apply a coat of primer before applying your paint. Wainscoting doesn't have to be white. You can easily add a color block style to your walls; say a dark blue wainscoting with a lighter shade on the walls above. You can also paint the wainscoting in two different colors, keeping the raised parts in one hue, and the flat paneled parts in another. The possibilities are endless and you can really get creative.
In general, chair rail should rest 30 inches from the floor onto your wall. When putting up wainscoting, you'll want to start with the chair rail first. Measure 30" up the wall and mark with light pencil marks and a level. Use painter's tape to mark where the wall studs are. Hold the chair rail in place and use a nail gun to secure the rail into the studs.
Measure the space on the wall between the baseboard and the chair rail pieces for the inside panels. You will want to leave less space between the baseboard and the bottom of the box rather than the full height of the board.
Starting at the chair rail, measure 3 inches down and make a mark. Do the same from the baseboard, making a mark three inches up from the bottom. Hold your pieces along the level lines and attach; you might need an extra hand for this to ensure they're even. Measure the distance between the two pieces and cut the pieces to fit. Secure using a nail gun. Continue this process around the perimeter of the room until every wall is covered.
Once panels are up, fill the nail holes with putty. You might need to add touch up paint to finish the surfaces. Now that you've added some architectural interest to the lower half of your walls, take advantage of the open space above. Fill the area with a collage of family photos. You can also line small paintings around the perimeter of the room just above the chair rail for a unique spin on gallery walls. Or just let the new architecture in the room speak for itself. Chances are the one you've chosen will look great on its own.