Dining Room Painting

Why I’m Painting the Wood Trim in My Home

Painting wood always draws up strong feelings on both sides. A lot of people are all for it. Some are hesitant in most cases, but willing to make exceptions. Then there is a school of people that thinks it is a sin to paint wood. Take this comment from Jess on my last post:

The natural wood trim is so fantastic and really adds to the value of the house. Painted wood trim, no matter how much you agonize over the color and paint it perfectly, is just never as special as the original wood. It’s really interesting to me that Nicole feels that the dining room set is too beautiful as natural wood to be painted, but doesn’t feel the same way about the delicious natural wood trim in the room.

Or Sara, who said “I would kill to have your hutch in that condition.” I know, Sara, but let me show you the truth. Is this the condition you thought it was in?

Wood Buffet in the Dining Room

I understand why people don’t like to paint wood. Let’s contrast the wood grain of the trim with that of my table, which I’ve said I’m not willing to paint or alter in any way. This is beautiful, quality wood.

Wood Dining Room Table

See the difference? The wood trim in my house is (in Clueless’ parlance) a total Monet.

Unpainted Wood Trim in the Dining Room

And that is why I’m OK with painting it. We painted all of the trim upstairs when we first moved in because the second floor trim was not special, and not original to the house. I thought that I didn’t want to be the one to paint the natural woodwork on the main floor because it has survived in that state since our home was built in 1910. But you know what? We’ve been here for three and a half years. This is where my family actually lives, not a historical time capsule. I’ve decorated around the wood and the more I look at it, the more I can’t get over the crazy grain and the stain that has seen better days. Painting the trim white will make me so much happier with the look of my home, and what good is preserving a home’s features if those features don’t actually make you happy?

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  • Alyssa
    September 1, 2010 at 11:03 am

    “This is where my family actually lives, not a historical time capsule.”

    I agree so much with this statement. If painted wood trim makes you happy paint it! I read an article the other week, can’t remember where, but the premise was when did our homes start to be about the people who will live there in the future and not the people who live there now. I think the same can be said the other way around!

  • Erika
    September 1, 2010 at 11:03 am

    I think the wood trim will look lovely painted. Can’t wait to see the finished product!

  • Christine
    September 1, 2010 at 11:06 am

    I absolutely agree with you and even if I didn’t, heck, it’s your home and you should do what makes you happy!

    I think it’ll look fantastic.
    :) Christine

  • Mrslimestone
    September 1, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Im a bit fan of painted trim. I think too much exposed wood in a room is really limiting. Im not sure what is so sacred about naked wood anyway – its just a material like any other. Let it go!!

    Can’t wait to see how it turns out.

  • Melissa de la Fuente
    September 1, 2010 at 11:08 am

    First of all, I adore you using the “clueless” reference… ( hee) and secondly I have what will surely not be a popular opinion but…I feel you have to do what makes you happy & I agree with you about the grain. I have painted things that others might not paint but, then I love it even more & after all…it is MY home & I live here….so, I try to do what makes me happy in here & not worry about anyone else. Which I can see you live by as well & I cannot wait to see the results! :)

  • Ms. May
    September 1, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Amen. I agonized over how to decorate my depression-era minimalist traditional house… say that three times fast. I researched historically accurate color schemes (which, while certainly creative, are pretty gnarly), and worried over doorknobs, etc. And in the end I decided that in order to make it feel truly like a home, like a mini retreat that I can walk into at the end of the day after working so hard so I can be its owner, I have to chuck the historical obsession and get to the meat of what I really love to be surrounded by. I say, paint away!!

  • Kelly
    September 1, 2010 at 11:09 am

    do what you want to do because it is your home. i don’t think you have to explain yourself. it is going to look fabulous!

  • Deda
    September 1, 2010 at 11:09 am

    You sound like you’ve made up your mind, but it does destroy the woodwork that’s survived for over a hundred years. It’s gorgeous even in its present state, and painting it will eliminate any chance of this being properly refurbished. The finish can be refreshed in it’s present condition, not so easy once you paint it.
    This makes me sad.

    • erica
      September 1, 2010 at 1:22 pm

      Why does it make you sad? Why invest that much emotion in a home that doesn’t belong to you?

      • Jack Black
        August 25, 2021 at 3:00 pm

        Why are you here worrying about other peoples opinions???

    • Sana
      September 1, 2010 at 5:57 pm

      i don’t understand how a piece of wood in bad condition can make you sad (if it is not used to beat someone or something like that)! maybe nicole can sell that trim, and make completely new one? :) it sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? why should she and her family live in a house that is in bad condition just to preserve wood (which is there to serve her, not the other way around?)?

    • amy goodhouse
      September 1, 2010 at 7:57 pm

      I think there is too much of an emphasis on preservation. Chances are, maybe someday they sell the house to someone who likes painted wood! Then what? Are we all supposed to continue to keep everything in it’s original form out of fear that someday, somebody might want it that way?

      Go for it Nicole!

    • Shelly
      September 4, 2010 at 6:58 am

      I can understand not wanting to paint wood, but as a person who is a huge advocate for preservation, I still think Nicole should paint this wood. I lived in a house that had gorgeous wood and even though I prefer the aesthetic of clean painted trim I could never bring myself to destroy my homes trim. Nicole does not have this kind of wood. It’s in bad shape and frankly when it was originally done it looks like an inexpensive grade of wood was used (I know I work with everything from Maple to Mango wood daily).
      Also, as someone who does refurbishment this could be brought back to look even better than it does now regardless of weather or not Nicole does it. The problem is people who are not properly trained in refurbishment doing DIY. The stains don’t even match in the dining room…close but this was a poor job to begin with. Actually I even suspect that the cabinet has already been “refurbished” at least once.
      I say go for it Nicole! You will be soooo happy with YOUR home and your the one who has to live there!

