Alicia and her husband restore the knotty pine in their 1955 cabin — so inviting!

knotty pine wallsReader Alicia and her husband bought their 1955 mountain cabin just 12 hours after seeing it — even though they knew they had work to do. The cabin itself was in great shape, but the previous owners had painted nearly all of the original knotty pine walls, ceilings, woodwork, doors and windows white. Virtually every  wall and ceiling surface of the 1,800 s.f. cabin was whitewashed — ouch! Undeterred, the knotty-pine-loving couple started up their sanders and broke out the amber shellac — restoring all the gorgeous, original knotty pine back to warm, woodsy and wonderful!

knotty pine walls painted
Before Alicia ‘unpainted’ the original knotty pine.

Alicia writes:

I just wanted to say Hi and thank you for such a great site! My family and I purchased a WONDERFUL 1955 cabin in the mountains of Montana. The cabin was built in 1955 on an old, very small ski mountain which closed for business in the 60’s.  My husband and I saw the real estate listing for it about a year ago, and purchased it twelve hours later. Typically we do not make crazy decisions on impulse, but we knew we just had to buy it (of course, we hadn’t sold the current house we were living in, but that’s another story!)

knotty pine walls

Many of its wonderful, original features were intact, but sadly many were “updated”. Every single wood surface, except the beams  (which were thankfully left alone) was painted white over the original knotty pine interior….the ceiling, the windows, the doors, EVERYTHING!! I will add a pic of a “before” wall, just so you can see. My husband and I sanded down EVERY SINGLE SURFACE in the entire 1,800 sq. ft. cabin. We then used amber shellac to create an original feel…it came out so beautifully!!

Precautionary Pam jumps in here to remind: Remember, readers, that the surfaces and layers of the materials in our old houses may contain vintage nastiness like lead and asbestos. Be sure to consult with a properly licensed professional to assess/test what you have before getting out those sanders! Renovate Safe!

knotty pine walls

We worked SO HARD on the paneling and it is fun to share the results!

knotty pine walls

We have made only cosmetic restorations that we could complete ourselves because of a very limited budget. Our next project is to expand the kitchen and try to recreate a knotty pine kitchen. Eventually we plan to remodel the kitchen and expand it into the dining room a bit (the dining room is larger than it needs to be and the kitchen is super small). The kitchen still has half of its original white, metal cabinetry, and the original GE freezer ( which we now use as a refrigerator, thanks to a new thermostat to convert it). The hardwood floors are original throughout, as are the beams, windows, and fireplaces in the dining room and master bedroom.

knotty pine walls

We just love our cabin and are thankful that we could purchase it and restore it….most of the time in our area, old cabins like this are torn down to make room for a large “trophy house”.

I am just glad to share our labor of love with you….it is so nice to visit your site and see posts from others who appreciate pine paneling and don’t want to paint over it!

Alicia — what an inviting home!

I’ve never understood why people buy a house like this — which likely attracts them in the first place with its woodsy feel — and then completely neutralize it with paint. Isn’t the whole point of buying a cabin in the woods, to feel like you are in a cabin in the woods?

We can only imagine the hours of backbreaking work it must have taken to remove all of that white paint. The final results look amazing — so inspiring!

  • Want to see more knotty pine goodness? Check out our sister site knotty is nice.

Categoriesknotty pine
  1. Lu Beeman says:

    Our home has all knotty pine walls. We want to keep it but I’m having trouble with what to use on the floors. Do you match the walls? That seems like too much. I don’t want to go darker because it is already dark.

    1. pam kueber says:

      Hi @Lu, I think there are a variety of ways you could go with this. One idea — get with a good flooring store to work with samples to come up with a good color combination in harmony with the color of the knotty pine. In terms of things looking dark, well, my impression of knotty pine rooms is that they are supposed to be … cozy.

  2. Kaye Mathews says:

    Great Job! I also have a knotty pine cabin in Colorado on Nation Forest land. It was never painted (thank goodness!). I added an indoor powder room this year and found that shellac was also the best match to the original finish. Thanks for sharing your wonderful improvements. Best!

  3. Steve says:

    Well, i love the way knotty pin is restored. The pics are mesmerizing and that’s why I am in love with this.

  4. Paula S says:

    Thank you! We just bought a 1960 house on a lake that has lots of knotty pine. Everyone assumes that we would want to paint it. If we wanted to do that, we would have bought a different house. I’m glad to see that you are restoring what was once there.

  5. michaela says:

    Great job. Beautiful. Glad to see I’m not the only one on the planet who decided to restore my cute home versus whitewashing or even worse, tearing it down for a trophy home. And that I’m not the only one to put in such a lot of cleaning and work into it 🙂 Michaela

  6. Lisa says:

    Thank you for this awe inspiring story! We just moved into an old house where the previous owners had painted the old knotty pine paneling a h****** [edited] color I can only describe as ‘mustard potato salad yellow’. Ugh, what were they thinking? So far I have stripped a patch with Citristrip. It took all evening. Next up I borrowed a heat gun and tested a spot and it looks like it will work but again, but soooooo much work. Now every time I get discouraged I will click on this story to keep me going. Onward knotty soldiers freeing trees from their uncomely false clothes.

    1. pam kueber says:

      Be sure to renovate safe – consult with a properly licensed pro so’s you know what’s in that paint and underneath, so you can make informed decisions how to handle….

  7. Cari Guthrie says:

    Love it!!!! Great Job!!! Your house is just like what I have in mind to build on my land – a new “old” house – I have collected lots & lots of what I call architectural salvage – waiting to be given a new life – I need a source for the knotty pine paneling though – any suggestions would be appreciated

    1. Cheryl says:

      I LOVE your work…..the cabin looks so cozy and homey….. Our wood will not be stained/or painted! We only want area rugs and privacy blinds for the windows…… ASAP we are installing usable shutters that will latch for when we are gone. The cabin is tiny tiny…600 sq ft on the first floor and then 250 on the sleeping loft for guests…..The outside is wavy sided cedar and it looks like a fairy’s home……Since I couldn’t find a 1955 cabin, this will have to do~

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