craftsman trim

douglasparkMarch 4, 2008

We're renovating a craftsman house from 20s. Starting over on the ground floor with new stained trim and may just repaint the white trim on second floor. (I'm not sure when they decided to paint the trim originally.)

My questions have to do with white trim in bedrooms of the period. I've read that on this forum and elsewhere that this was not uncommon.

Does anyone know how they handled baseboards, doors and doorframes on craftsman second floors with white windows and trim? Did they typically go with white or stained doors, frames and baseboards in such bedrooms? Did the hallways have white baseboards as well? What about staircases in houses with ground floor stained trim and second floor white trim? Were they stained or white? I'm concerned about the jarring effect of the transition from ground floor stained trim to second floor white trim and wondering where that transition typically occurred.

I've seem one craftsman home that had bedroom doors painted white on the inside and stained on the hallway side? Is that typical? What do you think of that way of handling doors?

Does anyone have strong preferences for painted or stained trim in craftsman bedrooms?

Also, does anyone know whether the painted trim in craftsman bedrooms was purely an aesthetic decision or was it cheaper as well? Did they have cheaper paint grade wood in those days?


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We've lived in 2 craftsman homes and both were different from each other. Home 1 was a 1905 4 square. All the second floor bedroom window and door trim, as well as doors, were stained and shellaced. All the hallway wood was originally stained and shellaced but it had been painted along the way. I know it was originally stained because I stripped it all. The baseboard trim in our bedrooms was originally and still painted.

Current home is a 1918 bungalow - nothing in the bedrooms has ever been painted.

You are right in that often cheaper wood was used in bedrooms in the same way that lesser grade flooring was used in the non-public areas of the home. In addition, alot of the differences were regional, too.

I've been in alot of vintage homes and I have seen stained doors, painted door frames; stained window sashes and painted trim around the windows; all stained; all painted. I'm guessing that your door with 1 painted side was not originally done like that - some homeowner through the years did that. I don't like that look. Just like with now, painting vs staining was also a matter of taste and budget.

The transition from stained to painted could be handled by a stained handrail on the stairs and painted balusters.

If I was buying a restored home today, my husband and I would prefer to see all stained wood in bedrooms. For our taste, stained wood is beautiful and much warmer than paint.

And for ideas, head to your local big bookstore - there are tons of books out there now, mostly with "bungalow" in the title, that have pix of decorating styles.

Don't know if this will help, because just like with many things, the decision of paint vs. stain could come down to "it depends".

    Bookmark   March 4, 2008 at 6:15AM
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Our 1920 foursquare has painted baseboard and window trim everywhere upstairs and stained wood downstairs. The baseboard going up the stairs is stained and simply meets the painted baseboard in the upstairs. All doors upstairs are stained, not painted.

If you're starting from scratch, I'd stain everything. But if it's already painted you might just want to keep the paint. Who knows when it was painted and it might have lead paint. That's what we have. We thought of stripping all of our trim upstairs, but with the lead paint it would be a mess and difficult.

Our neighbor did strip all of his woodwork, lead paint and all. But they didn't have any kids in the house to worry about and he's a bit of a nut. :-)

    Bookmark   March 4, 2008 at 10:43AM
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We have a 1905 foursquare. The upstairs is a work in progress, but the in the end, the combination will be painted wood trim in the bedrooms with doors stained on both sides. The hallway is stained. Everything downstairs is stained except for the kitchen which has painted trim. I have seen the stained doors with the painted trim in another old house, and I liked the look. I think it will be a good way to transition from paint to the stain in the upstairs hallway. Just my opinion though!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2008 at 11:05AM
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My sister has a 1900 foursquare. No trim, baseboards or doors were ever painted. She bought it from the descendants of the family who built it.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2008 at 1:00PM
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It varies so widely, regionally and from house to house, especially when you consider economic status as well, so you can't really say "always" one way or the other. I'm a complete ho for stained wood and to my mind there is no such thing as too much of it, so all things being equal I would want it everywhere, but yes, it was not uncommon for the more expensive wood to be used (and shown off by staining) in the public areas and cheaper wood to be painted used in private and utility areas. It was common for decades before that, too - many Victorian-era houses had stained or grained trim in the "show-off" areas like parlor(s) and dining room ;-) and painted in the areas that weren't for public view. I can't put my hand on the books now since we still haven't finished unpacking the library (!!!) but I remember that in reprints of some of Gustav Stickley's books that I have even he advocated painting the trim in bedrooms, kitchens and baths.

