Kippy Jo asks: I have a 1925 Craftsman attic space, with wood paneling on the walls and ceiling. It may be Western red cedar or perhaps knotty pine. The wood flooring looks like fir or maybe even oak. I love the casual feel of so much wood, but it makes the attic space very dark. I have resisted painting it due to the value in the old wood.
My master bedroom is in one half and my office space is in the other, wrapped around the stairway entrance. The windows face north and south. Is there any way to brighten up the space with accessories? And how do you discern when it’s okay to paint wood in old houses? (The attic wood paneling has been salvaged from area houses that have been razed.) Also, with the knots in the wood, I never know if the linens/fabrics I use should be solid colors to avoid too much texture. The wood paneling is coated with a clear coat and the wood has aged to a golden-orange-peachy color. The floor is a medium to dark brown.
Annie says: Some people might not agree with me on this, but I have no problem painting wood—even old wood! I have whitewashed walls, I have bleached oak floors, and I have painted knotty pine paneling. I am always seeking a lighter space. But this is your space, and you should make it feel the way you want it to feel.
That said, it looks to me like you could whitewash the walls. (Note that they can always be refinished to a darker shade, if you or a future owner so desires.) In fact, I recommend it, because the lighter backdrop will be more welcoming for whatever fabrics and textures you choose to use.
If you still can’t bring yourself to paint, get a large, light-colored rug, like one of these, so at least you are not stuck with a dark floor. Pale upholstery on a sofa or other furniture and on curtains—feel free to mix in colors, as long as you keep them on the pastel side—will also help lighten up the whole space.