Asked on Aug 13, 2014

What to do with paneling in a dated living room?

Tamara Copple
by Tamara Copple
This is my living room. I love the fireplace-flanking book shelves and the vaulted ceiling but it is a cavern. The skylight shaft doesn't let in much light, and the south wall is taken up by shelves. Mostly though I really don't know what to do with the 3/4" thick walnut stained paneling on the remaining 3 walls. Our neighbors painted theirs white and it looks awful. I am looking for ideas on where to begin to brighten and update this circa 1979 living room. Help!
west wall - the sliding doors go to the patio and are drafty.
East wall. The skylight shaft goes up 5 to 7 feet to the roof so the light makes the dark living room feel more like a dungeon with a oubliette hatch than a gathering place.
  97 answers
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Aug 13, 2014
    3/4" Walnut! Oh my! I think I would find someone who might want to buy this fantastic wood...maybe a reclaimed wood company in your area. Paneling can be floated out with sheetrock mud to fill the grooves, sanded and painted...we did ours 15 years ago and love it! You have to Kilz the paneling before you paint. Pick a color much like you would pick for any other room in your home. Once done, it looks just like sheetrock. (Check on what kind of finish you have to determine if you need oil base or latex Kilz and paint.)
  • Tamara Copple Tamara Copple on Aug 13, 2014
    I agree - it's high quality stuff but it is so dated! I'm at a loss. Thanks for the advice though.
  • Gayla Gayla on Aug 13, 2014
    I painted & faux glazed mine. Love it and have never looked back
  • Elizabeth E Elizabeth E on Aug 13, 2014
    Some people do a bad job of painting....don't let that discourage you. Id paint half of it. My choice would be the beams, trim and bookcases , leaving the walls as a feature and brightening the room. Id paint the backs of the bookcases a blue to pop another color into the room. We have a house of honey oak here and while the trim is low grade the turned open staircase I want to make it pop out. SO the plan is to paint the trim while and the kick trim under the rails but leave the banister and rails natural. Brightens things up and shows off the wood better as a focus. Hope this helps!
  • Janette Janette on Aug 15, 2014
    Paint it, Annie Sloan style and live in the light...good luck..xx
  • Sue White Sue White on Aug 15, 2014
    You can always paint the top half and put bead board around the middle to separate it. I did that to our house before and it looked wonderful. I also put up material on the wall, I did this by putting up a tack strip at the top with the material draped down it. Everyone thought it was beautiful and it can be taken down anytime you want to.
  • Wanda Birge Jones Wanda Birge Jones on Aug 15, 2014
    I painted mine a taupe color with white trim and it looked awesome
  • White Oak Studio Designs White Oak Studio Designs on Aug 15, 2014
    I've seen this paneling before and after painting and you can hardly tell its the same room. Be sure to prime well and then top coat. You room will look filled with light!
  • Donna Shipley Donna Shipley on Aug 15, 2014
    My sister's home has "Solatube Skylights" (http://www.solatube.com/) they magnify the daylight so much that I kept forgeting and looking for a light switch to turn them off when leaving a room. I really love real wood and would remove & replace or just lighten up everything else and leave it alone.
  • Lynne Heller Lynne Heller on Aug 15, 2014
    Sell it! It's far too good quality to paint over. You can hire someone to remove it and replace with sheetrock. Boards would probably more than pay for having the work done.
  • Gloria Duy Gloria Duy on Aug 15, 2014
    I just saw this paneling in a Country Club. They had lightly painted it with a cream color paint, sanded it and stained over. It looked like a million bucks.
  • Katie Lloyd Mansfield Katie Lloyd Mansfield on Aug 15, 2014
    I would scrape off the popcorn, white wash the beams and paint everything else. I have had painted paneling before and it looks great if it is done correctly. The space above the wall should be painted the same as the paneling. If you decided to remove it there might not be sheet rock behind it.
  • Dianna Wood Dianna Wood on Aug 15, 2014
    Although I am pro-painting paneling; I would say NO in this case. If I were renovating this room, I would paint the fireplace and the bookcases to match in a antique white; leave the paneled wall and the open beams; and hang a really large (48"X48") canvas picture on the paneled wall. Wow! Wish I had this before to work with. Here are some painted fireplace ideas: http://www.houzz.com/painted-fireplace/p/8
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    • Tamara Copple Tamara Copple on Aug 15, 2014
      @Bessie Ashby , I agree - all the furniture has to be replaced. When I finally get started on this, I'm starting completely over.
  • Nancy C Nancy C on Aug 15, 2014
    Would it be easy to either take off the paneling and put up drywall (or drywall over the panel)? That would lighten it up quite a bit...then you could decide if you want to paint the bookcases, etc. Also, you can hire a decorator/designer by the hour and have him/her come to your house and give you advise...a friend of mine did that when she couldn't decide whether or not to paint her brick house and the gal told her to do it and picked out the color and it turned out awesome!
  • Bonnie S Bonnie S on Aug 15, 2014
    We painted ours and looks so much better. However we still have good knotty pine in the front half of the house..varnished. Will not touch that. We live int he woods so it is quite fitting
  • Tobey McCool Tobey McCool on Aug 15, 2014
    I personally would have the beams painted to look like old wooden beams, I would paint the wood paneling a light grey, get rid of the carpet go with hardwood, paint the bookshelves white and add doors to the bottom or top of the shelves and just clean up the brick on the fireplace and replace the fire screen. I am including two pics I found with a similar look. I am including one pic with the beams painted in case you don't like the wood look. good luck
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  • Amy Kaminski Amy Kaminski on Aug 15, 2014
    I agree with Tobey. Leave the beams and paint the paneling. We've done in it a couple of rooms in our Summer cottage and it made an amazing difference. Took two coats of paint/primer combo and has held up very well. I'd paint the shelving as well. Go one step at a time and you will see a huge difference and not feel the pinch so much.
  • Tris Smith Tris Smith on Aug 15, 2014
    Remove paneling and paint old white or paint over paneling. Paint ceiling old white. Bring in some bright accent colors. Maybe white wash the fire place.
  • Jjaycee Jjaycee on Aug 15, 2014
    I'm the odd one out here. This looks like a much used Family room and from the toy table by the sofa, there is a small child. I know the present trend is to (mostly cheap) laminate. It is cold (kids play on the floor), noisy just to walk across and in a playroom would be very disruptive.. There are no signs of any attempt to accessories in this room. We see only an overhead fixture-no lamps. No flower arrangement to soften the very manly looking room. Nothing on the walls to take away from the dark of the panelling. There would be some very inexpensive changes to make this room less gloomy without destroying the expensive panelling, wood beams and brick.
  • F P Spillers F P Spillers on Aug 15, 2014
