From the BlogSubscribe Now

Reader Questions: How to handle dark wood paneling?

It’s been a while since we’ve done a reader questions post, but I LOVE ’em, and here’s why: every time I post, you guys just spew brilliance and hilarity all over the comments section, so I know y’all are little decorating geniuses and these posts are my favorite way to showcase that!

If you missed the other ones, weigh in on whether you would paint this mantle, and, closely related to this post, what you would do about Spiderman in the bedroom.

I get emails and questions pretty often, and sometimes I like to open them up to you all to help find a solution. This one is a TOUGHIE, so I’m looking for your thoughts and excited to hear your suggestions.

You know who’s also excited to hear them? Stephanie and her husband, Travis. Cutest couple ever.
Stephanie is the creative talent behind the Cinnamon Bears etsy shop. She makes the SWEETEST little custom dolls, and they’re all different. Look at these little buddies.
cinnamon bears etsy shop
Makes me want to be a little girl again. But only if I could skip puberty this time, because I’d rather birth a human person than repeat middle school. Said the girl who had to wear head gear to school. (Cringe.)

MY POINT. My point is that Stephanie is creative and talented and has a brilliant eye. But she and her husband just moved into a new place where the walls of the den – allllll the walllllls – are wood paneling. And not the cute kind of wood paneling. This is happening:

The good news is, they love the house AND their landlord and, in other good news, they have this little dog, which doesn’t help the paneling situation but maybe her cuteness can temporarily distract?
Before you’re all: “PAINT IT!” – and that’s a great solution, normally – Stephanie’s landlord has already ruled that out. Boo! (Also: whyyyy? Painted paneling can actually be pretty legit.)
painted wood paneling

Design by Rosie Brown via Remodelista

Here are a few ideas I had:

1. Hang floor-to-ceiling curtains in a fun pattern or a light color.
No one has to know there are no windows behind them. Kinda like this, but maybe a smidge less stripey.
stripe curtains

New England Home Magazine

Keep it affordable by using sheets instead of fabric, or just grabbing a ton of panels from Ikea.

2. Take the focus off the paneling with large-scale art or the giant-est of gallery arrangements
Oh yes, giant art. Come to mom. Right into my arms.

Design by Lucy Fenton

And you, gallery wall that covers every single inch? You can come too.
Design by Anthony Goicolea via NY Times

That wall could be covered in doilies and you wouldn’t know it. Or graffiti, or spiderman.

3. Work with it.
If you choose not to cover the walls or if it’s out of budget for whatever reason, I would recognize the wall color as an orangey-brown and incorporate that color into your design.
orange dining room

Lorraine Vale design

In other words, pretend like the walls are painted that color, and decorate accordingly. Maybe lots of fresh white.
orange bedroom
Domicile Interior Design

Don’t fight the paneling color, because it will fight back. And it fights dirty. With brass knuckles, probably.

So now I turn the challenge over to you! Two questions: 1. How would you hide the paneling? and 2. If you couldn’t hide it, how would you work with it?

Okay, three questions. Childbirth or middle school: Which would you prefer in this weird hypothetical situation?

Learn how to disguise or decorate around dated wood paneling!

P.S.: If you have a good home-related question to submit as a potential Reader Question, send me an email at kelly (at)!

Let's connect


  1. I have the same lovely (eye roll) paneling in two rooms in our home along with hardwood floors to boot! Can anyone say cave?? After living here 5.5 years and continually begging to paint the den my husband reluctantly agreed to let me paint. It was the best thing I could have done. Light and airy and doesn’t even resemble the same space! Now he won’t let me paint the office which is the same all wood cave. My plan is to paint the built in bookshelves and cabinets white ( they are wood too?) put down a light rug to break up the wood floor, hand white or light curtains along one whole wall where the lone window is, and hang large light colored art on the other walls. All furniture will be painted and light. Hopefully my cave will brighten up! Good luck!

    • The home we are renting now has wood paneling all over not one but two rooms, not to mention brown carpeting in the living room plus by an unhappy coincidence, our furniture is brown. I am so tired of this blah color scheme and have no idea what I can do to fix it and am on an extremely tight budget. Suggestions would be welcome.

