What Are Padded Walls?
As you will probably have guessed, padded walls are exactly as the name would suggest – a wall that is clad with padding. No points for imagination there.
They are made up of a backing board covered in furniture or acoustic foam and covered in a decorative material like cloth or vinyl. They are usually fabricated as multiple smaller panels that are then fixed to your walls in a grid or designed as a pattern.
The Freshest Interior Design
If you’re an interior avant-garde, then you’ll already be keenly aware that bespoke padded walls have become very much “en-vogue” over the last couple of years. And if you’ve not been keeping up with your French on Duolingo, that basically means they are the current must-have for fashionistas, influencers and furnishing enthusiasts!
You only need to spend a couple of minutes flicking through interior design pages on Instagram and you’ll start to see padded walls everywhere!
Their uniquely customisable nature means that they can be used to blend in with any new or existing styles. They also give you the ability to create feature pieces big or small as well as tying together decoration and furniture in a way unlike any other.
So, how did decorative, upholstered panels become so popular in the world of high-class interior design?
Let’s delve a little deeper, shall we…
The Short History of Padded Walls
In a not so distant past, if you were to ask people “what’s the first thing that springs to mind when we say padded walls?” they probably would have answered “insane asylums”.
And yes, we do still hear that from time to time!
But that is hardly shocking. The iconic, grimy padded cells have become synonymous with Hollywood depictions of solitary prison and mental health clinics in films like One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest or The Green Mile. Thankfully, unless you’re into that kind of thing (and we don’t judge), our designs are of a far classier, boutique nature.
But, it is still important to recognise your historical background and this was the first real purposeful use of padded walls. Dr John Conolly is credited with their first use all the way back in 1839. He implemented them into a room at Hanwell Asylum, where he was a physician, as a way of stopping the use of mechanical restraints on already distressed patients.
The aim was to provide a safe environment for a patient to become calm before approaching them again. And these types of padded cells are still used in a safety capacity, however, the nature and design have thankfully moved on somewhat these days.
The New Uses of Padded Walls
Sticking with the oh so exciting theme of safety, padded walls are also used in this capacity outside of a mental health setting. If you’re of a sporty disposition or have children that are, then you will have almost certainly seen safety padded walls. You’ll find them in children’s soft play areas, around the edges of sports facilities like gymnasiums (of the gymnastic variety), indoor sports halls, trampolining centres and basketball courts.
These kinds of padded walls are often made of much larger sheets, because of the amount of surface area they must cover and tend to be a lot thicker to provide more shock absorption when someone hits or falls onto it. Safety padded walls also tend to be covered in vinyl or plastic-based upholstery for ease of cleaning and maintenance. Think children’s soft play areas and those poor, poor cleaners…
- Acoustics and Sound
One of the major benefits of padded walls is the innate ability for sound absorption they have. You’ll almost certainly have seen giant slabs of spikey black foam stuck to the walls of recording studios. This is because it essentially absorbs and traps the sound to stop it reverberating back around the room and creating an echo – which would obviously be a nightmare if you were trying to record your next big hit!
Stylised and upholstered padded walls can also be used to this effect in home or commercial studios if you aren’t feeling the mountainous black slabs on the wall and want something a little more refined and dignified. The difference between a standard wall panel and an acoustic one is the type of foam used. For example, our regular padded walls use a standard polyurethane furniture foam, whereas acoustic panels will use composite acoustic foam.
They are also used in the exact same capacity in cinemas, although you’re far less likely to have noticed them there. Commercial cinemas are often in enormous auditoriums which would endlessly echo without the installation of padded walls. Next time you go to the cinema, take note of your surroundings. Everything is carpeted, upholstered and padded out to provide maximum noise absorption so that the sound of the film doesn’t reverberate back around the room and spoil the film
This is also why, if you are planning to convert a room in your home into a new home cinema, padded walls are an absolute must-have! Click here to see our full guide on home cinema installations.
3. Pure, Unadulterated Style
The is absolutely no shame in admitting that sometimes you don’t want something because it’s practical, you simply want it because it looks divine. We all do it. There’s a reason people spend untold sums of money on majestic pieces of fine art – it looks incredible. And when you see things that look incredible, they make you feel excited, inspired, content, proud – whatever it might be.
That is one of the most important features that padded walls can bring to your home. Why would you just sleep in a bed, when you can drift off in a bespoke, ultra-luxurious sleep chariot that will inspire dreams of greatness and wonder.
That’s our way of saying, padded walls can be used in your bedroom as a unique feature piece in the form of a headboard with a matching built-in bedframe. If this is something you can see in your future, check out our feature piece on padded wall headboards by clicking here.
Padded walls can also be used as a feature piece anywhere in your house – just because they look incredible. Because of the relative simplicity with which padded wallboards can be made, all our designs can be completely bespoke and tailored to whatever style you are aiming to achieve.
This brings us nicely onto our next topic…
How are Padded Walls Made?
We very briefly mentioned right at the start of this article how padded walls are made. We made it sound remarkably simple and they can be… Sometimes.
The bespoke and customisable nature of the finished products that can be produced can change the simplicity of the fabrication process dramatically. For example, a single coloured, square or rectangular panel with no embroidery or tufting is significantly easier, faster and cheaper to produce than, say, a buttoned Chesterfield style panel or a hexagonal pattern.
