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Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
I co-host the Your Home Story podcast and believe you can love your home just the way it is, AND have the power to design and make big changes to make it better.
I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!
Mom to Otto born April 2018 and Lucy born August 2020!

When to paint original historic wood trim! (Yikes!) Office update

Ohhh, this is a loaded topic. It goes way back to my childhood growing up in a restored 1909 foursquare house, but in short let's say I respect old houses and was (mostly) glad when we first walked through this 1937 Tudor revival home and I saw still had the original wood trim in almost every room. Well, sort of glad, sort of trapped because it wasn't exactly my style but I didn't want to paint it. It's made it this long and shows off the original character of the house! Plus I liked that it's the stained wood in every room except the bathrooms, kitchen, and one bedroom, so it doesn't feel piecemeal. 

But. Let's talk about our office project. As you may remember from the before photos, this north-facing room has dark wood trim including three doors and a fireplace. It's super contrasty with the white paint (it was turquoise with a dark silver ceiling when we moved in so that's an improvement!) and the white (Sherwin-Williams Alabaster, like all the white paint in our house) looks much colder than it does elsewhere.

Let me show you the design direction I'm going and what I've decided about painting this trim or not!

New here?

If you're new to this blog from the ORC site, welcome!! I'm Suzannah, a longtime DIYer and design lover currently making over our 1937 Tudor revival style home, our second fixer-upper. My style is modern traditional and I'm always working toward high quality design.

I have a 3-year-old and 9-month-old, but my husband and I have done almost all of the work on our homes ourselves! I've blogged about all of it so you can check out my tutorials page and room reveals to see. You can also follow along with me and my projects on Instagram! I also co-host the Your Home Story podcast!

See all my posts about this ORC here

First some inspiration:

Painted Wood Trim and Fireplaces

I'm really leaning toward painting our walls a light dusty aqua/sage/warm grey. Looking around at my pins, I found a couple other rooms in a similar color that--hey! had painted their trim, too. Some with fireplaces even!

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I hadn't been planning on painting our trim, just our walls. But it's gorgeous painted the same color as the walls (probably in a higher sheen finish in most of these). Painting trim is a huge pain (I have a tutorial from our last house here) and, would I feel terrible about covering up this house's original wood color?

Well... I'm going for it. Here's why.

Why I decided to paint our original wood trim

Here are some factors I considered, besides the design sensibility that it would look great!

  • The trim is not in great shape. I was planning on sanding and staining it but in some areas that wouldn't cover up the dog scratches and dents. See below.
  • Previous painters were not careful enough in here and there is turquoise paint on the trim. I'm sure this could also be very carefully removed, but I wasn't planning on having the time to do that, so it would still show.
  • This trim is not the same color as the trim in the living and dining room. I noticed when we were planning the stain for the quarter round we need to add in a few rooms where it's missing (from when the whole house was carpeted in the 70's or 80's). The living/dining room (front part of the house) is more of a natural light brown, whereas this room, the up and downstairs halls, and the other two smaller bedrooms all have this darker, reddish tone. Weird, right!?!? It makes me worry less about every single piece of non-bathroom/kitchen trim being the same color for cohesiveness. It's already not. It's an old house and it's a little funky. At least this room could be really beautiful and special.
  • We have this funky built-in shelf in the corner that I've never liked. I bet it was added in the 50's or 60's, or later. It's stained to match but it doesn't really, and it's never felt clean despite my attempts to clean it. I've thought about removing it but that looks very hard to do, and it is useful. But painting it will really help it blend in and it might even look like a nice built-in!
  • I asked my mom, who lives in this neighborhood (still in that 100+ year old house) and is generally a historic preservation purist, what she thought about painting the trim. I sent her those inspiration pics above. She agreed it would be beautiful! (She did say she thinks trim and walls the same color looks a little lazy/too modern, and doing the trim a shade lighter or darker would be more traditional. I'll consider that... but I think I love the look of the same color trim and walls.)
  • This house is right on the edge of "historic." It totally is and has lots of old house character and good bones, but WWII was a turning point for home construction and homes built after the 1940's are not generally worth preserving as much as older ones. This 1937 home has some of those great really old special house things, but some more modern ones (like the door and window trim is pretty narrow). Painted trim was also not unheard of in 1937, and I do want to lean toward more slightly modern sensibilities in this house, while keeping the valuable stuff.

I'm not sure what I'll do with the brick on the fireplace yet, but I'm hoping I like the way it looks next to the light sage-aqua-green paint just the way it is. Maybe a sort of English country look? I don't really want to paint it or tile over it and it is in pretty good shape, mostly.

Here are some pics of the existing trim in the office. It has more damage than the trim in other rooms and yes, it could (mostly) be repaired... or painted for an even more polished, and updated, look! 

Painting trim in an old house is not for everyone. Neither is preserving it! No judgment from me either way, as long as you think it through (if your trim is pre-WWII)!

As for other One Room Challenge progress... we only have a month left and I have LOTS to do! I just ordered yet another rug but at least that's decided on. I think I have the chair slipcover fabric nailed down. Obviously we have a lot of painting to do! I'm still chewing on lighting and curtains. And art. So more decisions, and hours and hours more of manual labor, left to do!

Check out the featured One Room Challenge participants here and the guest participants in each week's post here. And, you can enter your email here to get updates when I share posts every week about this project! Thanks for following along!

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