We have a 1900 vernacular, a goulash of late Victorian and A&C, in an old New England mill town, toward the lower end of the economic spectrum. While everything's been painted over intervening decades, our research (okay, picking at chippy areas LOL) indicates that the trim downstairs was originally stained a dark color while the trim upstairs had been painted. Oddly, the first coat of paint on the upstairs trim appears to be sort of a minty GREEN! I can't identify the wood downstairs without uncovering more of it, but the upstairs trim is pine. From what I can tell, the stair treads and bannister were stained wood, the risers and spindles painted, which is also a nice transition from a stained downstairs to painted upstairs. We plan on stripping and restaining the downstairs trim; the trim upstairs will need to be stripped because there are SO many coats of badly-done paint that the surface looks rather leprous, but since it is lower quality wood (relatively speaking, old growth pine is practically a different species from modern material!) it will be repainted. Eventually. :-)

I've also read many times that by the 1920s in many areas, another round of Colonial Revival style had begun to spread and there was a bit of a revolt againt the dark woods and strong colors of the A&C period, and magazines recommended all that darkness be "brightened up" with a coat of white paint on the trim and pastel colors on the walls. The Edwardians tried the same thing twenty years earlier. When I was a teenager in the 1980s I lived in my parents in a tiny Colonial Revival bungalow built in the late 1920s or possibly as late as 1930; we were renting it from the son of the couple who had built the house and there had been virtually no changes since shortly after it was built - the bathroom was totally original (I'm just sick thinking about it being renovated and the lovely apron tub and standing waste/drain being chucked into a dumpster)! The trim had been painted from day one... even then I had a thing for picking at lifting paint :-) and there was a peely spot in my bedroom from a brief window leak, and I remember being scared to death when I got to bare wood!

    Bookmark   March 5, 2008 at 9:16PM
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Mine's just a wee 1.5 story 1923 bungalow, so I can't help you on the upstairs/downstairs stuff, but for what it's worth, the bedroom/bathroom side is painted while the public rooms are stained. I'll note the crown on the painted private rooms is very very wee compared to the nice sturdy stuff in the other wing. Is fun to call them "wings" when the house ain't even 800 s.f... Indulge me.

I'm stripping the painted trim in the kitchen and know it wasn't originally done. Archeology, more like, as it was shellac-ed, then painted dirty white, then turquoise, then pepto pink, then a couple coats of white again. Yikes!

Good luck with it, you're doing the right thing in tracking down info where you can find it. Johnmari, excellent stories, but watch out using the words "ho" and "stripping" in the same posting. Could get you banned! ;-)

    Bookmark   March 6, 2008 at 10:38AM
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erinmn - BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Good point!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2008 at 6:16PM
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Many of the old houses in our neighborhood have stained wood downstairs, painted upstairs. Our 1910 2 storey Craftsman was like that, except 2 rooms downstairs were painted, and the wood in all the other rooms downstairs had been covered with some awful shiny shellac or varnish, sloppily applied, and peeling.

Upstairs we decided to keep the paint. I've been in several houses where they stripped all the upstairs paint and it is beautiful. We have stripped it in a few places: the old medicine cabinet in the bathroom, a window seat, and the gas fireplace mantel. The transition from painted stripped wood on the molding is a little awkward. But you get used to it. The transition is at the top of the staircase.

We recently had all the downstairs wood stripped. It makes a huge difference. Gorgeous!! And the painters used a nontoxic citrus product to do it with.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2008 at 12:19AM
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We have a 1914 Craftsman bungalow, one story. We are the 3rd family to own the house and most of the woodwork was intact when we purchased it (still is). The front/public areas are quartersawn oak floors and gumwood baseboards/molding/benches/bookcases/fireplaces with some inset of walnut. The bedrooms and rest of the private areas are fir and every bit of wood was originally stained. The doors to private rooms are interesting since the wood is a finer quality but stained to match the room on each side which means if you are standing in the "lesser" hall or room with the door close you can see the difference in wood grain on that door. Our bathroom door was painted on one side and stained on the hall side. We've continued that as it was practical.

The woodwork in two rooms had been painted before we purchased the house and we chose to paint over rather than rip out and stain due to concerns with lead. In those two rooms all doors retain the original stain and of course we've left the stain to admire. My personal preference, even in a 1920's home, would be to paint already-painted woodwork in bedrooms but avoid white (YMMV). I would look for a palette that enhances whatever woodwork remains (perhaps just the floor).

As for staircases, I would definitely return to stain as the staircase "belongs" to the architectural details of the main floor. I live in a neighborhood of A&C homes far more fabulous than my own and every staircase I've seen -- tours, friends, peering into windows at night ("research" a la johnmari) -- has had an original stained staircase. I have no aesthetic problems with a stained staircase heading up to a landing for painted bedrooms. I would wince (and have winced...) at a painted staircase landing in a beautifully stained foyer.

For research purposes I recommend waiting until it's dark enough to highlight a lit window but not so late the lights are out. Bring a dog for cover but don't forget doggie bags since you'll be loitering. Historic home tours are great but require planning and patience.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2008 at 8:42PM
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Thanks for all the great feedback! Very helpful.

At this point we're leaning towards some sort of cream trim upstairs to keep the cost down. (Getting rid of what's there -- white painted -- and putting in stain = expensive.) And it sounds like that's within the realm of historical possibility.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2008 at 10:18PM
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We have a 1930s Tudor. The downstairs trim and doors are solid oak; the upstairs trim and doors are pine. All floors are solid oak. They were made to be identical, just two different types of woods.

Personally, I would not paint the trim. But I think it is all just based on what you like and what will work best for your family.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 11:40AM
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We have a 1911 Arts & Crafts house, but with a lot of craftsman influence. One second floor bedroom has original cream painted baseboards and trim and a stained door both inside and outside the room. This is characteristic in our area of Missouri.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 12:39PM
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