So, whilst the composition of the padded wall panel remains essentially the same (board – foam – covering), the upholstery required can vary wildly.
So, if you’re interested in the process in a little more depth, we have composed a slightly longer guide for you below:
- The Idea and Design
You, as a client, approach us with a design in mind. After discussing the options and measuring the space a final design is agreed upon and the order is placed. The design will include the shape and size of the panels, the colour, the material, any embroidery and tufting.
Size and Shape
Panel sizes can range from the much larger floor the ceiling panels to many smaller panels placed together in a grid or interlocking pattern. Whilst most padded walls are designed as rectangular panels, most shapes are possible and are still often designed as multiple smaller panels. For example, hexagonal or honeycomb-like patterns.
Colour and Material
Colour and material choices are once again entirely down to the client. Most commonly, padded wall panels are upholstered in a fabric covering, but sometimes other materials like vinyl, leather, velvet or satin might be used. This entirely depends on you, as the client, and your own taste and vision.
Embroidery and Tufting
Embroidery and tufting are two of the areas where you can truly get creative with the design of the padded wall. Embroidery includes the visibility, colour and design of any seam work that you would like to have. Tufting is the folds and creases that are intentionally put into the fabric to create a design – for example, diamond seams with buttons on chesterfield style furniture. Buttons are another great way to add a touch of flair to padded wall design. The most often used tufting types are; button tufts, diamond tufts, biscuit tufts, blind tufts and channel tufts.
2. Fabrication of the Padded Wall
The Backing Board – Creating the Shape
Once the design is agreed upon, fabrication of your new padded wall panels can begin. The first thing to do is to measure and cut sheets of medium density fibre (MDF) board to size and shape. Depending on the location of your new padded walls, plywood may be used as an alternative. For example, MDF does not fare well when it gets wet, so if you wanted a padded wall in a bathroom or outside, plywood would be used.
The Foam Filling
Once the backing board is cut to shape and size, the foam can also be cut to the correct shape, size and thickness required for each panel. Either regular furniture foam or acoustic foam will be used depending on the required needs and preferences you have.
Sometimes people like to have varying thicknesses of panel to create a staggered effect. To achieve greater thicknesses multiple layers of foam will be used on top of each other. These are glued onto the backing board and to each other, usually with spray adhesive for speed.
Upholstery – The Final Finish
Once the foam is in place, they are ready to be covered. The covering material is cut to size and placed over the backing board and foam. For a simple covering, the material is pulled tight across and fixed into the rear of the backing board, usually with staples or pins.
Depending on the design and tufting required, the fabricator will make intentional folds and pleats in the fabric as they fix it into place to create the desired look.
Once the product is finally completed, they are carefully prepared for transport to your home ready for installation.
Once the panels have all been made, they are transported to your home ready for installation. Because of the lightweight nature of the panels, they are not very invasive. By this we mean, they can be installed with minimal damage to the walls that they are to be fixed to.
We know that times change and one day (god forbid) padded walls might not be in fashion *GASPS*… Very unlikely, we know – but luckily the worst that you will be left with if you ever decide you want to remove or change them, will be a few small holes to fill and repaint. In fact, some smaller padded wall panels can be installed using Velcro strips with even less concern for any damage to your property.
Maintenance of Padded Walls
So, once your glorious new padded walls have been installed, you’ll want to take good care of them to keep them looking fresh. Maintenance and after-care will obviously depend on the material used and also the location they are installed in your house. But as a general rule, here are some tips to help you keep your new padded wall looking at its best:
- Make Sure That You Dust or Vacuum Your Wall Regularly
Specifically, with the upholstery head brush (the funny little brush that normally only get used on your sofa or in your car). You should also remember to go gently with it, as any rips or tears in the fabric will mean the whole covering of the panel will need to be replaced.
- Remove Stains as Soon as You Can
You can usually wipe stains off vinyl easily with a soft sponge and mild detergent, but with fabric, you might need to use stain remover and a brush or cloth to gently work stains out of the fabric. Because the foam behind it is also absorbent, you will need to check to see if any stains come back through after cleaning.
- Use the Right Cleaning Agents.
For fabric coverings, in particular, you should always check before using stain removers, that they are suitable for the material your padded wall is made from. You don’t want to make a small stain worse by spreading it with unsuitable cleaning agents.
- Minimize contact with water.
This includes making sure that the rooms you install them in aren’t damp or prone to damp. Fabric covered padded walls will absorb water very easily, and if they are installed in damp rooms, they will be prone to mould. Moulds could take hold inside the padded wall making them permanently damaged and in need of replacement. Moulds also pose a risk to your health – particularly if used as a headboard for example.
That Brings Us to the End…
So that about sums it up for all the information you should need to be able to decide on whether padded walls are right for you (they are, let’s face it…).
We’ve tried to make this guide as in-depth as possible, but we understand not everyone wants to read the full thing – honestly, it’s quite a lot to take we get it isn’t the most invigorating of reads – so feel free to get in touch by phone or email with any other questions you might have.
Looking forward to seeing you soon.