    Our house had ghastly paneling when we moved here 23 years ago. We have painted it many times with varying results. My favorite was when I decided to wallpaper the hall and dining room. YES It can be done. I got the products at Lowe's. First use a can of the substance to fill in the grooves, sand smooth, and then paint on the gel which makes the wallpaper adhere. It has stayed on and no sign of grooves. My husband also put up a lightly stained oak wainscoting. I love to paint, but if you can't find a color, check out the wallpaper books. I would paint the ceiling and beams the same light color.
  • Vera H Vera H on Aug 15, 2014
    I had paneling in my old house and really disliked it. So I bought some of that textured wallpaper(with many different designs to choose from), place it half way down and trimmed with chair rail. Painted it to match my decor and loved it!!!! Gave the room a bead board look.....
  • Rosemary Dixon Rosemary Dixon on Aug 15, 2014
    I am a big fan of beautiful ,real wood. What is wrong with a dark room? This looks like a library and maybe you could add floor lamps or table lamps. If mine, I would not paint it because the pictures look like expensive wood. If not, then paint.
  • Dorothy Dorothy on Aug 15, 2014
    3/4 inch thick paneling probably has some value beyond just being wall covering...I'd carefully remove it, put it up for sale by the foot or reuse somewhere else, and replace with sheetrock and then tape/mud and possibly texture. The homeowners where I live had some horrid old 4 x 8 panel sheets on the walls (a dark walnut, the kind with grooves), a dark brick fireplace and aged carpeting. Ripped out the carpet and put in a dark hickory laminate so the entire room (with one window) was REALLY dark. However we took joint compound and a spackle blade and covered the paneling with an adobe like texture, let it cure for about a week, primed it (got some bleed through from the paneling to the joint compound) and then painted a light taupe/greenish/sage color. Now the fireplace stands out nicely and the room has a more rustic look to it...and the paint choice is interesting as it appears to change tone a lot depending on the light but all of them are earthy/neutral.
  • Sue D Sue D on Aug 15, 2014
    I live in a 1968 ranch with a vaulted ceiling with dark stained beams on the ceiling and paneled wals. The previous owner painted the paneling white. We got a decorator to choose a new color- she chose a grey-beige light color- I think she tried to match the fireplace grout. We had your beige carpeting and have replaced it with age with wood flooring that matches the beams. I bought a mantle and my husband stained it to match the beams and floor. It feels complete and balance to me due to the repetition of the floor,beams and mantle.
  • Lindamangham Lindamangham on Aug 15, 2014
    Nice Room! I'd repurpose the paneling for sure if you don't want it on your walls. Could be your new flooring!! But if you don't want to do that,either add some wooden architecture to the walls or cover with drywall. For sure at least paint the drywall wall/ceilings already existing into a happy color. maybe change the doors to French doors, or at least give them new treatments. Then add architecture to the fireplace mantel with corbels or something, also replacing the fireplace screen. Really needs a new look there! Change the light fixture. Paint or paper the walls in the builtins, then of course, new deco around the room. Hope this helps! Good luck!
  • Tamara Copple Tamara Copple on Aug 15, 2014
    Thank you for all the really good suggestions. The paneling is tongue-and-groove so it really is 'the good stuff'. That also means (as someone suggested) that there is nothing but studs behind it, so drywall would be a must. The living room looks sad and unattended because, well, it is. When we moved in we had to add lights to the ceiling fan because all they had was the skylight and a couple of table lamps. I *will* have to call in a lighting expert to help with that. Have been debating whether redoing the fireplace would make a difference and will definitely check out those ideas!
  • Kiff Harvey Kiff Harvey on Aug 15, 2014
    can you add windows? It would be a shame to destroy the expensive wood
  • Kelly French Johnson Kelly French Johnson on Aug 15, 2014
    I would use Paper Illusion Wallpaper. It is so easy to apply, and covers most cracks, creases etc. It comes in many colors and when you are done apply it, your walls will have a marble look to them. It would save you from having the mess of taking down the paneling and finding a surprise underneath it that could cost you a LOT of money to repair! I have used this many, many times and absolutely love the results every time. https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=paper%20illusion%20wallpaper
  • Marly Marly on Aug 15, 2014
    You could also add more mirrors along the walls. (You could use antiqued mirrors if you don't want to be looking at yourself all the time!) Victorians used mirrors to reflect light from their dim gas lamps.
  • Marly Marly on Aug 15, 2014
    Is that fan the only light fixture? Install some sconces.
  • Marly Marly on Aug 15, 2014
    The vertical blinds seem to obscure a lot of the natural light. You could try taking them off. Maybe add frosted film if necessary for more privacy.
  • Marly Marly on Aug 15, 2014
    You could also hang a light-colored quilt or tapestry in front of a section of dark paneling.
  • Susan Susan on Aug 15, 2014
    Two methods I've used. Formal room...I painted flat paint on panels to cover. Then, every other 'stripe' rolled on a high gloss urethane...can also used same color high gloss colored paint...either way looks like striped wall paper. Other method; covered wall with wall paper liner to hide the stripes...then pasted on a very think white paper called anaglypta... I hung a small 'basket weave' pattern and painted as usual.... looks casual wears like iron. Paper MUST be painted....
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    • Cindy Cindy on Aug 15, 2014
      Also I wanted to tell you that you may just possibly have drywall behind your paneling. My sister moved into a house that had paneling up and we were going to remove it and put up dry wall, well low and behold we took it down and there was drywall behind it. We just patched up any holes and pained it and it looked great!
  • Andrea Andrea on Aug 15, 2014
    can you strip the paneling and lighten the color of the stain? or an inexpensive fix - paint the back wall of the bookshelves and hang brighter art work on the walls above the sofa, etc. maybe a cozy and bright area rug? hard choices.
  • Shari Shari on Aug 15, 2014
