Asked on Dec 30, 2016

How an I update this knotty pine wall without painting it?

Dee B
by Dee B
I’m tired of looking at my “70’s” wall but I like the different textures of wood and brick. I’m going to white wash the brick but unsure if I should stain the wood brown to get rid of the “orange” color or pickle/white wash the wood. I’d prefer not to paint the wood since I want the wood grain/knots to still show. Any suggestions on the best technique to use for either stain or white wash? I’ve read horror stories on refinishing knotty pine.
  36 answers
  • Jace Mattson Jace Mattson on Dec 30, 2016

    I had the same stuff in m my house too! I whitewashed it with simple semi-gloss paint mixed 2 to 1 (water to paint) and old rags. You have to make sure that the boards were not finished with varnish or worse yet Polyurethane! If they appear to have a hard shine err on the safe side and give them a good sanding before the whitewash.

    • Dee B Dee B on Dec 30, 2016

      Thanks Jace. I'll probably go with the whitewash and it sounds easy enough once I prep the wood.

  • Judy Berryman Judy Berryman on Dec 30, 2016

    Try Milk Paint. Lets so much of the texture show thru and very forgiving. It would lighten the room but still keep the things you like. Like whitewash!

    I did my kitchen that was 1970's, very dark and plastic like cupboards. I love love love it.

    • Dee B Dee B on Dec 30, 2016

      Thanks Judy. I just did a little research on milk paint since I'm not familiar with it and it looks interesting. Definitely an option!

  • William William on Dec 30, 2016

    I would white wash the wood. Just lightly sand to remove the shine. It would brighten the space, but the grain and knots still would show. Would look great.

    • Dee B Dee B on Dec 30, 2016

      Thanks William. Whitewash seems to be the way to go to brighten things up a bit.

  • Attic And Barn Attic And Barn on Dec 30, 2016

    First wash the wood with TSP ( a strong degreaser / cleaner, read package directions) Your home looks very clean but it's a good idea to clean off years of grime before applying another finish. You might be surprised by the results.

    Your blue-grey carpet is a complimentary color to your "orange woodwork" as is any other blue in your room....

    Have you tried accessorizing and breaking up your photo / display with lush dark green plants? ( silk or living)

    Burgundy and deep reds would add another dimension to your space.

    How about 2 birds, one stone.....Large silk flowering red geranium plants in brown or aged copper pots?

    Maybe a brown "wash" over the woodwork will tone it down and give you a old library look. Enjoy!

    • Dee B Dee B on Dec 30, 2016

      Thanks for the ideas. Cleaning the wall is definitely on my prep list - you never know what's hiding in the nooks and crannies! I've already chosen red as my accent color so your suggestion reinforces my decision.

  • Jennifer | CrazyDiyMom Jennifer | CrazyDiyMom on Dec 30, 2016

    I have the same knotty pine wood walls in my house. Unfortunately though, mine was on all 4 walls of the living room and all 4 walls on the adjoining entryway. Mine made my room sooooo dark. I thought about whitewashing, but was too scared it would like like a poor paint job since painting paneling is not like painting a wall. I ended up painting my paneling and white washing my fireplace. I know you don't want to paint, but I was very happy with how mine turned out. You can see mine here:

    I liked that you can still see the texture from the wood paneling, but I LOVE that my room finally looks bright and cheery. Good luck!

    • Dee B Dee B on Dec 30, 2016

      Jennifer, thanks for sharing your link. What a difference painting the walls made. It looks great! I think I'll try white washing first and if I'm not happy with the results I can always paint over it. Like you, I've been putting this project off for too long! It's my New Year's resolution to finally get this done.

  • Jennifer | CrazyDiyMom Jennifer | CrazyDiyMom on Dec 30, 2016

    You're right, you can always add more paint ;) You'll be sooo glad once it's all done!

  • Judi1 Judi1 on Dec 31, 2016

    You can add paintable wallpaper over the panels and it will be removable. I could never paint real wood.

    • Dee B Dee B on Dec 31, 2016

      Thanks. Never thought of wallpaper. I'll add that to my "research" list.

  • Kj Kj on Jan 01, 2017

    Since you are going to be doing a good surface prep anyway, I would suggest finding a small area that you could strip with a chemical stripper to see what color the wood is. You might be surprised that with the finish stripped off, the wood is light enough for your liking, and you could either seal it or apply a coat of wax to it. I too would not want to paint beautiful wood, stripping it may be the answer. Whatever you decide, good luck, and please post some after pictures.

    BTW, I had the same paneling in a room, and I carefully tore it out (necessity, not choice) and used the beautiful wood for other projects.

  • Kantuckee Kantuckee on Jan 01, 2017

    It's a lot of work but stripping the orange shellac and refinishing it with a clear non yellowing poly. You can't imagine how beautiful it can be.

    • Kj Kj on Jan 02, 2017

      I'm a huge fan of natural wood, I preserve it whenever I can.

  • Pgl Pgl on Jan 01, 2017

    Try lighting over it less invasive and not as permanent. Also try a good cleaner for wood you maybe surprised how much the color changes,you may have a build up of wax on them. You can also sand lightly and add slightly darker stain or lighter I've done this several times and result will surprise you by removing that orange look that develops over time.

