Decorating advice needed, please.

This weekend I started tearing off 150 years of wallpaper from the walls of my new old farmhouse. Instead of the lath and plaster or wallboard that I was expecting to see underneath the paper, I have wooden walls. It looks sort of like beadboard, only running horizontally instead of vertically. The wood is a dark reddish colour and looks like it was never stained or varnished. So basically, my walls are 2" strips of horizontal wood, with a thin (1/8th inch) strip between each 2" board. What should I do with the walls? Paint the wood? Finish it with stain? The wood isn’t terribly uniform in colour. Plus, I’ll have to see how clean I can get them. The wallpaper doesn’t want to let go.

A description of the rooms will give you an idea of what I’m looking at. The ceilings are 12’ high, with each room (except the diningroom) having a fireplace. The windows are likewise as tall. There is no molding around the top of the walls, but an 8" molding at the bottom. The floors are all painted wood (I haven’t gotten a chance yet to see what the wood underneath the paint is like) and the ceilings are the same beadboard-looking stuff.

I’ll be decorating with antiques and would like to keep the period feel of the house, which was built in 1849.


With 12-foot ceilings, anything other than painting sounds like a huge undertaking. That said, I think waxing or staining the walls would be the most visually attractive.
Good luck! (And I’d love to see before and after pictures of the project!)

If you paint white over the wood it might look nice, it could have a ‘cottage’ feel to it. If you just want the look of a regular painted wall, you can fill in the cracks using drywall compound or plaster. Fill it in, let dry, sand, and then prime / paint. We just did this over some type of wood wall in our house that had a grid in it. I was thinking it would be a huge undertaking to fill in all the cracks and sand it all even but it really didn’t turn out to be a problem at all, and now that it is painted it looks just like the regular plaster walls in the house.

I have had success getting wallpaper glue and residue off walls using a mix of fabric softener and warm water. About 1 part softener to 4 parts water in a spray bottle, spray liberally and let it sit for a while, then spray again and use a putty knife to scrape it off. Get it really soaked with the softener, I sometimes use a sponge to help soak it well. I like this method because it won’t harm wood or anything you accidently get it on, and it doesn’t have the fumes like the chemicals that are sold for that. In fact, your house will smell april fresh for weeks! :slight_smile:

I just went through the exact same nightmare, except I had the added bonus of having paint OVER the wallpaper, and newspaper and cardboard BETWEEN the wallpaper and the beadboard. I couldn’t get that crap off with napalm. I ended up drywalling over it. Actually, my brother-in-law drywalled over it. It looks great and I didn’t have to kill anyone. Perfect solution for me.

I’d like to try to preserve the feel of the house if I can.

Velma - Thanks for the advice! I’ll try the fabric softener solution first. I wonder if steam would damage the wood?


I’d be nervous about steam, too, although my general approach to anything old or antique is, “well, it’s survived this long, it’s unlikely that I could actually kill it.” Not too sure I’d take that risk with anything so substantial as a wall though - I tend to restrict myself to refinishing tea carts and stuff like that.

I wonder if you could keep the feel of the old wood and still not put yourself to quite so much work, though. Maybe you could do one or two walls in each room with the refinished wood, and drywall the other walls - you’d retain the feeling, but still have a more modern, finished touch to the house. I suspect it would also be easier to maintain, but I’ve never lived with wood walls, so that could just be my inexperience talking.

Good luck, whatever you decide!

I’d recommend against trying to fill in the grooves and then paint over. I did a similar thing over wood paneling, and it looked OK, but not perfect.

Sorry I didn’t see this St.Germain. I have a few questions:

Are the floor boards different widths up stairs than down? How about the wall boards, are they different widths?

Have you thought about a nice stucco finish to the wood on the walls?, what about leaving some natural wood stained a dark oak (to hide color differences) and stucco the rest? It would give it a very scandanavian look.

As for preserving the feel of the house…what part of the country do you live in? Any good antique stores you can go to to get space fillers? A nice antique butter churn looks really nice with a few coats of poly on it. Stick to the wooded antiques if you want the ruggedness preserved…Email me for more pointed responses…

Phlosphr - You have mail. Thanks so much for any advice. I’m looking for something that is in keeping with what the original builders were looking for. Maybe some elegance, but approachable. I have 3 large dogs that live in the house, so it doesn’t pay to do too much in fabrics, and so on. It’s a farmhouse, and I have a horse, but I don’t like cutesy-country.