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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.

130 Responses

  1. Saranoh77 says:

    We have wood paneling upstairs in our house in the stairway, sitting room and spare bedroom. Tongue and groove, knotty pine that was stained a warm honey color that was installed in 1969 by the previous owner. It was actually something we really liked about our house when we saw it. Its makes the sitting room very cozy. Yes it gives it a "cabiny" feel, but we feel it goes with the charm of our house! We installed new berber carpeting with flecks of browns and golds, and we decorated the sitting room with black chairs, and accents in red and blue. Its one of our favorite rooms. I say embrace it! :)

  2. Teeye says:

    Don't you dare paint over or destroy this beautiful paneling. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find something of this quality. They don't make it like this anymore. It would be a crime against wood to change it. People who call this dated or hideous are tasteless snobs. Please listen to your heart which should be saying leave it exactly like it is.
    a professional carpenter

  3. Jeanette says:

    I love the paneling in your home. It is really expensive now, and it gives your home a wonderful vibe, I think. Who cares if your friends don't care for it anyhow? It's YOUR home!

  4. Texas Chris says:

    We still live in our house that was built in the 70's. One of our living rooms has a cathedral ceiling with cedar beams and wood paneling. One wall is wainscotted. When updating our house, the children, grandchildren and husband did not want to remove the paneling. It is very good paneling that we paid about $30.00 a sheet in the late 70's. We updated with a slight shade lighter stained carved trim at the top of the paneling. We added beautiful stained baseboards, stained rosettes and trim around the doors and corner pieces in each corner. We then added a beautiful new ceiling fan and victorian tracking lighting with amber shades in the room. The room is so beautiful now. I am glad I let my family talk me into keeping the paneling.

  5. Thornhill painters says:

    Interesting post. Would love to find more resources like this. I will have a look at your blogroll – hope you have one! :-)

  6. Chris says:

    Those are my thoughts too. I just bought a ranch condo with a large great room, fully paneled in quality wood knotty pine. It's actually attractive and with the fireplace, gives it a lodgy feel. I am going to place my modern red couch and chair, original modern art and so forth. I think that will give it an update, edgy take on all that wood. Lots of windows helps bring light in so it is not dark and dingy at all.

  7. Heidi says:

    Do you have any pics? I have lived with my dark honey stained knotty pine walls and ceilings for too long, want to do what you did, but ther Hubby isn't going for it?? Ugg.. I need to show him samples..

  8. Jenn says:

    I would love to see pictures of your walls now. Even before and afters._

    • michelle ridge says:

      I have 3/4" tongue and groove wormy chesnutt paneling in 3 rooms of my home and the kitchen cabinets are made from this. I hate the stain color. Can someone tell me how to sand it or restain ( hubby will not paint it) the wood please. my email is cmridge@bellsouth.net

  9. albert says:

    Awesome house designs… How i wish if i do have money someday I can have houses just like that and I am always looking forward into it now to work even harder. Cebu Island Hotels

  10. Florence Bradshaw says:

    On my own point of view I would prefer to have it painted to have a more dramatic makeover on the conventional wood panel wall – Naples interior design service

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Liz GrayLiz is a Senior Editor at HGTV.com. She lives in a midcentury tri-level that’s stuck in the ‘70s…for now. When she’s not working on remodeling projects with her boyfriend and...


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