I think wood paneling on walls is actually a very nice way to add an accent to a room, or to make a room feel more like a “lodge” or “cabin.” I’m talking about WOOD paneling, made from real oak, pine or cedar, and made of the real material. My issue is with that dark, cheap, pressboard paneling that was popular in the 70s. This paneling invariably had a very dark wood grain, and was placed on every wall of a tiny room…..making the room a cave. This paneling had paper glued to the pressboard that had a (usually very unconvincing) wood grain finish. If you have ever tried to hang anything on this paneling with adhesive or “Blue Tac,” you know what it’s like to tear that thin paper clean off the pressboard underneath.
Sometimes the paneling came in unnatural wood colors, like blond or white. Sometimes the wood grain was on a paper that had a greenish or bluish tint. Whatever the color, the paneling only looked good for about a month, then it started to get dingy and people began to regret their choice to install it.
Today, this paneling is a throwback to the 1970s. Houses that were built (or at least decorated) in the 1970s most likely contain this paneling in some form or another. It may be in the bedrooms, or the living room. It may be in the kitchen in the form of a wainscoting. But, it’s there. The panels take the occupant back to a time when the world wore bellbottoms and had strings of beads as doors. It’s time to get rid of these panels. The world moved out of the 1970s, disco died, so it’s time to bring the decorating up to the times!
When I lived in New York City, my apartment was riddled with this stuff. It had been designed in the mid-1970s, with the quintessential deep, dark fake wood paneling. There was 1 small window in each room, and it was on the ground floor, so sun was not a very abundant commodity. I lived for 6 years in that cave, experiencing depression when I was inside (which I contributed to seasonal depression) because the apartment was so depressingly dark. To top it off, the carpet was a very dark brown. About the only think bright in there was the ceiling (painted white), but it was engulfed by the depressing black hole of the paneling. Finally, after 6 years, I decided it was time to get rid of the paneling. I couldn’t tear it out because, due to shoddy construction, it was the only thing on walls made of 2-by-4s, so I painted it. I chose an off-white color for the main walls, and a blue for the “accent” wall. The painting transformed the dank, dark, dingy room into something much brighter and less suicide-inducing. It’s amazing how much a little brightness at home can change a person’s mood!
It’s the new millennium, people, it’s time to remove this old throwback stuff and brighten the room. It’s time to say “no” to fake, cheap, paper-glued-to-pressboard dark wood paneling and “yes” to brighter walls and more sunlight. Paneling is not a bad choice for decorating, but it should be something bright and fun, not dark and dismal. It should be real wood, if it’s trying to emulate wood. My parents have great paneling in their dining room. It’s a very bright paneling with a “grasscloth” design. It goes extremely well with the house and it keeps the room bright and sunny. So, paneling doesn’t have to be depressing, it can actually be stylish! My parents were some of the first to get that fake wood crap out of the house! Others should follow suit!