To Paint or Not to Paint Original Trim?

painting original wood trim
#thisoldtudor the day of closing. Lots of gorgeous dark wood, but I’m determined to brighten it up and make it my own.

This isn’t a before and after story quite yet.  You see, we haven’t moved into #thisoldtudor (built in 1926) house yet but I thought I’d do a quick post on it.  I did extensive research on painting original wood trim and moldings–and I often hit a dead end.  People seem to be very passionate about this topic; just about every Houzz post on the subject turned into a heated debate and it was overwhelmingly, “DO NOT PAINT ORIGINAL TRIM.  WHY WOULD YOU BUY A HOUSE LIKE THAT AND RUIN IT.”  Ugh.  After reading response after response like that, I started to feel guilty.  THEN, I brought my mom up to the house with a contractor and she was like, “how could you paint this gorgeous wood?!”  As you can see, the odds were stacked against me.

Why would I paint original trim–and white, at that?  Look, it wasn’t a decision I took lightly.  Simply put: I wanted to brighten up the house and make it my own.  I know that sometimes painting wood white can cheapen the look, so I continued to do research.  I needed a white paint that would be soft and not too white, so I went with Benjamin Moore ‘White Dove’ for the whole house.  Matte on the walls (we also skim-coated the original plaster walls to smooth out the bumpiness because I didn’t want to put up dry wall), semi-gloss on the trim and woodwork and flat on the ceiling.  That’s right, White Dove everywhere.  I kept the windowpanes (they’re original) brown and am going to live with them for a bit–I might paint them black (that made my mom gasp).  I’m not looking to do a gut renovation here where the house suddenly looks like new construction–I’m just trying to update it a little at a time while keeping it’s charming elements–and white paint does just that for me.  If this is something you’re thinking of doing, hopefully this helps!

Next up: the floors.  The original floors are a gorgeous oak–and I’m re-staining them.   I don’t feel bad…not even a little bit.

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After the trim/built-ins first coat.
After: the dining room. Note the untouched windowpanes and freshly sanded floors.

#thisoldtudor from Anna Wisniewski on Vimeo.

23 comments

  1. It’s your house. Do whatever you feel will work for you. A future owner can sand back to the wood if they want. I like the painted trims! Looks modern and cohesive but still retains character. Bravo!

  2. I love this. I own a house built in 1909 that is filled with beautiful wood trim, but it feels so dark and heavy. I’ve also been considering painting just the trim and leaving the windows untouched. I’ve also had plenty of people weigh in on my decision.:) I think your compromise looks gorgeous; modern and fresh, yet keeping the original character of the home. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I have painted many a dark wood trim and never looked back – in dark Chicago houses it’s a MUST! The thing is, everyone who said not to paint always comes back and LOVES the result. So, the question is, what did your mom say?

    • She said, “it looks good and brighter in here!” And she also said, “you love white….you’ve always loved white.” Ha – that’s true!

  4. Agreed, your house – your decision! It doesn’t take away from the charm of the house, it just makes it more ‘you’ which is always how your home should feel! I can’t wait to see how you finalize other decisions and make it all come together – I LOVE old homes and this 1950s ranch that we bought just doesn’t give me my fix so I’m living vicariously through you!

  5. I own a 1929 home with its original wood trim still intact. The previous homeowners painted all the trim upstairs white and left the downstairs trim in its original condition. While I love how bright the bedrooms upstairs look with white trim, I felt like they covered up some very beautiful wood. Almost every person that comes into my home comments on how beautiful the dark wood trim is. I also love how it’s looked the same since the home was built. It’s like a little piece of history that I get to live in (sappy, I know). I guess I’m in minority of the commenters here in that I’m a fan of original wood trim when it’s in fantastic condition. It just looks so warm and homey. But your home is lovely and you’re making it suit your family. The white definitely lightens it up! Congratulations on owning this beautiful home! I look forward to seeing more posts about it!

    • I totally get it–that’s why I took the decision so seriously and did so much research…but ultimately, I knew I wanted white (but I still feel some pangs of guilt for covering up beautiful wood work.) I will say it made me sleep a littel better at night knowing that all the wood was stained pretty dark in some way or another, so it wasn’t *truly* original, but I completely respect your decision to keep it dark! It looks rich and gorgeous when it’s dark and I’m sure your home is beautiful! There’s an Ivy League east coast vibe that comes with dark wood that I love, too 🙂

    • I agree with you! When we were house hunting it was so disheartening to find so much beautiful original woodwork painted over in whatever the trendy color of the time was. It’s hard to go back once it’s painted and it rarely ages as well as wood does. However, I also believe that people should make the decisions for their house that suit them even if it hurts my heart a little haha!

  6. Love what you’ve done – and I bet you will eventually paint the window’s black too 🙂 I also have an old (dt Naper) colonial and we painted all the wood work. My mom said she was afraid it would look like a hospital when I told her we are doing white, and every time I said “paint it white” to the contractor, my husband threatened to have Nicole Curtis pop in. But still, we went with it, and we love it!

    • Haha – I love that story! I’m so glad you did it, too (and love it!). It’s such a tough decision because you know it would cost a ton of money to un-do it.

  7. Anna, I really enjoy your blog on fashion, but this is the icing on the cake!! I am so glad you decided to paint, it looks amazing.
    Looking forward to more! oh, just in case your taking votes,, mine is for black windows. And Park and Oak Design…their work is beautiful.. haha way to much advice !:)

    • We painted our Colonial house (1926) woodwork White Dove and never regretted it for a second. Looks much brighter, still retains the sense of old. We also replaced all the windows with nearly identical Pella Windows. These old Chicago houses are not well insulated! Looks beautiful, love the built-ins.

  8. I love it! Tudors can look/be so dark and this instantly brightens the space. I get it..real wood trim is not abundant these days. But white looks sooooo good. I say paint the windows black too! It will look fab. I can’t wait to see more updates!

  9. I painted original wood white in my vintage home, and I love it a decade later. I don’t get the advice not to do it. The place still looks old but bright and clean. I think you made the right call.

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