    Oh, oh, oh Tamara, I so feel your pain. Some people love dark and "cozy" but as a person who requires light and bright, this would drive me to the insane asylum in about 2.5 seconds. Looking past the dark and dreary, I can tell the room has great bones though! Aside from the possibly of a poor paint job, I think I can visualize why your neighbor's paneling might look awful painted white. From these photos, it appears as though the paneling stops at a weird place. I feel like too much of the wall is paneled to be considered true wainscoting and the current height just accentuates the awkwardness of that little section of wall above it. It feels "choppy." In my opinion, the paneling should have been taken all the way to the ceiling line to cover the entire wall, or a more traditional wainscoting height based on the proportion of the room. If you want to try painting over the paneling, do not paint the paneling one color and the wall above it another. Treat the wall as a whole. Paint the entire wall, floor to ceiling line, one (light) color so your eye is not distracted by the break. Also, if possible, I would try to remove that heavy horizontal wood piece that runs along the top of the paneling before painting. If it were not there, I think that would also help give the walls a more seamless look once the entire wall was painted in one color. If you end up still hating the paneling once it and the upper walls have been painted all one color, then you could go the more involved/ expensive route of removing the paneling and putting up drywall, as others suggested. Also, I can't tell from these pictures if the ceiling is white or beige, but a fresh coat of white paint on the ceiling would do a lot to help brighten the room. After you deal with the paneling issue, I think you will see you need to paint the bookcases. A nice, clean bright or soft, creamy white would be beautiful. You might even want to paint the backs of the bookcases whatever color you use on the walls, or an accent color, or stencil a modern pattern on them...lots of choices there! Then, I would consider adding a little white-wash to tone down the brick or, better yet, modernize the whole fireplace by covering the brick up like these people did: http://www.beneathmyheart.net/2012/10/fireplace-makeover-reveal/ http://theletteredcottage.net/my-82-fireplace-makeover/ Your living room does have great potential and I think you are going to find paint, lots and lots of paint, in beautiful light colors is the solution to giving you the fresh, light and bright, more modern look you are going for. Good luck! :)
  • Andrea Andrea on Aug 15, 2014
    new window treatments also might be a help. the vertical blinds seem dated.
  • Comet Comet on Aug 15, 2014
    We have fake 70's "wood paneling" half way up the walls and since it is glued to the plaster board we are not interested in removing it. So far we did one wall over---painted the ENTIRE wall including the paneling a blue grey---a lighter color than it sounds. We primed with BIN as this stuff has deep grooves. Looks great now that the whole wall is the SAME! Now planning on doing the other walls. Altho with a solid walnut of that thickess you prob could remove it carefully and sell it for more than enough to pay for sheetrock---and since it looks like this is just a straight run of wall the rock would be pretty easy. Walnut is highly valued and that was probably "Old Growth"--we planted walnut trees when we moved in 25 years ago and you would be lucky to get a plank or two out of them if we cut them. I would def look into removing them. I love your description of the light well! Have any prisoners been shoved down the hatch way???!!!! What WERE these builders THINKING back in the 70's? Too many drugs--or not ENOUGH drugs I guess!
  • Katie Katie on Aug 15, 2014
    I had the same problem. I painted my paneling a light green (with primer). Took three coats! I also removed drapes from my French doors and replaced with shades and removed a wall that separated the kitchen and living room. Now I have lots of light!
  • Susan Susan on Aug 15, 2014
    The room is dark and varying shades of beige and brown. Some contrast, some color and better lighting would help. I 'd think about painting the beams in the ceiling. Recessed lighting over the bookcases and lightening up the shelves would help, along with less on the shelves and a variety of things would add interest
  • Bonnie Lee Spencer Bonnie Lee Spencer on Aug 15, 2014
    i would paint the panelling,, its to dark in there. Get some color,,,,it would brighten it up also, cause everything is so tan.
  • Carol Carol on Aug 15, 2014
    Paint it a light color and get rid of or paint the top paneling molding so it all blends with the wall color. Add some pictures with dark or colorful frames to become the focus instead of the paneling.
    • Cindy Cindy on Aug 15, 2014
      @Carol WOW, I lived in Sierra vista at one time!!
  • Gail Gail on Aug 15, 2014
    My daughter remodeled my mothers house that had lots of paneling. With finances tight she primed the paneling and painted it a pretty light blue in the kitchen. You don't even notice it was that "ugly" paneling. She also put beadboard wainscoting over the paneling. This was during remodeling as you can tell by dust. The wall to back is in hall is new and is wallboard, kitchen is to front and left of this photo.
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    • Gail Gail on Aug 15, 2014
      @Liliana Wells Actually that tile is like laminate flooring it came in pieces If I remember the pieces were about 3 feet long and maybe 12 or 16 inches wide. Tongue and groove together. It's real sturdy.
  • Thej Thej on Aug 15, 2014
    Gosh you have a lot of work there. Looks like a total remodel to bring it into 2014. Make yourself a budget and a game plan and do it in steps. Also, I got more light from my skylight by scraping off the cottage cheese, making the innards smooth and prime and painting it white. The sun reflects so much better. Light and bright! Add more lamps and ditch the old ceiling fan!
    • Denise Denise on Aug 16, 2014
      @Thej I too thought to get rid of that awful popcorn stuff, smooth reflective paint and ceiling would help ALOT!! I personally like the contrast in structural beams like that, so not sure I would change color. I would probably take that gorgeous wonderful REAL paneling off, replane it perhaps, and see what is under there. if it were that thin crappy paneling it would be horrendous painted..if you want a painted surface that wood would take it nicely and you could certainly create a beautiful focus. I agree with that gal that said it is an odd height for not being "wainscoting"..or true room height, and she sure had a good solution of making it all the same light color. whatever you decide, definitely rid yourself of that dust collecting gross light stealing popcorn caca. =)...huge difference, huge!
  • T. Patterson T. Patterson on Aug 15, 2014
    Paint using Valspar paint and primer. You will be pleased with the finished result.
  • Pat Pat on Aug 15, 2014
    I would paint the ceiling AND the beams white. Also the beam going across the paneling. I would then paint the paneling a soft beige. I would paint your shelves white with beige in the back. Then decide what to do with the fireplace....it may look fine or you might want to darken the mantel. Some pretty art on your walls and open your horizontals and you will see a lot of light.....pretty, homey room.
  • Melissa Leach Melissa Leach on Aug 15, 2014
    Susan from North Hampton, NH had a great suggestions. I would like to suggest changing our your slider for French Doors to allow more light in. If privacy is an issue, use light color drapes. Hang them so they hang to the right side, past the door frame when open.
  • Judy Ganem Judy Ganem on Aug 15, 2014
    We had paneling in the family room of one our homes. We painted ours - not white- but a taupe color and it turned out great. Had a pool table in the game room -also painted- and was worried about the sticks scratching the paint. Held up great. We also painted over one wall of grass cloth- that really turned out great.
  • ColoradoUtah ColoradoUtah on Aug 15, 2014
    Take the blinds off that door. Let the light in! Get rid of your heavy furniture. Move to lighter furniture, wicker maybe? Paint the walls a light cherry color. How about some tile instead of heavy carpet? Add some color through paintings and lighting. Once you paint paneling, you can't go back. Figure out a way to break it up so it doesn't look so overwhelming. Do something different than the way you have always done it. You will be amazed at what happens.
