When Carley Page Summers toured her North Carolina home for the first time, the orange-toned wood paneling in the den didn’t scream “get cozy,” but she didn’t feel the urgency to rip it all out either. “I saw the potential,” she recalls. Summers, an interior stylist and photographer, and her husband, Jon, guess the wall feature was probably added sometime in the ’50s (although the home is around 100 years old). She remembered that her mom had once pickled the paneled walls in her sunroom, and the wheels in her head started turning. 

Yes, you read that right: Pickling might be one of the weirder design terms out there, but it sounds stranger than it is. The process involves applying a thinned white or light-colored paint over a darker wood finish that has been untreated. Then you lightly wipe the mixture away as you go so the grain still shines through. 

The thing was, Summers’s knotty pine walls had been previously sealed, and she didn’t want a standard white finish—she wanted sage green. Her painter suggested a hack: Just combine water with your desired paint color. “I created my own little system,” she explains. Summers mixed two parts Sherwin-Williams’s Sage Green Light and one part water in a bucket and got to work with a brush, applying a thin layer of liquid to the walls. 

Fascinatingly, it took just five hours to cover all four walls (less time than most paint jobs). The couple only had to do one coat because the whole point was to not lose the grain underneath. To take the cave-like feeling a step further, they also covered the ceiling in the same hue (this time using just paint).

“It makes the whole space feel moody and different,” says Summers. “We’ve truly embraced this home for what it is. We didn’t want to take that old character out of it.” 

Photography by Carley Page Summers

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