How Painting Wood Paneling Will Change Your Life!

blue and white kitchen

There is simply no reason you must live perpetually with a dated wood kitchen if you don’t want to. Or live in a dark, wood-paneled den just because your home contains one.  And, no, you don’t have to rip the wood paneling out.

blue pillow

Pull Up a Comfy Chair and Read This Post

You need to lighten up your life by painting wood paneling in your home. I know, I know:  your husband says “No way, Jose!” Men have lots of reasons for leaving wood in its natural state as I expounded upon in my post, “Why Men Fear Painting Wood.”

Men Think Wood Paneling is Sexy, But It’s Not


My clients spent 16 years with dark, dated wood cabinets and wood paneling in their kitchen and adjoining den. Because their Nashville home is a 1970’s ranch, they honestly believed that they had no other choice but to live in that era as long as they lived in that home. Not true!

dated wood 1970s kitchen

 Before of Kitchen with Dated Wood Cabinetry

Honestly, it took a bit of convincing to reassure my clients that painting wood paneling would work and not result in a half-baked result. They thought they needed to rip out all their cabinetry and start over, which would have been prohibitively expensive. They were paralyzed by fear and lack of vision. Once I gained their trust, we began moving forward towards an amazing outcome. The proof is in the photos. Get ready for the transformation . . .

blue and white kitchen

 After – Same Cabinets, Painted White

Note how the peninsula was really narrow and not terribly functional – that was about to change.  Here’s another angle of the “before” condition of the kitchen:

dated wood cabinets before

 Kitchen Before Design Intervention

Granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and updated lighting helped bring the kitchen into the 21st century, but the paint updates really make the biggest impact. The hutch you see to the left is great additional storage for a kitchen with no pantry. It was previously in the dining room, but I encouraged my clients to paint the dated oak piece white and move it into the kitchen. Notice the expanded coffee bar area with seating – the existing peninsula with an extended countertop created a new space for seating.

kitchen makeover by the decorologist

 Light and Bright Kitchen After Design Intervention

Shall we turn around and look at the “before” of the adjoining den? Definitely dated and underutilized:

before painting panelingWood Paneling Before

Painting wood paneling will change your life!  The paneling remains, but Benjamin Moore’s Woodlawn Blue transforms the look and feel of the space.

blue living room

 Painted Wood Paneling

Closer in now, another “before” shot of the adjoining den:

Den and Wood Paneling Before

The addition of black accents including the painted fireplace mantel, bar chairs, and drapery rod add sophistication and gravity to the airy and light room.

benjamin moore woodlawn blue

Den After

The before looks like circa 1974:

Wood Paneling Before

Dark days are over, now everything’s light and bright!  New furnishings and updated lighting make the den a family-friendly place to gather and watch television.

beautiful living roomBeautiful New Den

As an interior decorator my job was to cast the vision, specify the right colors, and provide expert shopping within their budget. These homeowners did most of the work in this lovely transformation themselves: painting, installing new hardwood floors, and installing the new beadboard backsplash. Their hands-on involvement resulted in a beautiful home that they can feel happy and proud to spend the next 16+ years in.

beadboard paneling

Expanded Counter and  Painted Beadboard Paneling

Really, do you need any better proof that you should paint your dated wood paneling?

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123 thoughts on “How Painting Wood Paneling Will Change Your Life!

  1. Jamie says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time scrolling between before and after pictures in any of your posts. Holy moly that looks amazing! Such a transformation and I love that they did most of it themselves. Definitely ogling that beadboard backsplash!

      • Ilene says:

        Thank you, Thank you for showing the beadboard backsplash. I had thoughts of doing that in my kitchen but when I said something to my daughter she crumpled up her face and said, it’s your house so then I doubted myself but after seeing this, guess what I’m doing!

  2. Jennifer says:

    Love it!!! I would paint paneling in a heart beat…..the space is gorgeous now. What a complete transformation! Bravo Kristie!!!!

  3. Leif says:

    WOW!!!! I love it! I never get tired of seeing the before and after shots.

    I love that you moved the light fixture from the center of the den and created that “off center” gathering place. I would never have thought that would work but it looks wonderful. So excited for your client. It is CHIC and refreshing! GOOD JOB my friend!

