Should we paint the dark wood ceiling beams white?
August 16, 2012 in Design Dilemma
We have just purchased a 1970s home (not our furniture pictured) and would like to give it a more clean, modern look while retaining some of the quality features such as pine ceiling. We will remove the carpet and polish the floorboards underneath. However, we are unsure about what to do with the dark wood beams and trim. Any advice on whether to paint the dark wood ceiling beams and what colour? What about the dark wood hand rail, doors and door frames (white seems so impractical on hard wearing areas, but I love the all white look)? Is it a big risk to paint it all white (i.e. will the reflective nature of the white make the beams stand out even more)? Any advice on modernising our new house would be much appreciated.
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I personally would modernize everything else and live with the beams for awhile. I think they are breathtaking just the way they are. We have beams in our house and my first inclination was to paint them white but I'm glad we left them because they really stand out and add drama.
4 Likes   August 16, 2012 at 6:32AM
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Kevin Nathaniel
Dont u ever paint the beams with white.. it will be an epic fail.. trust me
5 Likes   August 16, 2012 at 6:34AM
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I LOVE your beams. Please don't paint them--they are a wonderful feature of the room.
4 Likes   August 16, 2012 at 6:34AM
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Beth Morrow
Wow...what a beautiful view and what a long room. After looking at all the pictures, I personally think that all the wood works, which for me is a big deal, because I paint everything. I would rearrange the furniture though. Try getting the couch away from the wall and put it in he middle of the room facing the view. Then add those chairs that are up against the back wall to the side of the couch. I think I would place them on the same side(right) and then bring the piano to the left side of the room. Try turning the table to go across the room like the couch and bring in a beautiful chandelier. You will be able to afford that with what you save on painting all that wood. Now do you add more wood on the floors? I don't think so and again, I am all about wood floors, but I think for your space I would spend that money on some beautiful area rugs to go under the dining table and another one to anchor and define the living area! I hope this gets your decorative juices flowing and I would love to see this room finished...good luck!
3 Likes   August 16, 2012 at 6:44AM
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IMHO, It's a crime to paint that wood. Your house has a classic european look that might have more value in it's original condition someday. Try to live with it for a few months before you paint. If you really can't stand the wood, try to paint only the trim and the two big massive carry beams. It looks like the windows in the kitchen are metal, (?) you won't be able to paint them.

But for mercy's sake, don't place your furniture against the wall like the previous owners did. Float the furniture in small groupings.
1 Like   August 16, 2012 at 7:27AM
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I concur with everyone here, do not paint the beams, specially in white... By the way, that's a very nice room you have here.
2 Likes   August 16, 2012 at 8:41AM
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Lanie Brown, REALTORĀ®, Martha Turner Sotheby's
Agreed! Please post again with other dilemmas. Your house looks fun!
1 Like   August 16, 2012 at 9:31AM
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White wash the t & g ceiling and dark brown stein the beams
6 Likes   August 16, 2012 at 10:26AM
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Rebecca Behrent
My personal opinion is that you should never paint over wood if it's got a beautiful color and grain. Yours has both of these, so I wouldn't touch it! It's a dramatic feature that not everyone is lucky to have.
1 Like   August 16, 2012 at 10:45AM
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Rebecca Behrent
Maybe look at adding an area rug with geometric patterns that "mirrors" the rectangular patterns in the ceiling. Doesn't have to mirror it perfectly - just pick up some of the pattern and add color. Rug could go on the bare carpeting we see right now by the dining table.
2 Likes   August 16, 2012 at 10:48AM
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Here is an example of a pine ceiling with a very neutral paint finish on the other surfaces.

If you look at the other photos of this house, you see how this guy used pine ceilings all over this house in some very interesting ways. You can see that he leaves the ceiling and beams in their natural color and it works beautifully with the other furnishings.
You already have the basis for a modern, clean style with the ceiling, beams and windows. You just need to figure out what kind of paint you want on the surfaces and what furniture you are going to use or buy to furnish the room.
Of course, the photo posted also shows the ceiling in the adjoining room-which is a bathroom, amazingly-painted the same neutral color as the trim and wall in the other room.
1 Like   August 16, 2012 at 12:02PM
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Vikrant Sharma Homez
Congrats , and I'm Going Green with Envy, its a Lovely House , See all love it as it is . now lets move on , ask us How to Decorate it or How you managed to Get your Hands on Such a Jewel ! Lol
2 Likes   August 16, 2012 at 12:18PM
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Don't paint. Concentrate on a great floor.
