If you're thinking of substituting wood flooring with wall paneling, talk to a few flooring experts and let them talk you out of it. All but the most robust wall paneling lacks the infrastructure to turn it into good flooring, and even those are difficult to finish and even more difficult to keep clean.
If, however, you're looking for decorating ideas for wood-paneled rooms, you've got options – plenty of them. Keep in mind that wood paneling already supplies plenty of visual stimulation, and if you augment by installing flooring with a strong grain, you'll go over the top and the room will never feel really comfortable. The best flooring with wood paneling has a simple pattern or none at all.
Competing Grains Can Be Hazardous to Your Eyes
You install most wall paneling with the grain extending from the floor to the ceiling, and the visual effect is to draw your eye to scan the room vertically. Now add an oak or pine floor, which encourages your eye to scan the room horizontally, and you set up a visual incongruence that the eye interprets as busy. The furniture and carpet you use to furnish the room will only add to the cacophony.
If you're stuck on the idea of hardwood or laminate flooring and wood paneling in the same room, consider one of these ideas:
- Paint the paneling a solid color.
- Hang paneling that has horizontal slats, not vertical ones.
- Install luan paneling, which has a weak grain, and stain it a dark color.
- Use flooring with a weak grain, such as maple or mahogany.
The situation isn't nearly as dire if only one of the walls has paneling because you can avoid competing grains by installing the flooring with its grain perpendicular to the paneled wall. That unifies the grains and draws the eye in a single direction toward the wall and up to the ceiling.
Alternatives to Wood Flooring With Wall Paneling
Most wall paneling provides plenty of visual stimulation, and the best flooring in this situation is monochrome. Carpeting usually works very well, particularly if the color is chosen to harmonize and not contrast with the paneling. Carpeting is probably the best flooring for knotty pine walls, which are so busy they almost demand a floor that disappears from view.
Monochromatic tiles can also provide a good complement to paneling, provided the grout color is a close match to the tiles to prevent the grout lines from standing out. If you're on a budget, consider vinyl or linoleum with a subdued non-linear pattern or no pattern at all. You can also use laminate flooring with wood paneling, provided the pattern is subdued.
The Best Floor Colors With Paneled Walls
Wood tones are naturally warm, with tones in the oranges, browns, reds and yellows. Since the paneling dominates the room visually, it isn't a good idea to upset the color balance by introducing cool colors, such as blue, gray or off-white. The warmth of wood tones makes a room feel cozy, so it's best not to upset that with cool colors unless you have a good reason.
One reason to introduce a cool floor, if you're into feng shui, would be to bring the water element into a room in which it's lacking. For example, a sunny room with blonde maple paneling may feel too dry and hot, and a gray or blue floor covering could balance this beautifully. A patio door facing a body of water may also call for a cool floor to harmonize the inside of the room with the outside.
Chris Deziel is a contractor, builder and general fix-it pro who has been active in the construction trades for 40 years. He has degrees in science and humanities and years of teaching experience. An avid craftsman and musician, Deziel began writing on home improvement topics in 2010. He worked as an expert consultant with eHow Now and Pro Referral -- a Home Depot site. A DIYer by nature, Deziel regularly shares tips and tricks for a better home and garden at Hunker.com.