How to decorate a knotty pine den, basement, sunporch or living room? Here are six ideas if you want to play up the classic 1950s outdoorsy or kitschy look, using new sources available today as well as some vintage if you are up for the hunt.

1. Barkcloth curtains:  You can find barkcloth vintage or new — I think that its nubbly texture goes nicely with knotty pine paneling. Above: Amy used a vintage curtain in the her vintage paneled bathroom (and oh my see the bar! ) For sources for new, see my story 142 barkcloth fabric designs from 5 companies available today. Oh, and do I really even need to say it: You will transform this barkcloth into pinch-pleat draperies hung on traverse rods. Paint the traverse rods wrought iron black (assuming you have wrought iron cabinet pulls and the like.)

braided rugs from thorndike mills

2. Braided rugs: Thorndike Mills is a Massachusetts company that has been making braided rugs since 1925. I <3 this company. And, I <3 braided rugs for midcentury modest houses, knotty pine or no knotty pine. Braided rugs like these are a great way to bring your accent colors into your knotty pine room in a subtle, pleasing and functional manner. These rugs can travel room-to-room easily, if you want to change up a look. And, these rugs will last forever — you will be handing them down to your grandkids. Braided rugs go on my timeless list. Note: Thorndike Mills’ website has been improved significantly since I first wrote about the company; so fun to play with their rooms selector — now we just need to get them to add a knotty pine room!

early american decorating3. Early American decor: The vintage fire station sign above came from my mother-in-law, who bought it at a decorating store in Birmingham, Mich., in the late 1950s. It was new — not a real antique… all part of the Early American revival so popular throughout the post WWII period.

vintage horse bucklesThe horse saddle buckles are also vintage-1950s… and once I had three from my mother-in-law, I quickly received two more as gifts. Today, these varieties of Early American wall decora are not uber-popular. Yet, this stuff is also coming out of houses everywhere like crazy — because it was uber popular back in the day.Keep your eyes open, and you can find stuff like this very inexpensively. Once you get your head around Early American, you can see the loveliness — and this stuff is Well Made. In a knotty pine or wood-panelled room (like our cherry paneled basement family room), the strong colors really pop against the wood. Note: I have several decorative items with these same colors all grouped on the fireplace wall; you need things to make vignettes like these with a minimum of three items, at the least.

wagon wheel light4. Wagon wheel lights: Okay, so you don’t have to go all-out for the antlers… but consider a wagon wheel light, or a wagon wheel-esque light… basically, consider Early American.
hobnail glass lightFor example: I found the smallish “ship’s wheel” ceiling fixture above — with original hobnail glass shades — for like $5 at the Re-Store. I had it rewired, and it’s now in my office. I love it. The size of the light and its close-to-the-ceiling profile is just perfect for my small office. And there’s just something about its… retro gravitas. If that make sense.

5. Stiffel table lamps: If the kitsch factor of the wagon and ships wheels are a wee bit too much for you, take a look at vintage Stiffel table lamps from the 1950s and 1960s. They often have Early American styling — but sort of very classic, at the same time. They also travel room-to-room, house-to-house very well; we have two sets from my mother-in-law, these lamps are just lovely. They are abundant on ebay (above; *affiliate link), often at great prices. Get educated on what to watch for, and I bet you can find them at great prices locally, too. These were expensive back in the day — they are great lamps.

black iron cabinet pulls6. Wrought iron cabinet pulls and other accessory hardware: Wrought iron and knotty pine go together like peanut butter and jelly. Acorn Manufacturing is one of the top makers, but you can also find much less expensive knock offs. And remember, you’re gonna spray paint your traverse rod this color, too, before you hang your pinch pleats.

Readers, what other ideas do you have for
decorating a knotty pine room in retro-classic style?

  1. rebecca wright says:

    I am trying to turn my living room/ kitchen into a 1950’s fishing cabin. I could sure use some tips and Idea’s. I would love to hear what other idea’s might be out there.

  2. Erin says:

    I am in love with Betty Draper’s knotty pine kitchen on Mad Men. We have painted oak cabinets in our 1966 house, but definitely debating some plaid wallpaper on the soffit above our cabinets.

