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Need help lightening this dark room !

Karen ReidyDecember 26, 2012
I have this very dark den....this is the room at noon, in bright sunlight, with all the lights turned on. Help! Note: the paneling is expensive rare fruitwood, hand-grooved paneling (not cheap imitation) which is why I'm having toruble working up the nerve to paint it. But the room is too dark! Should I paint, it, or change the furniture and decor? If I paint, do I do it all, or just one or two walls ? If I paint it, should I whitewash it ?
Keep the panleing, change the furniture
paint it all, incl the brick fireplace
another paint option
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Karen Reidy
Floors are dark reddish brick
    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 12:33PM
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Try the #1, with a darker ceiling, lighter on the floor and furniture.
    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 12:38PM
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Cheap and easy if you like to paint ...paint the paneling will do wonders for the room and give it some character.
    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 12:59PM
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LM Designers
Even though the paneling is a nice and expensive one it is out of date now. I painted mine but over the years the paint comes off. I will be drywalling over top of them now. Sorry but styles change and this look has come and gone. I know that might be hard to hear but a painted wall will brighten everything and make it fresh.
2 Likes    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 1:10PM
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Whitewashing or pickling the wood would retain the grain (a compromise) while offering more light. I would also do the fireplace. Installing can lights in the ceiling would help immensely. The room has great "bones". I love the posters. Perhaps grouping them and pulling out some colors for some accessories will add some light and life.
3 Likes    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 1:10PM
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If you primed your walls it will not come off. There is paint with primer and paint together. Easy simply looks like new.
    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 1:16PM
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Super Organizing Solutions
easiest and cheapest - declutter. Getting rid of overabundance of photos, books, pillows, throws, will serve to lighten the room.
3 Likes    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 1:43PM
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We painted paneling a few years back and we caulked the ridges, sanded the walls, primed and then painted. It was a lot of work but it stayed on very well and looked great. On the other hand, my Mom decided to leave her paneling natural and went with a lodge look. You may think about removing some of the books from the bookshelf and replacing them with light colored accessories this would break things up and add light. I know this sounds crazy because you have dogs, but you could also replace your existing rug with a lighter one. Over all if you want to keep your paneling the color that it is you can make everything else lighter which would give you the look your after. Just a thought.
2 Likes    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 1:54PM
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Karen Reidy
Decluttering is a good pt - but here is the issue: husband and I are both academics- books are our life! We have several rooms full of them - what to do ! I can't live without them.
1 Like    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 3:49PM
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Home Preppers
Many of my clients have the same concern that the paneling is not the cheap stuff, but it is out dated, so I vote for painting it. I would not paint the fireplace, but I would paint the built-ins. Keep your books, but minimize some of your decor on the fireplace and around the room. You could make a mural of your personal pictures in similar frames and place them on the wall in the second picture. That would minimize some of the frames on the bookcases For walls and trim I would pull two lighter neutral colors from the brick in the fireplace. Paint the bookcase in the trim color, but not too much contrast between the trim and wall color. I think your rug and furniture will work great.
2 Likes    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 4:15PM
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Jayme H.
IDK but feel the books are fine, it's just the darkness of the cabinet they're in combined with dark walls that makes it look darker...I would go for pickling and/or painting and removing some objects from the room. A little decluttering goes a long way...Pickled and/or painting wood adds texture and character.
    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 4:57PM
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Nancy Hehmann
Could there be dry wall underneath the paneling? A lot of people paneled over dry wall in the 60's; but then, I do not know how old your house is. If there is drywall, underneath you could just remove the paneling. Keep us posted on your new look.
    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 5:26PM
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creamy colored paint on brick looks wonderful.....even a sage green looks good on brick....i noticed painted brick houses in a colonial neighborhood near me and they really looked wonderful....paint paneling too......most definetly! its soooo outdated.
    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 5:54PM
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It seems as though there are no windows. Leave the room alone or designate it as a media room.
    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 6:01PM
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Declutter. It's not the books; it's the photos and pillows and exercycle and tchotchkes. Then group all your art into one pleasing, balanced arrangement...
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...and then decide if you want to paint the paneling.
2 Likes    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 6:26PM
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Throw out everything but the big brown dog. There is just too much stuff in that room. The ceiling fan lowers the ceiling. Paint the brick and get rid of the panelling. You will not regret it. Panelling is very limiting and darkens everything. Count up the number of pillows you have around then divide by two That's how many you can have. Also book cases aren't just for books. Put some pottery &/or sculpture on the shelves. Take the books to Goodwill. Let the brick floors show through but have a nice looking runner to brighten things up. The lamps are out of proportion for the rest of the stuff and the room. Tho I am not crazy about can lights, they may be the answer here, or maybe some great track lighting. That has improved over the years. Does that exercise bike need to be there? You may have to sit down with yourself and decide what this room is for: reading, tv, exercise, storage? It could be a great room but it is in a time warp. Is there another little dog in the picture?
Karen, anything in a book is now available on a screen. You don't have to store them anymore. The university can keep all the books, but I'll bet they're going over to electronics also. Under bookcases you have cabinets and I know what is in them...junk. I have the same things and they are full of things like slide projectors and parts of stuff we can't identify. Out they go. You are going to feel so free.
4 Likes    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 6:39PM
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Here's my 2 cents.... I love books too so I get it. Take one step at a time. First, when you de-clutter and have a buddy help you....NOT a family member. It will go faster. Are those paper towels on the fireplace? Sometimes we live with things so long that we don't notice them anymore. Second, take everything out of room and clean it. If it's worth cleaning/dusting keep it. If you don't love it, get rid of it. I found myself keeping things because someone gave to me and I didn't really like it in the room. Books need to be taken off the shelves and dusted every bazillion years anyway. With things out of the way you will "see" the room again. Then, start slow. Move things around. Does that tv need to stay there? Any chance you could hang to the left of the fireplace? If things were painted a creamy white or light color you could add more book shelves and your books would deliver your color. Don't know anything about painting fireplaces or paneling. A white fan would look great. It will virtually disappear and make the ceiling look higher. Can't really see the rug but I have dogs so it's always good to get them cleaned every so often. Love the dog! He's definitely a keeper. Have fun!
    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 8:01PM
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Jill Turner
Paint will make a huge difference. Home Depot now has mini paint samples (about 8 ounces) and for less than $3 you can paint a swatch to see how you like the color. The paper card samples are free. Go and collect, literally, every single card in white, cream, gray and beige families and bring home. Put them against the floor (or fireplace if you potentially don't want to paint it) and you should end up with bbetween 3 & 6 that are possible. Get samples made of each of those. Paint big squares of each to seewhat you like . (You can do rhis on a piece of plywood or somewhere in the room.)

