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taryn_branski

How to update dark wood trim without paint

2 years ago

Hey there! My husband and I recently purchased his parents lake house. We want to do some updating but we have very dark wood trim and doors in the main area of the house (the remodeled master suite has a newer shade of wood trim). While we want to make some changes, we are nervous about painting the old wood. I’m at a loss for ideas and inspiration so any help would be greatly appreciated!

Comments (67)

  • PRO
    2 years ago

    partim, what happened to her??

  • 2 years ago

    When you hear the term 'lake house,' you think: easy, breezy, carefree, light and lively. None of which applies to the house you are showing us. it's crying out for attention and update. (personally, I would vote for just about all of Beth's suggestions.) There are so many possibilities (and potential) and SO MUCH room for improvement, I hope you'll keep us posted as you tackle changes!

  • 2 years ago

    I don't know what happened to her.

  • 2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    Are we talking 'bigger than' door frames??

    Possible re-design with new exit to yard? for example, that room's window frames are gone. Are there any typical changes you'll make?

    Idk about barn doors, but could 2 doors become 1 large barn door? Front door on the inside - would you want to paint it a liked color?

  • 2 years ago

    Cabinet SWilliams “Lakeshore” and painted doors:

    Mid Century Modern @ Lake Hawkins · More Info


  • 2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    Black door/windows seem popular. This ceiling is barnwood... does your house have any popular reclaimed?

    "Aluminum clad black on the outside/ wood inside, painted black. Sierra Pacific."


    Martis Camp Modern Farmhouse · More Info


  • 2 years ago

    Seems like a lot of work/money for a home one is to just hang and relax in what a few times a year???? Not worth the time or money. Embrace the place and ENJOY it!!

  • 2 years ago

    @arcy_gw - If the OP liked it the way it was, I doubt there would be a Houzz post about it. Clearly,they’re looking to lighten and brighten the house. A lake house makes me think of whites and soft blues and greens. Perhaps if it was a cabin in the woods, the browns would make more sense. But our opinion of why they want a change isn’t important. If it’s a question on Houzz, they’re looking for a change.

  • PRO
    2 years ago

    If doors and trim don't look good, they don't look good, no matter the age, species, etc. Would definitely paint both in this house. Neither the doors nor the trim do anything to enhance your house.

  • 2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    Could a few windows be painted - in kitchen looks good to me. Does yours have just 1 set of windows?

    What about entry flooring looking less pale/light? A few dark doors, and there's too much contrast and it draws even more attention.


    Rustic Family Room · More Info


  • 2 years ago

    It's hard to discuss, pro or not a pro, without more knowledge of the house, and your needs. Sometimes assessing sun exposure helps - and money can be spent on adding couple new windows, possibly making a huge difference in the appearance of dark stained wood.

  • 2 years ago

    Thanks to everyone for all of the amazing suggestions. We are living in the home full time so we want to make these updates as we go. My husband wants to try to keep the wood as much as possible but I feel like we need to paint some of them.

    The kitchen counters are quartz with a nice light gray mixed in which is what I was thinking for the kitchen cabinets.

    Thank you all sooooo much!!

  • 2 years ago

    The furniture is what my in-laws had in the home. We will be updating with a light colored sofa and chairs. I also have a rug I’ll be using as the focal point as it’s got a beautiful mix of beige, gray, and blues. I would love to find a way to paint some of the trim and keep the other. The one issue we have is that the main parts of the house have the older dark trim and the kitchen and master suite side, which have been renovated and added on to have a newer, golden wood look. I want to find a way to make it all look like it was done at the same time or at the very least, look put together once all is said and done.

  • 2 years ago

    Congrats on the new home. Beautiful wood. Would make all the other updates you want first and then if the wood seems too dark, then you might consider painting the FRAMES but not the doors.

  • 2 years ago

    if you want to keep wood, you could replace the older and stain new to match the newer trim.

  • 2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    I was trying to say what suezbell sorta said: ? impactful changes -which you asked about -could "update dark" by indirect means, and not necessarily expected.

  • 2 years ago

    I somehow missed your post saying: "main rooms have dark trim - kitchen/master reno has golden stain."

    So are there direct view, by large hall or such where the 2 parts meet?

    Bedroom furniture for example have dark stain, ones you like and keep?

  • 2 years ago

    I'm late to this conversation, but no one has mentioned other ways to modify the darker wood trim and doors. Ages ago, before internet, I read an article, with color photos, where some one applied a bleach solution or white wash stain to old paneling. The result looked like something you'd find in an old mission or seaside fisherman's cottage.

    As for the kitchen, painting the cabinets is a big job that can end up looking sloppy. That's what our current house had. 3 layers of white paint in the kitchen which were chipping off. If you want to change the cabinet color, you're better off paying for a refacing: new doors/drawer fronts and professionally refinished boxes.

    I think your plan of keeping the kitchen counters and picking colors from it is excellent. Perhaps you can do the kitchen first, then take new photos. I have found photos really help me focus on how one room relates to another. Our brain filters what our eyes see, making it hard to look at anything objectively.

