Wainscot Wall With a Picture Ledge

Leslie H
by Leslie H
5 Materials
8 Hours

If you have an open floor plan or if you're like me and have a smaller home without a lot of wall space this is great project for you. I decided to add some architectural interest in my dining room nook with a picture ledge for my collection of vintage oils, and I love the result. With or without the art work.

Before shot: plain white wall.

I'm a visual person and when I'm looking at a lot of DIY measurements and instructions I find it intimidating. Show me some pictures! I especially like to see the wood pieces of a project before they're assembled. Maybe this will help you too. Here's what I used:

I found the panels on the same aisle as the beadboard sheets. Here's a close-up look at the thickness of the panel--after I had cut the height down.

I decided to use common boards (inexpensive) since I would be painting them, also I had the 1X4s leftover from another project, so why not use them?

This is the close up of the thickness of the plywood panel. I only needed one 1/4" panel for this wall. I had the guy at Home Depot rip it for me, but I forgot about my baseboard, so I had to get out my table saw anyway. Learn from me. If you're keeping your baseboards, add the baseboard width to your calculations for the desired height of your picture ledge.

As you can see (in the top picture) my panel was not long enough, but since I was adding two 1X4s at each end, it made up for the gaps.

I also added two more vertical pieces ( 1X4s) in the middle, using my trusted level for everything. Before I nailed anything, I decided to add three coats of paint to the panel so all I would need to worry about was the touch ups.

Another important step. The cut-out for the electrical outlet. I needed to switch blades on my jigsaw but once I did it went smoothly.

Painting the panel before I added any vertical pieces made everything go so much quicker!

I planned on using wood glue on this panel before I shot the nails in, but I totally forgot. One of the problems with working by yourself. Oh well, luckily it was a small area and the thin panel adhered easily to the wall.

I also gave the 1X4s a couple coats of white paint prior to nailing them on the wall.

the ledge before i added a "lip" to it

Here's another close-up of the finished picture rail after the lip was added. It still needed another coat of paint and caulking but you get the idea. I decided to keep the ledge at 2 1/2" wide and it works perfectly.

Cottage dining room with a picture ledge

If you would like to see more pretty pictures of the finished project just go to my blog, you'll find the link below. I hope this was helpful, I'm a novice DIYer so if I can do this, you can too! Good luck.

Leslie aka Gwen Moss blog

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Leslie H
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
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3 of 38 questions
  • Justine Justine on Dec 18, 2020

    Why not put a chair rail up and extend the top part like you did on the plywood ? Less time, no cutting out wall outlets and it can be taken off if the homeowner moves, or changes decorating style ..

  • Liz Liz on Aug 15, 2021

    I love this idea! ♥ How did you attach the ledge piece of wood? Was there enough edge on the wood panel to grab onto when you nailed that in? I do know that the molding on the bottom would also help hold it.

  • Laurie Laurie on Mar 08, 2023

    Your dining room is so pretty! I just love it. You did a great job, board and baton with a picture ledge. Always wanted yo do this.

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2 of 350 comments
  • Benjamin Benjamin on Aug 10, 2022

    The unfinished edges obviously didn't get photographed.

  • Leslie Leslie on Aug 17, 2022

    Hi Leslie, for a new DIY'er you did a wonderful job. Yes, there were places that needed more care but from the comments, you learned. You can go back if you want. Smooth on some wood putty, the kind that will dry hard, (There are two kinds) sand smooth and repaint. Making mistakes or not knowing how to do or finish something helps us to learn and my one piece of tech that I adore is my laptop. If I do not know how to do something I will research and that is also part of the process of becoming a great DIY'er and you are on your way to being that. :). Don't stop your journey in learning Leslie you made a great start :)