My h and I just went to contract on our dream home in Philly. It was built in the late 19th century. You know… charm to burn with super high ceilings, fireplaces, and these amazingly gorgeous windows with really dark wood trim. However, about 60 years ago, the owners redid the kitchen and added a family room addition, that is too modern for this home. I hate it.
Sadly, nothing has been done to this addition since then. It has a horrid linoleum floor. And, yes, the same wood trim.
Well… the other night, I was showing h some of my ideas. He let me do whatever I wanted in our past home, and I was happy. When I told him that I wanted to paint the dark, horrid trim, all of a sudden, he was very unhappy.
I mean, he was adamant that we are not to touch the stained wood trim.
It’s so dark; and, I want light and lovely– airy and not that much contrast between the trim and walls. In addition, there’s one room where the entire thing is brown. It’s definitely a library or office. That’s okay.
I don’t want to live in my dream home marred by the darkness of wood trim–everywhere.
Oh, and I’ve looked a bit at homes of our vintage, and I see plenty with painted wood trim, and it looks terrific!
I don’t need to have every room be white or light, but I don’t want to live in a cave, either.
If you could write a post about this, that would be great. I’m not expecting free advice.
PS: I have looked online for some ideas, and everything I came up with was pretty bad.
Faye’s problem is one I’ve heard over and over.
If you missed the above post about colors that look great with stained wood trim, you can read that here.
An interesting question was raised in Faye’s note.
Can you, or should you paint stained wood trim, especially in a late 19th-century historical home?
In most cases, I think the answer is yes; why not? It’s wood. It was historically accurate in Victorian times to paint or stain the wood. Although, in Victorian times, stained wood was more popular.
The wood in my apartment was stained initially and is now white. I haven’t touched it– yet.
How do I know? I know because it’s the same trim right outside my 1970s front door.
In fact, I didn’t know this, but I have seen architect’s plans in the fantastic blog, Backbay Houses. These are the original architectural plans for some of the homes. And, the architect specked a painted finish for the floors. And not the bedroom floors; the parlor-level floors!
Above are the original plans for 306 Dartmouth St. Boston, designed by Peabody & Stearns architects. As you can see, these plans from the 1970s are exceedingly fragile. They are at the public library. You can look at them, but you cannot touch them. And, you need to make an appointment to do so. I read that somewhere.
Laurel, that’s too small to read anything.
Oh, sorry, you’re right! Hang on.
That’s better. Okay, now, I’m assuming the architect is referring to the floor, but no matter. We see in the front parlor he has specified Black Walnut. Lovely. In the next parlor, it says, “Pine to Paint.”
He said PAINT.
The point is, in Victorian times, they sometimes painted their wood.
In addition, in the periods before Victorian, Greek Revival, and Federal, painted wood was prevalent. And, it was common again in the Beaux-Arts period in the early 20th century. While some people do have stained wood trim in Boston, it’s more popular to paint it.
Remember “The Sisters” down the street from “my office?” They are 128 and 130 Commonwealth Ave. Well, these homes were originally built around the same time mine was and designed by the same architect, Samuel Dudley Kelley. (Yes, Dudley) However, I believe I’ve mentioned this before; they were renovated in the early 20th century by not one but two different architects!
It appears to be a fact of genetics (sweeping generalizations aside). Men LOVE stained wood.
It’s not that they don’t like painted wood. It’s my experience that once it’s painted, they generally DO like it. But, wood that’s already stained must stay that way for most men. And, many women too. I’m trying so hard not to be a sexist pig. Alas, it’s tough sometimes. ;]
Okay, I found the perfect example from a forum on houzz. You can read along here.
By the way, some may remember my HOUZZ post from 4.5 years ago. I have no idea what’s going on with that company these days. That’s a good thing.
The woman in the houzz forum sent in some images.
It’s similar to the image below. Because
I’m trying to be nice it drives me nuts when images are crooked; I took her photo and straightened it.
She asks if it would be a crime to paint the wood trim.
One man answered, “Not a crime, but a sin.”
A sin, he said.
Okay, Laurel, let ‘er rip!
Thank you for giving me permission. You guys already know what I’m going to say.
The entire home is a sin. Well, everything but that yummy pink bathroom with a beige linoleum floor.
Okay, here’s the good news. The woman researched and realized that the trim was hideous and needed to be replaced. It’s cheaper to replace with more appropriate trim than to sand, prime, and paint what’s there and wrong.
This home looks to be built in the 50s or 60s.
This was the time in our great nation’s history when people were cranking out babies at an alarming rate. (I’m one of them.)Her home is the standard put-it-up-as-quickly-as-possible-builder’s grade of the time. It is not a Frank Lloyd Wright or Philip Johnson masterpiece. It is a piece of drek.
So who cares about anything they put in this place? It is not a crime or sin to change it. Of course, I don’t get on forums and argue with people. I understand where they’re coming from, but their field of vision is limited.
Still, don’t get me wrong. Wood trim can be super fantastic.
The problem is not whether the trim or paneling is painted white, stained, or painted some other color. It’s how the wood trim works in the place as a whole.