      • Kathy Phillips says:

        If I were you, Haley, I’d purchase drop cloths and a staple gun. If you can’t cover every wall, start with the wall opposite the windows. The light-colored cloth will reflect the natural light and “brighten” the room. If possible without damaging it, remove the crown molding. Staple the drop cloth along the top of the panelling. Replace the crown molding. Remove the baseboard molding, staple the drop cloth along the bottom and replace the shoe molding. You want the cloth straight & evenly snug against the wall – not pulled so tight that it’s “straining” against the staples. If there are light switches or electric outlets on that wall, mark their positions with tape along the baseboard and remove the covers before you begin. After stapling the cloth to the wall and replacing the baseboard, locate the switches & outlets above the tape-markers. Snip a small hole with fingernail scissors and *carefully* cut an “X” toward the corners of the electrical box – not quite into the corners. Cut off the tips of the triangles and fold the triangular-shaped flaps back & under the cloth, clearing the area of the switch box or outlet, but leaving enough for the cover-plate to hold secure when it’s replaced. Remove the tape from the baseboard & you’re done.
        Blue, tan & white are quite popular — and they look especially pretty with wood tones. It’s a restful, cool palate that works in any room. I would use light-colored throws & pillows on the brown furniture and a rug as large as possible over the brown carpet. Purchase a carpet remnant and have the edges bound, if possible. If not, shop thrift stores. Use BIG art on the still-brown walls. Again, shopping thrift stores can turn up some surprising finds – or make your own. One of my friends stretched a drop cloth over a 4 X 8 sheet of plywood & painted it in blended horizontal stripes with left over house paint she bought at yard sales and the recycling center. She found an unusual branch, mostly straight, and did macrame with cheese cloth, some of which she dyed, braided twine, wool from an old sweater she unravelled, frayed rope, an old paisley sheet she ripped into varying width strips, and anything else she ran across, including shells, rocks, assorted rusty washers, & odd bits of whatever. It became a wall hanging about 3ft wide and 6 ft long & it still hangs in her foyer! If you need some “bling,” make throw pillows out of remnants of heavily textured material, spray paint them silver, and add nickel-sized sequins. Find a couple of old lamps at the thrift store and paint them silver, too.
        Most important — have fun!

        • Is there anyway you have a picture of the drop cloth stapled to the wall? I have paneling in my dining room and I can’t igure out how to decorate it to save my life!

      • Michael’s has very affordable fake floral arrangements (they’ve helped break up all my brown in silver and mirrored vases, I suggest orchids and lilies since most are white with bright colors in the middle). I also got a small tree as a houseplant from Kroger after Christmas for $5 and although it’s a tropical “Norfolk Island Pine” it seems to be thriving despite my very ungreen thumb, it is also only about 3 ft tall. We have a large light colored rug that was $20 at Tuesday Morning because of some damage to the corner (look for imperfections for huge damage discounts). This alone has made a huge impact with all of my panelling, hope it helps!

  2. I am not sure if this would work, with the ridges in the paneling, but I would give it a shot.

  3. Great question! Man, if they were willing to do the work and pay for the paint I think he should let them paint… but if not an option I would either add strategically placed drapery or work with it! I think the addition of bright neutral colors would be amazing! What about faux upholstered walls… fabric wrapped in foam core and hung with 3M strips? Maybe not fully covering the wall, but in large panels to become the art/focal point of the space? Good luck with the solution.. hopefully then send you after pics!

  4. These are fantastic ideas. I think it would look great to do the curtain panels on the wall with the window and then the wall with no window as the full wall gallery. Keeping the furniture and accessories light will help it not feel so dark as well. It would be neat to see a follow up down the road to show what they end up doing in here!

  5. So weird… just read this post:

    This is what I was thinking! Love the same brain of designers!

  6. Great ideas Kelly!

    I’ve turned down buying many beautiful homes because of those depressing dark wood panels… If I were Stephanie, I would use your suggestions and cover every inch in a light color fabric and then lots and lots of art.

    Would love to see the before and after photos.

    regards from New York
    Emily @ Town And Country Shuffle

  7. How would I hide it? Cuz I would definitely hide it, yuck!….LOL I’d buy sheets of drywall and wallpaper the drywall….then lean them up against the wall like large mirrors. Last time I looked, drywall sheets were still rather cheap…3 sheets were under ten bucks…plus if your renting, the panels could be taken with you. Bonus! Another way but more expensive is to use fabric starch and fabric. Buy fabric to cover the wall, and dip it in fabric starch…hang on the wall and cut like wallpaper to fit. But it can be costly and you have to pull it off and wash the walls. It comes off easily, but you have to want to wash the starch off the walls to get your deposit back…

  8. Head gear to school??? What a complete nightmare…omg.

    Love the paneling idea of the commenter above. Very cool.

  9. Embrace the knotty pine and do up a fun retro-mod den! This couple looks like they could pull it off an have fun with it.
    Find examples here:

    or by searching here:

  10. Oooops. Lost my links.
    Embrace the knotty pine and do up a fun retro-mod den! This couple looks like they could pull it off an have fun with it.
    Find examples here:

    or by searching here:

  11. these are all great tips, and how cute are they, seriously?!?! i hope they come back and share what they do!

  12. 1. I definetly think you need to cover and not work with it. That color is so hard to “work” with since it is a crazy mix of orange and brown. Drop Cloth is very inexpensive and can be painted/stamped very easily. Plus the light color would lighten up the room which is a plus.
    2. childbirth hands down!

