Introduction: DIY Decorative Wall Panels

About: Part MacGyver, part Martha, creator, host and producer of Engineer Your Space, an award winning DIY home design show dedicated to clever, affordable and stylish solutions for common challenges faced by renters…

Big blank white walls can be a challenge to decorate, especially if you’re renting and can’t paint the walls. One solution to add both architectural detail and color is to build simple wall panels – you can paint them, or add wallpaper and even install lighting and shelves on them. They're really easy to build any size you want and to customize to fit any decor.


Hardboard panel (1/8″ thick x 4 ft x 8 ft ~ $9 per panel) or 1/4″ thick plywood

1″ x 2″ x 6 ft pine boards (~$2.50 each),

Paint or wallpaper

Step 1: Cut the Panel and Pine Boards

You can make these panels any size you want and having all the materials cut at the hardware store, like I did, makes this project much easier. You'll want to cut your 1″x2″ pine boards so they make a frame around the hardboard or plywood with the narrow side against the edge. Just make sure to select pine boards that are perfectly straight on all sides, otherwise, they won’t work well for this project.

Step 2: Glue the Pine Boards

Apply wood glue to the narrow side of the 1″x2″ and clamp it to the rough side of the hardboard, flush with the edge – you’ll want to use several clamps and using a scrap piece of wood like a furring strip on the other side of the panel will help transfer the force of the clamps more evenly while using less clamps.

Step 3: Reinforce the Corners

Reinforce the corners with screws: drill pilot holes with a counter sink drill bit, put in screws and cover up the screw head with wood filler. Sand the rough patches.

Step 4: Paint or Wallpaper the Panels

You can paint or wallpaper the panels, just like you would a wall.

Step 5: Customize the Panels

a) You can add a shelf or a coat rack to the panels. You'll need to glue a piece of wood to the back of the panel so you can attach the shelf or coat rack with screws.

b) You can also add wall sconces (instructable) by drilling a hole using a hole saw bit (1 1/2" diameter) - the cord for the wall sconce goes through the hole and runs behind the panel and you can control the on/off switch using a receiver and wireless wall switch.

Step 6: Install Hanging Hardware

French cleats are great to hang the panels, especially if you're hanging something heavy on them.

Step 7: Possibilities Are Endless!

These panels are perfect to add color and can create an organized and functional entryway by adding DIY coat racks, a message board and a DIY shelf/charging station(instructable) and they can add architectural interest and texture to an otherwise boring room, like I did here by creating a wall that incorporates banquette seating in my dining room.

Wall Overhaul

Finalist in the
Wall Overhaul