  • Ann Ann on Aug 15, 2014
    I would guess your neighbor didn't clean, sand, or prime his paneling. I painted mine and love it.
  • Centrd Centrd on Aug 15, 2014
    I agree, a taupey-gray, or french gray on the beams will make them look like aged wood. I've seen this look in high end homes and love it. You can either do the walls and ceiling in white and all the trim in the same gray (a really nice look), or you can also do the wall paneling in a light gray to match the beams. Make sure it's a warm gray like, wood, not a cold gray like concrete. Taupey-gray is a good description. Here are some examples of gray beams.
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  • Centrd Centrd on Aug 15, 2014
    once you lighten the walls and beams up, then you'll need to do the bookcases in white or gray as well. I think you'll be amazed at how different it feels. Then you can decide if you want to add or enlarge windows/doors, etc.
  • Liliana Wells Liliana Wells on Aug 15, 2014
    I have never this; but would it be possible to remove the paneling? Then you can paint or put up headboard. I like the grey beams pictured in the above post. Good luck. Post pictures of what you decide.
  • Charlotte Belange Charlotte Belange on Aug 15, 2014
    WE had this in my grandmothers house we used lots of primer until you can't see the other color. Have your paint chips ready take tape to hold them to your walls. let them stay up for a week. oh forgot something put up small paper by chip so each time you think you just mark it down
  • Starr Starr on Aug 15, 2014
    If you are able I would take the paneling off and rip it into boards length wise cutting out the the tiny groove then instal on wall like ship lap boards. They should fit nicely on top of your baseboard. Then I would paint the room a light color like cream, white or pale grey
  • Pam Bolton Pam Bolton on Aug 15, 2014
    I had a home built in the 60's with a large family room, very large dining area and a very small kitchen. All were paneled with dark paneling to the ceiling. I had a double window, a single french door and a small window in the kitchen, all facing east. I primed all the paneling and painted the walls with a light beige high quality paint with green undertone. I painted the fireplace and the surrounding bookcases white. For the era when I did this, it looked great decorated in beige, green and coral. Updating to today's color trends, I would go with the french gray colors suggested by Centrd. BM's Revere Pewter and White Dove are good starting suggestions for color. If the budget allows, I would remove the skylight and replace it with several solar tubes. I would replace the sliders with french doors or with a new slider with mini blinds between the panes. I have three solar tubes in our current home and they are terrific - light with no heat or cold. Good luck and please let us know what you becide to do.
  • Judi L Judi L on Aug 15, 2014
    If the paneling is real wood, paint it a creamy white. We did this in a bathroom and what a difference it made. I found that I love painted paneling. It gives the room substance but multiplies the light.
  • Larry Lou Larry Lou on Aug 15, 2014
    We painted our paneling and it came out great. We used a primer and at least 2 coats lol, then painted and did our cabinets in the kitchen/master bath also, oh and the counter top in the master bath, and wow, they turned out great. It's been almost 5 yrs and no problem with any of it. Your neighbors may not of primed it first or did something different for it to look awful. We used a custom (I made up) cream off white on walls, black cabinet doors in the kitchen, and a gold in the bathroom w/black counters. Several people have done theirs since we did ours, and theirs look great also :) This is just a FYI post as it does work to paint paneling :)
  • Lisa Lisa on Aug 15, 2014
    My mothers house was built in the 60's and had paneling. We pulled off the paneling & there was drywall underneath. We spackled the nail holes sanded that & painted. It turned out great.
  • Wanda.ll Wanda.ll on Aug 16, 2014
    Take and put chalk in the stripes of the paneling to make flat . Then take and texture the walls just like any other wall and paint. The beams well that it another thing. I would paint same color a ceiling if you want them to go away. Other wise take them down. They will come back in style in a couple of years. Things cycle in 20 year times. Good luck.
  • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on Aug 16, 2014
    Don't care for panelling, but this is really good stuff. I'd go easy. I'd start by painting the bookcases, and losing the vertical blinds. The light fixture is too small for the space and much too high. I'd replace it. Then go from there.
  • Tina Wilson Tina Wilson on Aug 16, 2014
    Check out Hgtv they have alot of ideas on their website!
  • Erica Gott Erica Gott on Aug 16, 2014
    The house my ex and I bought in 1992 was built in 1966. The den was paneled, with beams, along with a 12' brick hearth and sliding doors...very similar to yours. The people we bought it from painted the paneling in a 'linen' white, using alkyd paint. Very tough and durable and lightened the room considerably. There was old 1978 carpet which we removed to discover brick pavers underneath. If you carefully prepare the paneling, you CAN paint it.
  • Nancy Merrell Nancy Merrell on Aug 16, 2014
    Would leave it and add lots more lighting,sconces etc.
  • GR GR on Aug 16, 2014
    The pictures Centrd posted are lovely. I don't have panelling but I do have beams and I have painted all of them bar the really old ones in either taupe or grey and they all look, in my opinion, a million times better! When you have dark rooms all that brown wood just makes them look even gloomier. If you check out other posts there are a lot of people out there INSTALLING wood panel walls and painting them in weathered grey or whitewashing them, they are very fashionable :-)
  • Ginger Throckmorton Ginger Throckmorton on Aug 16, 2014
    Add molding around room about 1/2 way up or less to make a chair rail then paint the top and bottom different colors. It will look like breadboard walls, beautiful. Top color could match wall color above paneling and it will begin to blend in. I did this with a knotty pine wall and it is beautiful.
  • Tricianne68 Tricianne68 on Aug 17, 2014
    Paint! Paint! It is probably the easier and cheapest way to go. It is amazing how different will look. I am redoing an old house and wish I had this paneling instead of sheetrock. I do have painted pine v groove paneling in part.
  • Cat King Cat King on Aug 18, 2014
    prime and paint . I have paneling in my basement and you cant even tell.. I would paint the ceiling the whitest white leave the beams natural paint the book cases. Paint paneling ..Maybe your neighbors didn't prime enough..
  • Pagan Raven Pagan Raven on Aug 20, 2014
    I know you said you didn't like your neighbor's painted paneling but unless you want to go through the headache of removing it, the only options you have is to paint or wallpaper over it. To wallpaper you'd have to go over all the "lines" of the paneling and fill them..then sand..on and on. You could always cover one central wall with linen, burlap..any fabric with texture then paint the other walls. I do agree with Pam Bolton - replace that almost non-working skylight with solar tubes. They are very, VERY worth it! It is unbelievable at how much light you get with them and no drafts at all. I would leave the ceiling beams but lighten them just a bit. Maybe make them look like weather worn barn beams. Replace the sliders with french doors, or possibly a single door. Easier to control any draftiness you've encountered before. Have you given thought to losing those shelves on the south wall? It might give you more room as in another wall to work with and not have to worry about what not to place in front of shelves. Good luck!
