Elisabeth wants our help: Should keep her 1970s paneling — or begone with it?

Many of us agree that Knotty (Pine) is Nice — but what about its flashier cousin, 1960s-1970s wood paneling that got kinda … designy? Elisabeth is new to her 1968 house and her eyes are a bit in shock at her two-tone inlaid wall paneling. This sure must have been hip back in the day. She asks us: Should it stay or should it go?

Elisabeth writes:


I’ve just purchased a 1964 home. It is exciting but a bit overwhelming. There is a lot of paneling in the house. Looking at the May 1968 House and Garden magazine I can identify it as Georgia-Pacific Inlaid Paneling. I know it was marketed as the affordable option to real wood inlay work. It is not tongue and groove and it is not knotty pine. I am in a quandary as to whether to keep it. If it were real wood I would not have a question. I don’t mind trying to keep it with the intent of staying in keeping with the spirit of the times. However I would probably need some kind of confirmation that it is a good idea. My first instinct was “ugh, paneling”. I am new to this. Also the expense of remove and replace is weighing on me. Thanks for your time and any advice. 


Wow, Elisabeth, you are so ingenious to find that ad. Which wood is ‘yours’? Elm with walnut inlay? Pecan with walnut inlay? Cherry with walnut inlay? Or Walnut with pecan inlay? Surely a reader will know. 

I have my own opinions, of course, but first, let’s hear from readers:

Should Elisabeth keep her circa-1970s paneling…
Or should she rip it out or paint over it?


Categoriesknotty pine
  1. Kim McDonald says:

    I really think it is a great looking wall. If you want to clean or brighten it, I recommend Minwax wood cabinet cleaner in the spray bottle. You may have to go to a hardware store for it. Put it on a large terry cloth type wide flat mop and it cleans up great. I have a whole room in a dark wood stain and I feel its very comforting. I also personally think it gives your house a real “classy look”, and seems very elegant, as so few houses have this today.
    Its your house and if you plan on living there for a long time, I would say make yourself happy, but give your self time to adjust to it. At least a year or so. Once you paint it you can’t go back to that beautiful patina. I live in VA and in my housing development so many people have painted over their paneling. I personally think one day it will be back in style, and then won’t I be the classy one.

    1. Slava Bruder says:

      I say “keep it as well” . Our living room has one wall (fireplace wall) that has solid walnut wood paneling. For many years, I have wanted to paint it a soft creamy white, same as the rest of the living room. My husband, who is a forester, doesn’t think it is a good idea and feels that it would change the integrity of our mid-century house. So, we are keeping the walnut wall in its natural form.

  2. ACK says:

    My rule is to never paint over real wood. You can never strip the paint all the way off if you change your mind, and sanding and refinishing the wood will make it glow and look amazing.

    That said, I think that fake wood paneling is a separate beast. If you don’t like the way it looks, you could go for the cheap option and paint over it, or go for the pricey option of ripping out the fake paneling and putting in real wood veneer paneling. You’d keep with the period feel of the house, but with a totally different look. Lighter wood will make the house feel brighter as well.

    I love old houses but am always on a mission to brighten things up!

  3. Mauli says:

    Keep it. Perhaps it is a mistake to see it as 1970s paneling. I lived in a house built in 1964 when it was brand new. It had very similar panaling.

  4. Virginia says:

    I was never a fan of that style of paneling and I don’t care for it now. So if it were my house, I’d probably replace it. But if you’re unsure, I like the idea of living with it for a few months and seeing if it grows on you.

  5. Joanna says:

    Absolutely keep it! We bought our home from the original owner and the entire house has wood paneling except the bathroom and kitchen. I absolutely love it and think whoever came up with it, is ingenious. Any fingerprints, marks just blend in. Plus, it easy to wipe off. My husband wanted to put up sheetrock, but there is no way I’m giving up the paneling.

  6. MBJ says:

    Ok. There’s already a million comments, but I have to weigh in. Our house has a room that is paneled on the walls and ceiling and has hardwood floors. I am glad we decided not to mess with it. It is like a ship’s cabin. It’s cozy and great for naps and tv. It is the room we use the most. Try rolling with it. It may surprise you.

    1. KStacey says:

      Sadly, New & “fashionable” seem to equal gray & boring more often than not these days. Blah, I’ll tale the fun/quirky ‘old’ stuff any day!

  7. Maria says:

    Paint over it!!! I did this in my own house and it looks absolutely fabulous. If the room is too dark it’s too dark. But painting over it gives it a whole new look and it’s really fabulous to keep the texture of the paneling on the wall. I can’t overstate how happy we were with the result of painting over that old paneling.

    1. CarolK says:

      I agree, Maria. We have painted paneling in our house and we’re keeping it when we renovate. Our house is mid-century modest and the painted paneling seems appropriate and well, fabulous! I do love that bit of texture that the paneling has.

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