Do I have to paint ALL the trim white?

anewNovember 21, 2008

We live in a 100 year old house and the wood is beautiful, however the baseboards are in really bad shape. I was wondering if the baseboards could be painted white, but leave the trim around the doors and windows their natural wood. Do you think this would be OK? I'm more concerned about the base meeting the door trim of a 6 feet wide opening to the living room.

I can't find any pictures of this kind of thing so I'm thinking it's probably not in "good form" ?

...thanks for any advice you can give me.

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Christopher Nelson Wallcovering and Painting

You have to look at it not us,paint it if you think it would look better. Me,I don't really like natural trim unless it is like perfect,so I would paint it all, but that's just me.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2008 at 5:07AM
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And I'm just the opposite - like natural wood and am kind of sick of everything being painted out white. However, apart from that, it's YOUR house, you have to live with it 24/7, who cares about 'form' - unless you're in some kind of historical home that you entered into after signing that nothing original would be touched, and that you'll keep a plaque out in front and hold tours :-)! No one is going to walk in and pass judgment on you if you chose to keep some natural wood unpainted in your own house - they're much too busy worrying (and probably needlessly) about their own places. In fact they'll likely think you're very brave for not being a sheep!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2008 at 6:01AM
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Have you thought about refinishing the baseboard wood? If your finish is original shellac, it's easy to get that off, restain and reshellac.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2008 at 6:57AM
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We have lived in this house for 20 years and never painted the trim. I do like the natural wood trim. It's not about painting it white or not or what people necessarily think. We're going through renovations and I realize how bad the base boards are and I NEED to paint them. I'm just wondering if it would look silly if I just painted the base trim and not the rest of the trim of the house.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2008 at 8:19AM
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I'm thinking, yes it would probably look strange, especially if you have the generously wide baseboards.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2008 at 9:10AM
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I live in a 90+ year old house, and we have all kinds of combinations. My opinion is do what you want and then decide after the base is painted if you prefer to paint any more of the trim.

In our dining room I spent 8 months painstakingly stripping and refinishing the wood trim to match the living room. In the bedroom, trim is painted, but crown is oak which matches the floors and furniture.

In the hallway, tried to strip the base, but it had never been varnished and was ridiculously hard so we painted it dark brown but when we added the picture molding went with walnut stained oak. The rest of the wood trim is currently painted. The center of 3 hall doors are stripped and stained walnut because that was the original style of these doors. Still thinking about whether I'd like to paint the base to match the door trim instead. Here's a picture of the hallway. Its not finished, as we will be recreating the original stencil discovered at the end of the hallway (had been under a wallpaper mural).

And here's looking the other direction. This hallways is only 30 inches wide!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2008 at 10:22AM
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Why not another color than white which is less of a contrast to your natural wood trim? I have three thoughts, all of which to keep in mind approximating the Tone of your natural wood: 1) if your walls are papered pick a color from the paper (or shade darker than the back ground,) if painted go a shade darker than the paint I assume that the paper or paint looks good against the natural door trim so why not a color from it? 2) Assuming that the wood has some varying tones to it, choose a middle range toward the dark of the woodwork and paint the baseboard that color. 3) Apply above ideas to what ever your floor is like.
Before doing the whole thing buy a quart and either paint just a few feet of baseboard around the big door you are most worried about or paint some poster board strips and put them along there. Leave for a couple of days to decide.
Goodluck and post pics, I'd love to see what you decide. (Ps my apologies if I forgot what you said about your walls, so many posts!)

Lauren, I love your hall color, just painted my living room /dining room that color (with ivory trim).

    Bookmark   November 22, 2008 at 12:22PM
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Thanks, well that seems to work, it looks very nice Lauren.
Maybe what I'll do, as you suggested, is paint the trim and see how it looks and if it looks rediculous than I'll just paint the trim that meets the base boards. I do think it would still look ok if I left the trim around the windows the natural oak wood.
I know it's something I have to figure out, for me it's just such a HUGE decision to paint the wood, almost seems sacreligious (sp).

    Bookmark   November 22, 2008 at 12:23PM
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If you have a very fancy style house, victorian or what ever, how about "gold" leaf on the baseboard? Ihave used a product called "real imitation gold leaf" (lol) and it looks quite nice. Its not gold so the price isn't bad, but it comes in squares and is applied like the real thing so the look is good. Abit of stain to age then poly.
Oh well, I'm probably just jealous cuz my house tho very nice to live in is very plain.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2008 at 12:34PM
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I have one more suggestion: Minwax Polyshades. It comes in a bottle, all different wood tints. I used this product after stripping the oak in the dining really corrects an uneven finish. I don't have great before pictures of the stripped wood...but here is one that shows the stripped baseboard that surprised us with pine instead of oak and the stripped but un-refinished oak on the left

And here is a picture after using sponging on a few coats of Minwax polyshades (also shows the oak baseboard on the right that meets up with the 4' length of pine):

    Bookmark   November 22, 2008 at 2:54PM
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Alrighty, now I'm now more indecisive than ever. Thanks for the great ideas. The color on my walls are going to lean towards yellow, not sure about the gold leaf thing, but what a great idea. Maybe there is copper or something.
The problem with my baseboards is that some of it is pine and some of it is oak, big difference. Some shoemaker did some renovations before we moved in the place 20 years ago and hacked at the baseboards when he removed a wall between the living and dining room. There are pieces of baseboards in places, like a puzzle. I don't know what the heck went on, but I'm sure he had a few scotches before he did the work.
The idea about going with a darker color than the wall may be a good idea....have to think about it.


    Bookmark   November 22, 2008 at 4:50PM
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If you do decide to paint, you might consider putting down a coat of shellac first. That way if someone wants to strip it back to the original in the future, it will make it a whole lot easier for them :-)

    Bookmark   November 23, 2008 at 1:14AM
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hi OP
I am currently removing white paint from my stair risers (they were originally dark stained). I am not doing it because i dislike the white....actually i like it. however, with all the foot traffic (similar to that a baseboard would face), the white paint gets dinged and very dark spots show through. i am sick of touchups... so i am going back to dark. fwiw, i like the suggestion of polyshades or else just paint or glaze in a similar brown to the existing woodwork to even out the finish. good luck

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 7:49PM
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In old houses (Greek revival, esp.) the baseboards would be marbelized (faux mabre)while the rest of the woodwork was a trim color. In service areas (kitchen, scullery, butlers pantry) the baseboards were often done black (and the strip across the bottom of the doors, too) to hide mop marks and scuffs.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 9:00AM
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What I've done in previous houses (& it looked really good) was to take the color of the wall and take it down to the floor, i.e. paint the baseboard in a satin or semi gloss version of the wall color. It makes the space seem visually "neater" or less cluttery, than if you had it another color.

However if there is not paint on them currently then I would think twice about painting - if they can be easily refinished Id go that route

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 10:44AM
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