  • Denise Hardy Denise Hardy on Aug 21, 2014
    Hi - I would definitely paint the panelling and your bookshelves in the same colour - perhaps something similar to my pictures below. You will see the befores and afters. I am sure you will agree that the afters look so much better. Much brighter and lighter and makes the room so much bigger. Which if painted would do the same for your room. I would also either paint the ceiling beams or if you could get the stain off them and then just use oil to put on them to bring the wood back to it's natural state. The finish I have used on these doors, shelves, wall units and also the dining table and chairs is my 'take' on the French Antique Style. I used Zinsser BIN primer - 2 coats and then 2 coats of Magnolia Eggshell. Then, I used a wax called Bri-Wax and used a paint brush to put it on with or you can use a soft cloth, but just put it the wax on very lightly going with the grain of the wood. Then use a clean soft cloth to buff it to a sheen. I have a website if you wish to have a look at other furniture I have painted - http://decorativeideas.co.uk/ This job was done in a villa in Spain - I live half of my time in Spain and the other half in Ireland - click on the first photo and this will take you to larger photos :) I would also suggest that you purchase a nice bright rug and put some cushions on your sofa using the colours from your rug - this also will brighten your room. As regards the ceiling glass - have a look on this site and perhaps get a new skylight window? http://www.velux.com/daylight/visualizers And... then perhaps replace the window with a French Door or Patio Sliding Doors and to top it off - replace your ceiling light with a nice chandelier :) Whatever you decide to do - good luck :)
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  • Jplovelace Jplovelace on Aug 28, 2014
    I wallpapered mine and I'm very pleased Striped paper will camouflage some of the cracks.
  • Larry Lou Larry Lou on Aug 30, 2014
    When we painted over our "old" paneling, we filled the lines with plain old white chalk, (just ran it down the lines) then when we primed it and painted you wouldn't even guess there were lines there at one time :)
  • Rob1378700 Rob1378700 on Mar 06, 2015
    I'm having this same problem in my basement. It's all paneling and it makes it so dark. Great tips and ideas. I wasn't sure if painting them would look ok. Does anyone have a picture of painted paneling?
  • Denise Hardy Denise Hardy on Mar 11, 2015
    Hi Dianna - I have just looked on the link at your very, cute and perfect 'little house' as you call it - you have made an absolutely beautiful house - you have worked so hard and hopefully now you have plenty of happy times and memories there, because I can see how much love and tender care and hard work you have put into this project. Amazing and so beautiful :) Have a very happy life - you and your family well deserve it :)
  • Carol Carol on Mar 12, 2015
    I think the lighting could be improved by adding can lights and a few lamps. See if there is anyway to add molding lighting around the room. I can't tell if the ceiling is gold or a creamy yellow but I would try a color closer to white. I don't know what your budget is, but a lighter carpet color would help. Also white/cream slip covers might help. ( you can throw a white sheet over the couch and tuck it in to see if that helps first). There is too much brown in the room, it night only need a few more lamps and bright/cream pillowed on the sofa and chair. I also do not like vertical blinds, a soft semi-transparent curtain/drape in pale cream might also help. Also the defuser on the skylight might be too opaque to function well. Right now all the light is centered in the middle of the room and everything else is 50 shades of brown. The sliding glass doors appear to be the only "window" in the room also and it probably leads to a covered patio and it is stuck in a corner. Try simple, inexpensive, non-permenently fixes first before any expensive permanent changes. Or just call a contractor for an estimate on removing the paneling and cover all the books in white butcher paper. I do think table and floor lamps will do wonders as right now all the light is high up and only in the center of the room, leaving dark walls darker.
  • Carol Carol on Mar 12, 2015
    Also a couple of wall sconces on the fireplace might help, brick with black TV is too dark. TV is again
  • Kayo Frazier Kayo Frazier on Mar 18, 2015
    Ok, Here's my 2 cents...Your living room already has a Tudor style influence so don't fight it unless it's totally not your style. If you have to wait til you can do a bigger & better renovation of the living room. Here's what I would do for now...Leave the bookshelves, ceiling beams & the trim at the top of the paneling as they are don't change it. Then I would paint the paneling, the walls & ceiling a very light cream color because white would be too harsh. Then I would slipcover the couch & chair unless it's a recliner, if it is you can get it re-upholstered professionally. I would pick a light version of your favorite color. Then I would switch the couch so that it's facing the fireplace & TV. Then place a sofa table w/ some black wrought iron to match the coffee table behind it w/ a lamp. Place the chair on the side closest to the sliding doors, make sure it's pulled 3-4' from the wall. The coffee table looks really cool, but I would paint the metal black & replace the glass top w/ wood. Place the coffee table in front of the couch. Then I would add 1-2 more comfy club chairs w/ a side table in between where the couch used to be. This will give you more seating as well as walking traffic around the room. You can add pops of color in throw pillows I would use rich, dark jewel tones. Those are my suggestions I hope it helps.
  • Diane Diane on Dec 01, 2015
    I would paint the brick on the fireplace to lighten it up. Add tons of extra lighting such as lamps. I would add some greenery to give it warmth and life. The furniture is really tired looking. If possible I would get new or buy slip covers which I am not a fan of. I would sand (even use the liquid sand stuff) the book shelves and paint them white as well. Any wooden furniture in the room should be sanded and painted a lighter color as well. Use through pillows with vibrant colors. Splashes of color would definitely be helpful. Good luck with your room. Keep us updated on your changes!!
  • Donna Donna on Sep 15, 2016
    I would not paint the bricks on the fire place, I would paint every thing else, buy Kiltz primer or paint with Kiltz in it and go to town on that dark paneling. Also do a accent wall, get new furniture or buy slipcovers for the furniture that way to keep cost down. Would love to see the make-over soon!
  • Debbie motley Debbie motley on Oct 20, 2016
    Have you ever thought of using chapter paint. It is so easy to use and is very forgiving. You can even make your own with the color of your choice. Just look it up on line.
  • Debbie motley Debbie motley on Oct 20, 2016
    Sorry spell corrected it is chalk paint
    • Treasuredchaos.com Treasuredchaos.com on Dec 15, 2016

