Home & Garden Do It Yourself

Breathing New Life into Reclaimed Wood Paneling

Many consumers imagine wood paneling as dark and gloomy. Even though modern reclaimed wood panels are available in any number of shades and styles, the 1970s reputation of wood paneling as chintzy or just plain dull lingers on. Fortunately, if you do happen to have this variety of old, rustic wood paneling, you can use the following techniques to brighten up and enliven your space. (Or you could just replace those outdated panels with beautiful new reclaimed wood paneling.)

1. Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize.

Even if you can't afford to replace your paneling, you can probably find a few affordable accessories to brighten the space. As an example, a light-toned area rug will open up a dark room. Candles are another great choice for accessorizing. Finally, think about adding a few live plants to that dull paneled space. Orchids, begonias, hostas and other blooming indoor plants bring energy and life to any room.

2. Focus on adding light.

This may seem too obvious to even mention, but analyzing and improving your lighting situation is one of the best ways to brighten any room, including one that contains rustic wood paneling. Interior designers balance out dark rooms by focusing on the three main types of interior light: task, decorative and ambient. Task lighting is what you use for close work, such as reading, writing or doing crafts. Decorative lighting exists solely to beautify a space. And ambient lighting is the "filler" lighting that all of us require to feel comfortable into a space.

Scrutinize your room for these three types of light, and supplement lacking lighting with finds from estate sales, vintage shops and thrift stores. With the right type of lighting, even a mahogany paneled room can feel cozy and inviting.

But adding actual light bulbs is not the only method of brightening a space. Here are a few more ways to lightening up your reclaimed wood paneling:

- Add a skylight or an extra window.

- Place mirrors across from existing windows to double the light in the room. This is one easy way to make any room seem larger and more airy.

- Lighten your window treatments - translucent curtains, for instance, will always let the light shine in.

- Place a beautiful framed mirror across from the room's largest window. This will reflect light and make the room feel larger.

- When you feel that the room is too dark, light a few candles to create an enchanting glow.

3. Decorate with light, neutral colors.

Grays, creams and whites will reflect back ambient light while unifying the room.

4. Check your furniture choices.

Furniture design can have a huge impact on a room. For instance, dark, heavy wood furniture will only exacerbate the gloom of dark wood paneling. That enormous highboy you inherited from your Aunt Pauline may be better suited to a different room, for instance. Modern, sleek styles make spaces feel larger. Glass-topped tables, for example, reflect back light much like mirrors. Likewise, glass tiling around fireplaces or other architectural details will make any space feel larger and brighter.

These practices can brighten any variety of wood paneling, whether it's modern or rustic. Wood paneling doesn't instantly equate to gloom; just hang a mirror or two, open the room to natural light, and select accessories that will bring a touch of pizzazz.

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