  4. Kelly Berg says:

    Wow, Kristie! This is fantastic. You should be really excited about this project. Great job. (It’s so much more attractive to have the wood on the floor as opposed to the walls, isn’t it?)

  5. liz says:

    Absolutely amazing!! I am always checking out before and afters and I am still always so surprised at how much difference a coat of paint can make. These rooms are so lovely and livable.

  6. Linda says:

    Yowzer!! What a beautiful difference paint made in this home. I can only imagine how very thrilled the clients must be. Bravo my friend!

  7. Jennifer says:

    It looks great and is adding to my inspiration!

    I am planning on painting my kitchen this summer. It has knotty pine walls and NO ONE thinks I should paint it. I, however, can not live with it anymore! I can’t wait to do it and I hope it turns out as lovely as your project.

  8. Julie says:

    What a beautiful transformation! I’ve painted paneling but I’ve always gone with a “safe” color like white or gray but now I feel like even more options have opened up in front of me. This looks beautiful!

  9. Cyndia says:

    What is it about guys not wanting to paint either wood or brick? When we bought our home 13 years ago, one of the first things I wanted to do was paint the brick. Hubby was incredulous. I finally wore him down, but it took ten years. He even volunteered to paint it! And now it’s a lovely shade of warm green. He can’t believe he fought me on it for so long, and he loves it!
    I’ve even convinced him to paint several pieces of wood furniture!

  10. Susanne says:

    Wow…that’s great. It looks like a completely new home. I’m looking for a for just that very thing. However, I need a fairy godmother and a magic wand and some very hand

  11. Christina says:

    What about paneled walls with molding in the home office? House built circa 1999, we’ve lived here 9 months. The realtor said we should NEVER paint it because it adversely effects resale potential. I’m thinking I don’t care. It’s oak, not even quarter-sawn and the room is dark and dreary. I know painting it would make it a fabulous room.

  12. patricia says:

    This is quite possibly the BEST kitchen re-do I’ve *ever* seen! Spectacular! From a dark and dated cave to a beautiful light, modern, INVITING, happy space. LOVE IT! And love bistro table… perfect!

  13. Sarah A. says:

    I, too, have dated ugly wood paneling. I’ve been waiting for an “ugliest kitchen contest”, but since I haven’t found one, I’ve just left the paneling. After seeing this, I want to cry! I am so excited to give it a try!

  14. [email protected] Space Within says:

    What a beautiful transformation! The colours are sublime. Just a question on whether you have any tips on preparation to ensure a long-lasting paint finish on the panelling? I’d love to recommend this to a few “clients” (read family!) to update their home.

  15. Shari says:

    All I can say is, “WOW!” Kristie, this has to be your most stunning reveal yet! Like a previous responder, I just kept scrolling back and forth to really soak in the ‘before’ and ‘after.’ I would be looking for excuses to be in that kitchen and den now. Simply beautiful and very inspiring. Makes me want to create some bold and grown-up changes in my own house. Wonderful work. Thanks for posting.

  16. Tammy says:

    I just love this makeover, that blue on walls is beautiful . I ordered the chairs but without the arms. I was glad to see them here with a brown sofa. Do you recall where you got the rug from?

  17. Diane says:

    Hi, I’m moving into an apartment soon with paneling and will try and paint them. How do you make them look so smooth? Looks like regular dry walls. Any advice? Thanks a lot!

  18. Teresa Dove says:

    Have you been in my house? My house was built in 1970 and has that exact paneling on every wall, floor to ceiling, entire downstairs. The cabinets in the “before” pics look just like mine, and that boxy light fixture hangs over my sink!! I was happy to see the turquoise walls — I just painted my kitchen walls turquoise and green, and had already planned to paint my cabinets white! So nice to see an “after” pic before its done!! Thank you for the funny and inspiring website!

  19. Danielle says:

    This is amazing!!!!! We are looking at buying a house that has a kitchen that looks almost identical to the before pictures. What was the budget for this amazing kitchen?