  • 2 years ago

    Changing the “too dark trim” to new trim that matches the ones you like sounds like the easiest idea.

  • 2 years ago

    I agree with everdez.  You should determine how you plan to use the property (primary resident, rental, vacation only).   That usually helps you determine how to redecorate.  Determine your budget for the project.  Do you like either of the wood finished in the house?  Compare the cost of painting the cabinets vs. replacing them.  Painting is usually the most economical way to change a space.  Look through a few magazines for looks you like and go from there.  If you and/or your mate are DIYers that will help with the cost.  I just had my kitchen cabinets painted from a dark brown to white uppers and blue lowers, they turned out great (used a pro painter).  Remove everything you do not want to keep, that will help you really see the space.  I will stay in touch as you make your changes.

  • 2 years ago

    Paint the trim white all day long. No debate.


  • 2 years ago

    Proceed slowly and intentionally. Dont lose the wood, just to make it look like a million whitewashed trendy pics. More pics needed, but, absolutely eliminate clutter and wash every window to sparkling. If it looked too dark or mismatched even when empty, figure out why--exposure, lighting, window and solar tube options, old paint. What bothers you most? Cabins that blend with nature inside and out and don't duplicate urban living can be charming. Define your goal and evaluate what is most easily changed to most difficult. Even painting that dark loft white might brighten the whole area. What is on other walls? Can you strike a perfect balance, as many have suggested? Or will only 100% light/bright please you? If so, plan to redo the tile floors, too, and furnish with light, bright, and clean throughout. Hope you share progress/ before/afters.

  • 2 years ago

    One way to still have the wood grain is to "white wash". Very thin white paint, or a little white paint mixed with a clear coat. But personally I am not against painting wood white (or slightly off-white). Another thing - in one photo there was ceramic tile - that is gross - it does not go with a nice old house, is hard on your legs and dishes 100% break if dropped where on wood or linoleum there is more than 50% chance dishes/glasses will not break. No reason in the world whatsoever to have ceramic tile anywhere in a home.

  • 2 years ago

    I would start by getting rid of the dark furniture and rugs. Eliminate the brown in furniture and movable pieces. Reface, paint or replace the kitchen cabinets. If the doors are solid wood, I would do other changes before painting them. I would not paint the window trim. Try lightening the space with furniture, wall paint and art work.

  • PRO
    2 years ago

    Paint the trim.




  • 2 years ago

    Wow - This is a great house - great space in the great room and a beautiful view. Many good comments today. Clear out the old brown sofa and 2 lounge chairs. Keep the blue wing chair and the rug - you already have the beginning of a coordinated color scheme. Go with brighter colors - but probably not light colors for furniture as kids will be lounging with bathing suits, etc. Perhaps a darker blue sofa with bright accent pillows and throws. Some brighter art - nothing pricey - you may find some charming pieces at flea markets and sidewalk art shows. Improve the lighting - table lamps, floor lamps, ceiling fixtures. I am guessing there is a fireplace mantel which we did not see - place some bright pottery and a small painting there. Live with this for a while and then decide whether to paint the wood trim and doors. Once you start, though, you can't stop - you would have to do it all . . . .

  • 2 years ago

    If you are going to paint out any of the wood, try a smaller space first. Your dining room is the perfect place to start as it's in an alcove. Paint it all a bright white. Wash the windows . Replace the light fixture with something a little more contemporary, which will add more light. The bedrooms can also be painted out.

  • 2 years ago

    Just happened across a photo on another website - dark wood trim, but walls painted a light blue - a color on the walls would soften the light/dark contrast you have now with the dark wood and the off-white walls - maybe try this on one wall, or in the dining area, or one of the bedrooms . . . ? This house also had much lighter, more modern furniture . . .

  • 2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    Another point you posted: "we want to make these updates as we go. My husband wants to try to keep the wood as much as possible but I feel like we need to paint some of them."

    As you analyze function- how well it's going, gather inspiration photos, look into options, browse around... it happens.

  • PRO
    2 years ago

    Whitewashing wood.


  • 2 years ago

    I definitely agree. Paint it all a bright white. You’ll be amazed at the difference.

  • 2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    Hi, with all the options for the wood trim, I would like to suggest something that I have experienced in an older home with dark wood trim. In many homes built in the 1920's and 1930's, the kitchen woodwork is painted white. It looks cleaner, brightens the kitchen for the wonderful cooking you will do there, and is easy to wipe down. The remainder of the house is usually stained wood trim. Painting wood trim should not be taken lightly. When you paint it, every little imperfection, every piece that has a seam on it will show. You will need to go around the room and fill all these holes and grooves, or your light paint will look tacky. Before jumping in with both feet, I suggest doing the kitchen, as that is historically accurate, and decide if you want to go to the effort involved in making that painted wood look right in the rest of the house just to get a bit more light. I would use white or off/white blinds to counter the dark trim, if you feel the windows need something. Also, choose a paint for the walls that will enhance the wood, not fight with it. I would suggest Sherwin Williams "Anew Grey" or their "Popular Grey." These are neutrals that will work with whatever else you put in the room and are quite light. Another point, you are probably the one that spends more time in the kitchen. Spouse can be enjoying the original trim elsewhere in the house.

