The Knotty Pine Problem: 3 Alternatives to Painting It All

Knotty pine paneling has long been a staple of summer cottage/cabin construction and, the 1950s-1970s, was completely ubiquitous in even primary residences. Look around the web, and you’ll find tons of blog posts about why and how to paint over pine, but today we’ll go through when it’s appropriate to keep it and 3 ways to make the most of it. Stick around to the end to see how Home Glow Design would style this staple wall covering to make it fresh while keeping its classic look!

The Problem of Knotty Pine

I adore the New Hampshire lakes, and I adore the classic cottages and cabins that surround them. Especially on Squam Lake. One of the reasons I love it so much is that the shoreline is so wooded and the cottages are all set back in the trees and usually brown or untreated cedar in color, unobtrusive to the surrounding beauty.

The older cottages come with one thing, however, that many people may see as a design problem — knotty pine paneling.

Knotty Pine

Everyone wants to paint it. Everyone female, that is. Men seem to have a thing for it. Color expert Kristie Barnett, the “Decorologist,” has even written a  post about why men fear painting wood and why you should just go for it anyway. And in most instances, I agree completely. If you have this:

Bad Paneling

PAINT IT.

Or pull it down altogether. That 1970s faux s…tuff has no value whatsoever, aesthetically or historically. Begone! If you have this:

Methinks you’ll want to consider other options. Or, me-hopes so, anyway ….

However, many summer cottages and cabins (as well as many homes from the 1950s onward — see Pam Kruber’s search for why the material was so prevalent here) are covered in pine that, while perhaps far less venerable than the above, still holds some emotional and traditional value.

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 3.50.53 PM

Floor to rafter, literally. I can totally understand if you want to brighten and freshen it up, perhaps add a little comfort, but I’m sure there are few who would want to completely erase the character of the above by painting the whole thing white. What to do, then?

Alternative #1: Add White/Light Furnishings

For the summer cottage, be it on a lake or ocean or in the mountains, this is an easy way stay true to the “camp” aspect while breaking up that expanse of yellow/brown.

(Side note: I could not trace all the designers/photographers on these images, though I tried really hard. If you know the source, please let me know and I will attribute the image fully.)

Cashiers 1

Cashiers 2

Above 2 Images from the 2009 Cashiers Designer Showhouse via Atlanta Homes Magazine

Matthew Bees via Southern Living

Doing better, right? Character — check. Freshened up — check.

(P.S. I had some additional images of how light furnishings work in paneled interiors, but they were all by a particular photographer who refused to grant permission to use them without a hefty fee. Guess he/she doesn’t like free publicity. If you like this stuff, I recommend going to this month’s This Old House Magazine to see a beautiful project with this look.)

Alternative #2: Judicious White Paint (Window and Door Casings, Trim, Ceilings)

You can choose how much to do. Just the casings, add the mantle, base/crown moldings, paint the ceiling or the floor. Take it step by step and decide when you’ve done enough to cheer it up!!

Steven Gambrell via House Beautiful, Issue Uknown

Werner Straub in Traidtional Home

Todd Richesin via Traditional Home, photography by Werner Straube

Layla Palmer at The Lettered Cottage has also looked at this dilemma here, but the coolest thing she does is to take a knotty pine paneled room submitted by a reader and photoshop adding white step by step. Check it out!

Alternative #3: Go GREEN

Be conscious of your interior environment. Green is such a beautiful complement to knotty pine. Oh wait, those are the colors of a pine tree — green and brown! But it only works when the undertones are right. Choose a green with an undertone like your paneling (usually warm — yellow), and you can ramp up all that outdoor freshness.

It looks like Thomas Jayne actually mixes his undertones here — a warm yellow on casings, desk, and mirror, and a cool blue on the floor. But hey, rules are meant to be broken, and he has multi-millionaire clients to prove it.

I like it best when casings are green combined with white ceilings or more light furnishings. Let’s go back to Squam.

Home Glow Style Squam Cottage — Keep It Classic, Make It Fresh

Remember this room? My heart aches with desire.

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 3.50.53 PM

But, if it were mine (Dream on, Amy.), I think I’d like to do something like this.

Squam Collage

1. in Midar-Grass/ 2. fabric for pillows/ 3. / 4. / 5. / 6. / 7. / 8. similar

And I’d love to treat that daybed alcove like a window, with sheers on either side of the alcove and the fabric romans over each individual window. Close the sheers for an airy sleeping room! Anyway, I’m sure there are those who are crying, “Anethema! You can’t change our classic cottage!” But I think this stays true to the style of the cottage while providing more comfort and happiness. — Victorian vintage painted wicker, bobbin chair, stripes, plaids, rattan, and a little ethnic flair in the accent fabrics to add a subtle funky factor.

The above makes use of sources that are available to consumers. If you go through a designer, customization on those upholstered pieces (like the sofa — you can go white if you use a high-performance fabric like Crypton) is endless, and doesn’t have to be much different in price, and it might even be better.

 

Any thoughts? I’d love to hear from you — even if you hate it! I’m all for honesty!

-Amy

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  • Christy

    This is my favorite yet…daydreaming about having a house up north closer to y’all one day!!! Or maybe I will just wait for you to buy one on Squam and we will come visit a lot. Love the designs that are whites and blues incorporated into the old cabins. Crazy what a difference it makes while keeping the original wood. I can dream also. Maybe one day.ReplyCancel

    • Amy

      Why do you think I buy one lottery a month, hahaha!ReplyCancel

  • I am seeing more and more wood paneling (some stained, some painted, and everything in-between) gracing the pages of shelter magazines. I’m happy to see that there is a renewed interest in the ‘au natural’ treatment, and I loved this post.ReplyCancel

  • One problem with the real paneling: spiders get in and hide behind it. (I had an invasion in my last house) That’s a problem too with any paneling — can’t see the spiders if it’s not painted a pale color. I was a long-time hold out for keeping the integrity of the wood finish, but now I’m thinking “paint it all”, or maybe just move.ReplyCancel

    • Amy

      Wow! That is one problem I never would have thought about! Thanks for the words of caution.ReplyCancel

  • Connie

    So enjoy your Saturday posts!
    My sister was just bemoaning to me about her knotting pine paneling. It’s in a 1950’s build and is truly the real thing. It has the pretty grooves between each board. It has darkened with age. Wonder if it could just be sanded and sealed?
    Will share your post with her. Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Amy

      Thanks Connie! Hope it’s of some help to her.ReplyCancel

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