July 13, 2020

10 interiors that offer fresh takes on modern wood panelling

These projects take the renaissance of wood panelling in new directions, playing with scale, profiles and colour to create bright modern spaces with warmth.

10 interiors that offer fresh takes on modern wood panelling

No longer do the words "wood panelling" conjure heavy dark rooms in Tudor-style mansions or dim pubs; today's most forward-thinking interior design teams are reinventing millwork with bright woods, fine textures and modern colours to create uplifting spaces, especially in restaurant and hotel design.

We noted the early stages of this shift last year in our autumn trends keynote, where speaker Rosa Bertoli, design editor at Wallpaper*, showed early examples of designers pushing wooden wall panelling into a new territory.  “Boiserie has been around for ages, and been used in many ways, but I think there’s a new excitement in the way it’s being used and its application," she told the audience. "Now designers and interiors practices are more imaginative and creative with it."

A cafe space with high ceilings and yellow wood panelling
Workshop Brothers Riverside Quay cafe, image by Felix Forest

Followers of @clippingsdesign on Instagram will have noticed a steady increase this year in stunning projects from all over the world featuring decorative wall panels, proving that this historic decorating discipline can shine in a contemporary environment. In these hospitality projects, wood wall cladding always feels light - even when made from dark timbers - thanks to the use of slim strips.

Wood panels add subtle textures and still fulfil their original function of maintaining warmth, making them pleasant to touch and perhaps subconsciously fulfilling our longing for the tactility and natural materials that modern life is often lacking. They're also beneficial for acoustics - something very welcome after years of cacophonous industrially styled interiors.

Arched ceilings panelled with bright wood in the Wildernesse Restaurant
Wildernesse Restaurant, image by Jack Hobhouse

Perhaps another reason for the look's current popularity is the Art-Deco references that have been gripping interior design since; many of these projects reference the central European coffee houses of the early 20th century. Back then, coffee shops served as a second living room; today they function as second workspaces and meeting rooms. 

If you're going to be spending hours working in communal hospitality areas, it's no wonder you'd choose an interior that's warm and inviting. Here are ten of our favourite cafes, restaurants and hotels with modern wood panelling ideas:

There’s a new excitement in the way boiserie is being used.

Workshop Brothers Riverside Quay by Studio Tate, Melbourne

Detail of a corner in the Workshop Brothers Riverside Quay cafe featuring yellow wooden wall panelling, wall sconces with opaque glass spheres and a bar counter cladded with scalloped wood dowels.
Bare area in the Workshop Brothers Riverside Quay cafe featuring yellow and white wall panelling behind a bar area with dark scalloped wood panelling.
Images: Felix Forest

Australian Studio Tate combined classic, flat wooden wall panels with scalloped cladding in their interior for the Workshop Brothers eatery, which opened November 2018 in Melbourne. The corrugated shape appears in dark shades at the bar counter and in white covering the massive concrete columns. The marigold and white timber wall mouldings feature a subtle relief of curved or angular lines respectively, adding depth and warmth to this interior with high ceilings. 

Piur by Masquespacio, Valencia 

Seating booths in the Piur pizza restaurant with wooden wall panelling, brown mosaic tiles and industrial-style lighting
Seating booths and dining area in the Piur pizza restaurant with wooden wall panelling, brown mosaic tiles and industrial-style lighting
Images: Luis Beltran

Valencia design studio Masquespacio also opted for fine strips of dark timber, resulting in an intimate atmosphere in the pizza restaurant Piur that welcomes guests since late September this year. The different types of the dowels fill the venue with a vibrancy, which is rare in brown-dominated colour schemes. The slimness of each panel resonates with other small-scale elements in the room, like the mosaic tiles applied in the seating booths.

Lilli P. by Stephanie Thatenhorst, Munich

Seating area in the Lilli P. restaurant in Munich with Gubi chairs, round dining tables and a seating bench featuring a fabric by Derkek Castiglioni
Seating area in the Lilli P. restaurant in Munich with Gubi chairs, round dining tables and a seating bench featuring a fabric by Derkek Castiglioni with a green wood panelled wall featuring lights by Michael Anastassiades
Images: Lilli P.