  20. Allyson says:

    Hey Kristie,

    This looks amazing. I have a living room and hallway of horrible wood. Is there any recommendations for colors I should use to cover the wood? Can I choose any color I want?

    P.S. The wood walls have horizontal line design textures that will be noticed even after painting.

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      It’s ok if you are left with texture – don’t let that stop you from painting that wood! I actually like the lined look of painted tongue-and-groove walls – more character than flat drywall, right? Yes, you can choose any color you like. If you are scared to go a real color, a nice off-white will brighten that hallway like you wouldn’t believe.

  21. Holly says:

    LOVE THIS KITCHEN! We’re going to duplicate but on a smaller scale in the house we just bought. Wondering though about the floors. Those changed as well. Do you know what kind of flooring that is?

  22. Sarah says:

    I stumbled on this while searching painting wood paneling. We just purchased a home that is eerily similar to this – and I want to duplicate your work in my home! I think it is absolutely stunning!! Can you tell me the paint color you used? Thank you so much for giving me hope regarding the wood paneling!

  23. Dawn says:

    I found these pics when searching for kitchen cabinetry to compliment my thick knotty pine paneling in a beach home. I painted the old wooden cabinets white when I moved in 7 years ago, looked great for but now it is really time for a new kitchen. I have been laughing over all the man comments. My husband would love to paint over the walls, but not me. That wood hides a multitude of wall hanging mistakes! Ironically, I have the same armchairs as the photo, and they really look great with wood walls as well. Loved the transformation nevertheless, but still wondering what style/color cabinets for the kitchen.

  24. Rachel says:

    Saw this on Pinterest and repinned it myself. I cannot believe the gorgeous transformation! That blue is my absolute favorite color and I love seeing it used in a kitchen. You can see the quality of workmanship in the execution of the makeover. I remember painting my mom’s paneled family room and it was not nearly as well done as this – like you said, good prep work and materials are essential. Thank you so much for a fantastic before-and-after example of painting paneling, and thank you for giving me the inspiration to try it myself!!

  25. shannnon says:

    I just saw this post as I was searching ideas of how to paint over paneling. This is AMAZING, can you please do mine:) My husband is also a fan of anything wood, and I have have fianlly convinced him to let me paint over the paneling on our front room/ office space. In your pics, I can not even tell there is paneling underneath. Did you fill in the grooves with any wood fillers or joint compund? I hate the thought of all that tedious work, but if it makes that much of a difference, I would do it. Can you give me more specifics as to the steps for preperation before the paint. Assuming your not gonna knock on my door and plan it out for me:)

  26. Shirley O'Neil says:

    I love the transformation of this den and kitchen.  My house is a "little sister" to this one.  I have similar questions to Shannon.  I do not want the grooves to show when I paint the paneling.  What should I use to fill them in?  Then I presume the whole walls will need to be texturized.  Could you give me a run through of procedures that need to be done, from bare paneling to the finished painted walls.  You have inspired me to "get er done".

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Don’t fill in the grooves!  Painted paneling or beadboard adds great texture to a space.  There’s just no need to fill in the grooves, and I can’t imagine you could make it perfect so I wouldn’t bother.  Just roll on a nice eggshell paint after a good prepping and priming with Kilz or maybe Benjamin Moore Advance paint for wood cabinets.

  27. [email protected] Nikiforoff Designs says:

    Oh my goodness! This transformation is positively gorgeous! If I had a dollar for every prospective client home I’ve been in that looks just like this (dated paneling and kitchen) I’d be rich, rich, rich 😉 That old saying ‘Just cuz its wood, doesn’t mean its good” is so true! One project I didn’t get after the consultation, started this way, “What can we do to make our kitchen look newer and lighter?” I answered, “Paint the dark dated 80’s cabinets.” The husband literally grasped at his chest! I thought we were going to have to do CPR! The wife said nothing and the teenage daughter came and did a high-5 with me 🙂 Sadly, they never did a thing and kept living in their dark, dated home unhappily ever after. Well, guess ya can’t win ’em all. 😉 I LOVE these rooms you showed. Wish I could get my parents to be on board with updating tired wood cabinets. {sigh}

  28. Dixie Lee says:

    Have been fighting with hubby for 23 years over painting paneling in den. Finally have his buy in and a paint sample…sending this link to him.