Re: the books, we cleaned out our den earlier this year and jettisoned all but the absolute favorites. As a general rule, we are now reading on our Nook and Kindle, which honestly is far more comfortable in a lowly lit room than our old school books. While.the room looks far better, it is a change. Books, the more the better, have long been the measure of one being educated/intellectual. When you preen the collection, it's hard on that perceived part of our psyche - you'll have to.develop another means of illustrating that thinking is important in your home. Good luck. Change is hard.
2 Likes    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 8:12AM
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Interiors International, Inc.
Paint everything but the brick. It would be nicer to reface the fire place. Drywall is cheap if budget is a problem. I still would paint that a different color. Paint the back of the shelves a color that matches the new fireplace color.
    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 8:16AM
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Carolyn Albert-Kincl, ASID
I'd go ahead and paint everything except the brick, as Int Int'l suggested. Then I'd sit back for a month and think about whether the brick needs to be painted also. You could even pose another Design Dilemma question then.
1 Like    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 8:22AM
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By Design EK
Have you thought about stripping the fruitwood paneling and re-staining it? Or leave it natural with just an oil or wax finish? This would update it and fruit wood can have some nice light warm tones. Paneling and wood accents are not necessarily out, just different from what they used to be. There is definitely a need for contrast in this room and that would brighten it up. I think painting the bookcase would be great, or again strip and stain or seal a lighter color if the wood is solid or expensive. On my bookcase I flip a stack of books horizontally every so often to break up the lines. Painting the brick would also brighten up the room but if you don't want to do that, or recover the brick with something else, change the mantle or paint white. If you could add some more woodwork in painted, it does not need to be white even, this would break up the monotony of the brick, paneling, floor, all in the same tones. If you can change the furniture great, go for a lighter or darker color. You do not necessarily need to make everything white or brighter to lighten a room. you could paint the mantel black, add a picture light above and a large painting and the contrast of the black will make the fireplace look bright and new. Sometimes doing the opposite works wonders. Definetly changing the lighting would help. You could add some more picture lights attached to the top shelf or valance of the bookcase (and hide wires behind the books) and if you don't need the ceiling fan add a nice fixture. If you can afford to add a few recessed cans in front of the fireplace and spaced around the room this would help also. I think adding some contrast will go a long way in this room.
1 Like    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 8:39AM
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I would try to update the look by doing the following:
1) agree with everyone - declutter. the books are fine
2) add boxed-beams and some lights to ceiling
3) remove only the upper part of the paneling and keep the lower part.
4) if you still need to lighten it more, paint the paneling/or remove the paneling from the back wall (the one with all the picture frames and leading to the other rooms.

Here is a picture.
2 Likes    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 8:57AM
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Here is the same picture from a different angle
1 Like    Bookmark   December 27, 2012 at 9:01AM
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