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Shiplap: What Is It and How to Paint It

Achieving the Modern Farmhouse Look with Shiplap

Thanks to home improvement TV shows spurring on the modern farmhouse trend, the term “shiplap” has become a well-known and popular decorating term. So, just what is shiplap and how do you paint it to get the look you desire?

Pre-Plywood Utility

In the times before plywood, shiplap was used as a sheathing that helped strengthen the structure before siding and drywall were added. It is made up of wooden boards that are stacked horizontally or diagonally, often featuring notches, called rabbets, that help the boards to self-space and fit together to provide a water tight seal for the building. These boards used to be covered up by drywall in homes, but if used in outdoor buildings, such as barns and sheds, they were left exposed. So, how is shiplap used today?

The nostalgia surrounding old rustic barns and their exposed shiplap may be responsible for the recent decorating trend of exposing existing shiplap in older homes, removing shiplap and repurposing it as wall paneling, or installing faux shiplap on interior walls in newer homes to make them look older. Shiplap walls add charm and subtle texture to rooms, giving a rustic modern farmhouse feel to the design. Wider shiplap boards work well when you are covering an entire room, and thinner shiplap looks wonderful as an accent wall.

A Modern Farmhouse Staple

The modern farmhouse style is all about making a room feel comfortable and relaxing. To achieve this, shiplap walls should be painted in a light neutral gray or off white such as Natural Silver Wool or River Birch Beige, or even a luxurious dark blue like Approaching Storm. You can achieve different levels of rustic charm in a room by painting shiplap with a solid coat, or painting shiplap with a light coat of paint and then randomly sanding the boards to reveal glimpses of the wood underneath. The sanded paint method works best for accent walls, as it has a busier, yet super rustic, texture. A tip to remember is to paint the individual boards before nailing them onto the wall to make it easier to cover all of the board's surfaces with paint.

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