    • Laura
      September 4, 2010 at 10:23 pm

      But, it isn’t gorgeous in it’s present state. I can completely understand why she’s painting it. I would do exactly the same.

  • Meg
    September 1, 2010 at 11:09 am

    I completely agree with everything you said! Your home has to make you happy and comfortable and if you love it then go for it! Plus I think white trim is so much more lovely anyways! :)

    • Robyn Fisken
      September 2, 2010 at 6:15 am

      absolutely agree with you Nicole, I think both can look great, but it depends on the condition that they are in. Tatty wood trim is tatty wood trim whether it is old or new.

  • Jileen
    September 1, 2010 at 11:09 am

    I am have been following your blog for sometime now and I can honestly say I just adore you :) I really love your design savvy and bright outlook on life. I am definitely with you on this one. In fact, this one rings home for me as I am currently painting all the trim in my home and getting hell for it as well. I think you need to go with your gut on this one and I look foward to see how it all comes out. Cheers! — Jileen

  • Juliette
    September 1, 2010 at 11:10 am

    I knew this post was going to happen – people are crazy on this topic! I say that it’s your house, do what you want. I wish we had the time/money/energy to paint the wood in our apt, but since it’s a rental I’m not sweating it. The haters can chill; most paint can be removed if a future owner wants to.

    Frankly, I think painting it just ups this particular home’s value, which is just a bonus to the fact that it’s going to look the way the current owners want it to! Can’t wait to see the end result!

    • Kristin
      September 1, 2010 at 1:58 pm

      I have done a lot of refurbish work and paint is not easily removed. She should do whatever makes her happy but please be honest in your posts. There is no way that painting the woodwork in this particular home will up the home’s value.

      • Juliette
        September 1, 2010 at 2:09 pm

        Kristin, I never said it was easy to remove paint, I just said it was possible – and it usually is. I stand by that. In terms of her home’s value, that was my opinion only and I think it came across as such. I will stand by my opinion because I think a house with a unified look (i.e., white trim throughout the house) has a better resale value than one with inconsistencies. However, I don’t think either of us can say for sure unless you happen to be an appraiser in her area.

  • Jessica
    September 1, 2010 at 11:11 am

    I agree 100%.

    • Julie
      September 1, 2010 at 6:32 pm

      I have to say, I love white trim. And the fact that Nicole has left the wood trim unpainted on the first floor is pretty much the only thing I don’t LOVE about her house. Everything else looks so crisp and clean. Remember the amazing post she did on painting tips, where she showed us the up close shot of her pink walls/white trim/wood floors? Gorgeous. I think that whether or not to paint your trim has everything to do with personal preference. I can’t imagine someone wanting to pay less for a house because there’s fantastic white trim rather than original wood in poor condition. And, let’s face it. We know Nicole will do an AMAZING job painting it!

  • Karrie
    September 1, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Here, here! That’s the beauty of old homes…they’re built using quality materials and when and if you move out, the nice wood trim is still there for someone to change it how they want to. Personally, I can’t wait to see how your house will look with white trim!

    • Sana
      September 1, 2010 at 5:59 pm

      if these comments had “likes” like on facebook, i would press one now :)

  • Ires
    September 1, 2010 at 11:11 am

    I think the original wood trim is gorgeous, but I respect that this is your house and your right to change it as you wish. I do appreciate that you’ve lived there for a while, are planning on staying there and have thought about this.
    It is funny the number of open houses we skipped on because of painted trim, till we finally found our original gumwood Colonial craftsman in Boston – to each his own!

    • Angie
      September 1, 2010 at 5:11 pm

      Taste is so individual. I generally think wood trim looks dark and kind of oppressive. When we were looking at houses I avoided ones that had a lot of wood trim because I thought they were depressing.

    • Lori
      September 1, 2010 at 8:36 pm

      I agree with Angie, I would not buy a house with unpainted wood trim. I can appreciate the beauty of the original unpainted wood, but I don’t like it, and would not want to be the one to paint over it. In this case though, since the trim is in bad condition anyway I don’t think there should be any guilt about painting it.

  • Michelle
    September 1, 2010 at 11:11 am

    I’m passing this along to my husband. We’re currently in a wood trim showdown in our house. The dining room will be staying original because it was refinished about 10 years ago and it’s in GORGEOUS condition. The stuff in our living room however? Eew. Even he agrees it’s a mess, so I’m not sure why he’s laying down in front of the bulldozer to save it.

  • Michelle
    September 1, 2010 at 11:12 am

    You should definitely do what you like, it’s *your* home. I have a friend who claims that painting wood ruins the “character” of it… but I think the “character” lies in the craftsmanship not the color. In her house it’s “natural” (it’s actually stained quite dark but whatever) and in my house it’s painted. As for the “value” of it, you won’t ruin the wood by painting it… if a future owner of the home likes natural wood better, they can spend time stripping it back to its natural state so that *their* home reflects their taste.

    So… go for it!


  • Jessika
    September 1, 2010 at 11:12 am

    What a neat built-in! Will you have to sand it at all to help hide any scratches/dents/imperfections? I know some of those old drawers are really tight. Will you have to sand at all to make them glide well with paint on them? Are you re-doing the gliders at the same time?

