Decorating & Furniture/Dealing with fine wood paneling...
My house is 50 yo, a cape cottage style, rough broad Adirondack-style clapboard exterior. Woodsy neighborhood, on a lake.
In the front entry, hallway, and living room is random-width pine t&g paneling, floor-to-ceiling. Actually, the paneling is very in keeping with the visual style of the house, and is aged to a nice sienna patina. It almost reads as a neutral. And people coming into the house (men expecially) always remark on how warm and nice it looks.
Here's the problem....it makes the spaces dark! The entry and hallway only have borrowed natural light. The 16 x 22 ft. living room has windows on 3 sides at one end of the room, and also borrows light from adjacent rooms. But, especially at night, it is very dark.
The walls also sort of migrate into the floor, which is oak hardwood, although I have oriental area rugs, with terra-cotta, peach, pink, apricot, teal, and slight touches of grape and black. I really like these rugs, and would prefer not to replace them. My couches are a grape purple chenille. Funky, striped throw pillows pick up the other colors in the area rug.
Currently, the ceiling is white.
I'm thinking that in the entry, I can paint the stair risers and balusters to help relieve the monotony, and in the hallway, I could replace one long wall with drywall, and still have the paneling feel, but with a brighter accent wall.
Any suggestions on how to freshen and lighten up the living space? I'm planning to install mini-can lights at the two end walls (at fireplace, and main seating area) but are there other strategies? I prefer an eclectic, transitional-to-contemporary style.
I don't think painted trim would work with the paneling -- that would allow me to bring more color in, but would probably look funny.
I could play with the orangy-yellow range of the paneling by outlining the entire windowed seating area with swaths of bright apricot dupioni floor-to-ceiling drapes -- or wide (like 16") vertical or horizontal stripes of apricot and pink dupioni, to pick up both shades from the rug, and more visual interest. That would be analogous, but with much more sheen and color. New throw pillows to pop bold accent colors of teal, and a touch of orangy-red. Lime-washed 2" wood blinds on the windows.
Then maybe an orangy-red chair at the other end of the room, by the fireplace. Teal or apricot throw. New wall sconces on either side of the fireplace to bring even more illumination to the "inside" end of the room.
If you want to add light to these spaces, start by "adding light" in the form of fixtures (tracks/spots etc.) and light from the floor up. You can pick up can lights at virtually any home improvement/mass merchandise store for less than $10 each. These sit on the floor and project light upwards. They're great for corners, behind chairs etc. and add a lot of punch to a room. You can place plants/trees in front (actually atop) of them which creates a good amount of drama on the ceiling.
Spread your light sources around the room - everything from table lamps to spots.
If you want to go to the expense of replacing one wall with drywall, that's fine; it will definitely attract attention because of the texture difference. You may opt to place more mirrors and mirrored or glass surfaces in the space, creating a different texture and giving more opportunity for reflective light.
The stairway sounds like a great place to make a difference. Go for it.