The Perfect Shade Of White Wall Paint For Oak Trim

freaking-out-over-your-paint-colors

 

Dear Laurel,

I came across your article about wall colors that go well with wood trim — very insightful! Thank you for posting!

My parents are moving into a new home and I’m project managing the remodel! (Pictures below)

 

living room vaulted ceiling - white wall color

 

Here’s the problem, for me.

 

It has oak trim, an oak stair case, oak banister, oak mantel, oak doors… you get the picture.

A lotta, lotta oak.

 

My mom thinks it would be a crime to paint all of the wood.

 

So, it’s my mission to update the space even with the oak overload. She seems to be open to new white doors and painting some of it (mantel maybe?). If you have suggestions of what can go white and what can stay oak, that would be greatly appreciated.

 

entry into great room - staircase

See what I mean?

fireplace plantation shuttersAnd, I know, some of it’s white and some of it’s oak. Is that how it’s supposed to be?

straight run stairs - bad

No worries. The periwinkle is going.

Yes, yes… I know, I know! It’s not even close to being an unkitchen.

 

Would you mind suggesting a few wall colors that would work in the space? We very much prefer a white wall paint.

 

I’m leaning toward Benjamin Moore Swiss Coffee everywhere.

 

Is there a better off-white wall color that would work well? Which direction should I go? But, I’m also considering revere pewter and sage green if white just wouldn’t work.

I would GREATLY appreciate your advice in what do to with the walls and trim!

And finally, I’m also very interested in design consultation for the space! We are doing a full cosmetic remodel. Your aesthetic is spot on for what we want. If that is something you offer online, it would be wonderful to work with you!

Best regards,

Tom

 

Okay, this is a real “dear laurel” letter and thank you so much for your kind words Tom, but, I’m not doing any consultations. It’s just not possible for me to do it all.

I realize that Tom means well. There appears to be a common misconception amongst non-designers that we can make these types of decisions off the top of our heads. If only it was that easy! But, it’s not.

In fact, here is the other reason that I don’t do paint consultations any longer, particularly long-distance. Tom graciously took some photos for me with the lights out, mostly.

I mean, which images are more accurate in terms of color? This looks like it was re-stained at some point. But, this is typical that I am sent images that look totally different from each other of the same space. So, the only way, I’ll consider this is if it’s totally conceptual in nature. However, we can still learn the concepts because that’s what’s most important.

 

I debated this one because there are numerous posts on what color to paint the walls if the trim is stained. Below are some of them.

 

It’s My Dream Home Except For One Problem– The Stained Wood trim

 

 Paralyzed By Perfection, Should She Paint Wood Paneling.

The Wood Stain is too Red After Poly, Can It Be Fixed?

 

However, there are some issues in Tom’s letter that are concerning me and I am going to go over them. But, I think that they are common issues. And well, I’m incredibly touched at how he’s looking after his parents. Plus, he’s taking on the responsibility of project managing a remodel.

 

Tom’s question of what white wall paint color will look good with stained wood trim is a very good one.

However, as I see it, it’s a little like asking what color shoes should I wear before knowing what the dress is going to be. I’m sure I’ve said that one before.

The first question that I have would be: Is there any white wall paint color that will look good with stained wood trim?

Yes, I think so, but with a big BUT, because we’re getting way ahead of ourselves.

 

We need to begin at the beginning and the beginning is the house, itself. Here are some questions that I think are helpful in discovering how we should move forward when remodeling a house.

 

  1. What style is it?
  2. When was it built and where is it located?
  3. What are we trying to achieve?
  4. Do we like what’s here?
  5. If we don’t like what’s here, can it be changed?
  6. What is our budget?

Let’s begin with #1 and #2.

I took the liberty of investigating where this home is. Thank you, my darling Google. I found the listing and more images. It’s in suburban Chicago and was built in 1993. It is part of a development of up-scale homes with lovely property.

 

What style is the home?