    A friend of mine painted her 1908 Craftsman house’s built-in china unit white. It was lovely. She even found some same-time-frame glass (sort of like stained glass, but it wasn’t stained; just a nice design of cut and frosted and clear glass. So beautiful), and had that worked into the unit. The result was just STUNNING, though she always wished she had re-done the gliders… which is why I asked about them, above (the paint also caused additional sticking).

  • Jenny
    September 1, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Paint it, paint it, paint it! Your home will be lighter, brighter, easier to clean, more modern, and incredibly fresh. There are a *lot* of people who feel that wood is sacred and not to be painted…I am not one of them! Anna at Doorsixteen has written about this a lot, and about how in Europe it’s much, much more common to paint floors, trim, cabinetry, and anything else constructed of wood. You’ll still have wood floors throughout and all of your wood furniture – the contrast between those natural woods you’ll have left and the painted trim will be *gorgeous*! I promise you, the only thing you’ll regret about painting is the work it takes to do it! :) I did the same in my house, which had high-quality wood cabinets, antique beadboard, gorgeous moldings, solid wood doors…all unpainted. It was like a cave, with the floors being wood also. Results after painting were amazing and I can’t believe no one had done it in the 60 years before we moved into our home. Every single person who’s seen is has loved it, but most importantly we love it. Go for it! This is your home, and you’re making it lovely in the ways that work for you. Nothing is sacred!

    • Danielle
      September 2, 2010 at 12:16 pm

      THIS. The home will be so much airier and lighter without that oppressive wood.

  • sarah b.
    September 1, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Paint, paint, paint away! It’ll be beautiful & work perfectly with your style.

  • Deda
    September 1, 2010 at 11:13 am

    why wouldn’t you consider refinishing it instead?

    • Making it Lovely
      September 1, 2010 at 11:15 am

      I like the look of painted trim better. If I’m going to put the work in one way or another, I’d rather spend my time painting.

  • evelyn
    September 1, 2010 at 11:16 am

    How hard is it to refinish the wood? Is it even possible? I understand both sides. The current state of the trim isn’t exactly gorgeous but it is unique, I don’t think I’ve seen that combo yet, original wood trim with the pink wallpaper.

    I think its a nice take on Oak Park meets Pink Loves Brown (wood trim? pink wallpaper? get it?). Maybe this is a decision that should be made later if Nicole’s not sure yet.

    • Zoe
      September 1, 2010 at 11:29 am

      I think Nicole IS sure. It’s just other people who aren’t sure, and frankly I agree with folks who’ve said to go ahead and paint!

      Can’t wait to see what it looks like – I’m sure it will be beautiful!

      • Making it Lovely
        September 1, 2010 at 11:32 am

        Oh yes, I’m sure! I’m just explaining why I’m so sure. :)

      • Julie
        September 1, 2010 at 6:35 pm

        Yes, there’s no doubt that she’s sure about doing this. I don’t see why other people who have never been in her house, and certainly don’t have to live there, are trying to talk her out of it!

  • Melanie Beth
    September 1, 2010 at 11:17 am

    I completely agree… I ended up painting all the trim in my house. The wood looked old and dingy to me, and now it looks so fresh and clean! Completely worth it. You have to do what will make you happy living in your own home!

  • Ann
    September 1, 2010 at 11:17 am

    As with everything you do, I am sure this will be gorgeous! Can’t wait to see the finished result. Thank you for sharing with us!

  • Bethany
    September 1, 2010 at 11:19 am

    This is the argument I have with my husband allllll the time!!! He’s the woodsy, au-naturale type so he loves wood stains, but I’m more interested in cohesive design.

    We have all these different hand-me-down pieces of furniture with wood stains that don’t match – and they’re not in great condition – and I would LOVE to paint some of them, but he just won’t do it. :-/

  • MK
    September 1, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Sigh. The trim in our 1904 house is all unpainted. The downstairs is beautiful quarter-sawn oak and the upstairs is a beautiful maple. It’s all in great shape (in part because we replaced all the missing pieces – my dad is a woodworker – and stained them to match the rest).

    Unfortunately, I hate how much exposed wood we have: a foot at the bottom of the walls, and another foot at the top. I’m jealous of all our friends who bought homes with woodwork that’s already painted. I have no excuse for covering it up – it really is gorgeous – I just don’t like it. We’re in the process of deciding whether this is our “forever house” or not (we planned to sell, but the housing market fell before we were able to). Even if we stay, I’m not sure I’ll be able to justify painting it – even though I don’t like it. Perhaps I’ll have to email you so you can hold my hand through the process ;-)

  • Fiona Richards
    September 1, 2010 at 11:20 am

    It will look lovely painted!
    The wood will remain underneath the paint for years to come and if down the road the next owner of the house wants the wood back then they can strip it. It’s not gone for good just because you put a coat of paint on it.
    We’ve renovated and restored 12 victorian houses and some I paint, some I strip – depends how I feel :-)
    Can’t wait to see it painted.

  • heather s.
    September 1, 2010 at 11:22 am

    I agree – the home should make you happy and you shouldn’t sacrifice things for future owners. I love the look of crisp, white trim and think it adds value to a home vs. wood trim that’s seen better days. If someone wants to refinish it after you move so be it but I say paint it now.

