Interior Design for Living: Don

By SUSAN GILL SPELLMEYER

Q: My husband and I want to make some improvements in our 16-foot by 24-foot recre­ation room. It has two windows (3 feet by 3 feet) right next to each other and centered on the long wall.

The major problem is the dark wood paneling that makes it very dreary. It desperately needs to be brightened up.

Can you help us with this and perhaps give us some other sug­gestions as well?

A: The obvious solution is to replace the wood paneling, but because you didn't mention it, I presume you would rather not do .that, perhaps because of expense. Depending upon the type of paneling that it is, your options of potentially lightening it will vary.

If the paneling is real wood, you may be able to sand it to remove the dark stain. Once you get it down to the bare wood, you can decide whether you want to apply a light stain or leave it natu­ral and merely put a protective coating, such as a polyurethane on the surface.

If the paneling isn't real wood but a simulation, your options are different.

It is possible (and not very difficult or expensive) to wallpaper over the top of it. Wallpaper manu­facturers now make a product that is designed to be put over paneling and even concrete block. It will camouflage the seams, indenta­tions and irregularities.

This heavy liner can be pur­chased through any wallpaper store and may be a good solution for you. It can then be covered with any decorative wallpaper you choose. Perhaps a light, bright tex­ture would be something you would like to consider. Textures are very popular now, and there's a tremendous variety to choose from.

Another idea, if you don't want to undertake such a project or don't want to eliminate the panel­ing entirely, would be to distract your eye from it.

You could purchase a number of large, bright posters or inexpen­sive prints — perhaps all of a similar theme — and hang them close to each other over the panel­ing, which will make it far less noticeable.

Interesting fabrics also can be stretched over wooden frames and used as art or hung from wooden poles.

Any large splashes of color will brighten the room and detract from the dark paneling.

Lighting is crucial if the ceiling is lower than the standard 8 feel you may want to use recessed lights to maximize the ceiling height.

If the ceiling is close to 8 feet or more, surface-mounted fixtures can be used because there's plenty of head room. Surface-mounted fixtures give off more light than recessed, but for combining function with aesthetics, many people prefer a combination of the two.

Strip lighting under a valance all around the perimeter of the room, is very effective and accomplishes two things: It makes the room look larger because your eye follows the light to the corners c the room and gives an indirect even distribution of light throughout, which definitely helps to counteract the dreariness.

If you have the appropriate ceiling height, track lights may

be considered to highlight a wall of art. If you don't, "eyeballs," or a similar recessed light that can be directed, may be used.

Brightly colored carpeting would add a feeling of warmth and also help to counteract the dark­ness. Patterned carpet can be very striking, as well as practical. It adds interest and tends to hide any eventual stains.

Paneling can give a hard, cold look. You may want to accent the two windows as well as add some softness.

Consider extending a drapery on either side of the windows to totally clear the glass area. Then hang a separate drapery from the bottom of the windows to the bot­tom of the overdraperies. It will not only make the windows appear much larger but will soften the whole wall.

A combination of some of these ideas should help to counteract the dreariness and make your room a lot more appealing.