2 Likes   August 16, 2012 at 12:18PM
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Oak & Broad
Speaking as a professional in the field of beams and wide plank flooring I can say that your wood is not "paint grade" its "stain grade". Everyone has given you good advice so far. Don't feel compelled to paint them just to change something. Old bricks can be painted, stain grade beams in your home not so much :-)
2 Likes   August 16, 2012 at 12:20PM
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Tres McKinney Design
It sounds like you want a more contemporary look. Since the furniture pictured is not yours then we don't know what you mean by contemporary. If you like a mid century style than the ceiling could work as is but the kitchen is traditional in styling so you have to find a way to make your furnishing style work with the interior architecture. IF you like neutral colored walls then I recommend painting all the walls and woodwork the same color but not a bright white.
Something like Benjamin Moore CSP-245 "Stone ware or a light gray green to compliment the outdoor views. The walls should be in a flat mat and the trim in a semi gloss or satin finish. Don't faint - but I recommend you paint all the kitchen cabinets in a warm black in a satin finish. This will minimize the black refrigerator and tie into the bronze windows and doors. Black kitchens are striking and the rooms have good natural light. I know for a lot of you that it is Heaven forbid - but yes I would either white wash, gray wash or paint the ceiling the same color as the walls. Painting the kitchen cabinets allows the furniture to stand out more. There are too many wood finishes between the cabinets, trim ceiling and floors so painting some or all of it would give it a more pulled together look.
1 Like   August 16, 2012 at 12:40PM
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Leah hoffarth
Do not paint...think Scandinavian contemporary design.
2 Likes   August 16, 2012 at 2:16PM
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Thank you everyone for your unanimous advice. We will steer away from painting the beams and save thousands of dollars too! There was less consensus on the dark wood doors, trim and bannisters throughout the house (all bedroom doors, frames and cupboard doors are dark). Further advice would be welcome (and obviously it would cost a lot more as all doors are original 70s dark wood ply, attaching a floor plan FYI).

I do love the idea from Tres McKinney Design, to paint the kitchen cabinets a warm black. It might not be apparent from the photos, but the dark beams are quite a muddy brown. If we went with the dark kitchen cupboards would we also need to stain the beams darker?
   August 17, 2012 at 7:48AM
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For all furniture enthusiasts, we have built in a budget for substantial furniture shopping given we have upsized from an apartment. We already have an 8 seater teak dining table and chairs (Balinese style) that we are thinking will go as the work horse in the main meals area next to the kitchen. We also have a smaller dark wood antique round table that has no chairs but previously looked great with contrasting contemporary white chairs. So the whole lounge room is open to a fresh take. Given it will have floorboards (we will expose what we think under the carpet is pine, but maybe Tasmanian oak, definitely a lighter colour board). Any advice on colour and material for couch (we have small children!). Also placement of furniture given the floor plan. I like a modular but not sure which direction it should face (open to the room or facing the view?). So many area rug options, I like tribal but it could date the space. We are shopping this weekend, so any advice very welcome.
   August 17, 2012 at 8:07AM
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If, after living with it a while, you think you want it lighter try whitewashing or bleaching instead of paint, since they are not paint grade. That way the texture can show through but you'll have a lighter overhead area. With teak & balinese you'll want to live with it a first and get a feel for where the room wants to go with your pieces in place.
1 Like   August 17, 2012 at 12:53PM
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Please don't paint those beams....PLEASE! :-)
2 Likes   August 17, 2012 at 2:24PM
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Gina Leitz
I wouldn't paint the kitchen cabinets, they are too lovely as is. What I would do though is paint the beams a charcoal gray to match the metal on the window frames or black instead of leaving it that shade of brown you are so opposed to. Those beams look like they are metal and not wood. Am I wrong? Painting everything else white will give it a feeling of floating from one area to the next. I myself wouldn't paint the door frames or doors white. I'd paint it the same color as the beams and remove the handrails if they aren't necessary. Your space is so beautiful as is, I wouldn't change too much. The way you decorate it (furniture, art) will give it that modern feel.
   August 17, 2012 at 4:36PM
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Tres McKinney Design
You might not have to darken the beams if you decide to paint the kitchen cabinets black. Take it in steps. I recommend that you change out the track lighting on the beams to a smaller more contemporary styled track in a bronze finish to match the bronze finished windows and doors. You could change the hardware to a more contemporary style in bronze if you don't paint the cabinets and brushed nickle if you do decide to paint them black. The wide photographic wide angle view of the rooms make them seem cavernous wnd the ceiling low and a bit oppresive so I am revising one of my earlier recommended paint color options of an off white wall paint color. I would consider a grayed down sage green that will stand up to the heaviness of the natural wood ceiling and compliment the outdoor views. I would still paint the all the woodwork the same sage green color but in satin or semi gloss and the walls in a mat finish. The brown doors are so 70's dated so I would consider also painting them a satin black and add new hardware in a brushed nickle finish. Keep the door casings the same color as the walls. You have some long windowless walls. Large scaled paintings, framed posters or mirror would help break up the space as would some tall large scaled peices of furniture. Get the seating arrangement mostly off from the walls so you have a comfortable conversation area EVEN if the main function is TV watcing.
