Just a few days ago, Gentle Readers, there was an article by Eve M. Kahn in The New York Times about painted woodwork.
People have extraordinarily strong opinions about painting woodwork, myself included. It’s right up there with painting brick. (My take on painting brick, by the way? Inside: definitely. Outside: maybe not. Painting stone? Never. But I digress…)
When asked, I tell people to go ahead and paint their woodwork. Because if they’re asking me, it means they secretly want to do it but need permission. I am more than happy to oblige. Unless your house is on the National Register of Historic Places (and possibly even if it is), I advise you to paint your woodwork if you want to. Painting wood trim updates and brightens a room instantly, especially if you use light paint.
One of my closest friends lives in a FABULOUS midcentury house,* and it had a wooden ceiling across the entire family room, from the front to the back of the house. It looked great, and it was super cozy in the winter.
But my friend had grown up in this house, and she was more than ready for a change. It took several years of deliberating (more than one painter refused the job, if I remember correctly), but she finally took the plunge and painted it white. She LOVES it, and the space is entirely different now. It’s light, and airy…it’s still appealing, but in a completely new way.
What I hate to see is someone living in a gloomy house who fails to act because she is not “supposed to” paint her stained woodwork. Says who? Well, maybe the original architect and builder, but chances are, they’re long gone.
So what if you want to change the look and feel of your home without painting the woodwork?
One client and her husband chose stained woodwork when they built their house because they felt it complemented their Arts & Crafts furniture. It did indeed, but it also made the house feel a bit dark.
So to modernize and brighten the house, here’s what we did instead of painting the woodwork:
- Got rid of the chair rail (which looked dated anyway and chopped up the space)
- Installed cheerful blue and white wallpaper with a crisp white background
- Added brighter table lamps
- Added a stair runner and light rugs (to break up the dark wood floor)
The new selections complement the woodwork and make it pop, which also helps freshen up the space.
It’s true that if you paint woodwork, it’s kind of a pain to strip it off later. But it’s possible. With brick, there’s almost no turning back, which is why I urge people to think twice before painting the outside of their brick homes.
There you have it, Gentle Readers. My permission — nay, encouragement — to paint your stained woodwork. It’s your house, after all. Do what makes you happy.
*She deserves her own blog post, actually; her house is AMAZING.
Annie Elliott Design is based in Washington, DC, with offices in St. Michaels, Maryland and Middlebury, Vermont. Annie’s design work and insights have appeared most recently in The New York Times and The Washington Post, in addition to HGTV Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Washingtonian Magazine,and other local and national publications.