  13. Being a quilter my first response would be to hang some large quilts. Second would be to do some large framed fabric. Buy some cheap frames and put some bright, colorful fabric in it.

  14. My mom has wood paneling she doesn’t feel like painting, so she went the “lots of art” way. Gallery quality lighting and professional (not Target special) art has turned her living room into a showpiece!

  15. I love the wall panel idea that Tiffany posted! Or the curtains idea Kelly mentioned. You could even do the cheap white ones from Ikea to save on costs! 🙂

  16. What incredible ideas, Kelly! I, too, say embrace it since they are renting…I’m thinking vintage with a touch of modern nautical! lol! Sounds like it is a real style, right? I would add in lots of white with some pops of crisp blue/navy and lots and lots of mixing of metals especially with some brass. I would definitely do wall to wall curtain on the window side in an airy white maybe even use some big chunky rope to act as tie backs and perhaps on the opposite wall that you cannot see. Then the paneled wall will almost act as an accent wall and they could do a fun ‘totally them’ gallery wall full of personality. You will totally have to feature what they finally decide on! I’m sure it will be amazing!

  17. Diana Walters says:

    Love that paneling! First thing I would do is raise the curtain rod to the ceiling, extending it from wall to wall; then hang white curtains that just brush the floor. Mirrors, at least one, on each wall to bounce around the light. Change the ceiling fixture to a crystal chandy (easy enough to change back when moving). The crystals will help bounce light around the room. Use a floor lamp, several table lamps and a couple of floor/uplights. If you use the new CF lightbulbs, you will get a cold, sterile light that will help offset the (almost overpowering) warm of the wood paneling. Layer an indoor/outdoor carpet over the wall to wall and add some light colored throws to the chairs. I think I would go with brightly painted furniture also…. So there you have it. If only I could solve all the worlds problems for everyone! (ahem…. eyes roll) But really, that’s exactly what I would do in there!

  18. I would hang artwork on the side walls- not necessarily only big pieces but all sizes in multiples-unframed- using the paneling behind the framing element. Then use fun bright sheers all the way across the front windowed wall.

  19. Love the idea of taking foam core or those big insulation boards and wallpapering it and using velcro strips to hang them, or even leaning on the wall. Y’all are so clever with the ideas. You can also take wainscoting-look paneling (say whaaa?? more paneling?!) that comes on plywood sheets, paint it white, and velcro strip them on the wall too or maybe a few indiscreet nails in the groove part of the old panelling. Love the idea of a huge floor to ceiling gallery wall too.
    I’ll take childbirth – at least I’d get something cute and cuddly out of the whole experience and an investment into my old age future self to have another kid take care of me when I’m old.

  20. childbirth – hands down – way easier than middle school! I’d work with the paneling – I’d go with no curtains at all and do lots of white and modern furniture – maybe a little mid century modern and throw in a white expedite from ikea on that one big wall. Am I crazy? I’m kinda liking natural paneling right now – mixed with some modern elements it can be really cool.

  21. Ok, here goes…
    1. Since paint is out, I’d watch and re-watch Miss Mustard Seed’s tutorial on starched fabric wallcoverings over at It’s relatively inexpensive, can be changed quickly and without damage to the wall, and will make a HUGE impact with both color and texture.

    2. If I had to work with it, I’d keep the room cooly neutral, and use small pops of a complimentary color (I think blues/teals are opposite the orange/brown on the wheel?).

  22. No Painting, what a bummer this is what I would do, buy grass cloth wallpaper,if you are on a budget I think the faux grass cloth is super affordable (or maybe a nice light grey burlap fabric) and use maybe a staple gun and just staple around the tops and bottoms of the walls, tiny nails might work too, or..maybe fabric adhesive just at the tops and bottoms and some strong double stick tape in the middles, I would Fight that paneling until it disappeared lol!

  23. Definitely solid white floor to ceiling (or is it ceiling to floor?!) curtains! The first house my husband and I ever rented had faux wood paneling…AND 70s-era orange/green carpet. So definitely be thankful that you’ve got real wood!

  24. Well, part of the problem here is that the paneling isn’t the only issue. The curtains and ceiling fixture are also quite 1970s, and not in a good way. Might the landlord agree to letting you change those? Plus the beige carpet isn’t doing that paneling any favors. A large flat-weave rug would help whatever design direction you choose. And lamps, lots of lamps!

    The only consideration with art is that if the landlord doesn’t want you painting it, he also might not be too keen on you putting holes in it. Here’s a question: if he doesn’t want paint, might he let you strip/sand and re-stain it? Working with a darker, less orangey color would be so much easier. Also, try sending a photo of what you have in mind when seeking permission for changes. Some people just can’t imagine how things might look.