  29. Sarah says:

    Can you please send me how to paint wood paneling. The stuff in my home looks the same as theirs. How do you paint over wood paneling???? My living room and dining room are so dim and blah.

  30. Jenny says:

    Wow, thanks for the inspiration for redecorating my 80’s kitchen! I never thought of painting the wood cabinets, just got stuck on replacing them (obviously way more expensive). I love the work that you have done on this house.

  31. Crystal says:

    Love the transformation in this space!! I am going to try to duplicate it. WHat is the color blue on the paneled walls?

  32. SherryJ says:

    I am soooooo glad I saw and found your page. We have knotty pine paneling in the family and living room and we were thinking about getting rid of it. I have seen people paint over paneling and I honestly didn’t like it. Maybe if we chose the right color, it may not look to bad. I just love the after photos. You did a fantastic job.

  33. Donna Baker says:

    I have an early 1980’s Wausau home with vaulted ceilings and lots of paneling. It’s the large sheet kind with lathing strips to hide where the sheets join. 8 ‘ x 5 ‘ I think. It is on the entire wall to the 13’ high ceiling and they also paneled the top of the wall from the low to the high wall straight across. The other wall is paneled with closet doors I want to paint the rooms but should I paint just the paneling and strips of wood or the whole room the same color or remove the strips and caulk the grooves or drywall over it or texture paint everything? Whew! Thanks for any suggestions!

  34. Holly Jordan says:

    Did you use the Benjamin Moore Woodlawn Blue in the kitchen too? To me the blue in the kitchen appears darker.
    I am embarking on renovating a 1970’s hot mess complete with paneling in EVERY room and a dark brick fireplace. This gives me hope!

  35. Christina Kee says:

    Holy. Moly. Shut up. This is amazing. AMAZING! How do you do that?!?!! I just bought a home with a terrible “third bedroom” that has horrible wood paneling. It is so dark and dingy and scary. But your post inspired me that while we save a bit more money to overhaul the room, we can totally update it in the meantime! Thank you!

  36. LibbyP says:

    I need a tactful way to email this to my mother-in-law!! They have a very nice home but 70’s panelling keeps the home outdated, no matter what else she updates. If I lived near here, I would just show her this webpage….

    Beautiful job as always, Kristie!

  37. Lesa Bell says:

    Had to laugh at the “men think paneling is sexy but it’s not” comment because it’s so very true! Painted paneling and painted brick always look great because it adds texture and character. Adorable redo!

  38. Emma Jones says:

    I absolutely love that transformation!! I have a wall (two story) in my living room with dark DIAGONAL wood paneling. It was obviously built in the 70s… but it is so dark and dreary. Any suggestions? The rest of the room has a kitchen overlooking wall, one wall with a stone fireplace and the other is the entryway. Help!! (and my husband was all for painting before we moved in, but now he does NOT want to do anything with it!)

  39. Holly B. says:

    WOW! I WISH!!! We have wood paneling, big sheets of solid pieces of wood. My husband won’t let me redo them because his grandfather built the house. He thinks it would be ungrateful to his Grandfather and mother who let us have the house. I painted a ceiling fan once and got in trouble. Maybe these photos will help!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      I sure hope they do, Holly! I’m sure your husband’s grandfather meant for your home to be a blessing, not a curse that brings you down. Brightening things up could be a great blessing for you both!

  40. lee says:

    I have painted wood paneling in a bedroom, looks like flat paint. I wanted to repaint it a different color, is flat paint the way to go?

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  42. Dee says:

    I’ve been hesitant to paint a wood panelled wall in my house and this post was the final nudge I needed. I felt claustrophobic looking at those before shots, the transformation you’ve done is incredible! Gorgeous, gorgeous result.

    Thank you for the inspiration.

  43. Heather says:

    I love the remodel! We have tons of wood paneling to deal with in our new house and this is great inspiration. I really like the teal color you used in the kitchen – can you tell me what you used? Thanks!

  44. Serena B says:

    Love this makeover!

