Whether you're flicking through home renovation channels or scrolling on Instagram, if there's one thing you're guaranteed to come across on your hunt for interior inspiration, it's shiplap walls. This ubiquitous wallcovering trend has taken over our homes in the last decade, thanks in part to the onslaught of shows like HGTV's Fixer Upper, for which shiplap became a one-size-fits-all solution to adding character to a home.
'Shiplap has become de rigueur out here, especially, in the past 10 years,' Hamptons-based designer Timothy Godbold tells us. And whether it's the refinement of Hampton vacation home style, or a longing for coastal chic, it's clear that shiplap has captured the imagination of a generation of homeowners.
However, its widespread popularity is a double-edged sword. As with any interior design trend, what goes up, must come down. 'I’m not sure if it will be a timeless finish as it has become overly popular,' Timothy says. 'It's always a warning sign when you see shiplap in every house.'
So, is shiplap out of style? While the short answer is 'yes', the long answer is 'no, but..' Shiplap is undoubtedly heading into a trend trough after a huge peak in popularity, but does it have the enduring appeal to survive this decline?
Before you make up your mind, we spoke to interior designers who haven't ruled out shiplap and are, in fact, using it in fresh and exciting ways. Here, they tell us whether this trend has staying power, and how to use it successfully in a modern home.
Is shiplap a cliché for a coastal home?
Let's start with a quick potted history of shiplap as an interior finish. As the name might suggest, shiplap was once used for the sides of ships, but as a material for homes, it wasn't meant to be left exposed. It was part of a home's internal construction, creating a weathertight seal for coastal homes.
That shiplap has this functional nature stands it in good stead as an enduring trend, compared to more decorative wall paneling ideas that history may not look back on so kindly. Think of exposed brick walls as a comparison, for example – a finish that ebbs and flows in popularity but never strays too far out of the design zeitgeist. It also particularly grounds this finish in homes by the coast.
'In the coastal communities we live in, it will always be appreciated,' says interior designer Cortney Bishop. 'It has effortless style and charm.'
Susana Simonpietri, creative director of Chango & Co agrees that a home's environment has a bearing on whether shiplap sits comfortably in it. 'We always take into account the geographic location of the house, the setting and the clients,' she tells us.
The challenge in using shiplap, then, is how to do so in a modern, elevated way. 'Like any material, if a client gravitates toward something, we will always work with them to make sure the final execution feels fresh and modern,' Susana adds.
And, it bears mentioning, shiplap is not the biggest coastal cliché going. In its most modern applications, it has a sleek, graphic quality that plays out differently in a more contemporary home than it does in a seaside cottage. Plus, it's benefits to a room go beyond just a taste for trends. 'This carpentry style is a great way to give an added dimension to a room without it looking too heavy,' interior designer Timothy Godbold says.
It also plays a defining role in blossoming design aesthetics, such as the Coastal Grandmother design trend.
How do you make shiplap look modern?
So what is the key to making shiplap feel like a new idea in 2023? There are a few approaches you could take to elevate this trend for a home that feels modern and interesting.
That well-played-out style of shiplap is a particular look, horizontal slats painted in inoffensive white. 'To make shiplap feel modern, use different materials and play with the scale and direction of the boards,' suggests Cortney Bishop.
Chango & Co's Susana agrees. 'There are ways to play with the design and the geometry of the paneling, in order to create something unexpected.'
That might be choosing a different color, or even leaving it exposed. 'Shiplap looks great painted in darker tones or a natural oak color depending on the space,' suggests Timothy Godbold.
If you're married to a classic shiplap look, another approach is to use it to set off a more contemporary interior mood. 'The texture and linear pattern of shiplap is timeless,' says San Francisco-based interior designer Christie Tyreus of Tyreus Design, 'so we use both of these characteristics to contrast with minimalism in interior design.'
'Shiplap is a great way to add texture to a monochromatic space,' adds designer Jessica Nicastro, of Jessica Nicastro Design. 'It is also often used in open concept homes to delineate the individual spaces.'
Taking a super contemporary approach to furnishings, along with unexpected colors and textures also plays well against shiplap in a modern way. 'This house was purchased with the shiplap already installed,' Timothy Godbold says of this modern Hamptons home. 'It works well here and we used the color ochre to give color to this very white space.' By eschewing the well-worn design references that often couple shiplap, this room has a completely different feel to many examples that have a similar backdrop.
What is replacing shiplap?
There isn't, necessarily, a clear successor for what shiplap provides, especially in a way that's so perfectly suited to modern coastal homes. However, there are other wood accent wall ideas that are becoming increasingly popular - a move towards the natural warmth and character of wood over white-painted millwork and paneling synonymous with shiplap style.
Slat walls are undoubtedly one of the newest contenders to shiplap's popularity. This type of wall paneling has a more inherently modern feel, while still bringing the texture and depth to large expanses of wall that contemporary designers are craving. However, like shiplap, you may start to notice slatted walls cropping up in every home soon enough, a sign that this interior trend has, too, reached its peak.
Trends tend to be cyclical in this way, so you may see a major re-emergence of shiplap too in time to come.
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Hugh is the Editor of Livingetc.com. From working on a number of home, design and property publications and websites, including Grand Designs, ICON and specialist kitchen and bathroom magazines, Hugh has developed a passion for modern architecture, impactful interiors and green homes. Whether moonlighting as an interior decorator for private clients or renovating the Victorian terrace in Essex where he lives (DIYing as much of the work as possible), you’ll find that Hugh has an overarching fondness for luxurious minimalism, abstract shapes and all things beige. He’s just finished a kitchen and garden renovation, and has eyes set on a bathroom makeover for 2023.
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