  25. Maybe some removable wallpaper? I’d want to totally cover it since it would show through even behind giant art and a gallery wall. And I’ve never birthed a child (give me a few months- AHHHH!) but it HAS to be less painful than middle school. I am reminded every day of the school year as I watch my hormonal herd of students that the 7th-8th grade years were not my finest.

  26. Courtney J says:

    I think I would treat the walls like they were a wood floor. Then I would paint the ceiling, get a fantastic area rug and curtains. Then make sure everything else in the room was painted furniture to offset the walls. It really is too bad they can’t paint it. And I would pick childbirth over middle school any day!

  27. 1. If I could hide the paneling, I would definitely cover them up with fabric and starch. Look for sales and coupons to fabric stores. Sometimes you can find great prints really cheap! I would stick with lighter neutrals in this room because of the beige carpet. Color can be added through pillows, art, and accessories. Having been a renter (military housing) for most of my adult life, I have used this technique several times to create accent walls. Though it is messy and you have to wash the walls after you remove it, the end result is worth it! If the budget is too tight, try doing the largest wall in the space in a linen and add large art or a photo gallery with B & W photos the the other wall.

    2. If you cannot cover the walls in fabric, I like the idea of fabric covered insulation panels. Mid Century Modern furniture (found at any thrift store) would help tone down the walls. This room reminds me of my grandmother’s house that was built in the 50’s. The family room had this same orange-brown wood paneling, but for some reason it went well with her mid-century-modern furniture (I guess that was just “modern” back then?). She also had a photo gallery on one wall–dozens of frames with pics of family. It was my favorite wall when I was a kid. The furniture should have wood legs and neutral/white surfaces.

    3. Childbirth over middle school! I’ve done both, and by far childbirth is easier–keep in mind my daughter was 9 lbs 6 oz, and my son was 9 lbs 10 oz. I should have thought about childbirth when I met his family of giants!

  28. Giant IKEA Expedit bookshelves! Or rows of Billy bookshelves. Put enough of them in a row and add some crown molding and they’ll look like built-ins!

  29. I think I would go for a combination of LARGE art and curtains. That way it won’t look like the walls are just covered in curtains. Basically pretend that there are large windows on some of the walls & hang curtain panels over the imaginary windows & then hang giant pieces of art / gallery walls in the open wall space.
    I’ve done an inexpensive “gallery wall” using 16×20 canvases & fabric. Or just buy large canvases (with coupons) at the craft store & paint / cover in a fun fabric.
    I would probably go for white curtains & bright colorful art to lighten up the space.
    Oh also, this doesn’t help to cover up the paneling, but adding a light-colored patterned rug may help make the space feel lighter and brighter & distract you from the walls.
    I hope Stephanie shares how she tackles the paneling & makes it feel like home!

  30. Julia @cuckoo4design says:

    That landlord is kind of not fun at all 😉 and their doggy is totally super cute. I agree that they look like a couple who can totally make this paneling work. Myself I’d like to hide ;). If they’d want to make it work I’d go retro with lots of white and maybe paint-by-numbers art.

  31. I love Christine’s idea to buy sheets of drywall and either paint them or wallpaper them. That would change the room drastically!

  32. I love your ideas. This one is def a toughie but color and light can do a lot to help. So light-colored upholstery, curtains, rugs, art etc and great lamps I think might go a long way.

  33. Childbirth of course. It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life 🙂 I would paint the paneling, I think. I love your suggestions.

  34. I think I would paint it and then just accent it like normal walls. I guess you would have to be careful with textures in the room because the paneling will still have a lot of texture going on.

  35. They can totally make it work! I kinda love this wood paneled room from a Young House Love house crash:

  36. I don’t actually think that is ‘bad’ paneling. It’s the good quality stuff, not the faux, thin or rough crappy paneling I thought I would see. I painted a paneled room for a friend and you’ve gotta use Zinsser primer or similar because the knots will eventually show through the paint and look like a stain. (My guy is a painter)
    I think what makes the room awful is the ugly ceiling fan and awful curtains. I think the retro-decor idea is good.

    Or as one person mentioned, hanging art all over would put lots of holes in the paneling, so my suggestion would be to see if they could install a picture rail instead. Then they could hang pieces of fabric, art or whatever.

  37. I would have to say fabric panels — and LOTS of them; Ikea has great options for not a lot of dough… I’d also have to incorporate some mirrors and tons of lighting. Big art work — she could probably DIY some massive canvases since she’s so creative! Hope they share what they decide to do!
    xo Heidi

  38. Stephanie and Travis – This may be unpopular, but why fight it? Get everything in the room that will live there, invest in some white or other bright color slip covers, paint what you own in the room to match, and then see how it looks. Maybe a large floor mirror and a few strategically placed curtains as Kelly suggested. I imagine if they don’t want you to paint, they also don’t want a bunch of holes in the paneling, so if you do hang stuff all over, just use command strips. But I say, fill it up, live in it, then see how much you hate it. Once your things are in the room, you may not hate it so much.

