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How to Make Wood Paneling Look Modern?

Whether you already love the charm of wood paneled walls or you’re considering adding the warmth of wood finishes to a room, exciting new options are constantly emerging. Now is the ideal time to explore the latest trends in wood paneled interior design.

Sometimes, these wood features are already in the infrastructure of your home and can be resurfaced or refurbished. There are many ways to transform your wood paneling without replacing them, or even transform them into something inspiring and appealing.

Here are 16 wood paneling makeover or starter ideas that I hope will help you. Read on to find out!

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1. Use it to create separation

Why use a room divider when you can actually separate the room? This built-in partition divides the room while the wood paneling acts as a feature wall.

2. Mix wood profiles

You may already know how popular mixing metals is, but it turns out that you can do the same thing with wood. This space does an impeccable job of mixing the profiles of different woods. The lower half boasts a blonde birch plywood hue, while the upper half highlights the warm tones of the wood slats. The two come together to make this space unique and beautiful.

3. Stain it dark

We’ve never seen wood paneling look so modern as it does here. Staining it with a dark agate instantly elevates its coolness. Keep in mind that this technique can only be applied to real wood.

4. Try shiplap

Think of shiplap as modern wood paneling. One day, our kids will talk about shiplap like we talk about our grandmother’s basement. But we’re not touting ourselves when we say shiplap is a cooler, less obtrusive version of 70s paneling.

5. Try horizontal shiplap

Shiplap is usually installed vertically, which creates a clean line up and down the wall. However, using shiplap installed horizontally when designing a space will visually lengthen the room from left to right, giving the illusion of being longer. It’s a simple swap, but one that makes a big difference.


6. Create geometric patterns

Another option to break up the idea of ​​the typical uniform look of battens is to create geometric patterns with the boards. Geometric shapes can be incorporated into existing panels or on top of them. This can be achieved by cutting the panels to position these shapes into the wall, or by adhering them directly to the surface of the panels. The presence of these shapes can add a whole new character or concept to a room. These shapes can easily be combined with patterns and objects already in the room.

These geometric patterns can be incorporated into your design in a variety of creative ways. One of the simplest ways is with paint, colored tape or other adhesives, or as cutouts in the wall panels. For added intentionality, geometric tiles made of wood, metal, or even acoustic tiles can add an extra layer of texture, design, and add functionality, just like acoustic tiles and their sound-absorbing properties.

7. Install shiplap diagonally

Although you’ve previously seen installations that are vertical and horizontal, you should save this new diagonal design as inspiration for your home’s décor. This living-dining room hybrid style, paired with horizontal wood strips on the ceiling and vertical beams painted black, is a model of design success.

8. Try rustic decor

Most wood paneling is clean and unadorned. However, sourcing antique wood for a feature wall will make a big difference in the final design. Aged wood brings so much character and charm to a modern space that you’ll be transported to another place and time zone every time you return home.

9. Embrace modern farmhouse

White wood panel walls are synonymous with the farmhouse aesthetic, but to make it feel more modern and less rustic, pair it with light-colored wood floors. Keep the decor simple and purposeful, like in the room pictured.

10. Clean them up

Start with the basics, and just give it a good dusting to get the job done. You may have purchased a house that has 50-year-old wood paneling. The panels may be intact and still retain their charm, but they may be a little dull. In this case, there’s no need to remove them, and it’s actually more aesthetically pleasing to renovate creatively.

A thorough cleaning can restore the brightness and natural charm of wood in just a few simple steps. First, avoid harsh dishwasher or detergents and opt for wood cleaning soaps and products. Mix the soap with warm water and begin cleaning the panels in circular motions, preferably with a damp microfiber towel or similar tool.

Once you’ve completed your initial wipe, consider repeating the process or scrubbing with another wood cleaner, oil, or spray. This will effectively remove any built-up residue while preserving the wood’s unique characteristics. Avoid leaving the boards wet for long periods of time and keep drying them with a soft towel. By following these steps, you’ll breathe new life into old wood panels and give them a fresh, new look.

11. Refinish for a rustic look

The look of weathered wood can add a rustic, country charm to an interior. Simply sanding down old boards with sandpaper or an orbital sander can make worn imperfections look like they were added on purpose. Rounding off edges and corners can also enhance the aged look. Going a step further, tapping with a hammer or using a metal chain or similar tool can create dents and irregular patterns.

12. Paint

Painting existing wood paneling is another easy way to update. Any unwanted gaps and grooves can be filled with caulk for a smoother look. After a thorough cleaning and polishing, the paneling can be painted any color depending on the vibe or aesthetic you want for the room. Using a single color will bring a sense of unity and make the wall look more complete. A brighter or bolder color can even make the wall an accent wall or focal point of the room. On the other hand, painting the panels in various colors can create an attractive design or pattern. This strategy can also help divide a room or define different spaces based on a related color, design, or pattern wall.

13. Diagonal placement

Wood planks are usually placed horizontally or vertically along the surface. This is great for creating the illusion of room height or spaciousness. However, it is becoming more common to use diagonal placement or even zigzag patterns such as herringbone or chevron.

Simply changing the angle of rotation in this way can give a room a whole new look. Since this actually becomes a huge textured pattern across the entire wall, it has the potential to make a huge impact on its own without adding too many other patterns, textures, or colors to the room. Ultimately, you can add depth and drama and create a beautiful focal point without having to manipulate your planks.


14. Upcycle with Slats

Using a popular design technique, you can achieve a slat frame from your existing wood wall panels. Slat frames are created by adding raised strips of wood between the planks at the seams. The planks or boards between the slat frames can be flush or fused together with caulk to make them look like wider planks for a more classic effect.

Pine is a great choice for thin wood strips. There are also many faux board and slat designs, such as printed and textured wood grain on plywood or acoustic board, fiber cement or MDF. These boards can also be painted, as they are usually white or any color that matches the room’s decor or aesthetic.

15. Camouflage with shelves

Shelves are a beautiful and practical choice to divide a wall while adding a design touch. Shelves can be used as bookcases, with each unique book cover or visible white page in the middle adding a beautiful splash of color. Another popular option is to place real or artificial plants on these shelves to add beauty and a natural element through biophilic design.

Depending on the design, these shelves can work with existing wood paneling, perhaps matching it or looking like an extension of the same wood paneling it is installed on to make it more cohesive. Another idea is to create the opposite effect by making the shelves a completely different color or made of different complementary materials to add contrast and depth.

16. Fill the seams with compound

If your old boards have badly worn, unsightly seams, this alone can detract from the look of the entire board. The easiest way to deal with this is to fill these joints with compound, which comes in many different options and even different colors. Again, it’s important to do some cleaning first to remove dirt, then lightly sand, preferably with fine sandpaper, and then wipe off the residue with a soft cloth. Finally, you can apply joint compound and smooth it out again with sandpaper. This will make the groove disappear, creating a solid wall.

Alternatively, you can use this opportunity to highlight the groove. Filling the groove with colored caulk or other materials such as wood or metal can create a frame for the panels, or add elements to divide the wall to add depth and contrast. You can even use both methods at the same time, first combining the boards with caulk to make a larger wall panel, and then using different colors or materials to divide the wall at different widths or intervals.


When it comes to the conclusion of a wood siding transformation, you can choose the solution that suits your home based on your personal preferences and overall decoration style. If you have any questions and ideas, please feel free to contact us!

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