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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. Sil says:

    I like the look of wood panneling when is done in either a bleached or pickled finish on the more modern looks, also if its done as dark expresso finish. The old traditional panneling is not at all apealing to me.

  2. Joy says:

    I think the unfinished looks like a sauna! Even though I am a fan of real wood, tear it out. It's days have come and gone…

  3. Jess says:

    Have you considered a very light white-wash on it? The detail of the wood will still be visible, but it will give the room a different mood.. I think you can do other colours as well, not just white.

  4. brent says:

    For now I would leave it and experiment w/fabric covered sheets of plywood or even foam to lessen the effect of all of the wood then cover them with your pictures or sculpures or whatever…you could always re use the fabric in pillows and such if you decide to pull the paneling…It really isn't that unappealing and could be made to look any style you want..perhaps potions could use a cork board or fabric wainscotting type of change-up as well…Good luck, I would really try to work with it!

  5. Stacy says:

    We have real pine paneling in our circa 1950's home, but with updated furnishings and lots of light from our windows and skylights, I like it. I think it can add to the charm of a home if tastefully decorated around.

  6. Andrea says:

    We had dark plywood grooved panelling and it is so ugly. The real deal can look warm and inviting if it is done right. The plywood panelling in our house was torn down within a few months after moving in and this brightened our space immediately.

  7. Tammy K says:

    We are going to take our paneling down in the LR and DR. Trying to decide between sheetrock and beadboard. Leaning towards sheetrock. Really not looking forward to the dusty mess.

  8. mn123456 says:

    I lived in a home with exactly this throughout the home. I thought it was beautiful, but yes dark for every day living. I am not a fan of wood that light so if you don't want the darker wood I would tear it out. I think painting wood is a shame and takes any value anything has away. I cringe when I see that someone has painted the beautiful woodwork in a big old late 1800's home. "Shabby Chic" does not mean paint it up. People paint things to cover blemishes and always have. It make it look cheap. Besides people that like to decorate change things and imagine trying to get all of the paint off if you wanted the wood look back.

    You can put starch in cloth to use as paneling and hang patterns. Affordable and easy or just change the decor to lighten it up, maybe both. The current paneling is great for a "country feel", either modern or traditional.

    • Liz_HGTV says:

      We are definitely changing the decor — our furniture is much more modern than what is shown, plus we're picking up some new stuff.

  9. Carolyn White says:

    I call my house my country abode and have knotty pine in the den and offfice. It makes the den feel serene….put a fire in the fireplace and light the candles, have a nice glass of wine and you feel like you at a resort chilling……To each his own, I painted the panelng in the bedrooms but will not change a thing about the den or office. Like someone said, you can put any color n there and it looks fantastic. Enjoy your wood paneling if it makes you feel good and the hell with what others think…(LOL)

  10. Judy henderson says:

    I have lived in our bungalow for 15 years, the upstairs had a hall, bath and three very small rooms built in the attic in the 70's. Each room, hall and bath had different paneling and different shag carpet. Still does except all has been painted except one room and all carpet changed. The enclosed front porch was paneled, walls and ceiling, three kinds. The kitchen has two kinds of paneling and wall paper. One wall in master bedroom has paneling and three of the five basement rooms have paneling, all is different, thank heavens the living and dining room had none, but they used the old 9 inch ceiling tile which really bugs me. The main bath downstairs is paneled, the entire downstairs had carpet in shades of blur, gold and green until I started tearing it up to reveal hardwood floors! Oh how I hate paneling, but I would have to go to the studs in each room to solve the problems

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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