  • Rachel
    September 1, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Bravo! I’m in the same predicament. I have the original stained trim & cabinetry all through the house, and it’s in the same shape yours seems to be. I *think* I have finally decided to paint the trim in the small master bath, as I’m currently just doing a quick fix to tide me over til I can afford to tear it down to concrete & studs. At that point, if I don’t like the white trim, I can always go back to stained. And if I like the white trim, I have the motiviation do start on the rest of the house.

    This debate seems to be quite a hot button. But if you’re doing what you like, why care what others think?

  • Lauren
    September 1, 2010 at 11:27 am

    I am so 100% in support of you painting the wood! I hate to feel “owned” by my things. It is your house, you live there, make it awesome for you and your family and don’t worry about what future owners may think. Some potential future buyers might pass it up because you “destroyed” the historical value by painting the wood, but there will be others who love what you’ve done with the house.

  • eileen
    September 1, 2010 at 11:29 am

    If it makes your decision any easier, up close the wood on the hutch actually looks kinda paint-grade quality. Have at it.

    • Making it Lovely
      September 1, 2010 at 11:32 am

      That’s what I think too.

    • Rose Campion
      September 1, 2010 at 11:53 am

      That’s what I thought when looking at it. It looks like pine or another soft wood, not oak or another hardwood. In a lot of houses from that era, that kind of wood would have been painted to start with. In fact, maybe it’s in not such great condition because somebody along the lines stripped the paint off.

  • Rebecca
    September 1, 2010 at 11:30 am

    You paint that trim and paint the heck out of it! All wood is not created equal, and as you said, your home’s trim is not in the best shape, so do it to it. The result will be bright and fresh, like many a Scandinavian home.

  • Ameya
    September 1, 2010 at 11:31 am

    I think it’ll look much better! I don’t feel it matches the room at all anyway, looks a bit mis-matched. However, it will be excessively cute when you’re done (like the rest of your place!)

  • Lily
    September 1, 2010 at 11:33 am

    I’m in the same camp – some wood is meant to be preserved in all its woody glory and some just calls out for a fresh coat of paint. Your hutch is crying out for paint. 100 years from now, the owners can strip a section of it and decide if you were right to paint or if it would make them happier to strip it all and restain it. In the here and now, make yourself happy.

  • Tammy
    September 1, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Paint! Paint! Paint! My husband has the same reluctance about painting wood furniture. But it makes me sooo happy to see a pop of color, even if it’s white. Plus all our wood furniture has been handed to us and none of the wood matches or cohesively mismatches. I’m really looking forward to what your dining room will look like.

  • Sarah
    September 1, 2010 at 11:34 am

    I’m glad you’ve decided to paint it. Painted trim just makes everything else in the room pop. And if you don’t like it forever, it is fixable (just strip the paint)?! We bought a house that was built in 1900. I don’t think we would have bought this house if the trim was unpainted. Painted trim just brightens up the room!!! And besides, when we moved in I was afraid to do anything to the house, just in concern for future owners. Then I realized, “what if I end up living here the rest of my life… do I want what I want or what future owners may want?”
    It’s your house… do whatever makes ya happy!

  • Brooke
    September 1, 2010 at 11:34 am

    I love that you pointed out your home is not a “time capsule”, it’s where you live! I run into the same problem renovating my husband’s grandmother’s old home. We moved in just after she left for a nursing home. And his mother was loathe to part with anything, just because it was old. Okay lady, dollar store cups from the seventies aren’t any better than dollar store cups nowadays! Tacky then is tacky now! Not that your trim is tacky, but it seems you’d have much more added value having nice, modern trim over ugly, historical trim

  • Sandy
    September 1, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Bottom line is that it is your house. And, you are likely actually preserving the wood by caring for it! You go girl!

  • Ami
    September 1, 2010 at 11:43 am

    I can’t say it any better than Alyssa:
    “…when did our homes start to be about the people who will live there in the future and not the people who live there now.” If you want to paint it – go for it.

    All that wood looks lovely, to some. Painted wood trim looks lovely, to others. You should do what makes you happy. You are going to love it and then wonder what took you so long.

  • Julie M.
    September 1, 2010 at 11:46 am

    White trim with that wallpaper is going to look awesome! Get on with it already, I can’t wait to see it. Also, will you detail your process of painting the trim? I had some trim in my house painted white, and it is starting to chip.

  • Ashley
    September 1, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Right on, Nicole! That room is going to look AMAZING with white trim and a painted hutch.

    I love your perspective on how a home shouldn’t be a time capsule.

  • Katie
    September 1, 2010 at 11:47 am

    I say–go for it! When we bought our (now) 101 year-old house, all of the woodwork & trim was already painted white. Which, was a bit of a relief for me as I LOVE white trim (I suppose it took the guilt out of me actually having to do it myself!). It’s crazy this is such a passionate subject among many! But in the end, it’s your house & you know what will look best. Can’t wait to see pics!

  • Katie
    September 1, 2010 at 11:47 am

    You have to do what works for you. And you can’t let comments dictate your choices so good for you!

  • bridget
    September 1, 2010 at 11:47 am


  • Ami
    September 1, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Oh, I forgot to add – I recently painted my floor to ceiling mid-century fireplace! Talk about controversy. Good think I don’t have a blog so no one can tell me I’ve ruined *everything* nice about my house. It was a tough decision, one I agonized over for years. I love how it turned out.

    • Making it Lovely
      September 1, 2010 at 12:08 pm

      OMG, you ruined your house! Kidding, kidding.

    • Jules
      September 1, 2010 at 5:27 pm

      I would love to see pictures! I have a floor to ceiling mid-century fireplace.

