It’s time to have an overdue chat about Shiplap. Now, before you distract yourself with another episode of Fixer Uppers, you have to accept that even Chip and Joanna Gaines would like to be known for more than fomenting a cult-like obsession around the beloved accent. And there’s a reason it’s beloved! Stained, painted, or natural—the wall treatment can be appealing, adding visual interest and texture! But if we’re honest, the overused design feature loses a bit of its charm every time we see it—which is, at this point, too often. In short: There’s an oversaturation of shiplap.
“There is a place for Shiplap, but not in every design style,” says Carisha Swanson, House Beautiful‘s Director of Special Projects. “It’s a classic feature of how houses were built years ago.” In other words, you don’t need to shiplap your contemporary loft apartment, no matter how much you love the Gaineses.
For anyone who hasn’t binged Fixer Uppers, Shiplap is a material made from real (or faux) wooden planks that fit tightly together at a 90-degree angle. Historically, shiplap was used in the maritime industry to waterproof ships and keep them afloat due to the rabbet (grooves) cut in the top and bottom of the wood panels. Due to its versatile nature, it has steadily become a staple for houses—and not only the exterior of the home but inside, too—especially the homes of folks who prefer farmhouse or coastal design styles. Once Chip and Joanna Gaines entered the scene, shiplap suddenly became a permanent fixture pinned in our homes and Pinterest boards.
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Now, in a world of near-total Magnolia dominance, shiplap leans heavily on the trend side and less on function. Depending on the wood used, installing shiplap can be on the pricier side and require maintenance like sanding or painting. To cut back on the cost, many homeowners are choosing faux wood or peel-and-stick options. From interiors shown on your favorite TV shows to the Instagram accounts of your go-to inspiration accounts, the design world has been a hit with a tidal wave of shiplap.
And while the preponderance of shiplap everywhere can make it seem an almost inevitable design choice, it’s not necessarily an easy-to-maintain one. “Some potential drawbacks of shiplap include its tendency to collect dust and dirt in the grooves, its susceptibility to moisture damage, and its potential to look outdated in certain design styles,” says Susan Wintersteen of Savvy Interiors.
In other words, we’re not saying shiplap is a bad decorative choice, just that it’s not the only versatile interior wall option to bring into your space.
To Shiplap or Not to Shiplap?
Utilizing shiplap is all about balance. Homeowners considering the decorative element should ask themselves, “Does this treatment complement the existing design and architectural features of my space?”
“Whether shiplap is considered trendy or timeless depending on how it is used and styled within a space,” says Heather Lucas and Katie Browning of Lucas Browning Design. “If it is used in a way that complements the overall design aesthetic of a home, it can add character and charm that will never go out of style.” To that end, before adding shiplap, consider how it will work with other design elements in the room, such as furniture, lighting, and accessories.
If you’re looking for an alternative to shiplap, the design duo offers several options available depending on your design aesthetic and budget.
- Slat wall paneling: Made of different materials, such as wood, metal, or PVC, depending on the desired look and budget, these thin, linear slats can be used in a variety of spaces, from modern and industrial to coastal and rustic, and installed horizontally or vertically. On top of that, the spacing between the slats can be adjusted to create a more open or closed look.
- Wallpapers: There are many different textured wallpapers available that offer great visual interest without the commitment or cost of paneling.
- Tile or Stone: Durable tile or stone can be used to create a textured accent wall or backsplash.
Should I Ship Out My Shiplap?
If you’ve already got shiplap in your space and are wondering if it’s time to rethink, the answer is: Maybe. Nicole Salceda, founder of Eye for Pretty says, “Shiplap can definitely be trendy if you overuse it or pair it with elements that are also trending. But if it’s used in small doses or you think outside the box with it, then you’ll love it for a very long time.”
Should you decide your beach house is long overdue for a breather, and you want to remove it altogether, Salceda suggests adding warmth and character to your home with the use of plaster or limewash on the walls—either adds a soft texture and won’t break the bank.
But if you’re fond of the feature, you can keep your shiplap and still make your space stand out in a sea of nearly identical homes for all the right reasons. “Shiplap will always be popular for the coastal look. but you can make it stand out as timeless,” says Wintersteen. “Even the modern farmhouse look, which has definitely trended out, can be reimagined by using shiplap in a fresh, new way.”
The designers we spoke to recommend reinvigorating the design feature by painting it a different color, installing it to your ceilings, going vertical, or adding molding. See your old ship lap in a new light, and you’ll be smooth sailing in no time.
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Senior Market and Partnerships Editor
Medgina Saint-Elien covers everything your home needs. She writes about exciting new product launches, hands-on reviews, and the “lightbulb” moments in every maker’s story. In overseeing key HB editorial franchises, including the Live Better Awards, Saint-Elien champions the work of BIPOC entrepreneurs in the design and beauty industries. In addition to House Beautiful, her work has been published in Byrdie, Snapchat, and more. Outside of work, the writer and poet can be found documenting her travels on social media and saving memes for future use.