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.
Wainscoting was once used to cover the lower part of walls which, in houses constructed with poor or nonexistent damp-proof courses, are often affected by rising dampness; it now mainly serves a decorative purpose, however. Its most notable cultural appearance is perhaps as part of a sketch in episode 20 of the comedy program Monty Python's Flying Circus, in which a sheep with a gun is discovered in a home's wainscoting.
Boiserie (often used in the plural boiseries) is the term used to define ornate and intricately carved wood panelling. Early examples of boiseries were unpainted, but later the raised mouldings were often painted or gilded. Boiseries were popular in seventeenth and eighteenth century French interior design and the Palace of Versailles has many fine examples. The panels were not confined just to the walls of a room but were also used to decorate doors, frames, cupboards and shelves. Often pictures would be set into the boiseries, the carving framing the picture rather like a conventional frame.