    • Oh – and Kelly – I’ve never experienced childbirth or headgear, but I imagine headgear in middle school is quite terrible. The pain from childbirth (I hear) is temporary, but mean little boys and girls are just… well, mean!

      • Confessions of a Serial Do-it-Yourselfer says:

        How about cover large squares of luan or even ceiling tiles with fabric and attach to the wall with Velcro? Put them right on top of each other to cover the entire wall.
        And definitely childbirth! Those middle school girls were mean!

  39. I’d do the curtain option like you mentioned. And thanks to a breech first kid I had three planned C-sections, but that last one tried to come a little early and my mere 10 hours of {prodromal} labor pains would be a very hard competitor with the pain of middle school so I can’t decide!

  40. I agree with Molly about the fake wood paneling. This paneling is, even if one thinks it outdated and dark and uncool, the “good” paneling that is not an embarrassment to the homeowner.
    Light, light, light. You cannot have too much light (well, maybe, but that’s hard to achieve.) Assume Landlord will not allow different ceiling light. Fine…Put in a couple of good (good = multi-bulb) floor lamps, preferable with adjustable bulbs. Find a ginormous mirror–more, if possible. If Landlord does not wish nail holes or such in the wall, fine. Lean it up against the wall and watch it reflect light. Get rid of the curtains and replace with ones that are lighter, brighter, something that gives the idea of light. I love wood furniture, especially dark wood, but here furniture with white slipcovers would work well–or at least, white/light pillows.
    Many of these ideas I read are great, but some landlords do not want you to do anything to their walls, floors, etc. That is, no nails, no curtain rods, no picture hangers, no nothing. So some ideas will not work. Another comment (about the Spiderman renter) of mine mentioned Mickey Mouse wallpaper. My youngest son wasn’t trying to hide the wallpaper, but he ended up doing so by having a grand time drawing knights and horses and castles, just on plain ol’ “scratch paper”, 8×11. Then he taped them up on the wallpaper. I didn’t care if it “ruined” the wallpaper, as we’re getting rid of it anyway. It looked great, all these pictures, and kept his wall (the boys each have a wall) from looking…um, Mickey Mouse-ish. So maybe they could just put up some lightweight things that use just sticky tack that will cover up the paneling and bring in some color.
    P.S. Why is this paneling “yuk” today and beadboard is “in”? This paneling just may be coveted in ten years.

  41. I vote for removing the paneling. We’re actually in the process of tearing down the paneling in our basement. We had to in order to access all the knob and tube wiring that needs to be replaced, but it was good motivation to update the space. Ours is still a work in progress but we place on replacing the paneling with drywall.

  42. On the windows wall I would go with floor to ceiling curtains wall to wall. One of the other walls as a huge gallery wall and then a wall of white “built in” bookcases using the paneling as a contrast in the back. You could also build a white window seat area along the window wall. Furnish with white and blue colour scheme, maybe a nautical style of decor.

  43. To be fair, I don’t blame the landlord for not wanting the paneling painted. That’s something that very easily done, but NOT easily undone. Walls can be repainted, but stripping wood is not fun!

    If I *had* to hide it, I’d probably go with large pieces of art covering every available space of wall. 🙂 I LOVE some big art!

    But honestly…I’d probably want to work with it. I kind of like it. Maybe my walls of dark built-in bookcases have muddled my brain, but I find the paneling very cozy and inviting. We were went to an indoor yard sale a few weeks ago in a house that had one bedroom paneled like this. There was a little brass bed against one wall and it was SO snug and cozy feeling that I literally wanted to move in RIGHT THEN. I agree with the previous poster that I’d put lighter furniture and things in there. And a houseplant or two. Or four.

  44. I think it is beautiful! And the tricky part about painting the paneling is, once it is done, there is no going back. I’ve seen some pretty crappy paint jobs on paneling too. I would hang large white drapery panels close to the ceiling to flank the windows and bring the rods out at least a foot on each end to give the illusion of a larger window and cover some of the dark. Crisp white painted furniture (think bookshelves, they take up plenty of wall real estate) and add some bright mod colors with accessories. IF it is possible, take a look at the ceiling. Wallpaper on the ceiling would be amazing….maybe the removeable kind for a rental. Also lighting is super important, while the paneling gives a nice warm glow, it sucks the light right out of the room too. Lamps in every corner are an opportunity for art and color (getting excited just thinking about all the groovy sixties lamps at every thrift store just ripe for the picking. And task lighting, desk lamps, hanging pendants, you could really get creative. Even a giant modern fixture/chandelier (like in Kelly’s office) would look great here.