1 Like   August 17, 2012 at 5:36PM
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karen paul interiors
The last owners didn't know what to do with the kitchen, and it shows. Everything is fabulous except for the kitchen. That's where you can spread your wings and reinvent the wheel. Did someone say black for the cabinets? Inspirational! This would be a great beginning with your envisioning how to furnish your home and all the while respecting the bones. Your ceiling is fabulous. The floors were an afterthought or not too well thought out, but they are OK. Certainly, it is not worth your while to replace them. So, if you can think in terms of black cabinets, it could be very interesting to watch how it grows from there.
2 Likes   August 17, 2012 at 9:23PM
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Josh Rich
The beams look really good as they are. My concern is that there is not enough natural materials, other than the wood to bring the outside in. I would paint the walls a neutral gray or something and try to bring more elements in from the outside. It will balance them and not have such a stark contrast.
1 Like   August 17, 2012 at 10:10PM
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We had similar beams in a room about the same size, and we painted them white. We are totally happy that we did this. The room looks brighter and the ceiling looks higher.
   August 17, 2012 at 10:12PM
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Charmean Neithart Interiors, LLC.
Nothing original to say here...wouldn't paint those beams. No way, it's such a great 70's hallmark. I think once you pull up that carpet you will feel differently about the overall look. Modernize the kitchen and you will be all set. Great house. Hope that helps.
Charmean Neithart
2 Likes   August 17, 2012 at 10:47PM
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uh... No, do not paint!!!
1 Like   August 18, 2012 at 5:07AM
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If your beams look dull, I can't tell from the photos, you may want to varnish them. That would brighten them up and let them reflect some light. Glad to hear you are not going to paint them.
1 Like   August 18, 2012 at 9:57AM
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I would paint them to lift the ceiling---I think it brings the ceiling down.
   August 18, 2012 at 3:52PM
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I have a 70's home with dark chocolate beams on a pine ceiling like yours, and visitors frequently comment on how beautiful they are. Our ceiling is high, so I can use heavy log furniture in our great room. The beams balance everything. Do NOT paint the best feature of your home!
1 Like   August 18, 2012 at 4:10PM
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William Hill Cawood, Architect
hmmm---dont paint the beams, you could paint the ceiling. you could think of carefully drywalling the large L beam/column and that would allow you to remove it latter.

the bigger issue is you have a large, undefined space that is too low for its width. look at vertical elements to divide the space visually into better proportions and a mix of expansive and intimate space-think nice shelving or bulit ins that are chest hieght or higher, tall wood screens, a different toned floor or strong rug to define an area, or a dropped horizontal wood panel to lower the ceiling plane in a more intimate area. all great problems to have!
   August 18, 2012 at 4:17PM
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RDM Interiors
My ceilings were exactly like your when I purchased my home. I did cover my pine ceiling with Luan board due to the extensive damage they had.but I would NEVER paint the beams.adds so much character to the house. I did paint all of the trim and baseboards in linen white...
   August 18, 2012 at 4:30PM
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I highly recommend not to paint the beams. I have cedar ceilings and have enjoyed the classic beauty through many years. In my opinion white would cheapen the look of the wood. I would recommend bringing more metal into the room to modernize the atmosphere.
1 Like   August 18, 2012 at 11:33PM
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Amy Butler's house.
3 Likes   August 18, 2012 at 11:55PM
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Hi there, we have a 70s style home with a huge lounge with also an expansive beamed ceiling just like this one. I had the same feeling about our ceiling and the need to get rid of some of the 'wood look' with whitening it. We have decided to box in (with gib) between the beams and paint this white, although this means covering about 1/2 to 3/4 of the width of the beam (we still want some showing). The architect and builders we had consulted all agreed it would be a shame to lose the beam entirely, like most people in your poll! The main reason we are boxing it in is because we have a flat roof and no insulation at all which is a bit $ and energy drainer! and right now its raining here and we can't hear each other speak or the TV! We are planning to have the ceiling done in the next month or 2 so I could post a photo if u like.....
   August 19, 2012 at 1:08AM
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I'm an agreement with the majority, leave the ceiling alone. I think once the floors are done and your furniture is in, you'll find the ceilings compliment the contemporary look you want. Refinish the kitchen cabinets before deciding what to do about other trims. It will give you time to see the total picture. This is a beautiful space with high ceilings and the traditional furnishings are throwing off the balance. I can see why you think all the trims need to be changed because of this, but I recommend patience and complete one major project at a time.
I like Tres McKinney recommendations. A greyed sage green would soften the ceiling contrast the creme wall color creates.
