Residential Color and Style from a Certified True Color Expert.

painted paneling

How to use repetition in your entry hall

We’ll look today at interior entries and foyers, and the importance of repeating shapes, colors and motifs for unifying the space.

So, let’s look at what works with interior entries/foyers, from grand to humble. And for clarity, I’ll mention a few things that in my opinion don’t work.

ABOVE: We have a nod to the water with the vintage photograph of an outrigger. I would guess that with the millwork and dark floors and hydrangeas, that this home in in the Hamptons.  Why does this work so well?  From a color perspective, it is the repetition of the color black. Two pieces of substantial ebonized furniture, black floor, black melon stools, black iron strapping and chain on the bell jar light, black handrail on the stairs, black and white photo, etc.  Beautifully done.
ABOVE, another example of repetition of the color black, not as pleasing as the first one above, in my opinion.  The heavy iron scroll-work of the stair is too lyrical for the graphic geometric black and yellow-white flooring.  The copper sconce lighting flanking the door into the parlor is completely ill-placed, and competes/clashes with the brass finish of the stair rail and the gilding of the accent chair. The lonely chair doesn’t take up enough visual space in the area. It doesn’t make sense there. Repeating the geometric shapes  of the picture wall and flooring on the iron work would definitely help unify this space.
Above, the overall look is stylistically right. Very nice look. Great proportions and geometric repetition. If I had to find fault here, I would say that the paint shouldn’t be all high-gloss. I find all that glossiness a bit distracting.  The Oriental rug is a warm and inviting counterpoint.
What do you think of this one, below? I happen to think it works nicely. I love the repetition of movement and curvy lines in the rug, painting, and platter, also repeated in the table joinery and chairs. Gorgeous warm wall color with the wood, possibly Benjamin Moore HC-36, Hepplewhite Ivory, repeated in the rug and in the painting.


 I personally find the coloration more than a little lifeless, but I do like the dark sculpture of the woman against the left wall. I think the sculpture is stunning. The overall balance of light and dark in the space is amazingly well-done. But, gray MUST have a color to bring it to life. That is what is lacking here.

SIMPLE AND BEAUTIFUL, above. A great example of  good design that probably didn’t cost a fortune.  What is repeated here?

WATER REFERENCE:  See the subtle reference to the ocean in the coral print pillows and the jaunty black and white photograph? Both repeating the reference to the water. Just enough.

VERTICAL LINES: The slats on the settee repeat the vertical lines of the tongue in groove panels and the vertical border of the rug. Also, the center pillow has a strong vertical motif.

BALL/CIRCLE MOTIF: The circles on the two end settee pillows repeat the balls of the little sconce. Are you seeing that when things are repeated, they are more pleasing to the eye?

COLOR HARMONY:  The pale blue wall is perfect with the pinky-beige paver tiles. No clashing undertones in this humble but lovely space.

Above, BRITISH COLONIAL-INSPIRED PERFECTION. Stunning. I love every single rich detail. The dark brown mahogany color is repeated four times, five including the iron lantern. The Starburst motif in the glass transom repeats the shape of the palm tree just outside, and references the shape of the lantern top as well. My favorite of all these!



However, they should have repeated the black, on the door. The ash finish of the wood door is off, it needs to be black.The countrified rust and beige check coloration on the relaxed-Roman shade comes out of nowhere, do you agree? I think a cozy ebonized settee with a soft cushion covered in a rich emerald green (cue color from the oil painting) would be much prettier and more welcoming than the oddly place round table, and would have kept your eye away from the A/C return vent.  And, if I were styling this entry, I would certainly add a rug. Additionally, I find the flooring a tad busy since it is stained a different way than the stair. P.S. I hate rounded door hinges. See prior post on Does your Million Dollar Home have $2 hinges?.

I would paint out the return vent, above (see how it is glaring black behind the console?), but love the shape of the barrel vault repeated in the arched back door and the arches underneath the console. The end sweep of the curve of the banister repeats the shape again, as do all the curvy/round accessories. As a color specialist, though, I would have suggested a wallpaper for the top portion of the walls above the millwork. This space needs a little more interest, possibly a muted Jacobean motif wallpaper on the upper walls.

NEVER OBSTRUCT YOUR STAIRS, but otherwise love this rustic rear entry, below. Can you name the two main repetitions used here to nice effect?

FARMHOUSE PERFECTION, below. Repeating the color black again here. I could just die over the iron door strapping and original hardware. The arch of the bookcase references the ellipses in the transom, and repeats in the lantern as well. The strong vertical lines of the tongue in groove paneling, stair spindles, and bench spindles work perfectly. The rug has motifs which reference each of these.

Are you using repetition in your entry-way to best effect?  Can you think of anything your entryway has that you could repeat another time or two?  Which one of these entries do you like most, do you have a personal favorite?

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!