Question re Douglas fir, trim, and aesthetics

OaktownAugust 20, 2013

Could I trouble you all for your opinions about interior window finishes and trim? We had just assumed we would paint our window interiors white. Then I saw the clear finish Douglas fir interiors at the window showroom and fell in love. My father says they will turn orange over time and I will hate them later. I've been googling like crazy but haven't been able to find much on that -- could we stain them to stay natural or do they darken over time like cherry?

Also, it will add to our trim costs if we try to do matching door and window trim. Do you think white trim would look right (last photo)?

Traditional Dining Room by Seattle Architects & Designers Bosworth Hoedemaker

Traditional Home Office by Seattle Architects & Designers Bosworth Hoedemaker

Traditional Bathroom by Seattle Architects & Designers Bosworth Hoedemaker

Traditional Bedroom by Walnut Creek General Contractors Bali Construction

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Epiarch Designs

white trim and stained windows look just fine to me, IMO. This is purely a preference thing, and no one here can really tell you otherwise.
Will naturally sealed windows darken? slightly, but not that much. They certainly wont turn orange nor darken as much as cherry. All of the windows in our home will just be a natural sealed window, but it also ties into an exposed fir glulam beam we have too. All of the trim is painted Iron Ore by SW. We have drywall returns, so no trim around the windows. The sills are natural strand bamboo, so it also ties in nicely with the natural windows.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 3:57PM
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The best approach to detailing windows and finishing them really depends on your architectural design concept and character. Obviously, personal preference plays a big role as well.

If the architecture of your home is historical or traditional (whatever that is), then painted finishes tend to be historically common. On the other hand, Modern architecture has little trim at all, and everything in minimized as a means to accentuate the interior space and light. As I describes above, if one's interiors has large amounts of natural wood exposed, then using natural or stained wood window trim makes sense.

In other words, there should be a Concept which is the basis for organizing and finishing the interior (and exterior too). Hope this helps.

Good luck on your project.

PS: What your father may be referring to as "orange" may be what happens to various woods when they are shellaced or varnished with clear finishes. Pine and Fir, for example, do turn a deeper "orangey" color. The way to tell if you like it is to have a small piece or two done and review it when all finishes are dry.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 4:38PM
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The bottom photo with the stained sashes and painted frame and trim looks really nice--you don't blow the budget with stained trim everywhere but you can call attention to the windows and doors which you see, touch, and operate. Especially if you're not hiding the windows with a lot of treatments. But I don't think you'll go wrong either way. Which window manufacturer?

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 5:15PM
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Our windows are pine (Kolbe) but our doors and ceiling beams are all clear douglas fir with a very light stain. After ten years they have darkened slightly, as most natural wood does with exposure to light. (Cherry does this the most, which is where that dark rich red color people think of as cherry comes from, always a mistake to stain cherry wood dark unless you want black wood, IMO!) Anyway, I see douglas fir as having a sort of reddish gold color, and it does deepen but not to a harsh orange. I find natural douglas fir to be a beautiful wood, possibly the loveliest of the softwoods.

In fact, I think it is a pity to paint over any wood that is of high enough quality to warrant a clear finish.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 5:34PM
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Thank you very much for your input.

lzerac -- your beam sounds beautiful, as do the bamboo sills. Really nice details!

virgilcarter -- our house probably is best described as transitional. We have tried to stay true to the original Concept (is that the Parti?) but there's always been a bit of tension between the architect (who leans modern) and the family (which leans traditional). We like the lines of primitive/Shaker but not peeling paint, and "utilitarian" is a good word to describe the "style" (or lack thereof).

dadereni -- thanks, we might go this direction with natural/stained windows and painted trim. It might look odd where we have transoms, so we will work with the architect to try to be coherent and consistent. The manufacturer for most of the windows is Loewen, we have a few Marvin in-swings.

I wanted to say again how much I appreciate the opinions. We are on the hourly part with the architect so it's really wonderful for us to be able to have a sense of whether or not we're way off base before we go back to the architect for more. It's been a great collaboration thus far, just not inexpensive. So . . . THANK YOU!!!!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 6:02PM
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rosefolly, thank you for sharing your experience with Douglas fir. That is reassuring and I will let my father know. You don't by any chance recall what stain you used, do you? ;-)

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 6:08PM
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Built 'refined' hunt lodge(3,000) sq ft home last year. Installed 3220 board feet of, sanded 4 sides, Douglas Fir from the PNW. The timber was used for interior and exterior beams, trusses and braces. After speaking with the vendor and extensive research, for the internal timbers, we had the DF finished with a coat of 1/2 boiled linseed oil (with UV protectant) and 1/2 mineral spirits. You will likely find the most info about timber finishes on 'woodworking' sites. The linseed oil/mineral spirit mix appears to be common for DF.

Since our trim, doors and floors are stained medium brown, we desired contrast from the DF. After one year, the timber has, IMO, a beautiful, warm, amber tone.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 7:46PM
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Sorry, we put in the windows about 12 years ago. I'm sure I knew once but did not keep records. It was a light stain, just enough to bring out the grain but not to darken the wood.


    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 3:28AM
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If your going to use D.Fir for your trim and in my opinion it does make a beautiful trim, albeit with the redish hue naturally. I would be certain to check the costs and availability as if you want the trim to look nice you really need to get Clear Vertical Grain which can be pricey and not everyone has this available in quantity. If you do not get CVG you will end up with a lot of flat and or mixed grains which can look sort of crappy in my opinion.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 8:12AM
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billygoatjoe -- thank you, I will make a note of that natural finish. That is a LOT of wood you used!

rosefolly -- no worries, and thanks for your help before.

millworkman -- I appreciate the helpful tip. We met with the Marvin dealer yesterday so I asked about this, and I definitely could see the difference between the vertical grain fir ($extra$) and the fir that was . . . not.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2013 at 12:02AM
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Yes both $ and appearance and rather large differences (and in my opinion the flat and mixed grains can look like a**).

    Bookmark   August 23, 2013 at 9:30AM
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Yes both $ and appearance and rather large differences (and in my opinion the flat and mixed grains can look like a**).

    Bookmark   August 23, 2013 at 9:31AM
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