How to Whitewash Walls

Wood paneling is one of those rare design elements that can look either lodge fabulous or outdated, with little range in between. Before scrapping those dark, outmoded panels, try this easy how-to for whitewashing walls.

Start by mixing a bleach-and-water solution, following the ratios recommended on the bleach bottle. (We probably don’t have to tell you to wear clothes you don’t mind sacrificing to the god of white blotches, and cover the floor with plastic, but we’re going to, anyway.) Apply it with a sponge or brush to a small, inconspicuous area on the wood paneling or a piece of scrap wood and allow it to dry completely. As long as the solution doesn’t damage the wood and you’re happy with the amount of lightening, open the windows (this is key!) and get bleaching. Allow the walls to dry overnight, preferably with the windows open; then follow these steps.

1. Mix a solution of white paint and water. We used a half-and-half solution of Benjamin Moore Timid White, which falls in the middle of the cool-warm spectrum, making it great for whitewashing all kinds of furniture and accessories.

2. Using a paintbrush, cover a small section of the paneling at a time with the whitewash.

3. Wipe off the excess paint with a rag (scraps of flannel sheet are ideal; make sure you have lots of them).

4. Continue painting and wiping, then step back every few sections to check your work. Using the same hand (and the same pressure) for painting and wiping will produce the most consistent results, and you’ll be able to fix any inconsistencies if you take frequent check breaks.

5. Allow the room to dry completely. Voilà—whitewashed walls!