Residential Color and Style from a Certified True Color Expert.

But my husband won’t paint the paneling!


Above: beautifully painted paneling instantly updates a formerly heavy room.

In my residential styling and color consulting business, I see a lot of paneled wood rooms. Sometimes they are beautiful, but more often, they are not. If you are a woman reading this, you probably know this already: Men do not like to paint paneling. In fact, they really don’t like to paint anything that is wood. Even the merest hint of grain is enough to squelch any desire to paint that surface. Although I laugh when I say this, I am serious: it is in their DNA.

Are all paneled rooms in need of paint?  No, but when my eye tells me that the room looks too dated/dark/dreary to work with the existing wood tones, I will usually pull out my fan deck of  colors and look for the right color to paint. And what I generally find, is that the wife agrees (either on the spot or eventually) that it should be painted, but the husband won’t hear of it.

After a master bedroom addition, the dark little library/den (below, now painted) was no longer at the end of the house, and had become the pass-through to the master area. It was more about “flow.”  In this case, I mean color flow, not traffic flow. I wanted the house to  flow nicely from the light-colored living room, through to the light blue master suite. But, the dark paneled (very small) library with its dark interior shutters was preventing proper color flow.  What does the husband  say now? “I wish I had done this a long time ago.”

Color flow is important, and lack of color flow can really chop up a house. Below, the formerly dark paneled little library is now a sunny sitting room which flows nicely from living room on one side into the master bedroom on the other. The only panels here are the silk ones on the windows. The morning light, blocked before by dated wooden shutters, now comes streaming in.

Notice all the millwork is painted one neutral color, the same color as the adjoining living room (Benjamin Moore Monroe Bisque HC-26 ). By the way, good paneling takes paint beautifully, and looks much nicer and more substantial than SheetRock.

Sitting room painted millwork Image ©Color Calling.

Sitting room painted millwork Image ©Color Calling

Now you walk from one light-filled space into another. There is now visual harmony and color flow in the space, as you walk from the living room through the sitting room and into the master area.

Adjoining pale blue bedroom Image ©Color Calling
The living room paneling in this lovely older home,  below, has clearly been painted from an earlier incarnation:

Above Source:

Can you see how the above room now has wonderful visual harmony? The paneling was obviously very nicely done in its wood-grained state, but now it looks fresh and updated, not dark and dreary. Do you think the above room looks any less worthy of attention just because it now has a painted surface instead of  its former wood (and wood-colored) surface?

Here is a little test:  If  the paneling in your own home looks at all like any of these rooms below, it is dated. Please let me gently tell you this again. It is dated.


Above  images


The ceiling height in the living room  is very low to be using accent paneling, and the paneling is not adding to any sort of harmony in either room. Can you see that although the paneling itself is not awful, the visual impact of the paneling is truly terrible? It does nothing for either room. There is no visual harmony in this living room or in the bath above it.

The paneling above has a strong pink undertone. Although this paneling is shown in a current advertisement, this look actually has been dated for decades. I can’t think of a single instance in which I would not advise painting paneling with either strong pink or strong orange undertones. This look just isn’t ever going to come back.

Source: via Ellen on Pinterest

Here, the paneled wood is clearly fighting the white fireplace. This is another good example of a room where the paneling itself isn’t terrible, but it is preventing visual harmony in the room.

A “before and after,” for your viewing pleasure.

Before, and yes, there are people who won’t paint even this low grade of paneling:

After, fortunately, this owner wasn’t one of them.
And, yes, this really is the same room:

Once again, does every paneled room need to be painted? No. But, if your paneled room is either dated, is chopping up color flow,  or simply does not have visual harmony, give some real thought to painting it.With gentle guidance from a trustworthy professional, or even from a trusted friend with a great decorating eye, you can move forward.

So, are you letting dated paneling hold you back from having the best possible look and feel for your own home?

Happy decorating!

3 responses

  1. wow — on that last illustration it is hard to believe it is the same room! Did they paint the brick, too, or sheetrock over it?

    April 18, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    • It looks like a trusty coat of paint, Carol. That room was not my work, though I heartily approve of the results!

      April 18, 2012 at 9:15 pm

      • well, it’s an excellent reminder of the power of paint!

        April 18, 2012 at 10:56 pm

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