 

Well, in the real estate listing, under “type and style” it says “other.”

Hey, I’m just the messenger.  However, I do agree with that terminology. But, the majority of homes I’ve seen in the last 30 years are “other.” Most homes these days have multiple identities. This one’s a combo platter of  modern, traditional and American mid-west ersatz which is neither here nor there, but very common.

Now, let me make it clear that I’m not saying that this is a bad house. It’s a great house but with some problem areas.

If it didn’t have potential, I wouldn’t have bothered.

Let’s go to number 3.

 

What are we trying to achieve?

 

It is clear to me that Tom, a man, I’m presuming, thinks that there’s too much wood.

Interesting…

It’s interesting because most men LOVE stained wood.

Mom, whose house this is thinks that it would be a crime to paint over all of that nice wood. Also interesting.

 

Tom is willing to compromise by painting the fireplace mantel and doors.

We’ll come back to this later to discuss if one has both stained wood trim and painted wood trim, what can stay stained and what should be painted and why.

 

4. Do we like what’s here? And that means in terms of the more permanent features.

5. Anything can be changed; it’s only a matter of money. :]

6. How much are we willing to spend to make the changes necessary to achieve the look we want?

And let’s add one more consideration.

7. Are there any glaring faults?

For me, yes, one. And unfortunately, it would cost a pretty penny to fix it. Do you see it?

 

It’s the open staircase, smack dab in the middle of everything with an open loft to below and then the staircase keeps going down to the basement.

What’s wrong with it?

 

  • It’s too open and thus there are a million spindles which isn’t a cozy look.

 

  • The spindles are too traditional/fussy. Square or round with less detailing would be better.
  • The spindles should be painted white.
  • And then, there’s that straight run of 14-steps. Unless it’s next to a wall and in an old home with a real hallway like Nancy Keyes’ fabulous staircase, a straight run like this is not a good design.

The staircase from the entry


In fact, it looks a little scary from the top. In addition, while we’re here, the stair runner is a little narrow. I prefer no more than 4-5 inches of wood margin in a staircase this width and this looks to be at least 6 or 7 inches.

So, what should we do instead?

Well, ripping it out is going to be expensive, but let’s have some fun!

 

this isn

 

 

Above is the first floor layout from the real estate listing.

 

Please note that the schematic is not accurate in terms of the staircase. What they show would be better, but that’s not what’s there in real life.

There should be at least one turn on that run of stairs, but I would do two turns and put up some walls. for part of it, perhaps.

stairs after in chicago home

 

Above is me messing around, but as you can see, I made two turns of the stairs, with two little landings for ease in turning.

Let’s look at some other staircases for inspiration.

 

Wait a minute Laurel. All he wanted to know is what white paint color should he use? Why are you going on and on and on about the staircase?

 

That’s a very good question. The best I can say is:

“the thigh bone is connected to the hip bone…” ;]

In other words, it’s all connected. I’m sure that I’ve harped many times, that before we pick paint colors, we must get the bones together. Otherwise, we cold end up with a big bloody mess.

 

Let’s take a look at some beautiful, classic, non-fussy staircases for inspiration.

 

Victoria Hagan - perfect staircase - white wall paint

One of my favorite entry and staircases ever by Victoria Hagan. It is perfect.

 

Sage Design - beautiful staircase white wall paintAnother classic beauty by Sage Design

I love that classic newel post. Something like this would be a better look for Tom’s folks.

great-escape-foyer-country livingA more country look, but I love it from Country Living.

 

I’m not big on balconies that open up to a room. I would make it a hall and a room. Or, maybe just a wall with interior windows. But, now, I’m going too far because this is getting into the nitty-gritty. I do suggest that they consult with an interior designer and/or architect for more extensive changes.

And, I’m hoping that one of the changes will include changing the wall-to-wall carpeting upstairs for a hardwood floor.

 

Now, for the wood trim.

This is the ersatz part. It is neither contemporary/modern or traditional. And, I realize that I’m walking a slippery slope. But, for years and years I’ve seen this kind of wood trim that is stained for no apparent reason. Most trim from the neo-classical (traditional) era was painted.

And, you have to remember that I’m from the midwest. I was born less than 20 miles from this home and I lived for five years in Wisconsin in the 70s. Plus, I’ve been back dozens of times.

It is the land of wood trim. Oh, they love it out there and they’re still doing it in new builds! My mom is in a beautiful memory care facility. It was built only two years ago and it’s full of wood trim.

 

While I fully understand where Tom’s mom is coming from, I need to respectfully disagree about it being a crime to paint over it.

 

IMO, the crime is that it was ever done this way in the first place! And all the more so because in some rooms it IS painted and in the same space, some of it isn’t painted.

The plantation shutters say coastal Georgia and all of the wood says something else. It’s not working.

bad oak kitchen - dining area
fireplace plantation shutters

I do like this dining area. And the pale gray is very lovely too.

 

Is there a way to compromise?

Possibly. However, it requires knowing what else is going on and I haven’t the foggiest. So, I’m just going to make something up. Haha. Although, I’ve always loved collaborating with my clients, it’s also fun to have free rein.

 

Let’s first go with the cheap route. (Aside from the kitchen)

 

I would paint everything. And I mean, everything – white. The house is big and open and the white will make it look fresh. And yes, Swiss Coffee would most likely be a very good choice. It’s one of My Laurel Home Essential Collection paint colors.

 

Remember this wonderful white on white home I featured about a year ago?

 

And, yes, I would paint the floors too. Here’s one of my favorite posts about painted floors. Most of them are white.

I realize that painting the floors is probably going to give Tom’s mom an apoplectic fit, but maybe if we get rid of the wood trim, a paler shade for the wood floor? Or else, a deeper shade. It looks like they just put on the poly with no stain. And now, it doesn’t match closely enough to the doors and stairs anyway. It’s disconcerting and looks like a mistake. But, it’s not the worst one.

 

If going the expensive route, I would definitely deal with the staircase and close some of it up to make the home feel more cozy. However, painting everything white will make it not stand out so much.

 

The fan should be white, as well.

For more inspiration for using white walls please check out this post.

 

Let’s say that someone GAVE me this house and I had $200,000 to make it my own.

 

That might sound like a lot of money, but it really isn’t. There are FIVE bathrooms! Although, most of them are fine, the master bath needs a complete over-haul, I think.

First, I would still paint everything.

The stained wood is oak. It’s not cherry, walnut or 200-year-old heart pine. It’s oak and that = common. It will never be a rich, sophisticated look. I wish it were otherwise.

It is fine to have the front door wood on one side and painted on the other. My guess is that they would not be allowed to paint their exterior door and that is fine. (please check this post out for some great front door paint colors)

 

Let’s quickly address the kitchen.

 

I don’t know what’s in the soffit except for the recessed lighting, but there should be room for the recessed lighting without the soffit. I’m not crazy about the lower ceiling height here.

And sorry, but y’all already know how I feel about these cabinets.

Aside from the color and the amount of them, is the door style. It’s the epitome of American mediocrity and my aim is to rid the world of it. The kitchen is tear-down, IMO. It’s really bringing this house down.

In its place, I would do a simple shaker door and take it up all the way to the ceiling. And far fewer upper cabinets. Is there a pantry?

The final big question is: Can we leave any wood trim anywhere?

Yes, they could leave the fireplace mantel and the doors only. Not the trim. Tom had it backwards. All of the other trim around the windows, muntins, door trim, ceiling trim if it’s there should be painted. I would paint it all one color.

The vaulted ceiling is REALLY vaulted, but alas, we’re in the snow belt. (aka: SNIRT BELT) It has to have a pitch like that or it could be a real problem. I think it would look nice with some ship lap and ceiling beams — all painted white. That will help break it up better.

 

The other place that it would be possible to leave wooden would be what the office or dining room. I think they could keep the white wall paint as long as there was a rich Oriental rug and art work.

Or, they could pick out a color used in the other decor or furnishings as the wall color. For some great wall colors and inspiration, please check out this post with wood trim and wall colors that look good with it.

There is a lot here, but to answer Tom’s question. Yes, they can do a white wall paint, but I very much believe that it would look a lot better to get rid of most if not all of the wood trim. It is not a crime to paint over it, because it’s not classically correct to begin with.

I feel that over-all, the home IS trying to be traditional, but the very open plan, mix of finishes and the dated feeling are bringing what could be a smashing home down a few notches.

I hope that this has been helpful!

***Please remember that the price of the Laurel’s Rolodex is going up at 11:59PM this Tuesday, the 20th.

And also, please check out this week’s hot sales as well as the beautiful holiday shop.

xo,

 

5th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2018 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

  • Carolina - November 21, 2018 - 6:33 AM

    Hi Laurel!
    Great post, lost of learning.
    I still have a question, what should be done if you had to inevitably use two different wood finishes or stains. Apart from painting the trims white.
    At home we have wooden beams in the kitchen, dining and bedrooms and ship lap and beams in the living room, all in pinewood BUT a nice looking wood in doors and windows. And they don’t match!!!
    Is there a way of matching two different wood stains???? Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 21, 2018 - 9:36 PM

      Hi Carolina,

      There’s a product by Minwax and maybe other companies that has stain and poly in one. You can make something darker, but not lighter, of course. I would speak to a professional about what might be possible in your particular situation.ReplyCancel

  • Alisa - November 19, 2018 - 5:13 PM

    This house looks very familiar to me. I think I worked on a similar house in this very neighborhood! In the house I did they had that 90’s pinky oak trim and it was everywhere. It took some convincing, but when we painted the house my client finally allowed me to have all her trim painted white. It instantly took the home into this millennium and she was thrilled with the result. I’ve had similar success with other clients and never had anyone wish they hadn’t done it.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 19, 2018 - 8:48 PM

      Hi Alisa. Bingo! I’ve also had the same experience, numerous times.ReplyCancel

  • PFW - November 19, 2018 - 1:32 PM

    I do want to mention what looks like grass cloth wallcovering on the big wall in the living room. Given the oakapalooza, that wallpaper seems to be one way the previous homeowner did to relate the golden oak to something else in the room. Laurel, would you suggest they keep that or paint over the grass cloth? I personally like grass cloth, and I think it helps rather than hurts the oak situation–but not everyone likes it. I wonder what the homeowner thinks of it. If they keep it, the white would need to harmonize with whatever shade of grass cloth that is. I’d also like to mention that this is a beautiful spacious home that I think anyone would be proud of (aside from maybe the kitchen). I also smiled when I noticed that the storm door also appears to be oak of faux oak 🙂ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 19, 2018 - 8:47 PM

      Oakapalooza! Now, that’s a word and a good one! I love grass cloth and I agree that it helps the oak. But, the oak is not actually golden in Tom’s images.ReplyCancel

  • Amy - November 19, 2018 - 12:41 PM

    Hi Laurel,
    Every year before Christmas we host a breakfast for some friends. We don’t host much so I get excited to create a table setting. My dining room is navy and I’ve been loving the tartan table settings that Ralph Lauren does. While looking through pictures I thought that might be a good post topic. More specifically how do the people from Ralph Lauren combine so many patterns into one room. In one room they can have tartan, damask, floral, paisley, leopard, zebra, and chinoiserie. They also can combine both light and dark colors. I just thought it would be a good topic because you always talk about creating a plan and it looks like they have no plan.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 19, 2018 - 8:45 PM

      Hi Amy,

      It might look like they don’t have a plan, but they do. In fact, I would go so far as to say it’s most likely a formula. I know that there is a post here that talks about mixing fabrics. Maybe even two posts, but I’m sorry, I can’t look for it now.ReplyCancel

