Design Defined: Fretwork

Design Defined: Fretwork

Design Defined fretwork


What is fretwork?

Fretwork is an interlaced decorative design that is carved in low relief on a solid background. Sources give different reports as to the exact origins of fretwork, but it was most prominently used in early 12th century Greek architecture and has continued to be used in modern day design. It is a hot look right now and I love its versatility and its ability to elevate the style of a space.


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 (Designer: Minhnuyet Hardy, Photographer: Mali Azima)

Where does one begin getting fretwork done?

In this particular midcentury modern home, we decided to use fretwork panels to mask the cluttered bookcases and to bring in architectural detailing…  A do-it-yourself-er can sketch out a design and cut it out with a jigsaw or a scroll saw, but we hired Millwork Market to create our design and panels.

To ensure smooth paint application, edges, and the areas between the cutouts, must be sanded before, and, in between coats of paint.  Depending on the design, the process can be very labor intensive – the sanding in between coats must be done by hand.

We did a high gloss lacquer finish on this one and it took 10 coats of lacquer to get the flawless, ultra-smooth finish. My carpenter was ready to kill me at the end…

If you have questions concerning fretwork, feel free to comment below!  Or, if you are ready to take the next step and incorporate fretwork into your home, email us at

May your day be smart, stylish and full of love!


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