  • Nancy Flemming Nancy Flemming on Jan 01, 2017

    We had a similar style in our home but the brick went right to the ceiling, I never liked it. Our solution was to give the bricks a good cleaning thinking we were going to whitewash, but we first painted the brass fireplace surround with heat resistant black paint. What a difference that made, our shelves were removable so I sanded the panels and shelves to get rid of the varathane (this gives it the orangy tone over time) and sealed with non yellowing polyurethane with pecan stain. Once the surround was painted black, and wood work a lighter or should I say brighter colour, the bricks didn't need anything. We also took down our smaller art work and hung one big picture above the fireplace, this reduced the amount of brick visual to the eye, it was a lovely transformation at little cost. Good luck let us know what you decide.

  • Arlene Arlene on Jan 01, 2017

    I had a similar home and painted the pine. Loved it!! Takes time many coats of primer epically on the knots but so worth it!!! Made the room larger brighter and elegant! Did paint the fireplace white too not a wash brought a 70's home current ! Good luck

  • Brenda Roth Brenda Roth on Jan 02, 2017

    Why not try fabric on it............. put it on.......... you don't like it........... take it down............... or you could change it for the seasons.

  • Debbie Debbie on Jan 02, 2017

    Clean walls, then go to Home Depot or store like it, and get some primer, paint one or two coats, then when dry, dries very fast, find the color of your choice and paint and be happy. I had this same issue in my home and it looks so pretty after. Give it a try in a small spot, close to the floor, behind something and you will love it. Enjoy! Debbie

  • L. L. on Jan 03, 2017

    I had a fireplace frame and mantle. It was dated and the wood was ugly, but I didn't want to tear it out. After research, I used a specialty wood bleach. It turned out beautiful. You can order wood bleach online.

  • My mother covered old walls with roll fabric sheeting she found on sale somewhere. She was able to cut to size and stapled it up. Later she was able to just pull it down and fill the staple holes.

    • See 3 previous
    • Pgl Pgl on Jan 05, 2017

      The best way is to use starch full strength liquid starch. All you do is using a plastic tub is place the fabric in the starch and smooth it out on the wall.

  • Sonijune Wilcox Sonijune Wilcox on Jan 03, 2017

    I guess I am old fashioned--but I love it like it is now. So warm and inviting. If you change it you can never go back to the original. Reminds me sooi much of Early American styles which we all enjoyed in the 50's and 60's.

    • Dee B Dee B on Jan 03, 2017

      Thanks! My goal is to give the wood new life without losing the warmth of it. May just stain it to make it more neutral - less orange - and updating the molding.

  • Carolyn Carolyn on Jan 03, 2017

    I would add mirrors across the top, don't clutter it, just add some big vases or candles. ( I have even used cheap Walmart door mirrors. Color is the goal) Tape up the fireplace insert and spray paint it. Put a decorative fabric in the book cases and fill with vases and books of all coordinating colors, use wrapping paper to cover books, spray paint your frames and use the books to stagger them in different heights. Don't be scared to mix colors, I added lime green to my motif with touches of reds, orange and yellows. If you find a vase or lamp you love the shape of, spray paint it, It becomes habit forming! I would even spray paint your rocker and place a blanket or pillow in it. Give you basket a bold color.

    • Dee B Dee B on Jan 03, 2017

      Thanks Carolyn. Painting the insert is in the plan. I'll definitely be adding more color to the scheme once the wall/fireplace are ready for decorating - can't wait to get to that point!

  • Jcraw Jcraw on Jan 03, 2017

    You are obviously a very organized and orderly person. You shelves are neatly decorated. So, to start, Cut cardboard or foam core ($1/sheet at dollar store) to fit the back wall of shelves. Paint or cover/staple with fabric a pale grey fabric or wallpaper, or the lightest color of your brick or the color of your walls. Secure to panelling with glue, double-face tape, or maybe Velcro. Or just very small tack nails. Experiment as to which will hold best, but it's a vertical, so there's no stress point.

    I like the whitewash idea, but since the walls appear beige-ish, I might stay with that, rather than a pure white.

    The wood is beautiful, so go in small steps. This "backboard" idea is inexpensive and will immediately bring the eyes up.

    Rather than just the pair of prints in the middle, bring some "light" up. You want more height. And light colors.

    So I move to randomness. If you love family photos, get a couple ofcollage frames On sale at Michaels. Fill them with big and small photos and "stack" on the mantle the way Joanna of Texas does. the collages should be taller than your print pair. Include single-framed great photos of moms, dads, kids or friends, or other simple great photos. . At least 8" x10" for impact, some 12" a couple of 24". Some black and whites, like your prints, to tie in with them. Since you're not hanging them, get family or friends involved in the "stacking" choice. You may want to hang a few - try the hooks from Command so you're not making holes and changing your mind.

    Use some of those photos that are on your dark shelves. If they're great, go to walgreens and make them bigger. Horizontals, verticals. Make it a family project of smiles and artistic decisions. The pictures can be changed and rotated monthly or yearly. Pictures of all sizes,because frames are cheap. Use antique and modern For texture and interest.