      I literally just thought..."Huh. I've never heard of that" and was ten seconds from diving in to this new paint. I can't help but wonder how long I would have searched! LOL!

  • Rob Rob on Nov 13, 2016
    I quite like your living room and wish it was mine though I would update with an abundance of ambient lighting; while some think brass lamps are passé I think good quality brass never goes out of style and use my all brass (including shade) desk lamp for ambient lighting and it really helps give a timeless look to my smaller room. If I had more room like you I'd have matching masculine design Tiffany lamps, perhaps even 2 table lamps and one standalone. Wood is timeless so if you were to remove it from your room it would be a real sin, especially a good quality wood like that. Further I would paint the white wall above the wood as well as the ceilings a dark red, or forest green (nice if you have trees in the yard!), or perhaps even blue and the ambient lighting will really help finish the look of the room with one of any of these colors. I'd say the carpet has to go but wouldn't want to replace it with hard wood with the walls there already. I'd consider tile if something could be found that would go well with the above. Really I'd want a darker carpet more matching the paint but this might be passé. Or is it? I don't think what I have in mind would ever really go out of style. Also the furniture has to go; think genuine leather suite (I did not say "bonded leather") which can also be found in some wonderful colors to match whatever your preference! Then I'd finish off with a wood coffee table that matches well the wood on the walls and some matching side tables. Also the book cases and family pictures, and brick (though it looks like it could be cleaned up) must stay lest the room cease to feel like home! Thanks for letting me spend your money for you but I think you'd be quite satisfied with the end result!
  • Ginger Throckmorton Ginger Throckmorton on Nov 14, 2016
    Split the wall and paint the bottom half a neutral color. Use molding (chair rail) between the two colors. You could leave the top as it is or paint it a contrasting color. I did this w a knotty pine wall and I love it. It was hard to paint the wood but was worth it when I finally decided on it.
  • Nancy Merrell Nancy Merrell on Nov 16, 2016
    I would replace sliding door with French door. Play up the rich look of real paneling with lamps , wall sconces . Use red or burgundy accents , oriental rug for floor. Leather furniture. Reading chair with floor lamp(you do have all those books)! Can't wait to see what you decide!
    • See 1 previous
    • Jcraw Jcraw on Jan 01, 2017

