To Paint or Not to Paint

Do you have a design question? Send your query to and it may appear in a future issue.


Q: I can’t decide, after living here for 11 years, whether or not to paint the knotty pine in the family room of my 1929 traditional home. Right now it looks dark and full of wood. What to do? What to do?

— Joi Tydings

A: I say “Paint!” In fact, I’ve done it. Twice. My guess is that you are not really on the fence but worried that you are committing some crime by painting wood. Men in particular have a reverence for wood and seem to feel it is some sort of sacrilege to paint it, whether it’s walls or furniture or floors. Generally, this type of pine is not all that interesting (I’d feel completely differently about pecky cypress) and a few coats of paint will do you—and the room—good. I like the idea of painting paneling as it provides an interesting texture (and less headache and mess than tearing it out). If you do it yourself, do prime; it will help with chipping later.

Patricia O’Dell Shackelford

For more design advice from Patricia O’Dell Shackelford, see Look and DO Touch