I have never seen any wood paneling that doesn’t remind me of everyone’s grandmother’s basement. The stuff in our new living room makes me feel like I’m 30 and back living with Nana Ross. It just keeps ruining my day. Unfortunately, we don’t have the money to rip the miserable stuff out and start fresh. But I’ve spent hours staring at these ugly walls, thinking of ways to cover up the wood paneling and bring a little cheer back into the room.
A coat of paint can go a long way to make a sad, wood paneled room look like any other cheerful place. White is a great color to help you forget that the paneling was ever there. I considered an eggshell to keep the living room from looking to clinical.
The problem with painting wood paneling is the work involved. This stuff can be tricky. First you’ll have to sand. You just need to sand enough to take the sheen off of the wood paneling, but that’s a lot of elbow grease. You have to sand the panels and the depressed gaps between the paneling. That means that a lot of the work needs doing by hand. And while you’re sanding you have to look out for any picture hook holes, dents or dings that have to be filled with wood putty before you proceed.
Then there’s the painting itself. You can get away with using a quality paint roller on the wood panels. But you’ll need to use a paint brush to get into those depressions. That’s more work. But you can use the opportunity to create a cool striped pattern and paint the panels one color and the depressions a contrasting one. You’ll have to wait for the paint to dry and protect the panels with painter’s tape to get into the depressions. And you’ll need a base coat plus at least two top coats to cover up the grain.
You can cover wood paneling with wallpaper if you know how to go about it. The trick is to use quality heavyweight wallpaper that won’t puncture in the depressions as soon as you brush against it. The other trick is to lightly sand the paneling, then wash it with TSP powder. Add however much water the package recommends. Then scrub the walls. Don’t rinse the TSP powder off. It gives the wallpaper something to cling to.
Once the walls are prepared, hang the wallpaper horizontally so you don’t get caught in any of the depressions. The job is easy enough, only I’d have to be pretty impressed with the wallpaper pattern to think it was an upgrade from the paneling. But if you don’t mind special ordering wallpaper, you can get special wallpaper designed to be painted. You can skip all the prep work of a regular paint job and skip all of the grooves together.
Oh, how I love the path of least resistance. A great way to cover up wood paneling is with a giant picture. I’m talking mural-sized. If you can’t invest in one of those honkers, there are several options. You can buy a huge canvas and paint it yourself. If you’re not artistic but quite handy, build a frame out of 2-by-4s. Then stretch rows of fabric across it. Staple the ends of the fabric to the back of the frame with upholstery staples. If you’re not artistic or handy, consider a tapestry. Install a few rods then just hang that baby up there and you’re done.
Bigger isn’t always better. This bar around the corner from my house has “vinyl nights” every Monday. You bring your favorite record and the bartender plays the A-side, then the bar gets to vote on whether or not to listen to the B-side. It’s awesome. And now I have amassed quite a collection of records and awesome record art.
Instead of keeping them stacked in crates, I’m thinking of covering the wall in them. I know of a hardware store that will sell me lots of plate mounts at a pretty good price. If I put them up in a grid, roughly 2-inches apart, that’s going to look pretty awesome. Everyone will be too busy looking at my record collection to notice the ugly wood paneling.
I think I’ll go with a combination of records on one wall and painted wallpaper on the other three. If you decide to use any of these ideas to cover up your own wood paneling, drop me a note in the comments. Ilove pictures!