  • RisaJ
    September 1, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Homes are to be enjoyed by the people who live in them. No one else matters!

  • Tiffany Larkin
    September 1, 2010 at 11:55 am

    I have always loved your house and thought “If I lived in Nicole’s home I would so paint the trim a bright white.”

    I can’t wait to see the results.

  • Robin
    September 1, 2010 at 11:56 am

    This post makes me sad! You were my inspiration for homes that can have great modern style with historic wood trim. I used to send people to your blog to show them just when they were deciding to paint or not to paint. If it were up to me I would take the time to refinish it because IMO there is a huge difference between historic trim and cheap builder grade stuff that everyone is painting. People just do not have enough respect for historic homes these days they want them to look like the perfect new construction homes they see on TV. But I’ll admit I’m very biased seeing as my Dad had his own custom milwork company where he restored trim for old homes and churches. He raised us to be trim snobs. ; ) Someday I plan to have him make us new craftsman inspired trim throughout our house.

    But it is your house and you can do whatever you want. If white trim makes you happy do it.

    • Kel
      September 1, 2010 at 12:09 pm

      I think the real issue of respect here comes from people posting negatively about what she chooses to do with her home. There is nothing about this home that looks like “perfect new construction” – Nicole does a fabulous job of blending the historic, the modern, the whimsical. Additionally, “respecting” an historic home and veering away from the cookie-cutter, traditional “historic” look are not mutually exclusive. Paint it, Nicole! Your home is your sanctuary and should be YOU – not the people who lived there before, and not the people who will live there later. PS- you are my favorite blogger, hands down. <3 you!

      • Robin
        September 1, 2010 at 1:54 pm

        Sorry I guess I should clarify. I agree I don’t think Nicole’s house reads new construction that’s why it’s so beautiful IMO! I was referring to the massive amount of people that just walk into a home and decide that the trim must be painted white because wood trim is “ugly” as one of the previous comments stats. If they wanted the look of a new construction home they should have bought one instead of buying an old home.

        I think “cookie-cutter” better describes new developments where you have one of four floor plans to pick and HOAs tell you what color your curtains can be not traditional homes.

        And I’m going to venture a guess that everyone who has mentioned how the future owners can JUST convert the trim back has never actually tried to restore trim before.

      • puck
        September 3, 2010 at 12:32 pm

        Agreed. As a historic preservationist, I have to reitereate that once painted, wood cannot ever be restored fully. It can be stripped, stained and treated with amber shellac, but it will never be the same. Also, techically, painting wood lowers the home value.

        That said… it is *your* home. If you hate the look of wood, and you are not a preservation nut, do what makes you happy.

  • Sara
    September 1, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Wow, I’ve never been cited before for a comment, so thanks!

    And I wasn’t trying to “hate.” I’ve lived in houses that were both ways, and I like both looks. In the end, I agree that you need to be happy with your house, so if you’re not happy with the wood… Paint on!

    In my current place, half the wood was painted (poorly) and half of it wasn’t. It was a mess, and while a lot of my baseboards look like your close-up, I sort of like knowing that 100 years of people broke in my home. It makes me feel like like I brought the place back to it’s former glory, while still making it mine. I guess I’m just nostalgic like that.

    And for what it’s worth, I still like your hutch. :)

  • Shaina
    September 1, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Go forth and paint girl! We moved into a house that was built in 1987 and had the orangey oak trim to prove it. The varnish was totally gone (although I’m not sure there ever was any) and the windowsills has seen better days with their scratches and stains. The white has brightened up the house so much and I can’t believe the transformation a few coats of oil primer and semi gloss paint have made.

    And we’ve also realized that while the house may have been custom built at one time, they didn’t even bother to stain the tops of all the door trim and in some cases the sides if the trim is right next to a corner! Talk about lazy!

  • Jaime / Design Milk
    September 1, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    That must have been a hard decision. I love original wood in a home, and I respect those who decide to leave it in the original state, not matter how banged up it is.

    However, I understand painting it too. I don’t think it’s so much that people don’t want to paint wood, just that it’s soooo hard to remove paint if you change your mind.

    Can’t wait to see how it turns out. I bet it’s going to be quite a job! How many coats do you think it will take? :)

  • Jillian
    September 1, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    After much agonizing, I painted all of the original dark chestnut woodwork AND doors in my 1922 four square. And I never regretted it. When the trim was dark, I was in a mental block of how to decorate, what colors to paint. It didn’t feel like me. Once the trim was white, all of my blocks disappeared. Thank you to contractor who pointed out the condition of the wood was terrible and I should just do what I wanted!

  • cynthia
    September 1, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    That trim is fir and it is of the paint grade variety! As an architect, I spec wood all the time that is paint grade and if it’s stained it’s not the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen. This wood may look good if it has a really dark stain approximating mahogany but it is always going to be rough and ding easily because it is fir.

    Oh, and if one more person tells me it would be a “shame” to paint the pickled (white) ranch-style trim in my 1960s two flat I will have to reiterate that NOT painting the trim before I moved in was the worst thing I ever did. I regret it every time I walk into my house.

    • Making it Lovely
      September 1, 2010 at 1:56 pm

      “That trim is fir and it is of the paint grade variety!” Thank you for confirming what I suspected! I just didn’t know what type of wood it was.

