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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

  1. Christina says:

    I can almost see what you're saying, but nope it's just not for me. Maybe because my dining room used to have it and it just reminds me of that old ugly room…

    Just made some pineapple upside down cake. Come see! http://becauseofmadalene.blogspot.com/


  2. 4Grammy says:

    Love the sunshine coming in your windows but I would definitely paint the panelling a white or cream color. One advantage to leaving the panelling alone is that you can put any color in the room and it will look great – except probably orange or yellow. Did you leave the beige rug on the floor?

    • Liz_HGTV says:

      The beige carpet is there for now but will not be staying. Window treatments are going as well!

  3. Marzipan says:

    My mom has old dark grey wood paneling in the living room! So drab! It's beautiful for a cabin or rustic home, but not everyday living.
    Tear it out!

  4. Julie says:

    If you keep the dated furniture, light switches, window coverings and flooring, it will feel dated but if you bring at least the furniture, window treatments and light switches up to date, it should feel modern. Page through more log home mags for modern decorating ideas.

    • Liz_HGTV says:

      Definitely! We more modern furniture than what is pictured already (that's the previous owners' stuff) but we're going to get different window treatments, lighting, flooring etc.

  5. mccsma says:

    I was all ready to vote "tear it out" until I saw the natural knotty pine pic.

  6. Norma says:

    Hi This is not a comment on panel walls. But perhaps you guys can help me and I tried to find another area for my question. Here goes: I have a copy of the Stam chair, which has a chrome frame and leather back , seat and arms. The leather on some chairs are shot. I love these chairs so much and cannot find where to get new chairs that would cost me under $200.00 or who would replace the leather. Do you have any ideas. Perhaps one of you new shows does refurbishing or you can suggest a source.I watch all your shoes and love the HGTV network. Cordially, Norma

  7. [...] House Diaries: In Defense of Paneling HGTV Design Happens Fri, January 27, 2012 3:39 PM UTC HGTV Design Happens Rate Share (function(){var [...]

  8. Erica says:

    As long as it's real wood, I love it! We have it in our family room and it gives the room a very warm feeling. Easy to clean also!

  9. Tam says:

    I have the same paneling, when we moved in it was just like yours and I didn't know how I was going to live with it… I sanded every wall and the ceiling, than white washed and varnished it, It came out beautiful, very cottage style. I love it now.

  10. Val says:

    Keep it, strip it, get some large canvas art or paint your own to hang on it, that's not the cheap stuff of the 70s ( we have both the cheap and this), with the right contemporary furniture and artwork it can look great. Throw in a few antiques and there you go, your own style. My thought is if you throw in traditional furniture it will look dated. Keep it modern, earthy and almost trendy, with a splash of color that you can change. Hit the flea markets and have fun.

    • Liz_HGTV says:

      Hi Val,
      Love the idea of large canvases — was thinking about that today! We are definitely going for a more contemporary feel so that will go perfectly.

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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