    Its your home. Have fun with it and brighten your room at the same time without back-breaking work. Then sit back and decide if more aggressive work is needed.

  • Dee11135737 Dee11135737 on Jan 04, 2017

    I love the wood too! I would clean it up a bit, whitewash the brick or just add a lighter grout between to keep the rich brick color, and paint all the gold on the fireplace black. If you painted the top shelf white and changed the crown along the ceiling to a 1x4 painted white as well, it might help the beautiful knotty pine stand out more.

  • 169756 169756 on Jan 04, 2017

    Good luck. It's a great room. We had a totally knotty pine room that we primed and painted. If I had it to do over again, I'd just choose a white wash approach, so the knots show thru. Oh, forgot the brick. I'd so about the same with the brick, with maybe a warmer cream color. Again, good luck.

    • See 2 previous
    • Dee B Dee B on Jan 04, 2017

      Your craft room looks great. I love the accent wall! I'll be posting the results once I'm finished with the project. I'm hoping to start it in the next week or two - still doing some research.

  • Bonnie galloway Bonnie galloway on Jan 04, 2017

    Here's a possible design idea to keep the wood look but update it. Lightly sand 2-3 panels and stain a darker color to give an overall stripped wall of wood. Just a thought. I do like the knotty pine and would keep it intact for now. Never know when that total wood look is going to come back around! Great ideas on the fireplace and book cases, nothing to add from me!

  • Sam Sam on Jan 05, 2017

    white wash the fire place, paint the wood. it could always be stripped if you want a more rustic look in the future. paint some of the wood furniture as well, but leave some darker for contrast. looks like you have blue carpet. put some blue accent pieces up on the book shelves when they are painted for a pop of color there. along w some light yellow.

  • Adele Kurtz Adele Kurtz on Jan 06, 2017

    I have a lot of knotty pine and I would NOT paint large areas of it. Start with accent walls & small details with matte GRAY to Neutralize the orange.

    Just yesterday I used the matte-gray dry-brush technique on my knotty pine swinging doors -- which I had mistakenly tried a trendy white wash, first, and disliked. Now I am happy again -- I'll take a pic later & add.

    I think the addition of matte neutral gray, helped tremendously -- gave a new dimension that sets off wood & stone. Plus I have lots of parchment white on main walls to keep the spaces bright.

    I also use blue to accent,

    I am wondering about that German technique over the brick -- do you watch Joanne & Chip on HGTV? I think there's a Hometalker who has done it. I'll look for you.

    • Dee B Dee B on Jan 06, 2017

      Hi Adele - I just checked out your link - your house is beautiful and very inviting. You're right about the Matte Grey. It really makes a difference.

  • Adele Kurtz Adele Kurtz on Jan 06, 2017

    Here are a few design studies to evaluate where you are at and where you may wish to go:

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    • Kj Kj on Jan 09, 2017

      The last whitewash looks the best, I would suggest just painting the front facing edges of the pine slightly warmer than the walls, brings a pop to the wall without it being too much. It would tie it all together in mho.

  • Christy Roppel Christy Roppel on Jan 06, 2017

    What about painting just the trim white? I would definitely paint the fireplace either all white or a white-wash. Then, paint the gold black (they make a great fire-resistant/high heat spray paint) Work on the scale of your decorations.

  • Charl Charl on Jan 09, 2017

    Whitewash the brick may love the way the wall looks then. I personally would do the General's Java gel stain...check it out on prep work....wipe on and wipe off. It will darken the color while still letting the knotty pine show through. The more coats you add the darker it's up to you. The dark wood would look awesome against the whitewashed fireplace.

    • Dee B Dee B on Jan 09, 2017

      Thanks! That's a great idea. I checked it out and it looks great. I'll add this to my many possibilities!

  • Eroque022810 Eroque022810 on Jan 09, 2017

    It looks as if it gets light from the window which probably has made the wood turn so maybe remove the polyurethane finish and see if the true color is orangey that may be just the polyurethane.

  • Nancy Nancy on Jan 10, 2017

    Be advised. Knotty pine often bleeds through most paints. So if you do plan to paint, get the best oil based primer. If you decide to stain, make sure that there is not an old varnish coat on the wood before you start. Many times, old varnishes show as an orange tone. Get some advice from a Sherwin Williams or Benjamin Moore paint dealer.

    • Dee B Dee B on Jan 11, 2017

      Thanks Nancy. As soon as I figure out my plan of attack Sherwin Williams will be my first stop for advice. They just opened a store down the street - perfect timing!

  • I would white-wash it. It will be lighter and the wood will still show through.

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Jul 31, 2023

    Use a Knotting compound or Stain Block paint!

  • Mogie Mogie on Aug 06, 2023

    White wash it as well as the brick around the fireplace.

  • Deb K Deb K on Oct 05, 2023

    Hello Dee, hope this helps you. You can use peel and stick wallpaper, or you can put wall panels over it.

  • Libbie B Libbie B on Nov 23, 2023

    I would paint the brick and then see how you feel. Then if it still seems like a lot of wood try painting just the back of the bookcases. You may be surprised!