      but I'd have sofa face fireplace/tv. Room looks deep enough that chairs could as well. And some table lamps , please. The area rug needn't even be oriental, tho I love them. You need to bring down a bit of the ceilingand mortar beige and accentuate the reds of bricks and books.

      Great potential.

  • Patricia Viamontes Patricia Viamontes on Nov 23, 2016

    My first thought was to try to use a large mirror somewhere...perhaps over the fireplace...to try to reflect some light and make it feel more open, thus distracting from the paneling.

  • Kaye Hawthorne Kaye Hawthorne on Dec 08, 2016

    i love your room! But if wanting to change the look of your room focus on the fireplace. From the photo's there are several colors in the bricks. I'd choose a nice light color in one of the fireplace bricks and use it to repaint the paneled walls. Then I'd repaint the mantel with a color that will compliment the wall color and the brick colors.

    repaint the ceiling area only in a nice flat off white or very light beige/tan color. Add/replace a ceiling fan with one that has more lightening capability.

    this will enhance and lighted your room up....my family owned a painting company many years ago which our son now owns, you'll be very surprised at how these simple color changes will enhance your beautiful room even more than you can imagine. And under no circumstances ever paint the bricks on your fireplace!! That is something you'll constantly need to maintain and the paint will clog the pits in the bricks ... Over time and a constant repaint of another color your fireplace will no longer have a brick finish but a lumpy, bumpy clogged up, unsmooth, and not so nice looking center fireplace. You'll be ready to demo it in years to come. As of now the bricks colors are light with specks of assorted colors....choose colors from the bricks for repaint ideas for walls, mantel and when choosing new furniture and decor. Hope this helps!

  • Ruby77 Ruby77 on Dec 09, 2016

    If you're going to replace all the furniture I would go semi mid century (light couches with beautiful pillows) and leave the paneling alone (although I have pained paneling before and it looked great) Sleek couches with a huge tree trunk or drift wood base coffee table with a glass top. Fluffy pillows in a color you love. Paint the book cases and beams white and tear out the brick and replace with stacked tumbled marble in a light gray, white or beige. Replace brass fireplace screen with glass with black trim.Place a huge painting above the fireplace for color. I can't see from the picture if you have a mantle or not but I would want a huge thick wooden mantle. Carpeting/flooring should be very light. Take down blinds and either leave windows bare or hang panels from top of wood paneling to floor. Its a gorgeous space it just needs updating.