  • Robbyn
    September 1, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    I’m with you on this one, paint away!
    It was actually you, months ago, who convinced me to get over my fear of painting original wood trim. Our house was built in 1898. Like yours, it looks/looked great from far away, but up close it was just a big ol’ mess.
    I much prefer the look of crisp, clean white to the over-powering “man cave” wood we were working with.
    To give you an idea, our dining room went from this:

    To this:

    • Vicki @ Piccolo Takes All
      September 1, 2010 at 12:42 pm

      I actually think you before picture has a ton of character and potential (looking past the stained rug and clutter)! I don’t think it reads man-cave at all. That wallpaper is pretty amazing, although, again, it could be another case of “Monet”.

    • Making it Lovely
      September 1, 2010 at 1:57 pm

      What a great update! Though I did kind of like that kooky wallpaper (that probably just looked crazy in real life). ;)

    • Sarah
      September 1, 2010 at 6:26 pm


    • Kris Mays
      September 1, 2010 at 9:52 pm

      That’s a beautiful room. LOVE IT!

    • Ami
      September 2, 2010 at 12:39 pm

      Wow! It looks fabulous!

  • Jen
    September 1, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    I am so happy you posted this! I think your home is already amazing, but I agree that the white painted trim will take it over the top, and give it a clean fresh feeling. I am in the process of painting all of our standard installed oak trim in our home, and I am LOVING the outcome in each room I have done thus far. A lot of my friends and family don’t understand, but I just followed my heart, and don’t regret it for a second.

    Can’t wait to see your finished product!!


  • Carole
    September 1, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    it’ll look great! we lived in a 1920’s era house, and the woodwork was of similar quality, and looked much nicer painted…

    will you keep the hardware on the buffet? does it seem to be original or not?

    • Making it Lovely
      September 1, 2010 at 1:57 pm

      Yes, I think the hardware is original and I’m going to keep it as-is.

  • lily
    September 1, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    go for it, girl!

  • Bridgette at Picked Fresh Daily
    September 1, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Prime. Paint. Repeat! I’m addicted to painting furniture and love painted trim. I would definitely think twice if the wood was in superior condition, but I wouldn’t think thrice!

  • molly
    September 1, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    I think the dining room will look fabulous with the trim painted white!

    Wood trim can look great, and I understand why people would want to retain it for historical purposes. Aesthetically, I think painted trim is much more you, and will look amazing with everything else you’ve chosen! Can’t wait to see the finished room!

  • Chroma Lab
    September 1, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    We have the same philosophy when it comes to painting anything wood–if it’s not worth preserving as is, by all means improve it with a fantastic paint job.

    I can’t wait to see the results!

  • Nikki
    September 1, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Amen! You should love the way your home looks. If painted trim makes you happy, then paint it. We can’t live for someone else’s ideal of what’s best.

  • Krystle Rose
    September 1, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Life’s too short to live with ugly molding. Go for it!

  • Audrey
    September 1, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    good for you, Nicole! it’s your home in the end, so do whatever makes you happy!

  • Karin
    September 1, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Here in Philadelphia, the historic old houses from the 1700s and 1800s (especially the preserved ones, run by museums) all have PAINTED trimwork. I think bare wood trim is a specific trend and a very personal aesthetic choice.
    I grew up in a house where my dad was obsessed with keeping and preserving the natural wood trim. I hated it and I think it is really limiting to have to keep wood trim that you dont love just because of someone else’s opinion that it is more valuable to bare the wood than to paint it. I think that trim would look so much better painted and you get to live in it, so you get to decide. Go for it Nicole!

    • Vicki @ Piccolo Takes All
      September 1, 2010 at 12:49 pm

      I’m in Philly, too. And yes, homes from the Colonial period do have painted trim. But, unpainted woodwork became more popular during the late Victorian and Craftsman era (the time in which both Nicole’s and my house was built). It was a time when architects and designers were simplifying things and focusing on the innate beauty of material.

  • Tracy
    September 1, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Oh, your wood trim looks so pristine in the big-picture photos! And not so pristine in the close-ups! I see why you want to paint.

    Are there other areas of your house like this – that look fantastic in photos but aren’t quite as perfect in the details?

    I’ve noticed that my house seems to look much fancier (and cleaner!) in photos. You can’t see all the little imperfections that drive me crazy…

  • Blondie
    September 1, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    PAINT THAT TRIM! And use BM Aura paint for a fabulous finish! No need for fresh start as long as there isn’t knots in the wood. Aura has a self primer.

    I don’t agree with painting quality wood furniture, I have a family piece that when I acquired it had 14 layers of paint on it. I had it professionally stripped and redone to uncover black walnut and rosewood. It’s a beauty from 1860. But certainly paint away on lesser pieces and turn them into something great!

  • Jessica
    September 1, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    I agree with you Nicole. It is a great privilege that you have such quality in your home overall, & I do agree that they don’t build houses like yours anymore. That being said, YOU LIVE IN IT! It’s your home, you have to do what you want & what makes you happy. No one else lives in it but you & yours. I can’t wait to see it when it’s done!

  • Carolyn
    September 1, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Hey, at least be flattered so many people care about your dining room trim! ha. You are very gracious and good with it. I might’ve do a post called “bite me bimbos..and calm down” haha.

  • Amanda
    September 1, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Go you! We owned a home built in 1926 and I hated the look of all the oak trim. I lost the battle with my husband over painting it, but I would have loved to. You’re totally right – YOU live there. If you want to live in a time capsule and keep it “historically accurate,” great, but if not, why should you?

    Husband is not complaining about my painting some of the oak trim in our 1990 house, note. LOL. Or about wanting to rip out the nasty oak cabinets.

    Happy painting!

