Sure, Charleston-based interior designer Jill Howard could have just painted the walls of her client’s Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, TV room an oceanlike blue. But instead she stained the white oak paneling a bright teal, proving that wood doesn’t have to only come in colors that mimic the natural material—and that the result is so much more exciting than what you’d find in a gallon of latex.
“It wraps you up like a blanket,” says Howard. “Anytime you can do something a little beyond just painting drywall, it takes it to the next level and adds immediate atmosphere. And you can’t get that with simple paint.” It didn’t hurt that she took the textured look all the way to the ceiling, on a gib door, and up the wall behind the stairwell, too.
Real talk, the project isn’t exactly a DIY—she worked with Ben Little of Benjamin Paul Studio on the seven-step process, which involves a lot of sanding and layers of stain—but it is a personality-packed way to make a room all your own. (In fact, the stain was a custom mix.) The process isn’t cheap either, but Howard says you can do it in small ways to add impact, like in the back of a bookcase or in a niche.
The most important thing is choosing the right kind of wood, says Howard, noting she went with a white oak that, once stained, resembled the bright ocean waves Little had seen on a trip to Croatia. “We embraced the beauty of the grain,” she says. And for a beachside property, it sets a natural scene without your ever having to leave the house.