Monday, May 24, 2010

Extreme Controversy

Warning! Warning!

This is the Most Controversial Topic To EVER Appear on It's a Good House...

It is an extremely sensitive matter, that requires extreme care and consideration. And I would like your opinions. Please! I invite you to leave your comments regarding this matter. I can't promise I will listen to anyone, but this is a speak-now-or-forever-hold-your-peace situation.

Ok, so it's like this... When we bought our house, we had a lot of dark woodwork downstairs. This wasn't historical quality, Vanderbilts' summer home woodwork. This was 85 year old dust-encrusted dingy wood. I made the decision about painting most of it pretty early on. You can read more about my decision making here, if you feel so inclined.

One of the last areas that needs painting in the house is also the first area you see when you walk in. After 6 months of staring it down, I think I'm ready to take the plunge. This area needs help.

I want to paint the staircase white:

This is one side of our living room, the front vestibule is right through the arched doorway on the right (and will get the same white woodwork treatment). The rest of our living room is painted a soft greige with white trim. The wall behind the stairway is waiting for paint and it is half-stripped of wallpaper. The floors have been refinished dark brown.
This is another photo looking straight on at the stairway. We have already had white quarter rounds installed along the floor, although it wouldn't be a problem to have the pieces taken out and replaced with a stained wood.

The wall opposite the stairwell has built-in bookshelves. I also want to paint them white:
They just don't make sense right now!


Here is my question. Do I go through with my painting? Do I??? It's kind of like no-turning-back territory. The wood isn't in the best-looking condition as is. It needs patching. The color of the existing wood doesn't match the floor. It's worn. It would need major repairs. And while I think I could appreciate a dark wood accent wall in my house, every ounce of me is SCREAMING against it.

I leave you with this image (from Sarah Richardson, via Bryn Alexandra):

So, what should I do?


  1. I'm not a die hard either way, but in this case, I'd say paint it!

  2. hey ame - you know what i like - partial paint

  3. Awe - you know you want to paint it - go for it!

  4. I always love dark molding and would normally say keep it dark but It does sometimes make thing look dreary. Based on the 2 pics (dark staircase, light staircase) I say paint it. I think it's also partly because I'm so sick of staining my own woodwork that it's just so much easier to paint.

  5. I was completely against the idea of painting any of the chestnut wood in this house to begin with, but being that not all were in great condition (such as the dining room door casings, sun room moldings/baseboards, upstairs bedroom window casings & sills, etc.) I was okay with it, since Amy was determined with the idea of painted wood.

    Chestnut wood is a very expensive type of species and is quite rare these days, as it is becoming extinct. With that said, it's a very valuable type of wood and can raise the value of the house tremendously. I would say leave the living room Bookcases, Main Stair balusters & Newel Post alone, since they are in decent condition and really makes the house. All you will need is a minor touch-up (sanding/staining) in some areas.
    Besides, white-painted or lacquer finishes can be achieved by any other type of wood you can buy today from a lumber place (Poplar, Oak, Pine, Walnut, etc.), why destroy such a beautiful wood like Chestnut by painting it?

    These are my thoughts! :)

    Good luck!

  6. after reading will's post I change my mind...i think:))

  7. Hello Amy & John--No way to painting the staircase and bookcases. As an interior designer, one of the most important design elements that we learn about and try to implement, is contrast. The contrast of the white trim with the dark stained chestnut of the bookcases and staircase is beautiful. I would say to paint only the base molding of the staircase and the trim around the window. It is not necessary for the wood stain of the floor to match the staircase or bookcase or anything else. Good design does not mean everything has to be matchy matchy.
    By the way, the condition of the wood on the staircase is good and may need some minor repair, BUT NOT MAJOR REPAIR. And the condition of the wood of the bookcase is excellent. Remember, I know where you live and will do a drive by if necessary!

  8. Thanks everyone for your comments so far - I really do take everything to heart and now I'm more confused than ever!

    I think I might at least start with painting the windows and the baseboard going up the back wall of the stairs (as Sonya suggested), then I'll step back and reassess.

    One other note - all of the trim upstairs had already been painted over the years. So I painted the upstairs guilt free and no wood was harmed in the renovation upstairs.

    I should have named this post "Do you respect wood?" (Larry David)

  9. besides me, so far 7 say yes and 3 say no to painting the wood.
    (if i count a few facebook votes!) you respect wood?