Why Men Fear Painting Wood

It’s an age-old question:  why do men fear painting wood?  I can’t tell you how many times the following has occurred:  I have a color consultation with the lady of the house.  There are some horrible 1970s-1980s pieces of wood furniture, dreaded fake paneling in the den, or  dated wood cabinets in the kitchen.

After discussing budget and options, the lady and I come up with a frugal but dramatic plan that includes painting said bad furniture or paneling.  I show her relevant photos to build her confidence in our choices.  Lady is thrilled, I leave, she calls me the next day and says her husband vetoed painting the wood.  Vetoed?  What is he, the President of the United States?

I’ve learned my lesson.  Now when I know there might be wood paneling involved, I insist on the husband being present for the consult.   Surely, I can make him see the error of his ways!  Well, sometimes I can.  Other times, not so much.  What’s interesting to me is that men have difficulty articulating WHY they don’t want to paint the wood!  Is this primal?  Genetic?  Hormonal?

So I’ve been asking men all over the same question:  why are you so resistant to painting wood?  Here are some of the responses I have gotten:

1.  “You should never paint good wood.”

Uhhh, do you call thin 1970’s fake paneling “good” wood?  It’s not even real wood, is it?  Just wood-like.  Woodish.  I can understand not wanting to defile the real tongue and groove heavy-duty stuff (I’m not completely heartless), even though I might try to talk you into painting that, too, if it’s holding back the overall design.

2.  “It’s just not right.  It compromises the integrity of the wood.”

Well, if you put it that way . . .  OK, do you really believe that painting wood is immoral?  A crime against nature and all that is natural?  Can knotty pine feel pain?  I guarantee you that this kitchen was in a lot more pain before I got my hands on it:

 

before

And my favorite:

3.  “You can never go back once you paint wood.”

Why would you want to go back?  To 1972????  I have never known anyone to strip the paint off of painted wood paneling once it’s been done.  And I’ve NEVER heard of anyone in the last 35 years running out to Home Depot as soon as they close on their brand new home to purchase some fake dark wood paneling to install in their den.

before

That’s about it.  Those are the best arguments I’ve heard.  So I guess I have to delve into their psyches and take my best guess as to the real reasons underneath it all (my husband HATES it when I do that).   I have no doubt it is in large part due to testosterone and DNA.   Hunters don’t paint their hunting lodges, do they?  And I suppose some men have fantasies of living off the land or in the woods, for at least a week or two.  No mountain men ever painted a tree stump they used to sit on while they skinned their meat.

Guys, you can still have your man cave!   But with a little style and personality, like the transformation I did for my hubby:

before

Most men don’t like the idea of not being able to see the grain of the wood, which is covered up once painted.  Is there some coorelation to preferring women naked rather than clothed, even though clearly most of us look better clothed?

It’s still somewhat of a mystery to me.   But rest assured that I will continue to try to understand why men fear painting wood.  And I will continue to stamp out those fears and seek to beautify the earth.  With a fresh coat of paint.

Photo Credits:  CoHoMdUS, The Decorologist (2,3,6,7,11,12),  HowStuffWorks, GraphicsSoft, YoungHouseLove (8,9), Country Living, FlickrMyHomeIdeas.

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Vicky Riddle
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Vicky Riddle

Love It!!! 🙂

Dianne Tant
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Dianne Tant

I am Laughing so hard…. this is sooooo true…

Heather
Guest

:))) thanks for this!

Daniel
Guest

You need to take after pictures in the paneling room here. Let me know when you can stop by.

kristiebarnett
Guest

daniel, i’m working in donelson next week one evening – maybe I can pop by to take “after” pics!

Chelle
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Chelle

Oh if I knew what I was doing I would paint- I wouldn’t even consult Greg.

Mitzi Leigh HInton
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Mitzi Leigh HInton

Oh Kristie, you are SO on target! When I was a designer with Ethan Allen in Lubbock, Texas – home of wood paneling, pine kitchen cabinets and wood trimmed upholstery!!! this was a weekly challenge. Not so much since I have returned to the Nashville design arena. But it seems men will be men will be men wherever they live . . . great job! Mitzi Leigh

Sally@DivineDistractions
Guest

Thanks for stopping by DivineDistractions and leaving a comment. It’s really appreciated! After reading your post, clearly we are on the same page!!

Andrea
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Andrea

The photos say it all, KB. You know I agree 100 percent! I really would like to understand it — then I could rule the world.

Rachel
Guest

so glad you contributed to Hue- such a juicy topic and an excellent article! Thanks again 🙂

Debbie Hostetler
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Debbie Hostetler

Loved your article! My parents were visiting this weekend and I was just telling my mom how you wanted to paint all our wood furniture and the wood walls and how Robert was having a cow!! ha ha! He actually likes the off white trim in the addition now! Thanks for the suggestion. When can you come back? I need to pick out bedroom curtains!!

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[…] to justify you hanging onto that fake woodgrain paneling from the 1970′s, you need to read this.  These towels from Martha Stewart are available at […]

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[…] 6.  Embrace bad wood paneling.  Ok, get over it already, guys.  Bad wood paneling is simply bad.  In the name of all things good and holy, paint it already!!!  If you need justification to convince your husband of this, click here. […]

MaureencModecor
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MaureencModecor

LOOOOOOVED this post. That is all!!!!

