Before and After: A 1960s Wood-Paneled Bedroom Gets a Fresh Look for $500

published Aug 1, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
About this before & after
Home Type
Project Type
Skill Level
Rental Friendly

If you’ve ever felt like you’re sleeping in a guest room that hasn’t been touched in a while, that’s because it most likely hasn’t. There could be a mattress present from the Reagan administration, or a paint color that screams “Steel Magnolias.” It could be that a few relics from your cousin’s childhood have entered the room’s chat — like a pair of nightstands from bygone bedtimes — or there’s just a tired hodgepodge of items doing the best they can. Guest rooms are themselves a luxury, but they don’t always get the luxury treatment.

For example: When Jess Hamm (@perceybentley) and her partner Brent bought their home, they were well aware of its time-capsule characteristics. “The house was built in 1965,” Jess says. “I don’t think it has been renovated since the 1970s!”

Credit: Jessica Hamm

The couple had barely moved into the place before they started ripping out this guest room’s old carpet, already hoping to create a haven for their soon-to-be-visiting family and friends. “The shag carpeting was layered on top of more shag carpeting,” Jess says. “Surprise!” She remembers how there was no way this feature could stay, seeing that it was plenty stained and scented from decades of use. Once it was gone, though, Jess could envision a modern update much more clearly.

“While it’s a large space, it felt oddly small because of all the dark paneling and the dirty ceiling,” she says. “The wood paneling is original to the house, so it had definitely seen better days. There was a lot of sun damage from previous artwork and shelving, and I think it might have been a kid’s room at some point based on some of the scribbles we found.”

Credit: Jessica Hamm
Credit: Jessica Hamm

Jess was a fan of the ceiling’s many angles, though, and liked that multiple windows provided lots of natural light. “Also, the room is oriented close to a small brook,” she adds. “So in the spring, after the snow has melted and the windows are open, you can hear the sounds of flowing water. It’s pretty magical.”

Jess and Brent aimed to take a cue from their home’s history and surroundings as far as this project was concerned: This guest space would almost feel like an escape into nature when they were done, providing all the color and calm of a warm day beneath the trees. 

Removing the carpet was a big undertaking — Jess underscores that there were many staples involved — and so was sanding and refinishing the floors (she recommends not using a plant-based sealant, because of how much was tracked through the house and how hard it’s been to keep clean). Jess later enlisted her mom Kim to help paint the walls fresh white (Benjamin Moore’s Simply White), the ceiling a soft sky blue (Benjamin Moore’s Morning Sky Blue), and the trim around the windows and doors a leafy green (Benjamin Moore’s Weeping Willow).

“If I could go back, I would use a paint-sprayer,” Jess says of painting the paneling. “I used a brush and roller, and if you look at the panel gaps, you’ll see it’s not perfect. I choose to believe this adds to the character and charm!”

Credit: Jessica Hamm

Given all of that hard work, Jess says that the most difficult part was waiting to decorate. She chose a sage green quilt to top a bed frame she DIYed long ago, and paired that with kaleidoscopic plaid shams and a duvet from Schoolhouse, uniting the colors on the walls. A set of brass sconces were plugged in overhead, and she kept the artwork in between from the previous owners. “The credenza and tall lamp were purchased from a small mid-century secondhand furniture shop in Rochester, New York,” Jess says.

Credit: Jessica Hamm

Other finds had more humble beginnings: The dresser was a hand-me-down and the gold mirror was a trash find (literally — Jess says she plucked it from the garbage). With a little cleaning, the items are ready for a new life in this cozy, curated guest room. Combining low-cost DIYs with budget furnishings helped Jess keep her project total to between $400 and $500, she says.

“There are so many ways to create a home that reflects your personality on a budget,” Jess says. “I love that this room feels bright, cheerful, and welcoming. I was able to explore color, texture, layering, and art in a way I never have before.”

Inspired? Submit your own project here.