Hey all, it’s Ginny here with another design agony and this time we’re talking about painting wood paneling. Our client Mickey emailed us with the following question:
Should I paint our den/office? I know it’s ugly paneling, but the built-ins are beautiful solid wood and very high quality. I cannot decide what to do! I’ve been contemplating this for 3 years now. I feel like the room is dark (the curtains aren’t helping), and I haven’t put any style/decor effort in because I don’t love the space. My husband LOVES this room just the way it is (of course, men love that gross paneling!). So, my question is, should I paint it? If so, do I have to paint everything (paneling, built-ins, and trim)? Or can I simply paint over the paneling and leave the trim and built ins? And if I leave the built-ins as is, do I paint the paneling that’s behind them – you can see it in the shelf space. Also, if I paint the room do I have to paint the section of ceiling in the bay window that is wood (last picture). Finally, if you do think I should paint it, do you think I should go light or with a cool indigo or bolder color? I need help!!!!
The rest of our house is painted in whites or very light greys/beiges, with white trim. I would say the style of the house is cottage-y. We live in a rural setting in Pennsylvania.
From the before photos you can see that the bones are pretty good, and the cabinet doors are simple in style with no fussy flourishes. But the main issue here is definitely the color – it’s just way too orange. We narrowed it down to two main design directions (white vs blue) that Mickey could follow, and in both instances we recommended painting all of the wood work in the same color, including the shelves, framing and back wall. By doing that it would feel more cohesive and impactful. Let us be clear – if you have a beautiful wood den, or wood paneling in any color in a pretty tone that you love, KEEP IT. We love beautiful original wood as much as the next guy. But if its orange and dated then you do have some options.
This is what we sent to Mickey along with our recommendation:
With what you have said about the rest of your house being light and airy it might be nice to bring that theme into this room too. In option 1 we are suggesting that you paint everything in a soft white, something that it not too stark but has a calming feel to it. You could also add some other pops of colour in here on your seat bench, and we’d suggest that you paint the underside of the window seat ceiling to match. It will feel super fresh and compliment the amount of natural lighting you have coming in through the windows. We suggest to remove the drapes and instead do simple roman shades. We also think that you could do away with the window treatments altogether, unless you need them for privacy. With either drapes or shades, you’re going to lose some light because they are mounted on the inside and will end up covering part of the window. This is another reason for us suggesting to remove them. We would paint out the room first before tackling the windows.
Our second option is to go for a dusty blue colour. We feel this is the one we would suggest you go for, because it’ll bridge the gap between you wanting to repaint and your husband wanting to keep it dark. Whilst we love the idea of the white, it might be really fun to bring in some colour to your house if you mainly have whites, greys and neutrals elsewhere. This could be a super cosy reading room, and you already have the leather chairs that would look amazing against the blue. We’re also suggesting to do the fabric on the built-ins blue too, with maybe a stripe or pattern to give some texture. We would take the drapery advise above and get another great blue that works with the wall colour. You could always do a white shade to keep the windows feeling white if you didn’t want to go full on blue. Accessorize with leather, white and greys. We are actually very excited by this route and I hope you go for it!
We also suggested that they replace the hardware to something that would pop more against the new colour. Take a look at what we got back from them after they painted.
They wasted no time at all in painting the room and sent us some progress shots along with a note:
We absolutely loved the design and went with the stiffkey blue. I started priming that same day. I was able to restore the existing hardware. I attached some pictures, but the lighting isn’t the best. For the decor I used pieces around the house that we already had and will continue to refine as time and budget allow. It is still very much a work in progress.
Thank you for all your help. Our den is a million times better now and we LOVE the blue – even my husband is glad we made the switch 🙂 I couldn’t have done it without your help!
We love the leather and wood accents that are in here now. And I think swapping out some of the wood photo frames to black on the shelves will help them bring in another colour to the room. I think a mix of blue, white and black pillows would also look awesome in here too.
Look how amazing her knobs came out that she restored. They are super fun and full of character and well worth keeping. They pop off the cabinetry way more now and accent the wall colour beautifully.
Even though I don’t love the idea of blocking the light, I might be tempted to hang roman shades on the windows just to add some softness for the colder months. I also like the pop of white from the seat bench but I’d still love to see a patterned fabric on here or even a throw blanket draped over.
Considering Mickey pulled together a few things she had from around the rest of the house, it’s looking really cute. I’m actually really glad they went with the blue because it makes it feel like a cozy library and really modernizes the paneling. If it were my space I’d totally want to hang out here and read a book with a cup of tea.
Interested in having us help you out with a room layout or full redesign? Visit our services page for more details.
***Design boards by Melanie Burstin for EHD with design direction by Ginny Macdonald, overseen by Emily Henderson. Post written by Ginny (with a few additions by EH).
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