Let’s look at another bad example of wood trim not working in the space.
Above, the three orange-y-brown horizontal lines stand out. True, there’s no furniture in our line of vision or items on the walls. However, even empty, a room should look fantastic. In this case, the dark trim makes the low ceiling look lower. The wainscoting chops up the wall. And the stain looks horrible with the floor color and the wall color, for that matter.
Years ago, our fantastic Nancy Keyes shared many photos with me.
At the time, I had no idea who she was. Well, her home blew me away, and Nancy gave me her blessing to share it.
Well, in the last six years, I’ve shared her living room and kitchen too many times to count. Although, I don’t believe I’ve ever shared this image of her keeping room before her renovation. This image is from 2010.
Nancy did a real number on this place. If that floor looks familiar, it’s because it’s the legendary Armstrong 5352 linoleum, first designed in 1932! I didn’t know that until today. And yes, the backing on it was laced with deadly asbestos.
Now, for the after of Nancy’s keeping room, looking into the kitchen.
Yes, this is the same wall, only the opening is considerably wider, and Nancy added flanking bookcases. On the kitchen side are her pantries for food on one side and dishes on the other.
Above is a recent photo of the keeping room with Nancy’s new vintage Chinese rug. She collects ’em!
This is the view standing between the two bookshelves.
Here we can see that she kept the beautiful wood trim but had it painted. In this way, she’s allowing the architecture to shine, but the furnishings are the star of the show. It is fresh and clean, as well.
Above is Nancy’s kitchen before.
Actually, there have been numerous posts featuring Nancy’s beautiful work. If you’re a fan like I am, please click this link.
Before this home, Nancy had another one that went from this. (The previous owner’s decorating, to be precise.)
Sorry, these aren’t the best-quality images, but the difference is astonishing. BTW, this was decorated in the 90s, hence a touch of shabby chic. But, that’s what Nancy said. To me, they look like they could’ve been decorated last week.
But, yes, Nancy painted the trim, paneling, and brick. In the living room, she painted the stone, too!
She painted it ALL!
It is not a sin to paint wood, even if it’s already been stained.
Thank you, Nancy, as always, for giving me access to your beautiful work. Did y’all see Melissa’s sunroom? Oh my, it is stunning!
Okay, that’s pretty much it for the painted trim. Let’s move on to rooms that look fantastic with their stained wood trim.
But this first one is more of a craftsman-style home. I think the white looks very fresh here. Some say the problem with wood trim is the white walls. While it can be, the problem isn’t the wall color. The problem is the BALANCE. If you have white walls and wood trim, you need a lot of other white in the room.
I love the simple furnishings and black chairs which look very stylish here. Mixing in a modern pendant is just the right touch for this style.
Sometimes, the mouldings and doors are a combination of painted and stained.
Above and below, the outstanding work of Sheila Bridges. I love the combo of the painted mouldings with the stained doors and light gray walls.
One of my favorite rooms by the immensely talented Barbara Westbrook for the Atlanta Symphony Showhouse 2014. I hope that mural is removable and that she got to keep it!
From the same showhouse by John Oetgen. Fabulous windows!
I love this blue and white toile wallpaper with the stained wood trim.
This reminds me a lot of the center hall in my building.
This photo and the next three are from a fantastic home in Brooklyn, NY.
How fabulous is this kitchen? It reminds me of an old-fashioned apothecary.
Love how the wood trim cuts through all of the cool elements in this wonderful bathroom.
I like how they chose a deep gray shade which is excellent for a change. Very handsome!
While this is a gorgeous home, I must admit that I would prefer it if just the front door was stained and the rest painted. Another option is to paint the walls a color so that the wood trim isn’t so prominent.
In this beautiful home, the wood trim is distinctly part of a dark chocolate-brown and white color scheme.
To sum up.
Wood trim can be beautiful in a room with stunning architectural features. And, with other colors and furnishings that balance out and complement the wood trim. The wood trim should not be a distraction.
Also, this is a gentle reminder that all my rocking interior design guides and the blogging/website guide are on sale
through the 28th of December. In January, the prices are going up higher than before the sale.
Someone asked me where to purchase the guides. The link is below
Usually,*** I link to the page that introduces the guides*** From there, you’ll find other links for more information and buttons on all pages that will take you to the purchase page, as well.
PPS: December 20th. GUYS! Some of you need to cool it with the negative comments. Please read the entire post. And look very carefully at the images. After Nancy Keyes’ home every one has stained strim. So what the hey? This post is to show how beautiful rooms CAN look with stained trim. However, in the case of Nancy Keyes’, her home is stunning with painted trim. But, it matters not. I like both painted and stained. It depends on the home, the wood, the condition of the wood, and the rest of the decorating scheme.
There are seldom any absolutes in the realm of decorating.
If you feel otherwise, please start your own blog and you can say whatever you like. But, here, we are kind and respectful to other readers. If they want to paint their wood trim bright purple, that is fine; it is not your place to shame anyone for their choices. Thank you.