Panelling was developed in antiquity to make rooms in stone buildings more comfortable. The panels served to insulate the room from the cold stone. In more modern buildings, such panelling is often installed for decorative purposes. Panelling, such as wainscoting and boiserie in particular, may be extremely ornate and is particularly associated with seventeenth and eighteenth century interior design, Victorian architecture in Britain, and its international contemporaries.
Wainscot oak came from large, slow-grown forest trees, and produced boards that were knot-free, low in tannin, light in weight, and easy to work with. It was preferred to home-grown oak, especially in Holland and Great Britain, because it was a far superior product and dimensionally stable.
The Oxford English Dictionary states that it derives from the medieval German wagenschot as well as wageschot or 'wall-board'. Johnson's Dictionary defined it thus:
Wainscot , the inner wooden covering of a wall.