a brief case for wood paneling



It’s a House Hunters cliche. A young couple and a flustered realtor wander around a house more than a few decades old and they stumble upon a wood paneled room. If the realtor is lucky, the would-be-homebuyers suggest they can take down or paint the paneling to make it livable. More than likely, though, this young couple is mentally writing the house off. Too dated, too dark, not HGTV enough. I admit I’ve never been particularly fond of wood paneling, but recent examples of homeowners and designers embracing and updating the look instead of replacing it altogether have given me pause. Perhaps a wooden walls and ceilings can be cozy and even a kind of neutral that allows furniture, art, and fixtures to take center stage while still maintaining more visual interest than painted drywall.  As an example, I’ve chosen some photos from a real estate listing I’ve revisited many times over the past several months. While not traditional vertical wood paneling, I believe the principal applies here. Faced with wood ceilings, walls, floors, and trim, the homeowners chose to do the exact opposite of convention, painting wood trim and hardwood floors and leaving wooden walls and ceilings as-is. The results are spectacular, and it’s not just the views that do the trick. The balance of warm wood with pale pastel paint and light floors provide the perfect juxtaposition. An oversized paper lantern as the primary light fixture, simple furniture, and a few luxury details, such as marble counter tops help carry on the high-low, traditional-modern, light-dark, grounded-ethereal balance they have going on. Talk about real estate envy. From now on, when I see wood paneling or boards on ceilings or walls, I’ll think twice before mentally painting them over or ripping them out.




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