How can I update paneling in my home?

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Hi hi! I’m about to close on a big mid century home with lots of wood paneling. It’s an awesome old house, and was built by a builder for his own family, so the original quality is amazing. But the house has hardly been touched since (except for an unfortunate early ‘90s kitchen update). So everything is pretty dated. I have a decent renovation budget, but definitely not enough to do everything I want right away. And, I want to respect/restore the cool original vibe of the home, while making it a fresh, pleasant place for my family to live. So, with that rambling intro, WHAT THE HECK DO I DO WITH ALL THIS PANELING?!?! My ideas are: 1) paint the family room white, but leave the entry paneling as is.2) leave all the wood paneling, and instead focus on refinishing the floors. I like the cool black slate, but maybe bleach out, whitewash, or even paint the floors white, to get rid of the yellowish tones and provide high-definition contrast with the dark walls. 3) whiten the floors, but paint the entry white, leave the family room as is. This is probably the most expensive option. I could do it, it just means cutting some other corners. In any case, I’m planning to replace the light fixtures in the entry, probably with a 4’ Moravian star chandelier, and then some sort of complimentary sconces - any ideas for those are also very welcome! I’m also considering putting a cool wallpaper on the entry ceilings - leaning toward a cobalt/navy with gold stars, like you would find in an old church. Finally, someone suggested we paint the handrail on the balustrade high-gloss black, to blend with/highlight the cool ironwork. What sort of window treatments would you suggest in the family room? I’m leaning toward white drapes if we leave the wood, or simple blinds if we paint it. Thoughts? Other ideas? I’m not much of a designer, and MCM is totally new to me, so a project of this size is pretty overwhelming to me! Thanks for any help!!

q wood paneling help

Family room

q wood paneling help

Reverse view of family room

q wood paneling help

Upper level of the foyer

q wood paneling help

Main level foyer. The front door is straight ahead, on the right is the kitchen (destined for a white makeover with bright colorful accents), and the paneled family room is on the left.

  10 answers
  • Oliva Oliva on Nov 10, 2018

    Hi, Maszola,

    Fabulous home! You are sooo envied!


    Given the styling, if you have sufficient privacy, you could go minimalist with window coverings in family room. Blinds can be a royal P.I.A. to keep clean, unless they're between the glass.

    Typically draperies were fuller (2.5 to 3x the width of rod, plus returns), made of top grade fabrics, lined, with buckram in the headers, 4-6" hems, mitered at corners, and traverse styled.


    See "www.antiquehouse ofhardware.com" for sconces, as well as other MCM lighting.


    Are the floors oak? That was typical of the period, but whitewashing would lighten the effect, since you want to get rid of yellow tones.


    Paint some paneling, but leave the woodwork on the wall closest to the doorway as is (reverse view of Fam. Rm.) to provide a focal point.

    Your staircases are stunning! The fact that you have a great deal of light emitted from the front window plus a white ceiling minimizes any dark effect.

    It appears that some of the light fixtures have yellow tones, which mimic the floor tones, which was typical of the period.

    Obtaining some books on MCM will help you. You should have a year of fun ahead of you. Are you decorating with MCM furniture, as well? Please post photos as work progresses.

    Your home is so amazing. What a special find!

    • Mazsola Mazsola on Nov 10, 2018

      Thank you! I’m sure I will be back with updates, pictures, and lots more questions and we really dive into this project! I agree that I’m less concerned about the darkness in the entry, because the rest of the house beyond these two spaces is very light and bright. I honestly don’t remember what kind of wood the floors are made of - I’ll have to see if my husband remembers!


      Thanks so much for your thoughts. I particularly like considering leaving the windows naked - nice window treatments are expensive and a pain to take care of! I’m moving from an urban neighborhood full of rowhouses and TONS of foot traffic, so it never occurred to me that I might not need something to block out the peepers! But this is on a very quiet street and set back behind trees! Ah, suburbia - we might get along better than I thought! 😂😂😂

  • Susan Oswald Susan Oswald on Nov 10, 2018

    WOW, I love it. Just accessorize with vibrant color and texture in furnishings. This mid century look is amazing. It is fabulous and by leaving windows with the outdoor scene and seasonal changes in view it would be the nearest room ever.

