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Home Theater Paneling Design 

PLAN

Here's a Visio sketch of what I was trying to accomplish. I've learned that my visualization abilities on projects like this are limited, and so I sketch things out by hand or with Visio if I can't visualize exactly what I want. My original concept was that the upper panels on the walls would be wallpapered rather than wood paneled (which accounts for the red rectangles in the Visio sketch). Once the project was underway, I concluded that the room was just going to look too busy with wallpaper, so changed the plan to just use wood paneling. 

ACTUAL

There are lots of ways to do recessed panels, and I'm not sure I did it the best way! Considering how many panels I was going to need, and my level of carpentry skills, which are modest, at best, I decided that doing full-custom panels using dimensional lumber would probably not turn out very well. I took a look at pre-made panels and decided that they wouldn't really give me the look I wanted. I ended up cutting the panel frames out of birch-faced 3/4" plywood, and then ripping a small number of "runners" (the horizontal raised pieces) for the spots where a full sheet of plywood wasn't needed. This worked very well, overall. The plywood was easy to mount. I had trouble getting the edges of the runners to butt up against the plywood sheets as tightly as I wanted, but I considered this a small victory because the problem cropped up only with a small number of runners. If I'd tried to build the panels from scratch, I would have had that problem with every joint in the room.

Toward the end of a project I stayed at a hotel that had similar paneling in the hotel elevator. Something looked a little funny about the panels, and upon examination it turned out that the panels were made of wood-grain Formica! This was actually a very good design for paneling in an elevator, which needs to take  a lot of beating, and it actually looked pretty good. 

For the recessed part of the paneling, I originally thought I'd use 1/4" birch veneer plywood. I wasn't able to find any veneer that didn't have repetitive stripes about 8" wide. Eventually I stumbled on birch door skins, which normally have only 2 stripes that are about 20" wide rather than 5 stripes that are 8" wide. I liked the patterns in the door skins, so ended up using those instead, and the grain on those after they're stained and urethaned looks great.


Without Baseboards

I debated whether to include baseboards. I have other stained paneling in my house (not built by me) that doesn't use baseboards but looks great. I finally decided that the additional articulation would be good for the room, so I included them. I had to make that decision fairly early in the project, because you have to allow room for the baseboards when you cut the panel frames if you're going to have them. In the end, I was very pleased at how much the baseboards dressed up the room. They're subtle, but the eye does notice that extra detail. 


With Baseboards

Here are some notes on the paneling construction techniques.

Email me at stevemcc@construx.com.