Despite Chip and Joanna Gaines’ love for shiplap walls, wood paneling isn’t everyone’s favorite interior design choice. That was the first thing that struck Mia Carella, the founder of Color by Design Home Staging, when she entered the living room of a 1,430-square-foot house in Pittsburg, California, that she was hired to stage. 

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Even though the paneling only covered one wall, the room had a high ceiling, so it dominated the space and instantly dated it. “The wood paneling was a huge eye sore and would be a big negative for any buyers,” says Carella, who serves the San Francisco Bay area.

And that wasn’t the only problem with the three-bed, two-bath home. “It was overflowing with clothes and toys — every surface was cluttered,” she recalls. “It was also extremely dark and had old dirty carpeting.”

Her plan was to clear out the clutter, brighten the room, and modernize it for today’s homebuyer. “I wanted potential buyers to be able to picture themselves in the space easily,” Carella says. “I wanted it to be inviting and comfortable.”

The first step was removing all the clutter and bringing in professional cleaners to give the home a deep clean. The old carpeting, which made the living room feel “small and dirty,” she says, was replaced with engineered hardwood in a light oak hue, and the walls were painted a crisp white — including that wall of wood paneling.

With this blank canvas, Carella sought to establish a bright and clean aesthetic with modern lines. She wanted ample seating, so she placed a light gray sofa on the paneled wall, facing two bright green accent chairs. Their curves — in addition to those of the round marble-topped coffee table — help offset all the straight lines in the room, she notes. A light gray area rug anchors the seating arrangement and adds texture, while neutral throw pillows on the sofa and a blanket on one chair provide softness.

To “give the eye somewhere to fall upon walking in the room,” Carella hung two large pieces of abstract artwork above the sofa. Their green, black, and gray hues are echoed throughout the living room. Black accents were also repeated in the side tables and the round mirror above the fireplace, which created “rhythm and balance,” she notes. The fireplace, flanked by windows, ties into the color scheme with its gray surround and serves as another focal point in the room.

Next, Carella turned to strategic lighting, which she says is key to staging any space. “Lighting makes the rooms feel brighter, larger, and more welcoming, especially in photos, so I always try to add as much light as possible,” she says. For this room, that meant a pair of lamps on the side tables and four recessed lights on the ceiling. The artificial and natural light bounce off the bright white walls and ceiling, making the space seem larger.

As the final touch, Carella says she always incorporates greenery into her design. “Bringing plants into any space makes the space instantly come to life and provides a sense of peace and tranquility,” she says. A small plant rests on the side table, two grassy plants adorn the mantle (in addition to a pair of black candle holders), and a larger plant sits in a modern white planter on legs to the right of the fireplace.

Although the wood paneling initially posed a challenge for Carella, the newly painted wall actually contributes to the final look, adding visual interest with its vertical lines. In fact, we think Chip and Joanna just might approve.



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