Beadboard is one of my favorite materials to use in a historic house, especially when it’s the old stuff. It adds both a timeless and classic look to any house, new or old, and I find myself constantly looking for ways to incorporate it into the historic homes I renovate.
This versatile material dates back to the late 1800’s having originated from the Victorian era. The name comes from the half-rounded ‘bead’ milled into the boards and much like hardwood flooring, these individual boards come with one tongue and one groove side so that the pieces interlock, hiding the nails in the tongue when installed. It comes in a variety of widths and thicknesses, most often was ran vertically, and over time some styles began deviating from the bead to more of a ‘V” groove in Craftsman style homes.
We have found three primary areas of original use in the historic homes we’ve worked on – partial wall coverings in kitchens, porch ceilings, and soffits. My general rule is that if the function and layout of the room is not changing and the original beadboard can remain intact, then it stays. If not or if there’s significant damage, we carefully remove what’s left, store it, and try to reincorporate in a different way in that specific house. Whatever is left I hold onto and have been able to use it for other projects.
How I Love to Use It
I love original beadboard and in most scenarios, have been able to keep the original intact for porch ceilings, only having to make small repairs. When the exterior paint color scheme allows, I love to paint porch ceilings a haint blue and SW Watery is my favorite.
When original beadboard is not an option, we still try to make the porch ceilings look as authentic as possible by adding a similar but more common material, the "V" notched tongue and groove boards, which can be found at most lumber yards.
For example, the porch ceiling at the Queen Anne had already been removed due to extensive water damage when we purchased the house and although several pieces had been saved (and we held onto for other projects), there wasn't enough for the entire porch. In this scenario, we chose to purchase all new material but once painted it still has the classic look similar to what was there originally.
This new screened porch addition at my house also has new material and yet blends well.
This was an old porch that had been converted to living space with the beadboard ceiling showing through the exposed rafters and it was painted blue for a fun touch.
The West End
The bathroom at the West End already had old beadboard on the walls. While I don't think it was original to the house, it was still really old and gave a classic look to this bathroom. So, although we ended up moving some things around in this bathroom to make the layout work better, we were able to save what beadboard was removed and carefully reinstall it. This particular material was actually in larger sheets approximately 2' wide rather than small individual boards. Once trimmed out and painted you can't tell how we moved the beadboard around.
The old bathroom addition at Peronneau Place was in terrible shape and had to be torn down in order to properly build back a functional master bathroom. However, it had beadboard on both the walls and ceilings that I knew I wanted to save and reuse.
Luckily we reincorporated some of this material into the kitchen island and the custom hood and the best part is that I still have a lot of it in storage to use in future projects.
The Queen Anne
When I purchased the house, the previous owners had already torn out a couple of walls in the kitchen. They had saved some of the original beadboard from the kitchen but there wasn't enough to go around, plus the new kitchen cabinets would cover it. So, I took much of what was saved, sanded it down and then reinstalled as the new backsplash. It looks like it's been there all along and it was special to be able to reincorporate it into the kitchen in a new way.
A Few Other Uses:
This former closet turned display cabinet has original beadboard behind the shelves and then we added salvage beadboard from the old kitchen along the front of the new display and behind the bench to finish off the space.
While the entryway of Peronneau Place doesn't have old beadboard, we were able to create a classic look right as you enter the home by using new sheets of beadboard you can easily find at any home supply store. I would advise using wood rather than the mdf sheets for a more natural look and once painted and trimmed out, I love how it turned out.
Hopefully this will inspire you to consider adding beadboard - old or new - to your home and here's a tip - check dumpsters in old neighborhoods for people who don't appreciate the original material and have tossed it. I can't wait to share with you soon how my hallway ceiling turns out using some salvage pieces I had in storage.