For those of you who have no building or finishing experience who think tackling a job like wainscoting is too tough, there is an alternative. It is relatively inexpensive, and if done correctly, will look just as amazing.
Believe it or not, I'm talking about wallpaper. If you think wallpaper is outdated and not done anymore, I think you should check out a few D.I.Y. shows. Canada's Handyman, with host Mike Holmes, had an episode geared around this exact subject. Also, the show Rental Income and Money Hunters utilize wallpaper to give rooms that wow factor a simple paint job can't. Adding wallpaper is a quick, simple and inexpensive way to change the look and ambiance of a room.
An easy alternative to wainscoting, wallpaper applied to the bottom third of the wall lends the room the same 'old world charm' at a fraction of the cost and time. Simply add a chair rail/piece of trim the length of the room, and voila, you're done.
Use a simple pattern when doing this project as a busy or loud pattern will detract from the overall look of the finished product. Plain, simple, or understated is the way to go to get the best results from your efforts.