    I did it in my last home….a 1961 brick traditional in middle TN (oh I miss that house!). We painted everything that didn’t move! Dark brick FP got whitewashed, brown paneling was painted a sandy color, and I even painted over old grasscloth wallpaper that had been on the walls for almost 50 years! It was NOT budging, so I painted over it and the result was a lovely textured wall. It did soak up paint like a SPONGE, so it required a lot more paint that I had planned on, but the end result was worth it.

  45. JoanD says:

    This make=over convinced me! i’m going to paint my wooden kitchen cabinets a white or light color. The natural oak is beautiful but . . . it’s time to move forward. And, painting the solid wood is better than opting for some melamine/foil covering over pressboard that is just not going to last! Your choice of modern hardware also helped the update. Those stainless industrial door pulls look great.

  46. Lauretta West says:

    I love the colors and this has inspired me to paint my kitchen like so. I’ll be buying a new house built in the 1940’s and the kitchen currently looks like your before picture!! I cant wait to transform it… but I have one question. A piece of advice maybe… would you use cement counter-tops or stick with granite? I plan on doing white cupboards and a light blue or green paint but I cant decide on counter tops. I love how cement looks, but I’m not sure if it goes well with the era of the house and im thinking of resale in the future!

    Thank you!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      How about a quartz or quartzite countertop? Or a granite that has a lighter, marble-look? I don’t know much about cement countertops, except that it’s a messy job and very heavy.

  47. [email protected] says:

    LOVE this what great kitchen inspirations and definitely proves painting wood paneling can look amazing!! QUESTION- 🙂 I have been staring at these pics for days now and trying to figure out- is the beadboard backsplash and beadboard on peninsula a different color than the wedgewood blue on the walls? Or are the shadows playing tricks and making it look like it’s a deeper/ different color? Hope someone can answer thank you! What an amazing transformation proving what a difference a paint makes!

  48. Moni says:

    I jusr saw this post going through Pinterest. I hope you can answer my question, What about the lines? I have wood panelling that I want to paint but I have a thing about the joint lines of the panneling. How did you and your clinets get that sleek look or did you?

  49. Sandra McKinney says:

    Hi Kristie,
    I love the kitchen and going to paint my cabinet. I have a question, these cabinets are plain wood and have copper colored strap hinges along with a matching knob. Would you remove them or paint them?
    Many thanks for your help

  50. Cheri says:

    Kristie, your work here is amazing. If you can help me, I would greatly appreciate it. My kitchen is right out of the 1970’s. The cabinets seem to be a laminent materal rather than wood. Even the backspash is that material. Can I paint over that type of cabinet and if so, what do I need to do.

  51. Cheri says:

    Kristie, your work here is amazing. If you can help me, I would greatly appreciate it. My kitchen is right out of the 1970’s. The cabinets seem to be a laminent materal rather than wood. Even the backspash is that material. Can I paint over that type of cabinet and if so, what do I need to do.

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      • Pam Boatright says:

        Thank you so much!
        How can on get on your site for new ideas?
        Do you think Formica is still used or what do you recommend to replace counter tops with?
        I’m getting a kitchen remodel and painting paneling and wood kitchen cabinets from 1980.

        • Kristie Barnett says:

          Pam, there is some beautiful new Formica available – some that mimics wood and marble/quartz with edging that makes it look more “real.” To subscribe to my posts, just scroll to the bottom of my post and enter your email where it says “subscribe to my emails.” Thanks!

        • Pam Boatright says:

          I have groove design in kitchen cabinets do they have to be filled in
          They have to build I cabinet unit and won’t match so do they jjust build new one or try to match?

          • Pam Boatright says:


    • pam says:

      The cabinet doors have a routed pattern on them the builder wants to fill in because one double door cabinet has to built, what would be another solution to the problem.

    • Pam Boatright says:

      The cabinet doors have a routed pattern on them the builder wants to fill in because one double door cabinet has to built, what would be another solution to the problem.

    • Pam Boatright says:


  56. Mary Ellen Anhaiser says:

    The before is exactly what I am living in!! But our kitchen counters are peachy orange.. wish I could post a picture. Don’t think my husband would ever let me paint it!

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