  • 2 years ago

    Lovely and very formal home you have. I like the wood framing as it sits. If you truly dislike the dark stain/patina pick a frame that is not too visible in a room you plan on putting your 'stamp' of ownership in. Strip the frame and do it first as it is a mess to use available strippers next to new paint. Should you go with painting you may find the layering may show through without serious prep. Wash with TSP 3 or 4 times. When you determine it is clean then do a light sanding for the first coat to adhere. Very light sanding after that coat dries and between coats of paint. You'll get a superb finish that way. We did that on walls and built in cabinets in a previous house. It was a lot of work and it looked like a poured or baked finish. Once you get to bare wood color it may be light enough and only need lacquer or wax coats. If a window or exterior door gets this treatment the last coat must be a water seal type. Bright white will pickup finger/hand prints, kid(s) barreling through, pets hair and dust among other markings. You could have a daily task to keep them clean.

  • 2 years ago

    If the wood doors, windows and trim are in good condition, maybe a good low-gloss clear finish or a rub of wax will be all you need. Clean all surfaces and let them dry thoroughly before adding wax or a clear finish product.

  • 2 years ago

    Definitely paint the trim and the doors. it wll make a HUGE difference. our lake house looked almost exactly like yours. I had dark trim and doors painted white - totally changed and brightened the whole interior.

  • 2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    It might be an easier 'decorate' with light frames, but Idk... question is what to do after it's white -- more options? Do you have a direction yet?

  • 2 years ago

    We had a house with a 'variety' of wood finishes, new and old, even with trying to match! We now have all white and it looks much more cohesive and clean. We kept our wood kitchen, so I still have my wood, at least somewhere, lol!

  • 2 years ago

    It doesn't hurt to remember that the ceiling is high, and beams are white. Is that a 'relief' from some dark stain...

  • 2 years ago

    I hate white trim outside it gets so dirty looking but inside it's nice but I also like the dark trim cuz it draws your eye out the window

  • 2 years ago

    For cabinet doors you could remove just the doors and what the upper ones and possible bottom ones if you want a white or something you can pick out for a door I'm talking about replacement cabinet doors but not the whole cabinet

  • 2 years ago

    And dark wood is in again especially black doors

  • 2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    Paint the walls the same color as the beams in eggshell finish (slight light reflection). Paint the interior of the front door the same white in semi-gloss. (Ignore ceiling color and trim in this photo).



  • 2 years ago

    I think the trim needs to be painted the same white.

  • 2 years ago

    It depends how much of the indoor/outdoor feeling you want to keep. Having wood trim connects to the outdoors. However, you could paint kitchen uppers a creamy white and leave the lowers in wood. This would give you a much lighter feeling in the entire space.


    The Charles House · More Info




    You can easily modernize the lake house, not by painting the trim, but by choices in furniture, rug, lighting, and art choices. Do that first, along with upper kitchen cabinet painting, and see how it looks and feels.






    The Great White Barn · More Info




    Houzz article about paints that go with wood trim:


    https://www.houzz.com/magazine/11-terrific-paint-color-matches-for-wood-details-stsetivw-vs~9025200


    Replace carpeting on steps for something more modern if you even need a runner.



  • 2 years ago

    I think the dark trim stops the eye from looking into the distance and makes it look busy and cluttered even when it isn't. I would hate to paint wood that is beautiful with a great grain--seems sacrilegious. However, that very dark trim is not pretty wood and deserves to be painted. I never regretted painting mine. That said, don't believe the people/ads that tell you it's easy and can do with one coat. You need to prime and use at least 2 coats of a very good quality paint--if you skimp, you will end up not satisfied or putting on more coats. Good luck!


  • 2 years ago

    Your window panes appear to have divided lights. I'm not sure if you are thinking of hiring a painter, or doing the painting. Either way, the painter is going to charge to do all those divided lights, or you are going to be doing painstaking work yourself. White is very fashionable now, but once you paint woodwork white, it will never go back to being stained wood. To prep, you need to sand lightly every single surface, then primer to keep the color from bleeding, and then you will need to fill every little hole and crevice that you didn't know were there until you put white on it, and how they look bad. Then you can apply the paint. So, I'm thinking that the white has been around for about 20-25 years now. Fashion will be swinging back to the darker colors again, as it has already shown up in cabinetry. The woodwork will have to be replaced if you change your mind and want stained wood in a few years. I agree with the comments about using lighter colors in your furnishing and even artwork on the walls.

  • 2 years ago

    We bought a home with no windows in the great room. And only table lights. The best investment we made was hiring an electrician to come install recessed LED lights. Then we painted the walls white. It made a huge difference.painting the woodwork in VERY Labor-intensive and expensive.

  • 2 years ago

    Really good information provided. Thank you.

  • PRO
    2 years ago

    I saw an interesting project where a designer used an iridescent glaze over a dark trim and doors. It was gorgeous. The object was to lighten it up, not cover it up. Though time consuming, it was definitely worthwhile and looked very rich. Walls were a similar hue.

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