  • Sherry in KS - November 19, 2018 - 11:30 AM

    I just popped on to say that I love it when a post of yours REQUIRE me to open another tab on my browser so I can keep up with your comments on the photos! Less scrolling and I don’t lose my place. Ha! And thank you THANK YOU for saying oak = common so it’s ok to paint. Great post and great comments – as always!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 19, 2018 - 8:43 PM

      Hi Sherry,

      I always try to remember to make the links open in a new tab, if that’s what you mean. That way, people are not actually leaving the site.ReplyCancel

  • Margaret - November 19, 2018 - 8:41 AM

    Hi Laurel,

    Hopefully Tom will show his mother not only your great ideas but also the overwhelming support for them. Rarely is an open staircase a beautiful thing. It simply draws too much attention. Is that really what the owner wants people to focus on. I really support your idea of altering it. I do think leaving the hand rail stained, but in a darker stain colour (hard to tell what colour it really is) would look good. It would need to match the doors, if they were to stain them. Keep in mind, if they alter the stain on the doors, it’s not a small job and they should probably be sent out to a company that does that as they would have to be stripped first and then restrained. Oak is actually a very good quality hardwood to have for trim.

    I have worked in lots of nice houses with ‘dark’ stained wood trim but they had trim of substantial size and the stain was so dark that it almost obscured the wood or in some at least not that awful honey colour. Those places were Edwardian in style though so it suited the home. This place should have painted white trim. Like you suggest, all of it painted, save the doors, railing and mantel if they really want to keep some. I would keep the floor and though as I like the blond, natural colour. Definitely put new cupboard doors on and take down the uppers and bring new ones up to the ceiling leaving some open space. Good luck to Tom.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 19, 2018 - 8:41 PM

      Thank you so much Margaret. Sorry, for the brief response. I’m supposed to be going away tomorrow and totally not ready.ReplyCancel

  • Diane Sanderson - November 19, 2018 - 5:27 AM

    Laurel, I just wanted to thank you for your blog. With your knowledge i feel like I have been to design school something in my heart I always wanted to do . With that i have been able to give my home want I call soul and life and to help my good friend with her new home. Thank you LaurelReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 19, 2018 - 8:38 PM

      Hi Diane,

      Thank you so much! I hope this doesn’t sound self-aggrandizing, but 90% of what I talk about here, I did not learn in design school. I learned it from 1992 on when I started working in this business, first for others and then my own business in 1996.ReplyCancel

  • Caroline - November 18, 2018 - 10:29 PM

    Oh boy, do they need to get rid of that mirror over the mantel! All you see are millions of clumsy spindles!

    And yes, in a cold climate (I’m in Minnesota), it is all too open and chilly. Please beg Tom to close in part of that stairway, Laurel–he’ll listen to you, I’ll bet! And close in the spindle-bedecked balcony. I think just staining the floors would work. The kitchen, yes, needs more change. That is the oddest panel shape. Maybe if his mother could choose a gorgeous wood for new cabinets she would be happier with changing some of the rest?ReplyCancel

  • Libby - November 18, 2018 - 8:55 PM

    You have made excellent recommendations, Laurel. I, too, find the stairs overpowering. I have to believe that the owners LOVE the stair configuration and bought the house because of it ( 2 massive staircases evidently). The house should have an elevator. That is a lot stairs. Far too many in that configuration for children and even adults to navigate. All I can see is Scarlett O’Hara tumbling and rolling and rolling down those stairs! And this staircase isn’t as graceful. I think the straight run is so a chairlift can be installed. And, someone would need TWO chairlifts. The basement/bottom floor is living space as well with a walkout probably.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 18, 2018 - 10:30 PM

      Hi Libby,

      Well, I was thinking chairlift too, but I’m glad that you said it. It’s a large home for just two people. I’m presuming that there are a number of children and grandchildren who will be visiting?

      Actually, in my old townhouse, there was at least one chair lift, but from the garage, there is a run of stairs, a landing, turn a few steps up, short landing, one more turn a few stairs, a short landing, another turn about six stairs, a big landing one more turn and the final run of about 10 steps. I’m not sure how they did that. Maybe the chair lift was not for all of the steps.

      It’s funny, but that staircase, really sold the house for me! BTW, our spindles were originally stained oak– a natural gold oak, but the first time we painted after being there for 5 years, I had them paint them white. It made me so happy!ReplyCancel

  • Danielle - November 18, 2018 - 8:42 PM

    Our soon-to-be former home is exactly of this vintage- a big house with lots of oak, though with more modern lines. I had the kitchen cabinet doors replaced and the cabinets repainted in a warm white/cream, and it was nothing short of miraculous at 10% the cost of a complete reno. However, I did have plain black granite countertops I wanted to save and not nearly the amount of uppers this kitchen has.

    Maybe they could just take down some of those uppers (the ones around the windows) and renovate the rest? Seriously, I could not believe the difference in my kitchen. I think I spent 5k and the results were absolutely astonishing.

    In the rest of the main level we painted the walls a deep khaki so the trim doesn’t stand out, except for the master bedroom which is the cream color, there we painted the trim. All the doors are oak.(The downstairs was completely renovated with all painted wood). It actually looks really nice now. I’m going to be sad to leave it- if nothing else, it sure is roomy!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 18, 2018 - 8:50 PM

      Hi Danielle,

      Yes, painting the trim a khaki is another option that could be attractive, but in this case, we still have some white and then the stairs. Argh. I would say refacing this kitchen is an option but those upper cabinets are too small, unless they can take them all down. Not being there to see what’s going on makes that difficult. But over the years I’ve done numerous kitchen botoxes, (I call them) and they always turned out really well. Like a new kitchen but without the hefty price tag.ReplyCancel

  • Therese - November 18, 2018 - 4:44 PM

    I live in this area and the open stairs aren’t killing me. There was a time where it almost seemed houses were priced by the spindle, with big cat walks running from one side of the house to the other. Given the climate and the exterior, the only think I’d consider is changing the newel post to something large and chunky (google Osthoff staircase for example). I’d swap that chandelier for something much more rustic and then spend my money in the kitchen and baths. If the mom thinks it’s a sin to paint wood it’s probably because she likes it. It’s her house and so rather than try to make it into something it’s not, I’d work with what drew her to the house to begin with. When my woodwork was the color it looks to be in the real estate photos, I painted my two-story foyer Monroe Bisque and always got a lot of compliments on it. Now that the floors are dark, I’ve used a Greige which I think it called Ashton Gray by BM.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 18, 2018 - 8:32 PM

      Here’s the problem. They want white walls. And we don’t know why she bought the house; it could be because of location, price, the perks of the community–lots of reasons. However there are plans to remodel it, so that means that the house isn’t exactly as she wants it. Sometimes, I have discovered after my 30 years in this business, is that clients more often than not, don’t know what they like. People only know what they know and if they haven’t been exposed to something before, it might seem foreign at first.

      In addition, we have areas that are already white and so it seems strange to have some stained windows and some white windows and in the same room. In other words, it’s a hodgepodge and just because somebody goofed doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.

      I’m all for working with a client’s likes, but for this big barn of a house, it is my professional opinion that it would look a lot better with less wood. Stained wood trim, unless the house is a Victorian, or Craftsman or is decidedly modern in styling,(or from the mid-century period) is usually incorrect. The house is leaning in favor of traditional, classical styling and that is also why it makes sense to paint the trim.ReplyCancel

  • Barbara B Sheehan - November 18, 2018 - 3:13 PM

    Great post Laurel; I agree with everything you said. I want to laminate the entire thing and take out with me on Design Consults. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve butted heads with clients about painting trim…if they want me to continue working with them, the trim gets painted. I do have a really good finisher in the Boston area who can make oak doors look a lot nicer with a dark stain and satin top coat. That Victoria Hagan Foyer is one of my favorites too!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 18, 2018 - 8:12 PM

      I love that Barbara! I always gave into my clients or else I figured out a way to make them see it my way. lolReplyCancel

  • Susie - November 18, 2018 - 2:51 PM

    Oh please don’t paint the floors! They’re terribly difficult to keep up, especially with that many of them. And removing the paint is very difficult if they change their mind. If the color doesn’t work, refinishing, staining or bleaching and staining would be so much better than paint.A medium brown would be easier for upkeep (cleaning) than dark or very light. And yes to painting the spindles and risers – that’s quite traditional.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 18, 2018 - 8:10 PM

      Hi Susie,

      The painted floor is my own fantasy. But everyone I’ve spoken to who has a painted floor says that the upkeep is not more difficult. And of course, there would be area rugs.ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth Cobb - November 18, 2018 - 11:53 AM

    That fireplace is gorgeous. Hope they follow your recommendation.ReplyCancel

  • Mary - November 18, 2018 - 11:46 AM

    Wow! That’s a lot of wood! When Tom buys all the white paint he’s going to need, I hope he gets a discount for buying in bulk. He’s going to need a lot of paint.ReplyCancel

  • GGG - November 18, 2018 - 10:28 AM

    Hi Laurel, What an intriguing post! I do agree that if it were me, I would love a turn in that staircase. Maybe that’s because of my progressive lenses, or fear of heights, or just because it seems to be such an imposing size. Another benefit would be that a turn at the top would enter into the large landing room rather than the hallway area. When we moved into our house–a much smaller scale than this one–I removed a railing at the top of the stairs and built a low wall instead. It’s about 4 feet high so you get an enclosure but don’t close it off completely. One bonus, it made room for some 3-foot tall bookcases on the landing side.ReplyCancel

  • Susan McLaughlin - November 18, 2018 - 9:51 AM

    I bet you the actual color is what shows in Tom’s photos, rather than the real estate listing. It is very common practice for the photos to have the color lifted in the MLS photos to make a home seem brighter. It’s a constant problem in my listing photos, because it makes dark floors look exactly like what we see here.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 18, 2018 - 10:18 AM

      Hi Susan,

      I agree about the colors most likely being more accurate in Tom’s photos. They also put every light on in an attempt for brightness. I actually hate most real estate photos. And the worst is when they distort the size of the space. Who do they think they’re kidding? Buyers are going to find out the truth sooner or later.ReplyCancel

  • Maureen - November 18, 2018 - 9:39 AM

    Thanks for this post Laurel. It provided good reminders of many of your design basics along with great links.You are so generous and really helpful.ReplyCancel

  • Leslye - November 18, 2018 - 9:12 AM

    Oh Laurel, thank goodness you said paint it. So much wood. Could they refinish the floors instead of painting them?
    I also think sisal would look great. Totally agree on the kitchen cabinets as well.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 18, 2018 - 10:15 AM

      Hi Leslye,

      They could definitely refinish the floors in either a paler or dark stain.ReplyCancel

  • Maggie S - November 18, 2018 - 8:31 AM

    Laurel,

    I hope Tom can convince his mom to at least paint the staircase! If she won’t paint…what about a wall on the living room side of the staircase? that would eliminate one side of the spindles. Also, I think that open concept in a cold climate makes a room feel chilly.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 18, 2018 - 10:14 AM

      Hi Maggie,

      Normally, there would be a wall on the living room side which separates the entry from the living room, so that’s a great idea. Sometimes with stairs in this configuration, there’s a wall which comes down about half-way on both sides. I still with that there was at least one turn of the stairs toward the front of the house. I think it would be much more gracious, and with a wall. I think that this plan is too open. Just my opinion.ReplyCancel

  • Parnassus - November 18, 2018 - 4:35 AM

    Hello Laurel, I must be learning from you. Immediately upon seeing the first pictures, I thought that the vertigo-inducing staircase and balustrades had to go. The simplest thing would be to enclose the runs of stairs (thus eliminating the short sections of balustrade) and then paint the whole shebang white. And those newel posts made of giant spindles!! If I had money, I would wall in that upper balcony, which I didn’t even at first realize led into a room.