   August 19, 2012 at 4:50AM
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Jean Bo
I would leave everything alone and concentrate on furnisings, that space is screaming for Danish modern furnitue, clean lines, beautiful woods like teak or cherry. The grey rug is bla. I see a punchy colorful rug with bold colors. Load the room with some green. I also would leave ceiling alone. Great contemporary space.
1 Like   August 19, 2012 at 4:57AM
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William Hill Cawood, Architect
how I dealt with lack of insulation in a recent addition to a 1950's modern house-covered the beams and insulated between, and then applied false wood beams and t&g ceiling, and the large glass panels are modern double pane insulated glass. the beams are only a few inches deep, but give the same idea of beamed ceiling as the original.
This project also had dark floors and darker ceiling, but it was offset with crisp white walls and large window walls-I think the wood helps it feel more sheltered and pulls down the scale a bit.

Moderrn Addition
Modern Addition
   August 19, 2012 at 5:51AM
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NO.NO.NO...Do NoT paint the beams or ceiling! As Kevin stated, it would be a mistake of epic proportions. Unpainted/natural wood shouts of Modernism-Contemporary.
1 Like   August 19, 2012 at 9:15AM
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Replace kitchen with lower cabinets and open shelving. Add island large enough for cabinetry/drawers and seating on the other side. No need for two dining areas. Keep one area for dining table and chairs.
1 Like   August 19, 2012 at 9:48AM
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Do not paint, worry about maybe adding a bit of interest and maybe mix it up with different wood tones to contrast in the kitchen or do something different with your flooring or rug and add color that way.
1 Like   August 19, 2012 at 10:02AM
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My family room has rough-hewn 8" T&G and beams with plenty of knots. The roughness contributed to lots of cobwebs, which you couldn't see, as the wood was very dark. Due to the darkness, in the evening, the ceiling seemed to disappear, and made the room feel cavernous. I painted my ceiling white and now the light bounces off of it and feels bright. Your ceiling and beams are beautiful. I wouldn't paint them either if I had a ceiling/beams like that.
2 Likes   August 19, 2012 at 11:11AM
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I feel like the medium brown cross support beams are too "medium". i would stain those dark espresso and it will modernize the space. I really would discourage painting them out white! They add so much texture and interest. The darker espresso would be modern and striking.Consider refacing the kitchen cabs or refinishing in the same dark stain with light countertops. Best of luck!
   August 19, 2012 at 11:26AM
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I think if you paint the rooms a more earth tone color and modernize the lighting and furniture that that would. help. I would not paint the wood. I think a big rug with modern design and more modern lighting would help the kitchen shine. Granite counters or some natural stone would be good. There is already too much white in this room.
1 Like   August 19, 2012 at 2:31PM
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Definately turn all white: beams, ceiling and doors. I am not sure if the furniture is yours, if it is, you have a lot of dark wooden furniture. So you might consider using a WHite and Chocolate palette. this is, just go rather in dark cool brown or cold white, avoid the beiges and cream yellowish colors. Somethings that might help are: the kitchen should be painted white and darkened (but please desapear that yellow wood) tha countertop could be carrara white marble or salt and pepper granite (if want something more functional) the floor tinted to mocha, or bleached as clear as you can. Try to include silver color accesories. It will give a monochrome design.
1 Like   August 19, 2012 at 2:34PM
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Definitely white wash or light gray wash the ceiling and stain the beams a dark espresso. Do not leave them unpainted. The room is overwhelmed and much to top heavy and dark with these ceilings. Then paint the walls a warm pale or medium gray. Do not place the sofa and furniture along the walls. If I were you, I would tend to take advantage of the view for the living area furniture. Consider removing the carpet and putting in hand-scraped darker flooring.
1 Like   August 19, 2012 at 7:36PM
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Paint the ceiling, - leave the beams, or stain them darker, - depending on the colour of your floor :) that's my opinion anyways. Also try to make different "zones", by using your furnitures differently. Removing the carpet, as "jeanlab" suggests is a very good idea ! Good Luck !!
1 Like   August 19, 2012 at 11:32PM
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The ceiling does feel a little overpowering. Have you considered coloring the huge cross-beam to lighten the feel - not white though - something a little softer and more natural. And something that could look really dramatic is to add some Velux roof windows so that as you look down the room you see not only trees but also sky.
1 Like   August 20, 2012 at 2:52AM
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also pain the door trim the wall color to lighten the look. leave beams and ceiling as is.
   August 20, 2012 at 8:06PM
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I would not paint the beams. I would paint every thing else. You have to also look at the fact that you are having wood flooring as well. Maybe a whitewashing of the ceiling would be ok. I also agree with changing up the kitchen. How about a lighter color on the upper cabinets and a fun color on the lower ones
   August 20, 2012 at 9:13PM
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I would try painting the space in between the beams white. Leaving the beams, hand rails etc as they are, will tie the room together, especially when the wood floors have been revealed.
   August 20, 2012 at 9:41PM
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