Styling Your Wood Paneled Space

Psst: Let me whisper something in your ear. Just two words. Ready? “Wood paneling.” To be honest, I can almost feel the involuntary shudder you gave when you heard that and thought of the dark, painfully faux wall coverings of decades past. It’s true that those images may never fade from our minds (our poor minds), but it’s also true that wood paneling today is so much more than that. It can be bright, natural, and quite cheerful. When done correctly, wood paneling provides depth and subtle style that’s hard to beat. Consider the following examples:

Painted a Creamy White.

Vertical wood panels painted out in a light neutral color give off a comfortable, almost country, charm. The lines of the panels are subtle yet provide a notable backdrop to artwork, even unexpected modern art like what you see here. In a space with a neutral color palette, where texture moves to the forefront, creamy white wood paneling is fresh and soothing and a perfect way to achieve visual interest without detracting from the overall earthy vibe.

Painted a Dark Color.

In contrast to the lightness of white painted wood paneling, consider painting yours out in a dark color, like this moody navy with white contrast. The thin white panel lines help to break up the darkness, while the beautiful dark color makes the space feel both sophisticated and cozy at the same time. Maybe because it resembles a pinstripe, I’m drawn to the color choice here. Paired with an eclectic assortment of furniture and accessories, the wall serves as a solid and interesting backdrop. (Note the two bright windows, which help prevent the dark walls from feeling like a cave.)

Installed as Horizontal Panels.

Wood paneling is typically vertical, for reasons I don’t claim to know. But these narrow horizontally laid wood strips are absolutely beautiful and create a perfect accent wall in this space. They are lightly stained to highlight the lovely wood grain and kept completely bare to be its own art form. I like how a few touches of natural elements (e.g., the rug, the ceiling, the flowers) in this simple space go a long way in creating a sense of cohesion. Absolutely beautiful and serene.


These hardwood floors are intensely beautiful although quite dark. This is why whitewash on this wood paneled wall-and-ceiling hallway is a good choice. The grain of the wood paneling is not lost in the whitewash, but it is merely toned down so as to not compete with all the other wood elements. I think the cohesion, of wood elements with different finishes here, is beautiful…as is the fact that this whitewashed wall serves as a flawless backdrop to that simple antique chair.

Just Go With It.

Say your space has beautiful real-wood panels, like these. It would almost be a shame to paint them out when the rustic, organic feel is so tangible in the space. If you’re lucky enough to have this situation in your home, I’d recommend you just go with it. Create the ultimate comfort zone, including a heavy shag rug (lighter in color, though, to balance out the dark walls), some simple clean-lined furnishings, and some easily accessible pillows to pull out and enjoy the space.

Picture sources: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Published by in Interiors, on February 19th, 2013


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