the bottom part of the walls in a room, especially when it is covered with wood
Origin and usage
The term wainscot derives from the Middle Low German word ‘wagenschot’, which can be translated as ‘partition’.
In British interior design, wainscot panels were traditionally made from oak that was imported from Russia, Germany, or Holland. Wainscoting was particularly popular in English mansions during the Renaissance, where it was typically hung with paintings or armour and cut to be up to 10 feet tall. Since the 18th century, wainscoting has become a subtle style of decorative trim that usually reaches about halfway up a wall at most. Over time, as other woods and materials have become more readily available, the term wainscot has changed slightly to refer more generally to a kind of wood panelling technique.
Originally wainscoting was likely employed to help protect the walls of a home from problems caused by poor weatherproofing, but nowadays it is used mostly as a stylistic choice. Modern technology now allows for wainscots to be formed in sheets rather than individual boards. This allows for more elaborate designs, with panels and vertical pillars connected to shorter pillars and borders. These days, wainscoting is often made from plastic, vinyl or a wide variety of woods.
“It was the way the autumn day looked into the high windows as it waned; the way the red light, breaking at the close from under a low sombre sky, reached out in a long shaft and played over old wainscots, old tapestry, old gold, old colour.”
“Better to be a mouse behind the wainscoting, nibbling at the wires.”