7 Wood Paneling Decorating Ideas

wood paneled wall
  • 1-4 hours
  • Beginner
  • 30-200
What You'll Need
Trisodium phosphate
Painter's tape
"Brown bagging" paper

Wood paneling can make a room feel dark and outdated. The obvious question is: Why not remove the paneling? The answer is that you never know what the condition of the wall is underneath or the damage that might occur when removing it. The problem can be solved with some decorating ideas that will change the wall or distract the eye from it.

1. Paint the Paneling

To create a fresher and lighter feeling with your wood paneling, you can paint the wall. Clean it well with TSP (trisodium phosphate) diluted in water. Let it dry and apply a primer. Then paint over it.

2. Fill the Grooves

Use caulk to fill the grooves. Let the filler dry and sand it lightly if needed. Once the walls are prepared, apply primer and paint them the color of your choice.

3. Stripe the Grooves

Use the grooves to your advantage. Create a striped wall by taping the grooves and painting them. That could be a good look for a child’s room if you use a colorful paint for the stripes.

4. Wallpaper

wall with wallpaper upper and wainscotting on the lower

You can hang wallpaper over the paneling, but it will need some preparation. First clean the walls and let dry. Then, either fill in the ridges or use a heavy wallpaper liner.

5. Cover It Up

If you can’t change the wall, then cover it. Hang floor to ceiling curtains across the paneled wall. These fabric panels can actually give the illusion that you have a huge window. The fabric can also make an elegant decorating statement.

Another way to cover it is to use a large piece of furniture the wall, such as a bookshelf or entertainment system. Even hanging a large piece of artwork or tapestry will take remove attention from the wall and direct it toward the art.

6. Brown Bagging

painting a paneled wall white

Brown bagging can be used to cover wood paneling. This technique is similar to wallpaper, but instead of hanging the paper in rolls, decorative or plain paper is torn into irregular pieces then applied to the wall. It was originally done with the paper from brown bags, but you can use any heavy paper.

There are special products which allow you to simply apply water to the paper. Place them on the wall layering them over each other. Doing so creates a faux finish look with an old-world texture. The texture also hides the grooves in the paneling, although you may need more layers than you would on a flat wall.

7. If You Can’t Beat Them Join Them

If you don’t have the budget or time to change the room, then decorate in a retro fashion. Use sleek furniture and atomic prints. Use the pink, turquoise, and mint green pastel colors so popular during that decade. Work with the room instead of against it.