Using The Golden Ratio To Determine Paneling Height

Kim and I have recently started a new site all about remodeling and design ideas and pictures. This article was inspired by one of the images Kim found for the new blog – you can find it here: Beautiful Workspaces {Dreamy Desks}.

How high should high wainscot go?

This photo is one of those that I could write ten posts about. Just for fun, let me point out a couple of cool ideas here before getting into the real subject matter of this post. Starting in the foreground and working back:

  • Old fashioned crystal door hardware… hot!
  • Using mounted accessories such as a coat hook and a thoothbrush holder on a desk… smart!
  • Painting or wallpapering the inside of that desk an accent color… sexy!
  • Check out that door… it’s a good old fashioned Dutch Door… proof of mad skills!

But none of that is the real thing I want to look at. Let’s take a look at the beadboard wainscot and topping molding, which could be called a picture molding, a chair rail (not so much), a cap rail, or any other make-it-up-so-you-like-the-sound name.

How High Should Beadboard Go Up A Wall?

First, there are two answers. One applys to the low version, which is much more common. That’s the one where you see wainscot go up the wall about 1/3 and be capped by a proper chair rail.

I answered that question in detail at Remodeling Guy Answers (where you’re encouraged to ask your own questions)… here is the link:

Second, is when the beadboard paneling is covering a much larger portion of the wall and only leaving a small section of smooth wall surface showing at the top. This is what’s seen in this picture. The same tool applies to both options.

The Golden Ratio

The nautilus shell is a common example of the Fibonacci sequence which is related to the Golden RatioI’ll refrain from a lengthy diatribe about the Golden Ratio and all the ways it proves that life was designed by a Master Architect. If you want to believe in mindless evolution of life and the world we see, be my guest, just don’t look too hard at the science which proves otherwise.

The Golden Ratio is a naturally occuring mathematical formula that essentially dictates what looks right to most people. You can start learning about it at Wikipedia if you’re so inclined.

But if you want to know how high to run your paneling up the wall, you can use the Golden Ratio as a guide. Here are the exact numbers using the Golden Ratio Calculator:

Wall Height —- Low Wall Wainscot —- High Wall Wainscot

96″ —- 37″ —- 59″

120″ —- 46″ —- 74″

Adjust To Taste

Here’s the thing… there are no exact right answers. If you apply the Golden Ratio as a guide it can help you, but as a steadfast rule it might steer you wrong.

What if your walls are 12′ tall, should your chair rail be over 4′ high? No. It would look ridiculous. I usually won’t take a chair rail above 42″ no matter how tall the wall is.

Another example is the photo above which looks like an 8′ tall room. (I figure that based on the roof overhang visible outside) The paneling goes higher than 59″, but not by much. It looks to me that it’s about 64″ above the floor. (you can assume that the door is 80″)

Like I said, it’s a guide. I hope it’s useful for you. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how high chair rail or wainscot paneling should go. I’ve been running a survey on this monumental question for awhile now and I could use more input!



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