Today I have a great tip for easily painting old wood paneling. Yes, it’s easy! Well, as easy as painting a wall can be, which isn’t always necessarily easy, but you get the drift. It’s easier than you think to transform those ugly brown 1960s wood panels!
Every day I thank my lucky stars we found the house that we did. It was older, like we wanted, but updated, like we also wanted. And it’s almost impossible to find a normal-priced house in San Diego these days, so we really are lucky we snagged this home! Also, there is very little work that needs to be done on the house, which has alleviated a lot of stress. Honestly, I’m just not made for doing lots of renovations. I know some people love it, but I’m not one of those people!
The very first thing we did when we got keys to the house and before we moved in was take out the popcorn ceilings and pull out the kitchen cabinet that separated the dining area from the kitchen. I am SO glad we did both of those things!
Kitchen before cabinet removal and the new dishwasher
Kitchen after – removing the cabinet opened up the whole room and made the counter feel so much bigger.
There were two other things we also thought we would do before moving in – painting or removing the 1960s wood paneling in the living room and putting in hardwood floors in the dining room and hallway. Well, time and money arrived at the meeting and changed all our plans, as they so often do. The battle with my white carpet continues. Right now I’ve got it enough under control that we can go on a little longer before doing the floor thing. But over the holiday break I got the painting bug and decided to attack the living room wall.
Here is what the living room looked like when we moved in, complete with wood paneling, dated brown shelves and pleated drapes. To be clear, this is the kind of wood paneling that is a thin layer tacked to the wall, not actual solid wood walls. You know what I’m talking about. Anyway, we took the drapes down upon moving in, but left the shelves and wall alone. Honestly, I kind of got used to it. The wall and shelves were neutral in color so it wasn’t a big deal. But the fact of the matter is that it dated the room and made it feel darker.
A friend of ours is a professional painter and I asked him about painting the paneling. For some reason I thought it would be hard to do and wondered if it was even possible. Don said, “No, it’s easy. And, no, you don’t have to prep the surface at all.” He then told me what to do, which I will share with you in a moment.
Picking the Colors
After much hemming and hawing, we decided to leave the brick unpainted and I put together a color scheme that would work with the red-orange of the brick as well as our furniture. I decided to go with a green wall. Red and green are complimentary colors and I figured if I got the right shade of green it wouldn’t at all feel Christmasy but instead warm and inviting. I went with a darker, muted green and it worked beautifully. For the shelves I decided to go with white so that it would tie in with the baseboards. I found as close a match to the white of the baseboards as I could and it worked out well.
So, did Don’s trick for painting the paneling work? YES!
How to paint old wood paneling:
- Buy good-quality paint. Don recommends Behr.
- Use interior paint and primer in one. I chose flat enamel for my finish to contrast with the semi-gloss paint I was using on the white shelves. I really like how the flat enamel looks on the wood paneling and it “clings” well to the wall. Depending on your needs, I’m sure something more glossy would look good as well, although I haven’t tried it. (I would definitely not use flat or hi-gloss finishes. The flat would feel awful, whereas the flat enamel has a good feel to it. And I hi-gloss would be too glossy for a wall.)
- Tape off the edges and paint the wall! For the darker paint I had to do 2 coats. If you use a lighter color you may need to do more.
- Don swore to me I didn’t need to sand or anything, so we didn’t. Margaret in comment #1 below did share a good tip, as she’s been through the process before. She recommends doing a light sanding and then wiping down with tack cloth before painting, just to really ensure the integrity of the paint job. In all honesty, a light sanding is not too time consuming, so if you feel up for it, I would maybe do that, too. My paneling was NOT super shiny, so that may be why Don said I didn’t need to do it, so if your wood paneling has more of a sheen, give it a quick sanding and wipe down with that yucky tack cloth.
That’s it! The old 1960s wood paneled surface took to the paint perfectly. It has a nice feel and the paint is on there good.
Don told me to use the same paint and technique for the shelves, which I did. The shelves had a different finish than the wood paneling and, I think if you took a knife or a key or something to the surface you might be able to scrape the paint off. It would take a little elbow grease, but the paint isn’t as “secure” as it is on the wood paneling. That said, it still worked great and I would do it the same way again.
Side note: If I had painted the shelves and wall the same color my life would have been a LOT easier. If you ever decide to do a two-tone paint job like this, just know it will cause you great aggravation! But I think in the end the hard work paid off. I’m really glad the shelves are white and I like the contrast. Just make sure to use the orange painter’s tape that is made for newly painted surfaces.
The living room is coming along! Here is what we’ve done so far and what is still to come!
- The curtain panels and curtain rod are from Cost Plus World Market
- The painting is also from Cost Plus. I love it because it ties in all of the colors together perfectly.
- I ordered a new corner media cabinet yesterday from Crate and Barrel and am so excited for it to arrive in a week or so! (You can barely see it, but our current media cabinet is from almost 15 years ago and isn’t made for a corner, so I can’t wait to get it out of there! It’s in the bottom right of the picture above.)
- We found a great local furniture store called Nativa last weekend and I’m going to be getting two arm chairs from there, to go on either side of the window, opposite of the couch. One chair will be a dark, muted blue and the other is a really fun print that also incorporates the green-blue-reddishorange thing we’ve got going on.
- I almost forgot! I finally color coordinated the books on our shelves (most of them, at least) and LOVE IT. My OCD side had a hard time mixing up different genres of books, but the artistic side of me is really glad I ignored the OCD side.
I need to give a shout out to my interior design friend Emily, who gets constant texts and phone calls from me making sure that the decisions we’re making aren’t crazytown. So far she’s been on board with everything! Except that she wants me to paint the whole room green. I’m still suffering from PTSD from this paint job, so we’ve gotta give that suggestion some time to percolate.