    For a quick fix, I would paint those kitchen cabinets white, although they really need some major attention. Don’t those raised panels look weirdly like old television screens? At least the kitchen doesn’t have one of those cliché islands, but that will probably be the one thing that they will add. I don’t mind the upstairs carpet, as long as it is clean and in good condition–the house already has a lot of wood, and carpet can be cozy (although I usually dread that word!) in a cold climate.
    –Jim
    p.s. I agree 100% with the comment by Runningonempty about getting rid of the mirror!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 18, 2018 - 10:08 AM

      Hi Jim,

      lol on the cabinets. Yes! That’s what those panels are. I would still do wood upstairs with area rugs, so most of the floor would be covered without that wall-to-wall look. But, my mom when she had a house in Wisconsin always had wall-to-wall except for the entry hall, kitchen and bathrooms.

      I have another male friend that also disdains the word “cozy,” so I try not to use it, but what to say instead?ReplyCancel

      • Parnassus - November 18, 2018 - 11:43 AM

        Laurel, I think that the closest synonym for “cozy” is “claustrophobic.” Seriously, cozy is so often used as a cover-up for small or cramped, it has acquired that connotation. How about “comfortable,” although come to think of it for me this would more likely imply spaciousness. –JimReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - November 18, 2018 - 8:07 PM

          Haha! That’s so funny Jim! I think of soft and warm when I think of cozy. The word that gets my hackles up is “soulmate.” :/ReplyCancel

  • Gail Caryn - November 18, 2018 - 3:00 AM

    I’m with you about the stairs. If they’re not up for a major remodel, they should at least build a wall under the first flight. In fact, there’s a little piece of wall there then a set of spindles. Extend that to the adjoining wall to close in the living room. Get mom to put together a collection of photos of rooms she loves. She might even talk herself out of the oak by Choosing designs that have painted trim. It took me a long time to learn what I like and even longer to trust it. Of course Laurel helped!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 18, 2018 - 10:04 AM

      Hi Gail,

      Yes, I noticed that too about the staircase in Tom’s photo. That part should definitely be walled in. In fact, I’ve never seen it done like that.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - November 18, 2018 - 2:58 AM

    Great post Laurel! I love all your suggestions for this home. We have a small second home on Cape Cod that was built in the 80’s, and the entire thing was wood stain, wood paneling, wood floors, bannisters, ,mantel, trim, crown molding etc. In fact it was a mix of orangey pine and yellow oak. After years of hating it, we put an espresso stain on the yellow oak floors and painted everything else white. We tore out the pine kitchen which is now shaker cabinets in white, and now every time I walk into the place, it makes me happy. Not sure I would have been brave enough to paint the floors white, but love the look in the photos you shared on this post and past ones. Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 18, 2018 - 10:02 AM

      Hi Kim,

      I have an interior designer friend who’s of Scandinavian descent and she just sent me a photo of when they painted their dark stained hardwood floor, white. I almost included it, but I’m thinking of it for a different post. Their home is definitely contemporary/modern. It’s a gorgeous home and the floor looks amazing!ReplyCancel

      • KIm - November 18, 2018 - 10:34 AM

        Can’t wait to see it! Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Runningonempty - November 18, 2018 - 12:20 AM

    The mirror over the mantel, is only reflecting the staircase and should take a hike elsewhere in the room or house. A lovely painting there should be better. Isn’t the fan too high up to.be effective for those sitting below?

    CathReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 18, 2018 - 12:25 AM

      Yes, I would do something else over the mantel. It looks like the previous owners didn’t want it either. haha. Not sure about the fan.ReplyCancel

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