  • Julie
    September 1, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    And also, because it can’t be said enough, it’s your house!

  • Kris
    September 1, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Word, word, word. I’d venture folks who are so adamantly anti-painting the trim haven’t lived in an old (but charming!) Chicago home. I live in a Chicago 6-flat built in 1921 with original wood built-ins around the fireplace. I know most people would kill for them, and I’m grateful for their storage and symmetry and history, but they too are total Monets. And the 6-inch baseboards, while I’m sure beautiful in their prime, have definitely seen better days. Luckily the wide windowsills/other trim is still in good shape.

    So what I’m saying is, paint your trim and don’t loose a wink of sleep over it. :)

    • Rachel
      September 1, 2010 at 12:57 pm

      Yes! I have a newer home (built in 1983), but it had built-ins flanking the fireplace. I got some criticism from my family when I tore them out, but I love it so much more now. It really lightened the room up.

  • Sarah K
    September 1, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Your house is gorgeous! I love all the decorating decisions you’ve made. I think painting the wood trim in the dining room especially will make the room feel a lot fresher! Do what makes you happy, your blog is evidence that it will turn out great!

  • Katy
    September 1, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    The only reason I’d say don’t paint it white is because then you’ll have miles and miles of trim that has to be WASHED or it looks grimy. I’m really regretting the fancy white trim and wainscoting we put in our house. But that’s just my own laziness. ;)

    • Vicki @ Piccolo Takes All
      September 1, 2010 at 12:53 pm

      I totally know what you are talking about Katy! White requires a lot more upkeep to stay crisp and fresh. We have unpainted woodwork in our “entertaining space” (living room and dining room) and I never have to worry about finger prints and smudges on door frames, etc! Everywhere else, though, I need to constantly dust and wipe it down! And we don’t even have kids!

  • Miranda
    September 1, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    I’m with you, Nicole! I painted our 100-year-old original wood trim & built-ins white 8 years ago and have never regretted it. In fact, I think every day how much I love it. I’m honored to have a home with historic features but I also think that by owning the home and caring for it you should make those features work best for you and your family.

  • Krysta
    September 1, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    I personally love white painted trim and am very excited to see how the dining room looks when you are finished with the project. I can also see how others may like the wood trim original to the home. But at the end of the day this is your home afterall, the place where you are raising your family, building your business, spending the majority of your time and money. A house isn’t just a balance sheet investment, it is an actual place where you build your life and you should do whatever you want with your space. It’s a good thing everyone else can do what they want with their space and their likes or dislikes or sadness about you painting your wood trim have absolutely no relevance to what you get to do! Sara and Jess don’t have to come eat dinner in your dining room and they don’t have to buy your house should you decide to leave one day.

  • Cassidy Dawn
    September 1, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Thank you soo much for this post!! I am in the same camp. Our house was built in the 20s and everyone is in shock that I want to paint all the original woodwork. Truth is, I just don’t care for it. It’s this awful honey color and doesn’t even match the floors…I wanted carpet too…Heaven forbid. We’ve decided to paint the woodwork and refinish our floors darker (it will be easier with our big black lab).
    So when I catch the inevitable flack that I know I will, I will be sure to just send them to this post. I can’t say my reasons any better than you did.
    While we do plan to sell someday, why live with something just to live with it…I want to LOVE it :)

    Loyal reader,

  • Kimberly
    September 1, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    I think it was very accommodating of you to show us detail shots of the trim in contrast with the lovely table. I enjoyed seeing them, noting the difference in quality and getting a little insight into the thought process that has led you to this decision. I’m excited to see how it turns out; I tend to prefer painted trim…for some reason I just don’t appreciate exposed wood in most cases. Unless of course it is as lovely as your dining set.

    Can’t wait to see how it turns out!

  • Kara
    September 1, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    I totally support your decision. I don’t think painted trim lowers the value of a home anyway. When my husband and I were home shopping we were hoping for and relieved that we got a home with painted trim that has been well maintained. Some like it natural and some like it painted. There is no way to predict who will one day buy your house. And we shouldn’t live our lives today according to the tastes of future owners, whoever they may be.

    Quality painted wood is a beautiful and respectable material. I think the problem comes in when poor quality paint is used or the painter was sloppy.

  • Lori
    September 1, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Yes, do it! I hated all the wood trim that came in my 1920’s house… but everyone said I “couldn’t” paint the wood… it took me 2 years of living with it and not liking it at all to realize “hey, this is MY house” so I painted it and now I LOVE it. Wish I had done it 2 years ago, haha. So, go for it. Do what suits you and your family!

  • Angela
    September 1, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    I think it will look great painted! I paint wood all the time and think its your house so its your choice! I can’t wait to see the after pics.

  • Joy_UK
    September 1, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    I think it will look amazing!

  • Adrienne
    September 1, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    I love that you used the phrase “total Monet.” I just said it a few days ago and no one got the reference. This is why I read your blog every day. We’re on the same wavelength. :)

  • Liz
    September 1, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    It’s your house and you’re the one that needs to be happy about it. And fyi, I love painted wood. Just remember what Christopher Lowell once said, “Just because it’s wood, doesn’t mean it’s good.” :)

  • Ashley
    September 1, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Do it! Do it! The painted trim will look amazing & add to the value of the house, not take away from it!!! It will have such a crisp clean look, unlike the awful bare wood!
    Good luck, painting while preggie sucks!!!
    Love the Clueless reference!!