For Munich restaurant Lilli P., local interior designer and architect Stephanie Thatenhorst has chosen slim wooden elements for a spectacular statement wall. The overall effect is a gently scalloped surface with depth even from a distance, while not overpowering the interior. The sage green paint ensures it connects with the rest of the space, while providing a calm background to the spectacular red wall lights by Michael Anastassiades.

Via Porta by Studio Esteta, Melbourne

Bar area in the Via Porta cafe featuring a counter with wooden wall panelling, spotlight on a curved railing and mud green wooden bar stools
Detail of bar counter in the Via Porta deli in Melbourne featuring a brown marble top and corrugated wooden panelling.
Images: Sean Fennessy

In Melbourne, local Studio Esteta surprised us in August with the inverted application of arched wooden panels at the bar counter of the cafe and delicatessen shop Via Porta. Installed with the scalloped side facing the counter, the units look like they’ve been carved out. It’s a clever way of adding textural variety to the space, whose colour palette of browns and muted greens avoids contrasts.

The Standard Hotel by Shawn Hausman, London

Image: The Standard Hotel

Interior designer Shawn Hausman made sure that guests feel the ‘70s vibe of The Standard hotel in London the moment they step through the front door. The reception desk features two types of wooden cladding: dark wood accentuates the top of the counter, while the rest is covered by slimmer, brighter dowels. It’s framed by a third variation of wood detailing, featuring tilted slats. This variety creates a sense of movement, which is elevated by the tile pattern in the background.

Daily coffee shop by Sivak+Partners, Odessa

Images: Anton Garets

State-of-the-art wood panelling doesn’t always come in round shapes. Daily, open since February, is a coffee shop in Odessa designed by Ukrainian studio Sivak+Partners. The team opted for a colour-scheme in coffee-brown shades, creating a very harmonious atmosphere. By putting wooden panelling around the bar counter, they ensured that the space doesn’t feel bland.With its neat triangles it’s also an unusual take on cladding. 

Tsukimi restaurant by Studio Tack, New York City 

Dining area in the Tsukimi Restaurant with large arched mirrors and alabaster pendant lights
Wall detail in the Tsukimi restaurant with wooden wall panelling, an arched mirror and a brass wall sconce
Images: Read McKendree

Studio Tack also used Triangle-shaped wood panels, but in smaller dimensions, to bring a more angular quality to the interior of Japanese eatery Tsukimi in Manhattan, which opened in June. It’s a welcome contrast to the predominantly round shapes defining the small, long dining space. By using the same type of wood as in the rest of the room, it doesn’t distract from the serene atmosphere. 

Sister City NYC in New York City 

Meeting room in the Sister Hotel NYC with old school chairs, wooden wall panelling and a stained glass window
Lobby of the Sister City Hotel in Manhattan with stained glass skylights and wooden wall panelling
Images: Adrian Gaut

The hotel Sister City NYC in Manhattan, a new offshoot from the team behind the Ace hotels that opened in May, features plenty of wood throughout. On the ground floor, the in-house interiors team brought in some textural variety by leaving gaps between the honey birch slats cladding the walls and ceiling. These little voids help keeping the atmosphere bright and light. 

Wildernesse Restaurant by Morris+Company, Kent

Seating area along a bar counter in the Wildernesse restaurant with an arched ceiling and pillars cladded with wood
Service station in the Wildernesse restaurant with a terrazzo top and corrugated wooden wall panelling
Images: Jack Hobhouse

Architecture firm Morris+Company selected fluted wooden panels for the walls and bar counter of the Wildernesse Restaurant, which has opened in January 2019 as part of a retirement living development in Kent. The whole pavilion structure is cladded with timber and the slightly darker, ribbed wall panels liven up the scheme, while staying true to the calming atmosphere of the space. 

Airbnb London office by Threefold Architects, London

Arched wood panells forming a stoa in the London Airbnb office
Arched wood panells forming a stoa in the London Airbnb office
Images: : Donal Murphy

For Airbnb’s third London workspace, local studio Threefold Architects chose wooden panels to build an archway housing casual working desks and lockers. The structure is made from Douglas fir and its scalloped surface reminds us of industrial materials like corrugated metal. However, the timber’s pink-tinted complexion adds natural warmth and textural variety to the office space, into which workers moved into in August. 

Piur restaurant in Valencia, image by Luis Beltran

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