Until recent years, my memory of wall panels was reserved for the wood walls in my grandparent’s house, which I now realize were not real wood, but plastic panels with a wood image applied to the face – thus explaining the bowed shape and hollow noise they made when I pressed my small hands against them.
While the 1970’s may have taken the wind out of its sails for a few decades, paneling has come pretty far since then. In fact, we’re quite fond of its versatility and ability to spice up a plain ol’ wall. And with the technology and innovation of the past decade, the world of wall paneling is seemingly infinite. While we can’t touch on every type available, below are some of our favorite distinctive (even quirky, you might say) wall panel products, spanning the distance between elegant and rustic, vintage and fresh, practical and artistic.
B&N Industries – Architectural Infused-Veneer Wood Panels
The cooler cousin of wood wallpaper, B&N Industries combines imagery and wood veneers into panels with so much depth, they trick us into believing they’re 3-dimensional. The catalog of detailed graphics play with scale and texture, elevating what it means to be wood paneling.
reSAWN Timber Company | Shou Sugi Ban Wood Panels
Meaning “burnt cedar wood” in Japanese, the Shou Sugi Ban technique of burning wood using fire as a preservative is a traditional Japanese process that disappeared with the invention of durable plastic and composite siding in the 1970’s, but reemerged in the early 2000’s for its durability and its aesthetic appeal. Historically used on Japanese Cedar, we were blown away by reSAWN’s the expansive range of wood species used for their wood panels. And for those not apt to follow tradition, their “Charred Color” series challenges any misconceptions that Shou Sugi Ban is only for esoteric types.
Modular Arts – Interlocking ROCK Panels
Unlike Shou Sugi Ban, the technology used to carve intricate designs into these cast rock panels (more specifically, multiple layers of gypsum with glass fiber structure) is all modern. And with no harmful VOC’s or urea-formaldehyde, they’re more environmentally-friendly than you’d imagine. New patterns and textures are being added to their selection on a regular basis, but our favorites are the subtle ones: scallops of mudded earth, a wrinkled paper bag, and the swirl of burled wood.
Zoya Olefir – 3D Panno panels
Zoya Olefir’s exquisite fondant-like panels aren’t easily available or affordable (each piece is custom), but the Ukrainian designer has created a wall product unlike anything we seen elsewhere. Olefir’s panels are pure artwork that begs for a caress from your fingertips, if only they weren’t so perfectly pristine.
Ivanka Factory and Design – Concrete Panels
Surprise and cleverness – two attributes we value every time in design. Ivanka Factory and Design’s concrete panels are beautiful with their lace-like patterning, but it’s what happens in the months after they are installed that brought a smile to our faces. The lace-like patterns are actually meandering grooves within the face of the panel, which are allowed to fill with moss, grass, and other exploratory green material that makes its way into the panel’s skin. The result is a nearly perfect combination of refined elegance and the serendipity of nature.
Muros International Unlimited – Roughcast Concrete Panels
I typically scoff at products that are striving to replicate a finish that is inherent to an authentic process or natural material, especially when the precedent material is as dear to my heart as is board formed concrete, Muros International Unlimited’s roughcast concrete panels have won me over with their nearly invisible seams, ease of installation, and spot-on texture.
3FORM – Wall Features Stand-off Varia Ecoresin and Pressed Glass Panels
A reliable and flexible product, 3form’s Ecoresin and Pressed Glass panels can be printed with any of 3form’s seemingly endless catalog of patterns, textures, images, and materials. But it’s star power comes with its ability to be printed with custom graphics, perfect for large-scale installations and branding opportunities.
Lightben Composite Panels
Hexaben Composite Panels
Ecoben Wave Composite Panels
All three of Bencore’s composite panels are lightweight, stiff, softly glow in afternoon light, and use clear amorphous thermoplastic (or PETG) or resin as their external layer, but it’s what’s at their cores that sets them apart.
Lightben has a polycarbonate center that can be tinted to almost any color, and can include additional UV or fire rating protection. Hexaben uses an attractive honeycomb aluminum core borrowed from technology out of the aerospace industry. Ecoben Wave, on the other hand, consists of a honeycomb core of recycled cardboard, making it an intriguing product for an entirely different reason.
Do you find yourself specifying one type of wall panel over another? Has one type had more challenges during design and installation for you than others?