I am often asked questions from all over the United States on a website called allexperts.com. Recently, I received a question from someone whose father was fixing up his 100 year old home to sell. He told me that his father was cleaning, fixing and repainting; but when it came to the kitchen that had old knotty pine cabinets and wood paneling on all of the walls; his father stubbornly refused to paint or remove it. He told his son that it added value to the home. His son wrote to me asking if that was true and what I would recommend. Here is my answer.
You are wise to ask for some advice on this since often, homeowners think they understand the market but do not. Perhaps your father will hear my message and believe me since I have been in real estate for over 30 years and also a home designer who works not only with room configurations but with the interiors.
Old fashioned kitchens (particularly with knotty or knotting pine wood cabinets and walls) date the home and reduce the value. If your father wants the highest amount he can get he should look at interiors on various websites such as www.houzz.com or www.frontdoor.com.
Some new looks that seem to be popular incorporate wood in a distressed look that is used as wall decoration. So, for example, an old barn door is found in a fresh new environment. Wood siding is whitewashed or 'grayed' and one wall boasts the old look in a new way. It is intentional and new-looking. Take out the old cabinets or fix them and paint them. HIDE the knots by all means; or...change the tone and hardware. Do a different finish that is in a new tone. Take the wood off of the walls and if you want to keep one of the walls, take it down to rough wood and do a grey wash with no varnish. With this look I have seen slate, tile or distressed wide plank wood floors. Keep the kitchen light and bright. White cabinets in an old home are quite effective. If there is an island or an accent area, perhaps choose one of the updated and new looks like grey, red, blue or green on just those cabinets. If you choose grey, this will tie into the wall as well. There are some new kitchens that are using knotty pine but they are quite updated or eclectic looks. Not knowing what the rest of the house looks like I would say that the best choice is to make the use of the pine look "intentional" rather than making a statement that it was there and it is staying there. Here is a kitchen with knotty pine used in a new way: http://www.houzz.com/photos/2463013/Transitional-Kitchens-transitional-kitchen-p. It is not what I was describing with the wall treatment but it shows the pine finished in the grayish look that I described.
Buyers like new looks and get excited by something different. Tell your father that by thinking outside the box and giving a fresh look to an old space he will sell his home more quickly and at a higher price.