  • Debi53 Debi53 on Nov 10, 2018

    First of all, I'm totally jealous of your amazing home! MCM is my favorite style. You can paint the panelling, but it will tend to give a cottage look-which is pretty, but probably not the look you're going for. You could also use anaglypta paper to cover the paneling. Here's a link to help you with ideas: https://www.dwell.com/discover/11%20amazing%20midcentury%20renovations


    • Mazsola Mazsola on Nov 10, 2018

      Thank you! I’ve never heard of that paper - I’ll definitely check it out. And yes - I love the cottage vibe, but it does NOT work in this space. What a fantastic collection of resources in those articles - I’m sure I’ll find some amazing inspiration!

  • Deb K Deb K on Nov 10, 2018

    Hi Maszola, Wow!! What a beautiful home! I like you idea of updating the lighting, that way you can upgrade to LED as well as updating the look. I would get a weathered gray whitewash and concentrate on the paneling after doing the lighting. You can do a whiter one in the entry to ensure it is bright. The rails look in good condition, and myself I would leave them in the lighter color and just paint the hand rail part in a color like charcoal gray, too many time metal railings are always black. the flooring looks to be in great condition, so I would do a large area rug in the living room and large area rugs throughout, woo floor are always in fashion.

    Window treatments you should do with a modern flair like roller blinds.

    So, if you do the gray wash on the walls, white window trim and gray blinds, and area rugs in a gray or color that compliments your furniture it will be a timeless color scheme that will allow you to change furniture colors without have to paint and get new carpeting. Hope this helps- post pictures once you are done please

  • Kit Kit on Nov 10, 2018

    I think if you paint the paneling then the floors will look less yellow and you may really like them the way they are. I would not do anything for the first few months to the paneling. Live with it and then decide how much you want to paint. Hire someone with a solid background in design just for a couple hours worth of ideas. Once they give you various

    design tips you can pick and choose what is right for you and move at your own pace. I recently purchased a home with some paneling and knew before I ever moved in that the paneling had to be painted. It made all the difference in that room but in your case you have lots of natural light so you can just take your time and decide after living awhile in the home. Enjoy the journey at your own pace.

    • Mazsola Mazsola on Nov 10, 2018

      What a great idea to hire a designer just for a consultation! I didn’t even know that’s an option. And I know it’s a smart idea to live in a space before making major changes. But I’m going to have to cultivate some patience if that’s going to happen 😂😂😂

  • Edie Edie on Nov 10, 2018

    Wow, nice room! You will see two camps..."don't touch that wood" or "paint it now". I'm always fearful of painting wood...it is very expensive to replace and designers are now using it again as accent walls, and every house is white...yours is fortunate to be different. I would use use some of your budget on large, quality, light color area rugs and leave the durable good condition wood and stone. Put your budget in baths and kitchen surfaces first. Totally investigate light fabrics, leather, mirror, glass and shiny metallic to play down the darkness of the wood. If mine, I would reface/paint below that counter area. Love your chandelier, gloss black and wallpaper ideas. Lovely home!

    • See 3 previous
    • Mazsola Mazsola on Nov 10, 2018

      Thank you!!

  • Dwp7470b Dwp7470b on Nov 10, 2018

    That is Beautiful! High Quality Materials never are Dated nor Go Out of Style! Pricy too. You will not find anything at General Purpose Hardware Stores to Replace them. Ever.

    So, my Advice is: Praise the Lord, Appreciate what you have. ALOT. Let the Floors and Walls Quality Speak for themself, in Time, as they are. This is what Decors, Paintings, Family Portraits, Area Carpets and Oriental Rugs are for:


    A. Bringing colors that you like into an already beautiful wooded or neutral area.

    B. Eased Variety of Colors, when to change the Appearance, all you do is roll up the first Carpet with Drapes Set and Roll out the Second Set.


    Congrats on your purchase! The available Add-Ons of Carpets, Couches and Drapes are Endless.

  • Roberta Rhodes Roberta Rhodes on Nov 11, 2018

    Some of that paneling is not handmade. I would modernize the family room and leave the handmade paneling details. Good suggestion on modernizing the lighting!! This will brighten up the paneled walls.

  • Michelle Michelle on Nov 11, 2018

    Cool house check out this site as well Retro Renovation site is for folks seeking retro items, ideas etc

  • Christierei Christierei on Nov 12, 2018

    I like the picture from the foyer. If the plan is for a white kitchen, then I would paint the family room white also. Leave the floors alone. The family room will probably have several rugs to differentiate areas. Rugs and furniture will cover up a lot of it. Right now it looks like a huge area but will look different with decor, rugs furniture etc. The house isn't all original ( family room lighting). Take some time to see what is orig and what isn't. RE: curtains. You may not need them, but they would break up some of the big expanse of paneling. If you leave the paneling dark all the way through the foyer, you could have fun with oversized artwork and a leaning mirror.

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