    Okay, I would take childbirth over middle school, hands down. Birth is intense and painful, but done in at most 24 hours. Middle school is years! I get all teenage angsty just thinking about the peer pressure and my overalls with one side left undone. And Sun-in- don’t even get me talking about my orange hair episode. Praise the LORD I am old enough to know better!

  45. Now that you bring this up, what ever happened to Spiderman??
    Can you hang fabric on walls that is easily removable? I think so. Kind of like wallpaper, but not. I really have no idea, but I would look into that, or totally buy a ton of IKEA curtains! =)

  46. Fantastic ideas. Paneling really is a heavy weight!

    And childbirth… even if it was quintuplets.

  47. I think if you are in a situation like this, you just have to embrace that wood paneling. Make it seem like you love that paneling and design around it. If you try to hide it or cover it up, it is going to be peaking out shouting “look at me! Awful wood paneling that isn’t being hid very well!” But if you decide to design with it and make it part of the design, it can look stylish and intentional. Especially if you go with a mid-century look. Apartment Therapy did this post that embraces wood paneling, and the rooms actually look really good:

  48. I just wrote a post about wood paneling because I have this problem in our basement as well. Here is my post about it.

  49. I did not read all of the comments so sorry if this is a repeat, but on the open wall I would do rows of bookshelves. You could line the shelves in fun wallpaper for added texture, color or pattern. Then I would use a bunch of light curtain panels on the window wall, like a linen. I would also use some art in oversized white frames to cover up some more of the wall. I would let definitely let some of the wall still show to demonstrate the character of the home and so you do not look like you are trying to hide it. I would also get a big, light colored area rug to cover some of that carpet so the floor is lighter. I grew up in a home that had those exact walls and I learned to hate them, haha, and when my cousin moved in she painted them and it really brightened up the place, but paint isn’t always the answer. Good luck!

  50. Initially, (and before I read any of the comments) I thought painted/wallpapered insulation board faux walls, but the more I think about it… Don’t cover it up! It IS only one room, after all. Embrace the challenge of decorating around a “less than desirable” situation! Get some midcentury modern furniture and work it. Swinging lounge, man! But PLEASE, for Pete’s sake, please, update those drapes, first thing. Post haste. 😉

  51. Oh, and childbirth. My c-sec was a breeze. But can I skip the 9 months of being preggo, please? K, thanks.

  52. Whitewash it, hide it with panels, and childbirth. Middle school, and the accompanying hair fiascos (scrunchies!!!) was too awful to revisit.


  53. Actually, that is pretty pricey and coveted true wood paneling called Pickwick paneling. And one day again soon, it will be all the rage again, swear. We had this in a house circa 1951 and someone had painted it prior to our purchase. Let me tell you, the very best Ben Moore paint that money can buy cannot keep the paint from cracking with changes in temp and humidity. I’d paint the ceiling a brighter white, add lots of white Expedit giant shelving units and it will recede. And one day, wHen they’re old and gray, they’ll say, remember our fIrst little love nest with all the wood paneling? Ah, Those were some good days!

  54. I’m feeling much better that many people chose childbirth over middle school! Love the ideas 🙂

  55. We had dark paneling so we painted it. But I taped off some of it to make a family tree. h here’s my blogpost about my process:

    Obviously since she’s renting she can’t do that. I like the idea of big art or lots of art (using command strips instead of nails). Updated curtains will help a ton too.

  56. I’m not sure if I would do the curtains in the room because it seems small in square feet. The curtains might feel like its eating away at the square footage. I think the hanging of bright artwork and light colored (probably white) furniture would help the space a lot. Also, the window seems quite big. If you got rid of the curtains and had no blinds it would add so much light and make the room feel bigger and brighter.

  57. OK, I’m a little late in chiming in, but I’ll post this in case anyone else has the same situation. I’ve never done it, but I’ve heard you can just use fabric, get it wet with ordinary starch, and smooth is onto the walls. When you’re done, just peel it off. If someone is renting, I think I’d try a small section first 🙂

  58. Has anyone mentioned using mirrors? Lots of them? They really double the light and give the illusion of space.

  59. 1. I love the curtains.
    2. I love the white or cream furniture look to work with it.
    3. middle school. why? even with childbirth you have to go through middle school.

  60. Pure curiosity…any updates on their decisions?

  61. I vote embrace it! There is so much potential. Add rustic pieces like old windows ( ) doors, go crazy with DIY shelves from old flooring or the pallet trend and go BRIGHT AND MODERN with window treatments and seating/furniture. ( )

  62. I had an orange kitchen countertop, think Brady Bunch, for years. I embraced it and threw a bunch of red at it. Sometimes that is all you can do. I say big art, even make your own large print with fabric or wallpaper patterns that coordinate around the room. Use styrofoam or drywall. Let the paneling show through 3-4 inches between. It will give a frame effect. Keep it the patterns soft and light.