  3. Alice says:

    I’m about to buy a house with knotty pine cabinets. The floors throughout are just as old, awful vinyl tiles, and will put in new floors. Would bamboo be too fussy or too fancy? I was going to do tile that looks like wood, found that a dark or light tile did not go well, but a regular medium brown was good. Any suggestions? Small kitchen, has white appliances, a pinkish formica counter which I’ll replace with granite or maybe Carrera marble, which I’ve read here is quite nice. Any ideas?

  4. pam kueber says:

    I have not heard good things about the either the short- or long-term durability of bamboo. Bamboo flooring has no provenance that I know of in mid century houses; it is not appropriate for a restoration. For a kitchen like the one you are describing, I would tend to recommend linoleum or vinyl sheet or squares. See our Kitchens/Flooring category for all our research on possible solutions.

    Granite or Carrera marble on countertops, similarly, has no provenance within mid century kitchens — this material is not appropriate for a restoration. In addition, knotty pine is a humble material. A humble material like Formica or another laminate is perfect. If your pinkish Formica is in good shape and looks good with the knotty pine, regular readers here would tend to do a happy-dance and baby it for decades to come. We are “Love the House You’re In” kinda people here.

    Finally… Please know that old floor tiles and their underlayment components can contain vintage nastiness such as asbestos — find a properly licensed professional and consult with them on what’s in your materials to know what you are working with and to make informed decisions how to handle. Good luck.

  5. Terri says:

    Please consider what Pam says. I personally hate granite countertops like fire. They are hard and cold and fragile. They look heavy and pretentious. A nice Formica is what you want.

    My soon-to-be-mine knotty pine kitchen has humble low-keyed butcherblock patterned Formica with a nice backsplash. It will do just fine until I can replace it with either turquoise boomerang or bittersweet. I also plan on tearing up the hideous new vinyl installed by the sellers to “brighten up the place.” and am going with old school linoleum tiles, probably in off-white/brown/turquoise (or orange, depending on where I go with the counters).

    In my last house, which was a 60s garage-to-cottage conversion, the countertops were a lovely cream/aqua boomerang. We found some gorgeous vinyl that mimicked hardwoods (even had a woodgrain texture) and it is gorgeous and wore like iron, even when we were paper-training puppies.

    Best of luck, I hope it turns out. But, I really hope you pass on the granite.

  6. Alice says:

    Thank you all for your kind suggestions. I’m going to pass on the house. An $88K house, appraised at $65K, then needing $10K before moving in, not a good idea. The sellers think their rental property is palatial. I’m really going to miss the knotty pine cabs. Bamboo would have been out because it just, IMO, did not look good. I was looking at a plain light maple laminate. Sigh. Alas. Thank you for your very good comments. Loved them all.

  7. Jayne says:

    I am living in a one room school house. We are adding a screen/ three season room. I want the knotty pine feel. THe school house was built in 1849 I love it but need that PLACE to hide when we have the extra company visiting!

  8. Leslie says:

    My husband and I are moving into our new home in a week and are over-the-moon excited about the knotty pine walls and cabinets in the kitchen and matching walls in the den, set just off the kitchen. House is 1959 and has an all-around rustic feel to it. The fir-down above the kitchen cabinets is covered with a wallpaper that has discolored and is peeling off. I will be removing the wallpaper altogether and then adding texture and paint to that small area. The formal living and dining is just off the other end of the kitchen and needs re-painting as well. I would love to coordinate the fir-down area above the cabinets with the paint color of the other room but am at a loss. I am reading a lot about natural green tones…olive green, asparagus, fern etc… does anyone have any ideas or experience with painting accent walls/areas in a predominantly knotty pine area? Thanks!

  9. Jennie says:

    Image 3: I’m pretty sure those are horse brasses, replicas of decoration mounted on harnesses of working draft horse teams, and then popular decorations in British pubs.

  10. MaryP says:

    Oh this is just so beautiful. Brings back memories of growing up in my grandparents house. Visiting all our family and friends. This easy going decor just made everyone feel safe and welcome. Houses had souls then. The new junk is dead. They took on the life of those that lived there. In those days no one had money to buy stuff unless you really needed it and loved it. Each item was cherished. My father put in knotty pine paneling in our living room. It was that beautiful honey color. Warm and cozy.

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