When you hear the phrase “wood paneling,” what comes to mind? Do you think of the rustic wood paneling one sees in ski lodges and slopeside hotels? Or does a picture of dark, hushed mahogany reminiscent of a lawyer’s office, spring to mind? Many people land somewhere in the middle – but most people’s impression of wood paneling as dark and overly formal sticks.
Wood paneling doesn’t have to be dark and dreary or stuffy– indeed, today’s wood panels are available in a full range of colors, from the uber-light honey tones of Douglas Fir to the rich heartwood of redwood.
More manufacturers are using reclaimed wood for their paneling. This means modern reclaimed wood paneling is far from boring. Old gym bleachers, shipping containers and even barn siding can be turned into paneling. Oftentimes, the original details are left intact to create a visual story of the reclaimed wood’s past.. For instance, reclaimed wood sourced from old warehouses often contains nail marks; these dark oxide stains create a vintage character. By researching what reclaimed wood paneling is available, you can easily find a color and style that is just to your taste.
Even if your current wood paneling looks dark, you don’t have to take drastic steps to lighten it up. A few simple shifts in décor can dramatically brighten any paneled room. Below, we list a few interior decorating techniques for lightening and sprucing up wood paneling.
Bring in the Light
If your room is too dark, focus on your lighting. Oftentimes when a room feels dark it’s because the current lighting doesn’t provide the correct amount of ambient, task and decorative lighting. Ambient lighting brightens the entire room. Task lighting is used for focused activities, such as reading in a living room or cutting vegetables in the kitchen. And decorative lighting adds pizzazz, such as the beautiful pendant lamps you see in coffee shops.
Evaluate which of these lighting types is lacking in the room, and begin scouring garage sales, stores and vintage shops for gorgeous lighting fixtures. The right lighting can make even the darkest wood paneling warm and inviting.
Here are a few other lighting techniques you may not have considered:
- Replace heavy draperies with translucent curtains.
- Add a skylight.
- Place a beautiful framed mirror across from the room’s largest window to reflect light and make the room feel larger.
- Add candles to bring an inviting, introspective glow.
- Choose neutral creams, whites and grays to unify and brighten the space
Review your Furniture Choices
Heavy wood furniture will automatically make a wood paneled room feel dark. Aunt Mildred’s antique tallboy may be better suited to another room, for instance. To bring light into a room that’s covered with rustic wood paneling, think about adding a couple of glass-topped tables, which, like mirrors, will reflect light. Similarly, adding glass tiles around fireplaces and other built-in features will make the room seem lighter.
A comfortable couch with plenty of throw cushions can also make a dark room more inviting. Add a couple of side lamps or sconces, perfectly situated for reading or other lap work, and voila! You will have created a cozy area that every family member will be drawn to.
The finishing touches for your room will have a large influence on how people feel in it. For instance, by adding a large area rug (in neutral, light shades, of course) you can counteract the cold feeling of older wood paneling. Candles also make great accessories. And don’t forget to add plants. Indoor plants such as hostas, begonias and orchids automatically enliven any room.
These techniques can help you lighten a room with any kind of wood paneling, whether it’s sleek and modern, more rustic, or dark and formal. Wood paneling doesn’t automatically doom a room to gloom; with a few simple changes and no major remodeling, you can brighten the space quickly and affordably.