  • Dff11150295 Dff11150295 on Dec 18, 2016

    Unless you really like the ceiling beams, I'd paint them the same color as the ceiling. It will help to open up the area and look lighter. Any time you have sharp contrast between the color of two surfaces, it will make the area look smaller.

  • Kj Kj on Dec 21, 2016

    My husband and I painted the paneling before we moved into our new house. the most important step is the prep. Give them a good cleaning, get the "living" off them first. Prime them well with kilz as others have suggested. This will seal the previous finish. Don't go white, it's so boring, and stark. We chose a sand color with a slight touch of peach. We live on the water, so we wanted to make the view be the star.

    Good luck!

  • Beverly Campbell Beverly Campbell on Dec 27, 2016

    I helped my Sister-in-law paint her dark paneled hall way and it turned out great. Cleaned it well and then filled all the cracks with finish sheet rock mud. We had to fill twice letting each dry between coats because the "mud" shrinks a bit. We then painted an off white color and 8 years later you would never know there was paneling under the paint. Takes a bit of work but well worth it in the end.

  • Sam Sam on Dec 29, 2016

    lighten up the paneling by painting it a nice cream color.

    seems most of your problem is your furniture right now. nothing goes well together and is kind of outdated (the print on the sofa)

    even if you do nothing to the walls themselves (though brightening them would change the feel of the room) and money is an issue. try a used furniture store

    and gather some items that have the same 'feel' to them and start to build your room that way. it can cost a lot less than you think.

    love that fire place!

  • Judy Judy on Jan 02, 2017

    Beautiful room! What if you were to split the books on the lower half of both sides and put the rest of the decor on the upper shelves? Books would anchor the shelves on both sides. Have you considered hanging the large photos (from top left shelf) in a collection on a wall? Arrange them on a table first to see what you might like.


    An inexpensive sofa cover (dark solid) would give a whole new look. Or think about cream colored covers on all upholstered furniture in the room. Use light colored sheets on everything to get an idea of the results before investing the money. Try switching your end tables around (even switch with nightstands or other items in your home) and add a lamp (not small) to the end of the sofa furthest from the tv (easy to turn on when entering room).


    Think long and hard before painting the paneled walls. If that was one thing you really loved when you bought your home, you may never be happy with anything you do to change them. Once they're painted, you can never go back.


    I'd think in terms of brightening rather than lightening this room. Lamps, a large mirror, furniture covers, rearranging furniture etc. can do wonders without being permanent or costing a lot. Have fun and enjoy your lovely home!



  • Eroque022810 Eroque022810 on Jan 16, 2017

    Paint room in light color the ceiling beams in high gloss white and rest or ceiling in eggshell finish but same white. Then fill in the seams of the paneling with drywall mud sand smooth then prime entire wall once you have also sanded paneling so paint will adhere to it and then paint same as wall color so to not stand out. Personally I would paint it white and different color on top part of wall and I would do this to tie in with ceiling and help brighten the space. This I would not do in high gloss unless you have small children, I would do it in the same white but in egg she'll finish it can handle light scrubbing if needed. I would pick a color you love so you smile when in that room. It pains me to say this but your furniture needs updating and I would consider white washing bricks. When you look at that wall it looks like the entrance to a cave since you have fireplace which is dark inside and TV above it like a black hole. Can rearrange furniture and place the TV on an other wall?. Separate those to focal points. Actually you have large fireplace wall that has bookcases which is main focal point then paneling that's second focal then TV which is third. I've had this problem and it's hard to deal with for me it was a fireplace surrounded buy a glass sliding door and large window on other side so that left no wall space, a black piano,and a tv. I painted the fireplace whit and since we didn't use it because it was wood not gas I felt comfortable placing love seat in front of it since I tried to ignore it so I still had piano and TV which I placed opposite each there and since back of sofa was facing piano you ignored Tha as well and then I was down to just tv. If you really like tv there or if that's where all the wires are then modernize the bricks you don't have to do the entire thing you can do just patches so that it has a loft feel. But dark beams and paneling have to be painted.

  • Jeannie.mcquaid Jeannie.mcquaid on Jan 16, 2017

    Walnut Stain - what were they thinking? Do you know what species of wood the paneling really is?

    Before touching the paneling, paint the ceiling beams white (so they go away) and paint the bookshelves, a warm neutral and see if that removes some of the heaviness.

    Still not enough, test if you can lighten the color of the paneling by sanding and vinegar bleaching on a inconspicuous spot. If you can bring it up to a shade more like maple or oak, it will feel lighter and warmer. If you can't lighten the natural wood, rather than full-on painting, use a white-washing technique with a warm neutral paint color - let the wood grain show through/

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Jul 31, 2023

    If it were mine i would add lots of Interesting Mirrors of different styles or Lots of Brightly coloured pictures. Good luck!

  • Mogie Mogie on Aug 06, 2023

    When you say sunlight shaft do you mean a solar tube? How old is the one you have now? Perhaps it is time to replace it. We have a solar tube in our spare bathroom and I bet they have improved over time.

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Sep 03, 2023

    Large \mirror on Timbered wall would help pick up the light.