  63. Just embrace the woods-get some houseplants, ivy/ferns or make some trees (branches with fake leaves in a pot) , throw warm but bright colors in fabric or art on walls and maybe leather chairs and a fake fireplace but avoid clutter and lots of stuff. That’s what I did-plants make all the difference and I love that room now!

  64. We also have two rooms (the master and laundry) that are paneled. We haven’t asked our landlords about painting, because we’re honestly scared to. But I replaced heavy closet doors with a textured white curtain, purchased a mostly white duvet cover from Ikea, painted the side tables and large mirror a pale “pistachio” green, and made a gallery wall of white frames. It lightened up the space quite a bit, and hopefully I can replace our dark brown dresser with something lighter in the near future.

    Did I mention the room only has one window? Kill me now.

    • Kay Thompson says:

      I would put floor to ceiling drapes in some light neutral solid texture weave or large graphic print, tone on tone , on the window wall. As this looks like a den I would put the back wall where any media would be viewed in large book cases painted antique white and fill with books and large accessories with some bright tones ( orange, turquoise and browns), sort of the colors of the pine wood era. Then the other solid wall I’d attach grasscloth to foam core and nail to walls in the corners…easy to remove, or just by bolts of linen type fabric the same background d color of the drapes OR do the large gallery idea. Put in a light shaggy type rug as lage as possible. Use good lighting (ie lamps not overhead) and you’re all set.
      And ps. I had a ball in middle school for some crazy reason, although my pictures are scary so guess I’d vote for that over having to put another child thru teenage years 🙂

  65. Childbirth…

  66. Along the lines of giant wall art, but less galleria, what about hanging a quilt? My mother quilts and goes to shows and expos. This is how I found out quilts hanging is a thing. They can be very simple or beautifully ornate, but cover large sections of wall easily. They’re like curtains with character.

  67. mommy2boys says:

    Home depot has a paintable wall paper that is pre-glued very easy to remove. Its cheap, around 24″x50′ under $15 a roll. Great for renting. If you want a more permanent solution use a wallpaer adhesive too. Just make sure to be careful once wet it rips easily so make your cuts first.

  68. Cool designs man

    • I’ve lived in basements, storerooms, garages and who knows what….. while building or remodeling houses. I have a king size sheets that I cover walls and ceilings with. Works great and very portable.

  69. Our home was built in 1972, so the den paneling isn’t even a nicer knotty pine. Yikes! So, for a temporary solution, we did the opposite of lightening it up with white paint or covering it. After thoroughly cleaning the paneling, we stained it the darkest dark ebony walnut we could find. The result is an easy, inexpensive, yet cozy look. This filled in old scratches and masked the imperfections. Next we will devote a wall to family photos (black & white in simple frames).

  70. First I must say, you are freakin funny lady! Cracked me up despite my cramps AND gave me some ideas to digest. I’m in a similar situation… Moved to our FIRST house and we’re just in love with it BUUUUT the “den”(our master) is covered in not only wood paneling but wood LAMINATE! *insert shrill eeeek* Here was my quick fix (almost free) solution and I hope it helps… I decided to make our bedroom the “earth and metal room” by bringing in tons of mirrors, decorating the mantle with crystals, quartz, petrified wood (thank you Geologist Uncle Ed), a bohemoth antiqued mirror, mirrored vases with orchids, and large metallic statement sign. We change up the bedding often for pops of color. Don’t be afraid of duvet covers, they’re a great solution to storage and fit in the washer plus they tend to be cheaper than comforters. Until we get used to paying bills we are keeping it cheap with DIY and hand me downs (such as a large metal piece of wall art in colors of green, orange, copper, and terracotta from my mom). We intend on painting it in the future, but will be hiring someone who knows exactly how to paint laminate. I hope this helps yall! I’ve since learned that having an earthy metallic room in your house is good for fung shui (however it is spelled).

  71. I love the idea of large art!! I want to paint ut…hub says no….large art is brilliant

  72. We have a knotty pine cottage in northern Michigan. The walls AND ceilings are knotty pine. Except in the kitchen/dining area. That is knotty pine walls and white drop ceiling. The carpet is a commercial type berber. The cabinets are white but will be painted eventually. We are looking to change the flooring. Thinking about a porcelain tile that is wood looking. Our question is what colors should we be looking at? White or light colors?

    Or a darker reclaimed wood type…

    Any ideas would help. Thanks!

  73. If it’s the same as mine … It’s not paneling it’s real wood. We have decided that curtains cover parts but paint is the only way out. Just not sure how paint will work over stained wood.

