Painted Wood

For a long time, it seemed as though painting wood was a travesty of the highest magnitude, borderline criminal.  You would hear things like, “It’s wood, why would you paint it?”  But, as style has evolved, so has painted wood, whether in the form of trim or furniture.  In some homes, you even see a mix of painted and stained wood trim, which, if done well, can work.  It gives you the best of both worlds, really.  The richness of the wood with the bright and sharp contrast of the white.

Just look how well it works here.

And then there is the instant update that painted trim brings to a home.  Check what a difference painting the trim makes in this example from

Before – 90’s-esque wood trim


After – Modern, Light and Bright

My husband bought in to the old school philosophy that painted wood = blasphemy for a long time.  I did finally convince him that painted wood doesn’t have to be the end of the world.  We have nice built-in bookcases that surround our fireplace that were stained wood.  While I loved the functionality of the bookcases, they were just too dark for the room.  The dark paint certainly didn’t work to its advantage either.  This was during my “red” phase.  Excuse the terrible picture here – I think this was just a scan of the photo vs. a digital, and given the sparse bookcase furnishings, I think I must have just painted the back portion of the shelves and rushed to take a picture before the kids messed up the room again.

Old, old photo of my family room

Here is a better picture of my family room now.  As you can see, we painted the bookcases, added crown moulding and painted the back of the shelves and surrounding walls a lighter and brighter color.  I love how it changed the whole look and feel of the space.  We also removed the little half/pony wall that you can see in the “Before” picture.  Even though it was just a half wall, and it wasn’t very long, I was amazed at how much it opened up the room, making the kitchen, breakfast room and family room flow together beautifully.

After – painted built-ins and pony wall removed


Another angle of the family room

As you can see, we mixed painted trim and stained trim in this space.  I love the painted trim, but had to stop with the bookcases vs. moving on to the baseboard trim, because it was one of those projects that once you started, you would have a hard time knowing where to stop!  But, it seems to work, and I’m happy with the end result.
So, what are your thoughts on painted vs. stained wood?  Have you tackled a similar project yourself?


  • Reply
    Vanessa Oldsen
    April 22, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    Thank you for these pics!! We have that awful orange wood throughout the entire house. My husband "let me" pain the kitchen cabinets a darker brown (looks fabulous now) but I've been pushing for white trim for a while. Pics like yours show exactly WHY I want it white. Looks so much brighter and new 🙂

  • Reply
    Jaime Kurowski
    June 29, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    Question: We, too, have the orangey-brown EVERYWHERE in our house. Here's my question…our windows are done in this, as well as some really nice, really expensive blinds. Can I paint the other wood and leave the windows/blinds wood tone????

  • Reply
    Rolene Harris
    July 9, 2013 at 5:39 am

    Thats my problem too! Orange oak cabinets, doors and trim. Want to do wainscoting or boxes but how do I handle the white meeting the wood color trim? I cant paint all the doors and trim in the whole house! Where do I stop? How do I handle this?

    • Reply
      July 10, 2013 at 12:50 am

      You could paint the trim and leave the doors wood – I think that would work. Or is that still too much?

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