  • Lori
    September 1, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Amen Sister! It’s your house. Do what you like. And remember, haters gonna hate:)

  • Katie Company
    September 1, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    I say go for it! I am all about painting wood trim in a house no matter how old it is. YOU are the one that has to live there…

    Also, too much wood in a room reads orange to me. I am not a huge fan of orange.

    I can’t wait to see after pictures!

  • traci in virginia
    September 1, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    I say do what makes you happy NOW. I am going to change my dining room and remove the furniture. I may put in built in cabinets and use it more as a pantry/mudroom. (keeping it tidy) b/c I don’t have a pantry or mudroom and lack storage. I have been told it will hurt the resale value…guess what? I’m not selling!! :) So, I say, paint the trim!!! It’s your house, enjoy it!!!

  • Valerie
    September 1, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    I have a similar problem as well. We want to paint the outside of our home, but it’s brick. Everyone says not to paint it, it would look terrible, I’ll regret it, etc. And I say oh well. That’s what I want, and this is where I live. I would never let the popular (or unpopular) opinion sway from something that I really liked.

    And when my mother-in-law said she thought it would look terrible and wouldn’t be caught dead going into our house if we paint it, I secretly thought “Great, breaking out the brushes TONIGHT!”

    • Jules
      September 1, 2010 at 5:38 pm

      You should check out The Nester’s old house. It was brick and she painted it. The results were lovely.

  • Dianna
    September 1, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    I just watched Nate Berkus on Oprah last night and he was talking about how your home should “rise up to greet you”. How you achieve that is based on your own personal tastes. I say PAINT PAINT PAINT! Have fun! :)

  • Brigitte
    September 1, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    I’m currently trying to decide whether to paint or replace my (gasp!) wood trim. After seeing Jules’ lovely white 6″ mdf, I may rip out my wood trim. It certainly is poor quality, not original and beyond repair in places.

    But I do have a little demon in me saying, so what if it looks terrible — it’s wood.

    I say go for it! And so will I!

  • rubyp3
    September 1, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    we painted the trim in our 1920s house a few yrs ago after *much* agonizing and have never looked back! i think all of our modern and antiquey items look much better in our old house with semi-gloss white trim.
    go with your heart.

  • Annie
    September 1, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    I love wood furniture and wood trim, most of the time:) My husband and I recently bought our first home, it’s a 1940s colonial. Everything in the house is in great shape and the majority of the house is original. I LOVE the hardwood floors, glass doorknobs and 6 panel doors. I also love the bright white trim in all of the rooms. It’s so bright and crisp and makes the whole room pop.
    I’m usually pro-wood but I also love crisp white trim to really stand out in the room.
    Can’t wait to see the pictures of the painted trim!

  • Clare
    September 1, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    You’ve made such great design decisions throughout your home (that you’ve generously shared with us) that I have no doubt that this decision will also be fantastic. Good luck with your project!
    (P.S. you’ve inspired my husband to start his 30-before-30 list, so while he has zero hair to dye red, he’s definitely going to bake a cheesecake, read War & Peace, hit a golf ball…. and some other things that he’s always wanted to do. Thanks so much for the inspiration!)

  • haterade!
    September 1, 2010 at 2:28 pm


    • Rebecca
      September 2, 2010 at 7:52 pm

      ummm, not seeing so much hate, actually. Most commenters are agreeing that Nicole should paint her trim. The ones who like natural wood agree that its her house after all. Not seeing any hate.

  • Amanda @ Our Humble A{Bowe}d
    September 1, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    I say paint the trim! If you love it, it’s worth it. Especially if the finish is in bad shape right now-it’s way more of a hassle to restain that paint. Of course, I’m partial to white trim: http://ourhumbleabowed.wordpress.com/the-grand-tour/

    Recently, someone commented that I “stripped the personality of the poor home and made it basically identical to anything you’d find in a Home Magazine” Well, I happen to love our house and the changes we made. If all of the trim is painted and you decide to sell, the buyer is none the wiser that the trim was ever stained, so who cares as far as resale. Your home is of no historic significance; it’s not going to hurt anything.

    • justme
      September 1, 2010 at 4:14 pm

      That someone was so wrong- love what you’ve done.

  • dawn
    September 1, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    i think white trim would totally freshen up and modernize your space! i can’t wait to see how it all turns out:)

    funny, i just bought an old bike, 1942 dayton airflyte that i want to paint yellow but my hubby is deadset against painting it because of it’s age…any chance you can help me convince him on the virtues of painting?

  • Laura Seymour
    September 1, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    I’m pro paint on everything!!!!

  • Renee
    September 1, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    I might as well chime in on this painted trim debate. I too live in an old house, 1929 to be exact. The past occupants painted over some of the trim and some they left in its original state, which makes for quite the hodge podge.

    All this mixed up wood trim, combined with small rooms and very little light have convinced me to paint all the trim – and we are all very, very happy the the beautiful results. The house feels much more spacious and modern.

    So, Nicole, I am with you, paint away!

  • Nichole
    September 1, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Sing it sister!

  • kim
    September 1, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    right on sister! i have been reading your blog for over a year and have always secretly wished you would decide to paint your trim! your home is gorgeous already, but this is going to step it up a notch. and i don’t know about you, but IMO painting trim is very zen. have you decided on a color?

    also, i think that once the trim is white, your dining set will help the room retain some necessary warmth. it could be fun to reupholster the cushions with a new fabric (hable construction, anyone?).

    happy painting!

  • julie @ shorts and longs
    September 1, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Totally agree. You go girl.

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