  74. So, what did this lovely couple end up doing? I’d really love to see the “after” picture!

  75. crimsonpoppy says:

    So I live in this rental house, very 70’s with two tones of false wood paneling. The lighter golden pine-esk type is okay, but the other is a very, very dark brown closer to black. My family and I are here all day most days, and Im maybe more mood sensitive to the heavy dark walls but I even get creeped out by it despite knowing it’s silly. My 3 1/2 yr old had a very rough time of her bed being moved and eventually told us the dark wall was terrifying her and causing bad dreams… We cant paint, even if they LL permited, it would be costly and a stressful project. What we did for the lil one is tape up a bunch of artwork, hers and ours, covering as much dark around her bed as we could. Immediately it helped, really made her feel and sleep better. What I did for the whole room is hang bright light yellow curtains, the cheap cotton ones that add a cheery filter to grey mornings, and hung a “tapestry” in sunset colours with bold black print of faeries on the dark wall in the middle of the room using a few nails and twin with curtain ring-clips. Both cheap options, though the tapestry type cloth was $50 or so years back.
    Why has it taken me so long to hack curtain rods? I know cheap ones exist but they are crap. Two fair nails and a small one in the middle for support, twine from one end to the other, and curtain hooks over twine(or rope). Boom! Curtains! 😀

    I have heard about pasting large sheets of cloth with flour and water, applied like wall paper. Has anyone done this? I think up here it would cost more than paint, fabric being costly, but maybe the true thrift shops have some nice old sheets… I’m imagining that old classic pink country rose print, for a vintage bedroom look 🙂

    Someone said everyone has to experience middle school, but one could have childbirth and not middle school, in fact I know of people who did.
    I’d pick childbirth, because middle school was 3yrs of prolonged hell for me, with very little gained and “active” child birth was all of 15 min of searing agony with the result being the greatest joy in my life, the pivotal moment, the first time I ever really wanted to be alive. The moment middle school taught me to dread, fear, and avoid at all costs until college, job, marriage, and house were all well in hand. Things I will likely never have or achieve but do not want or need, for those things bind while I can be free.

  76. I love you all! Thank you. Moved across the country, in with the boyfriend and to an entire house of fabulous 70s dark wood paneling. Paint fumes trigger MS relapses. I felt limited in what I could do. And then I found this post. Seriously, thank you for all the ideas. : )

  77. You can spray starch fabric onto walls, but when they want it gone, it’ll peel right off. Just wash the walls afterward to get rid of the residue.

  78. shelbi bonnaville says:

    Hey! I just moved into a new house this week and I need some design tips! All the walls are dark wood paneling, from the stairs on up the floors are PAINTED an awful brown, and my kitchen is a dirty white. I’m not allowed to paint, but if I can’t figure out how to decorate, I’ll just paint it anyway..

  79. Our whole home is actually wood panelling. A lighter color than pictured, and i actually love the charm it adds to our home. To offset it there is plenty of white. Our home came with ceiling tiles that we’ll be replacing with sheetrock in the near future but the ceiling is white. Our flooring is a light eggshell carpet and some old white laminate that we’ll be replacing with tile.

    The best ways I’ve found to brighten up the rooms are as follows:

    1. Use as much of the natural lighting as possible. If you have a big window, use it!

    2. Use brighter colors as accents. Our guest room is a light blue and cream which actually seems to bring a lot of life to an otherwise dull area, especially given that the bed frame and dresser are stained antiques.

    3. If you have to go darker, use a light accent color. Such as if you want a deep ruby color sofa, throw in some cream or white throw pillows or blankets.

    Turn the “horror” of wood panelling into a “country cabin” feel.

  80. I would like to use luaun for paneling as the grain is pretty, but it is rather dark. How can it be lightened?

  81. I realize this is an old post, but I would love to add my twist and get whatever insight anyone has – PLEASE!

    I have a larger room with the exact same dark wood paneling as Stephanie and Travis but the previous owner loved it so much they also put it on the ceiling! There are 2 small recessed skylights but even on a bright day the sunlight is just sucked away by the dark wood. Oh, and it’s a slanted ceiling where it goes from normal height upwards – not cathedral, but close enough. It’s a whole lotta dark.

    I have to do something but it has to be on a tight budget. I love the ideas posted for the walls – any thoughts for the ceiling?

  82. i came to your site and the article “Reader Questions: How to handle dark wood paneling?” i have dark panelling throughout my small mobile home. i was looking for window treatment ideas. your posting in response to the reader’s question included a photo of a room with white curtains that have horizontal brown stripes. any idea what company the photo or curtains came from … i cannot even find fabric like that and it is perfect for my situation. thanks !


  1. […] The home renting wood paneling rooms, mention brown carpeting living room unhappy coincidence, . Click here How hide flat panel tv wall paneling, How hide flat panel tv wall paneling. create custom […]

Speak Your Mind


Back to top          Privacy Policy          Copyright © 2013 View Along the Way. All rights reserved.          Contact Me