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I have a serious confession to make: I actually like paneling. Yep, It’s true. I know what people are saying behind paneling’s back (or maybe in front of its face): “It darkens a room” and “It dates the space” not to mention “It’s hideous.” I wasn’t always a fan. In fact, when I  first stepped inside the combination living room/dining room/kitchen of the home I fell in love with, I thought, “This paneling will be the first thing to go.”

Living room with knotty pine wood paneling

The living room paneling, pre-move in.

But after living with it for a few months, I’ve changed my tune a little. Maybe it’s the nature-lover in me. Maybe it’s in my genes (My dad makes live-edge furniture, so I’ve always loved to see wood in its natural state.) All I know is, I no longer shudder when I walk into the room. And since the huge windows give this space tons of light, it doesn’t seem too den-like. (Don’t worry, I’m still not a fan of this kind of paneling.)

Knotty pine paneling

Paneling, front and center.

While I don’t want to ditch it completely, I do want to modernize it a bit. Even adding colorful mod furniture and art, like Genifer Sohr did below in her home,  creates a “modern cabin” feel that I like.

Knotty pine modern office

Photo by Tec Petaja for Design Sponge

However, while I like the visible wood grain, I’m not as big of a fan of the color. I’d love to sand it down to its just-cut state and finish it with a UV-protecting finish to give it a more Scandinavian look, like Swedish architect Per Bornstein did in his knotty pine-happy home in Sweden.

Knotty pine living room paneling

Design by Swedish achitect Per Bornstein; photo by Pia Ulin for Dwell

Natural-hued knotty pine also lends itself well to both modern

Knotty pine paneled living room

Design by UNI Architects via Remodelista

…and more eclectic furnishings (I’d like to do a mix.)

Eclectic knotty pine living room

Design by Blackman Cruz; Photo by Timothy Street-Porter for Elle Decor

What would you do? Paint it, stain it, leave it natural or tear it out completely? Tell me your take.

Read Liz’s previous House Diaries posts here and follow her home inspiration board on Pinterest.

148 Responses

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  4. Shirley says:

    My paneling is dark walnut not the pretty knotty pine in the picture

  5. Shirley says:

    What do I do with the dark paneling? I have dark beams I would love to keep. would painting the walls an off white and leaving the beams be ok

  6. Luci M. says:

    I agree with the "real wood" folks- keep it! I would not paint it either. We have a home with real T&G cypress panelling on the walls & ceiling throughout. I have used a more minimalist, white, navy & green color scheme in the family areas, & love it. All the bedrooms have white floor to ceiling curtains & white bed linens, with different accent colors – one is red and white, one is blue and white, one is yellow & white. Having a lot of white in the house updates & brightens. Love our cypress home!

  7. Adrienne says:

    Have u got chairs done ? Depending on location I can replace leather ..

  8. Laura Lee says:

    We're debating whether or not to buy a home with a TON of early '80's cedar panelling. Covering plywood with fabric is a BRILLIANT idea! I never would've thought of that (hahaha). Been considering sanding and staining grey but it sounded like SO much work especially since there's so much of it…….. eeeeeverywhere.

Liz GrayLiz is a senior editor at HGTV.com and an co-editor-in-chief for Design Happens. She lives in a midcentury tri-level that’s stuck in the ‘70s…for now. When she’s not working on...


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