Is it a good idea to paint the original woodwork of an old house?

Q: A friend recently came over for dinner with her new boyfriend, a real estate agent, who pointed out that if we ever want to sell our Victorian-style house, we should plan to paint all the interior woodwork. We were surprised as we had always considered it in its original condition as part of the charm of the house and a potential selling point. Who is right and why?

A: “They don’t make them like they used to!” certainly applies to houses built in the latter part of the 19th century. Many of these homes had an abundance of intricate woodwork in natural tones that make purists pale in color, but others are looking for their brushes. Today, the debate over whether to paint or not to paint is hotly debated on both sides, but determining a winner is tricky because the subject matter is so subjective. Here’s how to figure out what’s right for you, now and in the future.

Unpainted is historically correct.

While the carpentry outside Victorian homes were generally painted, the interior trim most often given a clear coat to showcase the natural wood. Depending on when the house was built, the original finish may have been shellac or varnish; the tasks we today were still to be developed. If historical accuracy is your priority, stain trumps paint for interior trim.

The great debate on the advisability of painting old and original woodwork

Unpainted joinery may not shatter.

In a detached Victorian-style home with natural light streaming through many large windows, the original woodwork details are likely to stand out beautifully. Bad luck in a townhouse that receives little natural light! There, the black-tinted trim can look muddy and make the room feel dark and closed. Painting the trim in a light shade would give the interior a bigger, brighter, and more airy vibe. Plus, light-colored trim can serve as a backdrop, allowing decorative elements to stand out, while dark, ornate woodwork can compete with furniture and art for attention.

Consider the ambiance of the rest of the house.

If you’re planning a renovation, maybe even hoping to knock down some walls to bring a more open plan to your home, unpainted joinery can end up looking outdated. For a cohesive aesthetic appeal, designers may recommend a fresh coat of light-colored paint.

The great debate on the advisability of painting old and original woodwork

The white trim is in place right now.

The current trend is the white painted trim. So if you put your home on the market tomorrow, real estate professionals might encourage you to paint the woodwork white today to attract potential buyers and possibly increase the sale price. However, grand-millennium style– an appreciation for the decorative design of yesteryear, a backlash against the sleek Mid-Century Modern style that has been around for some time – is gaining momentum. Fashion is fickle, so when preparing to sell your home, research local home sales before deciding whether or not to paint old woodwork.

Designers encourage mixing.

Purists implore, “Don’t paint!” Real estate agents coax, “Consider a coat.” Designers, however, view each home – in fact, each room – as unique and advise accordingly. Often better quality wood was used on the first floor of an older house, so the original unpainted trim, for example, in the foyer and dining room can have real beauty and value. Upstairs, where lesser-grade wood may have been used, a white or pale paint may be preferable, especially if it refreshes small bedrooms and bathrooms. And whether it’s upstairs or downstairs, a mix of paint and stain in the same room can be spectacular.

The great debate on the advisability of painting old and original woodwork

Good painting technique is the key.

Most novice DIY enthusiasts can handle painting interior walls with good results, but painting trim is more difficult. Choose an oil paint, thicker than latex, to get into every nook and cranny; a semi-gloss finish will be reflective while hiding imperfections. You will need a steady hand and a good brush technique to ensure that all the intricate details will be visible at the end.

The paint is not permanent, but …

Removing paint, especially many coats, from elaborate woodwork can be difficult and time consuming. Although there are various methods and products for doing this, many professionals rely on To take off to ban up to 30 coats of oil paint in a single application.

The point of view of an owner.

When we purchased our 1893 brownstone, its abundance of intricate woodwork was crisp white. It wasn’t until my husband and I spent time with neighbors that we learned how the owner before the people who entrusted us with the house had spent years restoring the trim to its original condition. Granted, we occasionally suffer from craving for wood when we visit people in our historic district who still have unpainted gingerbread, but we stuck to white, which highlights every crevice and bend in the room. better. Later when we painted the bathrooms, kitchen and hallways, we went with historical colors, keeping pale tones for garnish. This just might be our home forever, and we live by a “we love it!” »Ethos. If we ever put our house up for sale, we probably won’t do much to make it more marketable. New owners will have to consider themselves lucky that we didn’t take our original carpentry (and pewter ceilings and soapstone fireplaces) with us.

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Margarita B. Bittner

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