What Colors Go With Brown Paneling?

Wood paneling can be a tricky element when decorating your house. Should you get rid of it completely? Paint it? Or can you actually make it work? Today, more people are choosing to keep their old wood paneling and update it with more contemporary decor. When styling a room around paneling, there are some colors you can count on to bring out the best in those brown walls.

The following colors will work beautifully in rooms with wood paneling:

  • White
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Yellow

It can be hard to decorate wood-paneling without making the room look outdated. To spruce up those walls, keep reading. We will give you ideas on how to highlight, hide, or update your brown paneled rooms.

A home cinema in rustic style with black armchair, fireplace and wooden paneling, What Colors Go With Brown Paneling?

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What Colors Go With Brown Paneling

Once outdated, brown paneling has begun to make a bit of a comeback. While it’s not always being incorporated into modern design, it is instead allowed to stay where it already was.

These panelings can come in all shades of brown, from knotty pine to deep rich browns with orange and yellow undertones. The idea has been to either blend this into modern decor with design or with paint. We will look at how to do both with complementing colors so that you can update those old brown paneled walls.


White is the perfect neutral to brighten up wood paneling. Wood paneling with matching trim can look dreary and bland. Not to mention, if you have paneling with orange undertones, it can be too many warm tones for one room.

Adding white trim can make the room look crisp and give new life to wood panels, while also adding cool tones to balance out oranges and yellows. This design choice is perfect for farmhouse styling.

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Greens connect brown wood paneling back to that earthy feeling we associate with colors found in nature. This means that almost any shade of green is going to look beautiful with wood panels.

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Really embrace the feeling of the outdoors by adding tons of greenery (real or fake) and accents of green from pictures, textiles, and more.

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Light blues add a soft touch of color to rooms that are fully covered in brown paneling. Bright blues can bring a young and cheery feeling to a room that can easily feel dull when surrounded by wood paneling.

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Royal and dark blue can bring a bit more sophistication to a paneled room. When paired with more ornate accents, like a rug or throw pillows, it makes the room feel more classy than outdated.

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Shades of yellow bring out the warmer undertones in browns and wood finishes. Not only do yellows brighten up the simplicity of brown, but they can also take on a retro look that complements the wood paneling’s origin.

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If you’re looking for more ways to incorporate the color yellow into your brown-paneled room, then look no further than the throw blanket. These will do the trick: 18 Mustard Yellow Throw Blankets That Will Brighten Up Your Room

Is paneling outdated?

Due to its simple installation and low-cost, paneling was a popular design choice from the 1950s to the 1970s. But like most trends, once they became too common, their popularity diminished.

Ten years ago, wood paneling would have been the first to go when updating a home to look more modern; however, it’s more recently being embraced and worked into contemporary decor. So, you’re ahead of the curve if your older home still has its original wood paneling! 

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Classic paneling is being highlighted in older housing. Then there are also updated paneling styles being brought into newer homes, ones that look more polished and expensive than the original design. 

Can You Lighten Wood Paneling?

If you are looking to lighten the actual wood as opposed to just using decor to lighten the room, then you have two options: whitewashing or bleaching. 

Before doing either of these projects, make sure to protect yourself and the parts of the room where you don’t want paint or bleach. Use a drop cloth or tarp on the floor and open the windows to create adequate ventilation.


Modern living room with corner sofa and wooden furniture

The easier of these two options is going to be whitewashing the wood paneling. Whitewashing is going to maintain the look of paneling but give it a brighter and more updated look.

1. Prep

If you have a cheaper paneling you’re painting, you may want to lightly sand the shiny veneer coat to create a slightly rough surface for the paint to adhere to.

Another option is to choose a white paint that also contains a primer so that it will adhere better. Sanding is not always a necessity, but with a wide variety of styles, finishes, and materials that paneling can be made of, it’s not a guarantee. You can always do a test panel to see how well the paint adheres without sanding.

2. Clean

Next, you will want to wash the paneling to remove any dust or dirt, especially if you did sand it. This includes any trim that you plan to paint as well.

3. Paint

Then you can mix water and white paint in a 1:1 solution. If you use a gallon of white paint, use a gallon of water. Once mixed, you can paint the paneling. The point of whitewashing is to not be full coverage but to almost look like the original wood is peaking through.

Once it dries, determine if you need a second coat or if you are satisfied with the results.


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Bleaching your paneling is a job that requires a bit more elbow grease. 

1. Prep

For bleaching, you have to remove the upper shiny layer of the paneling. You are altering the wood itself, so you have to make sure you are actually penetrating the wood.

Once you are finished sanding, clean the paneling to remove all dirt and dust from sanding.

2. Mix

Before you begin to mix your bleaching solution, take extra precautions for you and your home. In addition to the drop cloth on your floor, cover any furniture that will be at risk of splashes, since bleach is so damaging.

When mixing, pour it away from your face and never use a metal bowl or spoon. This can create a chemical reaction. A plastic bowl and a wooden spoon are the safer options.

The solution you need of bleach and water is going to be up to what brand of bleach you choose to use. The instructions for safe solutions will be on the back.

3. Bleach And Repeat

Using a paintbrush, apply the bleach solution to the wood paneling and let it set. Depending on how dark your paneling is, it may take a few layers to reach your desired color.

How Can You Make Wood Paneling Look Good Without Paint?


Empty interior background, room with brown wood paneling wall and vase with branch

Sometimes if wood paneling is looking dingy, dull, and lackluster, adding a stain can liven it up. If the wood paneling is actual wood, you can add a richer stain and make it look brand new.

Furniture As Focal Points

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Draw attention away from the paneling and bring the focus to a few distinct pieces of furniture. Bright colors, bold patterns, and interesting textures will draw the eye to your main pieces of furniture. You can use this as a way to distract from the wood paneling if you aren’t a fan, or you can use this as a way to highlight the classic look of your walls.

Click here to view this couch on Amazon.

Artwork And Wall Hangings

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Cover your walls in art and decorative wall hangings as a way of covering up older wood paneling. Gallery walls of mix-matched prints in an array of sizes will limit the amount of paneling showing and give you a large focal point for the entire room.


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Rugs, blankets, and throw pillows are great additions to rooms with wood paneling. Paneling can be boring, and bright and intricate patterned rugs are perfect for bringing life into a room. Combining different textures and bold color palettes in cooler tones offsets the warm undertones in the wood, creating a calming balance of colors.

Click here to view this rug on Amazon.

In Closing

Despite their popularity peaking decades ago, wood paneling is making a steady comeback. Before you remove it or decide to paint over it, try to make the most of your wood paneling with colors that will truly complement them.

Dive into the different materials used for wall panels today by checking out this post: 7 Wall Paneling Materials You Should Consider

Head over to this post to see what wall colors will highlight wood paneling: 7 Best Wall Colors That Go With Wood Paneling and Trim

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