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The nitty-gritty on Joanna Gaines’ go-to accent.

Caroline Rogers / SouthernLiving.com
July 25, 2017

This story originally appeared on SouthernLiving.com.

Shiplap is having a moment. It’s a go-to accent beloved by some of our favorite designers (Fixer Upper, anyone?), and its popularity is undeniable. Whether it’s raw and rustic or painted and polished, using shiplap is an easy way to add interest to an interior wall. However, shiplap didn’t get its start inside. Shiplap is a feature that comes to us from the design traditions of homes in harsh climates. It was often used on the exteriors of homes in forest or coastal settings characterized by challenging weather.

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Shiplap can stand up to most anything, and now it can be found everywhere. It’s been adopted and adapted in homes across the country—and on television, of course. You’re sure to notice some shiplap-accented walls if you turn on any of your favorite design or home renovation shows. While it’s classic and subtle and charming by nature, shiplap is nothing if not versatile. It also looks great in modern and contemporary spaces. Though consensus says that horizontal is the way to go, you’re also welcome to experiment with vertical or diagonal configurations. See? As versatile as can be.

If you want to use shiplap in your home, there are three important things to keep in mind. The first is identification. While shiplap may look like plain, run-of-the mill wood panels, that’s not the whole story. If you nail plain wooden boards to a wall and call it shiplap, that’s not quite accurate. There are long wooden boards involved, but genuine shiplap actually has overlapping grooves that fit together to make the design weather-tight.

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You can identify shiplap by the overlapping “rabbets,” or grooves, in each board. It’s a design feature that gives the panels their tight spacing and sturdy, weather-resistant characteristics. These grooves also ensure that you get the telltale thin stripes in between each board—a feature beloved by homeowners seeking to use shiplap in their spaces.

The second thing to keep in mind is that, because of the tight-fitting design, repairing damage can be difficult. Any extreme damage to panels will necessitate removing the full panel and replacing it, though this is a concern for exterior siding use more so than for interior use.

And the third top tip regarding shiplap? You can paint it. Painting shiplap opens up a treasure trove of design possibilities. White shiplap walls will always be a classic, but what about green? Or beige? The color wheel is the limit. Shiplap will be what you make of it—and it couldn't be easier to make it vibrant, inviting, and a perfectly customizable accent for your space.

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While shiplap itself is a distinct design feature, you can also find other, non-grooved strategies (like planks and panels) to achieve the same look. Though if you fake it, you’ll have to find another term for it, because without the grooves, it’s not proper, honest-to-goodness shiplap.

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