When to Paint Over Your Home’s Woodwork—and When to Leave It Alone
Kanebridge News
Share Button

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Kate Arends and her family moved into their 1956 rambler-style house in St. Paul, Minn., they encountered a thoroughly outdated kitchen that included uninterrupted oak paneling on the ceilings and walls.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.”


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Related Stories
Car Dealers on Why Some Customers Hesitate With EVs
By SEAN MCLAIN 11/12/2023
Going warm and fuzzy for the 2024 Pantone Colour of the Year
3 Reasons You Should Buy a Stick Vacuum—And 3 Reasons They Suck
By KATE MORGAN 08/12/2023
Wild cities and concrete corridors: How AI is reimagining the landscape

A new AI-driven account by leading landscape architect Jon Hazelwood pushes the boundaries on the role of ‘complex nature’ in the future of our cities

By Robyn Willis
Wed, Dec 6, 2023 2 min

Drifts of ground cover plants and wildflowers along the steps of the Sydney Opera House, traffic obscured by meadow-like planting and kangaroos pausing on city streets.

This is the way our cities could be, as imagined by landscape architect Jon Hazelwood, principal at multi-disciplinary architectural firm Hassell. He has been exploring the possibilities of rewilding urban spaces using AI for his Instagram account, Naturopolis_ai with visually arresting outcomes.

“It took me a few weeks to get interesting results,” he said. “I really like the ephemeral nature of the images — you will never see it again and none of those plants are real. 

“The AI engine makes an approximation of a grevillea.”

Hazelwood chose some of the most iconic locations in Australia, including the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, as well as international cities such as Paris and London, to demonstrate the impact of untamed green spaces on streetscapes, plazas and public space.

He said he hopes to provoke a conversation about the artificial separation between our cities and the broader environment, exploring ways to break down the barriers and promote biodiversity.

“A lot of the planning (for public spaces) is very limited,” Hazelwood said. “There are 110,000 species of plants in Australia and we probably use about 12 in our (public) planting schemes. 

“Often it’s for practical reasons because they’re tough and drought tolerant — but it’s not the whole story.”

Hazelwood pointed to the work of UK landscape architect Prof Nigel Dunnett, who has championed wild garden design in urban spaces. He has drawn interest in recent years for his work transforming the brutalist apartment block at the Barbican in London into a meadow-like environment with diverse plantings of grasses and perennials.

Hazelwood said it is this kind of ‘complex nature’ that is required for cities to thrive into the future, but it can be hard to convince planners and developers of the benefits.

“We have been doing a lot of work on how we get complex nature because complexity of species drives biodiversity,” he said. 

“But when we try to propose the space the questions are: how are we going to maintain it? Where is the lawn?

“A lot of our work is demonstrating you can get those things and still provide a complex environment.” 

At the moment, Hassell together with the University of Melbourne is trialling options at the Hills Showground Metro Station in Sydney, where the remaining ground level planting has been replaced with more than 100 different species of plants and flowers to encourage diversity without the need for regular maintenance. But more needs to be done, Hazelwood said.

“It needs bottom-up change,” he said. ““There is work being done at government level around nature positive cities, but equally there needs to be changes in the range of plants that nurseries grow, and in the way our city landscapes are maintained and managed.”

And there’s no AI option for that. 


Consumers are going to gravitate toward applications powered by the buzzy new technology, analyst Michael Wolf predicts

Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Related Stories
Accounting For The Cost Of Going To Work
By Chelsea Spresser 07/11/2023
Incognito Mode Isn’t Doing What You Think It’s Doing
By HEIDI MITCHELL 23/11/2023
2024’s Top ASX Stock Picks: 5 Opportunities You Can’t Miss
By Bronwyn Allen 08/12/2023
    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop