Struggling with color

sapphire6917April 7, 2014

Hi Everyone!

I didn't think it would be this hard to pick a stain for these shelves but I can't seem to find one that really clicks and I'm running out of test wood.

These shelves are part of a walk in closet in an attic. It's split into two separate sides. The side with the long shoe shelves has more shelving in the room that will also need to be stained. The other side with amoire has just the two shelving units that have already been stained but could be stained a different color, if necessary.

Since it's in the attic and is not the brightest place in the house, I'd rather not stain them a dark color. I tried to use a white wash stain to give the wood a cream look but it just looked like I used a weak white paint. I tried a cedar color but it looked way too red. To add to the confusion, because it get so warm up there, I'm leaning towards leaving the wood unfinished on the part where the shoes will rest because I'm afraid the stain will get loose in the heat and make the shoes sticky. I've had that happen before with paint and it's not a nice experience.

Any suggestions would be much appreciated!

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I think it would be fine just to give a coat of clear poly (but what do I know?). Since this is, as you say, in a walk in closet in an attic, don't let this stress you out too much!

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 1:20PM
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My go-to stain color is Golden Oak. I think it never fails.

Be sure you prep the wood with pre-stain. Very important.

This post was edited by Tibbrix on Mon, Apr 7, 14 at 13:27

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 1:26PM
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Thanks for the responses! It doesn't stress me, necessarily, because I need to find the "right" stain. But no stain on it is just a reminder that it's still not finished yet and I have been waiting for almost three years for this to be done!! Needless to say, whatever goes on there will be there for quite a while!

I still have some wood to play with so I will check out the golden oak stain. What does the pre-stain product do?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 1:50PM
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Stain should absorb; I doubt it will stick to your shoes. Whatever topcoat (varnish, poly,shellac) you apply, put it on thinly.

Can you match the stain of the armoires? That would be my choice.

Great closet!

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 1:54PM
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The pre-stain conditioner preps the wood so that, when you apply stain, it isn't blotchy and so it absorbs evenly.

Read the directions on the back.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 2:01PM
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Re: poly coats. Put a thin layer on, then sand with fine sand paper. Vacuum AND use tack cloth to get the sand grit up, then put another coat of poly on. You can probably leave it or add another coat if you want, also sanding between coats.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 2:05PM
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You have lots of wood up there; I would paint them the wall color. Choose paint that is washable, like a low gloss enamel, so you can easily clean the shoe shelves if needed.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 2:35PM
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Thank you so much for all of the responses! The stains that I've been playing with are a stain/poly mix so that's what had me concerned about it loosening up in the heat. Both of the armoires are cedar and while the natural cedar seems to have yellow undertones, the cedar stain on the pine looks very red. The paint store said they could try to mix the stain to match them if they could see the wood but I just haven't gotten around to shoving an armoire into my back seat to take it to the paint store.

I agree that there is a lot of wood which is why I attempted to go with the whitewash like this Sarah Richardson link but mine looked nothing like that. I hadn't considered painting them the wall color. I like the idea of them fading into the long wall but I'm not sure how the shelves against the dark wall would look. And just to add to the fun, this is the built in closet that's right across from the shelves.

I think I'm going to try a couple more stains, with and without poly, and maybe a couple of paints on the remaining wood that I have and see if any of them can agree with most of the wood tones in the room.

Thanks again!

Here is a link that might be useful: Sarah Richardson's Whitewash

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 4:18PM
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Since you already have several wood finishes in your nice big closet, one option would be to paint the shelves instead - primer and a white semi-gloss that matches your trim --- but I love painted wood.

If you would rather not lose the texture of the wood, then a stain that looks like a slightly darker version of the floor - like Minwaxî Wood Finish Dark Walnut 2716 - even though you prefer not to go darker, it would be an easier match.

But my vote is for white primer and semi-gloss.

Tell us what you decide on!

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 7:10PM
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Don't use an oil tack cloth (most are oil) if you are using a water borne finish. They can leave an oily residue and cause problems.

Here is a link that might be useful: Finishing info.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 8:16PM
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I agree with Tibbrix. I go with golden oak. It can have many personalities and always looks good wherever it is done properly by good prep. I dabbled in furniture refinishing and paint. I always liked golden oak and nearly always also used it as a glaze on "antiqued" furniture.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 8:26PM
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Thanks, Radley! I'll try that stain as well! I think the white might be too bright against the dark wood wall so if I do end up painting them, it would probably be the wall color.

I'm going to try the golden oak as well, Patricia43, but I do worry about introducing yet another wood finish to the mix. I am going to get some larger pieces of test wood so that I can really get a good idea of how the finishes will look.

And thanks for the tip on the tack cloth, Crl_!

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 9:18PM
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Having had both painted and stained wood shelves, I've found stained wood to be much more forgiving than painted wood in terms of resisting marks and scuffs.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 10:40AM
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I would paint those shelves in a red hot minute.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 2:46PM
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I have found the same to be true, Lazydaisynot. And since it will be mostly for shoes, that's been what's making me lean towards stain. However, since there are so many wood finishes up there already, I'm afraid of it looking too dark and heavy.

Kswl, what color would you paint them? The long wall is a light color but the back walls are rather dark.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 7:42PM
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Do you think you want a fun color or something more staid and conservative?

I just found this beautiful color, Benhamin Moore Fiji. It's the color on the door in this pic.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 7:50PM
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Like Radley, I was going to suggest a walnut as I too just used that on some shelves and it looks like it would work well on your setting. It may very well be the exact one Radley mentioned. I will have to go out and look at the can. If you find that is not complimentary and have an extra piece of the flooring, you can take it to your paint store and have them pull several of the wood tones to test on test boards so that will have something that compliments but is not necessarily matchy matchy.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 8:57PM
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Sapphire, I would paint them the exact color of your base trim and other moldings, as that will make them look built in. I don't have anything against wood, per se, but not multiple species and colors in a small area like that, and --- unless you are a professional and plan to stain completely evenly and use coats and coats of wax or varnish or polyurethane, the wood will never look as good or as finished stained as it will painted.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 9:43PM
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I vote paint too and I would do the same white color as trim. You can use a cabinet grade quality paint to resist scuffs. Benjamin Moore Advance is supposed to be good for cabinets. I have used it -- but only recently so I don't have experience with it long term for durability.

I think having the white will be a good backdrop against clothes to arrange outfits and such.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 10:03AM
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Thanks for the feedback!! It was all very helpful! I am going to get it done this weekend so I will be sure to come back and post pics!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 11:14AM
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