Dana Tucker
Guest

You speak volumes of truth in this post. The man of the house never wants us to paint the wood but they are always so happy in the end after we paint it.

Tammy@InStitches
Guest

Great topic…… You know how I know that I’ve got a good man ? He asked me if I’ve ever thought about painting the kitchen cabinets ! He’s a keeper.

Maria Killam
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Maria Killam

Awesome post! haha, I’m so glad you included it in my linky party!
x
Maria

Katie
Guest

Just LOVE it! I got a chuckle ’cause it’s so true

renate parks
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renate parks

AMEN, sisters!!!!! OK, forget trying to figure out why. How do you change their minds?

Sherry Daniele
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Sherry Daniele

You are such a HOOT, Kristie! Love this post :>

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[…] Wood paneling.  By now, you should all know how I feel about that.  If you don’t, please read this. […]

MOlly
Guest
MOlly

Love it! Men are from Mars… which apparently is covered in paneling!

Allison
Guest

The room you made for Philip is stunning!!! You exude talent!

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[…] I bet you’d never thought I’d say this, but there are situations where you should NOT paint that old wood paneling.   Usually, there’s nothing that will update a room faster than painting the dated wood paneling.  See this post. […]

All Normal Men
Guest
All Normal Men

Men do not like wood paneling, at all! The man did say good wood right? We appreciate the hard work invoved in the creation (solid wood prefered). The hours of dedication are shown in each and every cut. Now lets talk about quality in a comparison: 1. Wood ply paneling = Yugo, Geo Metro, fake gold, tacky jersey wife, flip flops 2. Oak, Pine, Poplar = Ford Taurus, Mercedes C class, Gold band & diamond ring, PTA mom, Nikes; 3. Mahogany, Rosewood, Walnut = 1958 Ferrari 250 GT, F-35 jet, Moon rock ring, Sarah Mclochlan, Stilettos… Paint is fine If… Read more »

Sue Higgins
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Sue Higgins

My husband has an aversion to painting wood because he believes once it’s painted, he’ll always have to paint. Plain wood, to him is maintenance free. Of course I disagree, it still needs to be cleaned from time to time.

Jocelyn Fraemons
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Jocelyn Fraemons

Oh, no! How can you be so right!!! I want to paint the 1971-vintage mahogany veneer (real mahog, just very thin) in my kitchen. I’ve loved it for 20 years but I’m out, out, OUT of love with it now! and you guessed it, my fella says “it’s going to be very hard to do, a lot of work, what about all the prep, I don’t think you’ll be able to cover it up….” That wood is keeping my kitchen 40 years behind the times! It’s going! Anything you can tell me about preparation before painting would be greatly appreciated!

Jayelle
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Jayelle

The makeovers are so gorgeous!!! I wish I could defile all the wood in my rented home now. The most painting I could do was on some ikea ivar shelves. :/

jennifer
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jennifer

Hi kristie. Just wanted to say I love all your ideas. I don’t think there is anything wrong with painting a piece of wood furniture or panelling(especially to update the look of a room). To all the men out there, I have a one-two punch for you:pretty soon I plan on painting a wooden armoire to update it ,&, not only am I painting it,but,the color I have chosen:PINK,BEAUTIFUL,SEXY,LOVELY PINK! I think it’ll make the room look a lot brighter & uplifting. Kristie, you are a breath of fresh air- I absolutely adore you. When we decorate,we should do what… Read more »

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[…] They don’t usually dig the idea of painting wood (see my post all about that by clicking here).  They hate the idea of wallpaper – mainly because they have experienced wallpaper-removal […]

missy
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missy

I love all the painted “wood” paneling. But did you really have to do that to those lovely knotty pine cabinets? I would cry if I bought that house and had to scrape off all that paint that I just paid extra for.

mark
Guest
mark

Missy,

I hear yeah. If you live around the New England area (especially Maine) you would find a mob of angry people if you started painting their lovely, beautiful knotty pine cabinets.

-Mark

trackback

[…] in the “before” that the fireplace was surrounded by wood paneling.  We all know how I feel about wood paneling.  My client thought that the gray tiles at the bottom of the fireplace needed to be ripped out.  […]

SJ
Guest
SJ

Wow, nice example of confirmation bias! There are also plenty of women who don’t like the idea of painting wood, but you only notice the dudes, because you already have it in your head that it’s a “guy thing.” Furthermore if it’s *not* real wood and it’s garbage, why the f would you leave it in place and paint over it? Tear it out! I don’t think the real question here is why “men” fear painting wood; it’s why you fear taking out the trash.

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[…] You need to paint it.  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.” […]

Bonnie
Guest
Bonnie

Ha! I love this! My father in law said to me one time, what do you think they make stain for??? Like there is a wood police out there making sure all the crappy wood is protected from paint! I have peices of furniture I would never paint, but I would never restain them either!! He wouldn’t know great wood if it hit him!

Karen
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Karen

Nice job Kristie of slipping in an extra-bold step! LOL. In case no one caught it: painted red brick!! I live in a small cabin with a huge red brick chimney around the woodstove. Men and women tell me, “No, no, no, don’t paint over your beautiful red brick, you can’t go back.” Mostly men were against painting our real wood paneling. Finally last month, after 3 decades of dark wood, we painted a back kitchen wall and 2 windows (cabinets were already painted). Hallelujah, what an improvement.

Robin
Guest
Robin

This was just run (re-run?) in the Tennessean and I was glad to see it. I had no idea this was a widespread phenomenon, I thought I was suffering alone. This is going into the file for the impending kitchen upgrade. Why my husband thinks eighties -era builder grade kitchen cabinets were fine carpentry, I have no idea!

kasey @ girl in the gray house
Guest

so funny! (and true!) i hope you don’t mind if I link to this post.

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[…] paint or not to paint?  That is the question and the debate between wives and husbands throughout the land.  Here is a stunning example of when painting the woodwork (and brick) is the […]

Jeanne
Guest
Jeanne

When I saw this title I had to click on it. Last summer I helped a friend clear out a house and in it was an old carved buffet cabinet. The person was a smoker and it reeked to high heaven. I thought of our daughter in her sparsely furnished starter apartment and decided to bring it home and paint it a nice color. I figured that by painting it I could get rid of the horrible smell and make it look funky and fun. Maybe add some new hardware. My husband threw an absolute tantrum. He was so mad… Read more »

Nancy
Guest

Great article Kristie…and so funny! Boy is there truth in humor. You are so talented at staging and writing and I’m so glad you do both. I really enjoy your blog because I learn a lot and I laugh a lot!

megan
Guest

I ADORE this article! SOOO right on the money. I have a client right now where I am in the same situation! There were some instances I felt he was right, and she was wrong and vice versa. In these before and after pics http://dichotomyinteriors.blogspot.com/p/before-afters.html from the last two major reno’s- the first set of before and afters is a home that NEEDED more warmth and wood. It was all tile, white/cream and gray and closed in. I added a TON of wood here, because of the volume of the ceilings and windows to keep it from feeling too much… Read more »

Just Stumbled Here
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Just Stumbled Here

I’m a man – a student, and I think your comments are a bit ridiculous. I just stumbled here because all I can afford is crappy wooden furniture and I’m hoping to make my home look a little better than that. There are many reasons to be nervous of painting wood: – a childhood of sanding wood for chores. Horrible horrible stuff. Paint is only worth it if you NEVER EVER go back to bare wood. – I think that naked wood is beautiful. Something about something more connected to nature and less to man. – IF it is beautiful… Read more »

Rick McGinniss
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Rick McGinniss

You had me at "I guarantee you that this kitchen was in a lot more pain before I got my hands on it."

Great article and very helpful as my wife and I contemplate what to do with our vintage 1979 split level full of wood paneling and trim!

Maya @ House Nerd
Guest

Oh my goodness! Thank you! I feel like you wrote this article for me. My fiance and I have had numerous arguments about painting wood! As I love painting dated furniture and timber trim when it makes a room look dark. He is against, I for… however, just the other night, he took me by complete surprise by SUGGESTING, "Maybe we should paint the kitchen cupboards that duck egg blue colour you like." I nearly spat out my coffee in shock. "Okaaay," I said measuredly, in that quiet gentle tone way one uses with a frightened puppy. "We can do that." So, after years of… Read more »

Valerie Petschulat
Guest
Valerie Petschulat

My mom had to fight my dad for years before he agreed to “let” her paint their 1970’s paneling, which was in every room of their 2-story house! His arguement was that once you paint paneling, you have to keep painting it. Translation: way easier to have walls that never, ever need anything. Even if they look gross. Which I think is the real reason a lot of men veto their wives decorating ideas – because doing nothing is almost always easier!

mark
Guest
mark

Painting wood can be done very beautifully, but not all wood is created equal. Some wood should not be painted, but not for all the reasons I have heard thus far in this post, but for one simple reason – it’s beautiful. I am a man and I say a nice cherry wood finish should never be touched -it is simply beautiful. The wood grain is important because it is beautiful and unique. Just like each unique person, each piece of wood, with the grain visible, is unique and sets itself apart from the rest. You lose this unique aspect… Read more »

trackback

[…] Mr. H.C., the carpenter, hates to paint wood. “When wood is painted, it’s painted,” he says. “And only a huge effort can get it back to its original state, and even then, it might not look good.” (For a very funny post on men and painting wood, read The Decorologist’s post, Why Men Fear Painting Wood) […]

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[…] client, Jessica, was overwhelmed with getting her home ready to go on the market.  The dark wood paneling sucked out any light and made the space feel smaller than it was.  Her husband had resisted […]

Judy Sutherland
Guest

This is so true! My family room looked like the brick and paneling photo. However, I not only convinced my guy (\after much discussion) to paint the paneling and fill in the cracks, but to paint the brick white. The effects were so dramatic that everyone at our open house loved this room most. Everyone thought walls were drywall and now he brags about the process!