what colour should I paint the wainscoting?

shwubberyJuly 22, 2012

Have a north facing long narrow living room. It is Victorian with a bay window, fireplace and doors to the garden. We want to bring some colour into it so are planning on painting the walls yellow or cream. What colour should we do the wainscoting? We're thinking farrow and ball brinjal or maybe a blue or green. Or should we just go white, think we wanted something more dramatic.

And if we go for a dark colour on the panelling should we paint the dado rail white? Any advice much appreciated, more photos below.

Here is a link that might be useful: house

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Just to add, we have only just moved and our current furniture does not fit the room so we will be getting a smaller sofa, and maybe window seat and armchairs .

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 4:50AM
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I like white wainscoting. But, with your choices my vote would be the yellow or beige with the egplant.
You can do the darker on top or bottom. Not sure what to do with the rail when you paint two colors.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 7:09AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Will you be doing window treatments in the space? If so, you may want to start with the drapes...much easier to match paint color to fabric than vice versa.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 7:45AM
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I would treat the dado rail as part of the wainscot and paint it the same color. Otherwise you will end up with a very stripy look.

And Annie has a good point. Paint comes in a nearly infinite range of color, but fabrics are much more limited. Start with drapes and upholstery, then pick the paint.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 9:07AM
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I would paint the rail the same color as the wainscoting. I would let the furniture and drapery colors drive the wall color. The blue is too bright, the green is too dark for my tastes.

Painting woodwork is a lot of work, and removing paint from woodwork is really a lot of work. Be careful with your decisions.

And be careful with the undertones if you use the cream. On my monitor, I'm seeing a pink undertone to the cream.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 9:12AM
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Good advice from everyone. Don't be in a hurry to choose a paint color; first get your furniture, carpeting and fabrics. THEN choose a paint color to pull everything together.

Excellent point from graywings. Removing paint from wainscoting is horribly hard work.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 9:17AM
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Thanks for the advice, we have shutters on the front windows so probably won't get curtains but may need something on the back door. It is hard to know where to start. The guy who lived here before smoked so we want to replae carpets and repaint asap as it still smells despite leaving the doors and windows open.
So we need to strip the paint off first? Was thinking we could just sand down surfaces then paint over.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 12:14PM
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Here is what we did in the music room of our Victorian. My GC made the rectangles and nailed them to the wall. My painter made the suggestion of the 3 colors and I chose the colors. It was bright the day I took these photos. It is actually 3 shades of yellow. Belgian Waffle is the main wall color and the other 2 colors are from the same paint sample card. I have been very pleased with the look for over 6 yrs now. Hope this gives you some ideas. I would be glad to do more pics of the details if it would help you. Love your outdoor area surrounding the home too ! c

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 1:39PM
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If there are many coats of paint on the wainscoting or if it is chipping/peeling/cracking, then you may want to strip the wood. Otherwise, before and maybe instead of painting the wainscoting, try cleaning it. You could start with a general purpose cleaner, and if you need something stronger to get greasy tar stains off, go over it lightly with a rag soaked in mineral spirits. Removing the carpeting will help a lot.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 2:54PM
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Thanks for those photos, Trailrunner, it looks really nice with the different shades. We will definitely clean it greywings, but it isn't in bad condition, not cracked or peeling so hope we can just change the colour.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 3:28PM
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glad you like it. If you need more accurate details I would be glad to provide them . The colors are Olympic paints at Lowes made up in BM matte. I have given the Belgian Waffle sample to several folks at their request. It is a wonderful yellow as are the others on that strip. c

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 4:03PM
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I would stick with the white on the bottom that matches the fireplace and then go a darker color on top.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 4:04PM
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Historically the upper portion of the wall was usually wallpaper, with the wainscoting painted. Would that be an option? Maybe you could find a paper that has a yellow shade in it that you could use on the wainscoting.

And I suppose originally, the wainscoting was mostly unpainted wood, so it would have been dark on bottom, with lighter wallpaper above. Not that yellow is dark, but if you use a white or cream-based paper, it would be darker than the paper.

The Old House Forum might be a source of ideas if you're interested in an authentic look to any extent.

Karin L

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 4:18PM
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Whoops, I stand corrected about dark on bottom! I was just reading old posts by Magnaverde who offered this on the subject of wainscoting:
"Historically, dark paint (or fabric, or wallpaper)--that is, the expensive stuff, what with the high cost of pigments--went on the upper walls because that's where people would see it, not down below the chair rail, where it would not only be below eye level--especially when seated at a dining table--but where it would also be partially obscured by furniture pushed up flat against the walls, which is where the term "straightening a room" came from.

If the woodwork--including the chair rail, which was there not for aesthetics but to protect expensive materials & fragile plaster--was painted at all in such a room, it was generally painted white, because white paint (or lime wash) was cheap & it could be refreshed easily when it got dingy."

On the other hand, the Victorian aesthetic was often distinctly dingy, so unless you are after "cozy" in this room, "dark above" might not work.

Karin L

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 11:24AM
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