When to Paint Over Your Home’s Woodwork—and When to Leave It Alone
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When to Paint Over Your Home’s Woodwork—and When to Leave It Alone

Go ahead, take a can and brush to wood paneling and trim. Design pros say it’s (sometimes) OK.

Thu, Feb 2, 2023 9:12amGrey Clock 3 min

TWO YEARS AGO when Kate Arends and her family moved into their 1956 rambler-style house in St. Paul, Minn., they encountered a thoroughly outdated kitchen that included uninterrupted oak paneling on the ceilings and walls. Not loving the wood’s golden hue, Ms. Arends, founder of lifestyle brand Wit & Delight, considered painting over it or sanding it down to a more neutral complexion, but the costs seemed prohibitive and the payoff uncertain.After the family had lived with the wood for a year, they decided to honour its hue but surround it with more modern décor. They painted Shaker-style cabinets a daring, un-woodsy powdery rose tone—Sulking Room Pink by Farrow & Ball—and further punched them up by installing slabs of Calacatta Viola marble with its trademark whorls of black and deep purple. An ink-blue gas range adds another shot of the unexpected.

“If the wood is in great shape, the constraints of working within the shade or hue of the stain might seem limiting, but some really interesting solutions can come from those constraints,” said Ms. Arends.

Given the expense and difficulty in removing paint from architectural woodwork, the consensus among interior designers and even real-estate agents is that, if it is historically accurate and in good shape, put down the paint brush and leave it be. Said Jeff Walker, a broker and founder at Agents of Architecture in San Diego, a firm specialising in unique and historic properties, “Our buyers seek untouched homes or homes that have been tastefully restored.”

Lauren Caron, of Seattle’s Studio Laloc, bucked a local trend for drenching wood-filled, early 20th-century Craftsman bungalows in alabaster paint. The interior designer disliked how that approach thoroughly squelched the spirit of the rooms. “It felt like the walls became vacant or less lively,” she said. In the dining space of her own 1916 Craftsman,  she decorated to complement the espresso-hued old-growth fir that had been used to construct a built-in breakfront cabinet and frame the doorways. She introduced an onyx and gold modern chandelier to offset the vintage millwork, added Gucci’s Herbarium wallpaper and completely upholstered a posse of Parsons-style chairs, to avoid adding any more wood.

Some instances, however, call for the can and brush. In a bedroom of her 19th-century Greek Revival home, Susan Brinson, a design consultant in Orange County, N.Y., was stuck with a mishmash of wood species and odd door placements. She and her husband painted the walls, doors, window frames and picture-frame moulding a deep teal, then cloaked the ceiling in a lighter teal. This move turned chaos into coherence and delivered a bonus benefit: Some of the couple’s favourite wood furniture, including a Bunny Williams Bamboo bed and antique Italian burled-wood side tables, pop against the rich colour.

Painted wood has other advantages. In the entry of a London townhouse, shown above, local studio Retrouvius Reclamation and Design repainted the joinery a fern green. “Scratches and scuffs from bicycles are more easily repaired in the eggshell-finish paint than they would be in bare wood,” noted a studio spokesman. One of the homeowners co-founded Dashing Tweeds, a designer and purveyor of bright, modern textiles. “Painting is perfect for him because it brings colour and character and is changeable,” said the spokesman. “Paint lets homeowners express themselves.”

Laura Castergine of Melrose, Mass., an amateur decorator, posts photos of her family’s 1904 New England Colonial on social media. Four rooms in the home feature fireplaces with surrounding millwork, three of which were painted before she bought the home. She recast one of those rooms last fall in a subdued sapphire, Wild Blue Yonder from Benjamin Moore, a heritage hue that suits the old house’s personality. “Enveloping a room in a single color achieves a dramatic effect,” said Ms. Castergine. “It’s similar to a wood-panelled wall in that they both bring a cozy feel to a room.”

For her quaint A-frame cabin tucked in the woods of Spooner, Wisc., Ashley Mary of Minneapolis polled Instagram followers about painting the pine-planked triangular back wall to match the room’s other, white walls. As a multi-disciplinary artist, Ms. Mary typically likes walls to function as a blank canvas against which she can arrange funky furniture and mobiles. But because the cabin doubles as an Airbnb rental, she wanted the public’s input. The majority of respondents voted to keep the wall natural (with copious exclamation marks) with many pointing to the house’s forest location and cabin aesthetic as rationales. Ms. Mary complied. “With any coat of paint,” she said, “you’re going to lose that texture and natural warmth that no colour will ever recreate.”


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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Hotel experience at home in Castle Hill
Hotel experience at home in Castle Hill

A new development in the Hills District sets a new standard in buyer expectations

Wed, May 22, 2024 3 min

Castle Hill is set to be home to a new hotel-like development, with the announcement that the 94-apartment Astrid site is just weeks away from completion.

While the penthouse apartments across the two buildings have already been snapped up, there are still one, two and three-bedroom residences on offer. The development comes with a gold star iCIRT rating, guaranteeing it has met quality construction standards. The iCIRT rating system has been developed by Equifax in partnership with government, industry and market and rates projects from one to five stars following a rigorous and independent review process.

Steve Harb from developer CBD Core, said it’s the best indicator would-be buyers could have that their investment is safe.

“The iCIRT rating gives people the assurance that we’re trustworthy and have integrity as a developer,” he says. “Our service is complete from start to finish, from developer to builder. 

“As a buyer, you have one point of contact, there’s no shifting responsibility or passing the buck so if anyone has an issue, it can be sorted out as soon as possible.”

He said Astrid has proved popular with locals interested in upgrading without leaving the convenience and amenity of the Hills District. Surrounded by some of the best restaurants, clubs and recreational facilities in the area, it is also just six minutes’ walk to the new Metro station and a seven-minute drive to Castle Towers Shopping Centre. Schools and tertiary education options are also within an easy drive. In addition to some of the best parks and reserves in Sydney, it’s an attractive option for families on the move.

Mr Harb said the concept for the development, as with all his projects, was to create a hotel-like environment.

“I only do boutique projects and when I say ‘boutique’, I mean hotels without the concierge,” he says. “The quality and integrity is built into it.”

The infinity edge pool is surrounded by leafy gardens in a resort-style environment.

Leisure facilities include rooftop gardens and entertaining spaces as well as a fully equipped gym on the ground floor overlooking an infinity edge pool surrounded by lush landscaped gardens. Mr Harb says beautiful landscaping is a signature of all his developments.

“I have lived in the Hills District for more than 15 years and the reason I live here is because I love the leafy environment, the greenery,” he says. “I always like to emphasise that in my developments with strong landscaping.”


Recognising the ongoing desire to adopt a hybrid working model, Astrid provides a dedicated on-site working environment suitable for exclusive use by residents needing focused work time, as well as those seeking professional meeting rooms to receive clients, with wifi enabled work desks, as well as more casual seating. 

Mr Harb said the pandemic taught him that, while working from home was convenient, having breakout spaces within a wider residential development was highly attractive.

“You’re not stuck looking at the same four walls,” he says. “The shared work space at Astrid has comfortable lounges, chairs, coffee tables and more than a dozen cubicles,” he says. “It’s more like going into a meeting room in a hotel.”

The apartments are characterised by light-filled interiors.


The apartments are light-filled living spaces with seamless access to balconies, through to integrated joinery secreting storage. Finishes have been chosen to last, from the Michael Angelo Quartz benchtop and Char Oak Polytec Ravine joinery in the kitchen to the stone splashback and custom-made joinery in the bathroom.

Access throughout the buildings is via a swipe card, providing a secure environment. 

For more information, see Astrid Castle Hill.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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