Mid-Century Modern(ization)

Redefining modern for a family-friendly home

Wood Trim: To Paint or Not to Paint?


Let’s talk a little about wood trim shall we?  There are die hard wood lovers out there, I know.  Wave a paint brush in their face and they will likely attack.  I love wood, I do, but I also tend to see its limitations (or maybe sometimes just my own limitations).  For example — brace yourselves, wood lovers — I have been known to paint a vintage wood piece.  I’ve painted wood for a multitude of reasons, but nine times out of ten it’s simply because it’s the only for me to salvage a piece.

Take for example, the vintage mid-century desk I bought last summer.  It had been beat up, knocked down, and stomped on.  Even though the wood veneer was high quality it was chipping and peeling.  A true restorer would be able to painstakingly remove and replace failing veneer, but alas, a true restorer I am not.  So I painted.  And you know what?  I love it!

But what about wood moldings?  The current trend is to paint it all white, but there are purists out there that prefer it au naturale.  The baseboards, ceiling beams, and window frames in our house have all been painted white (ok, a sallow, yellowed cousin of white).  This is an older photo of our living room taken before we got the new sectional, but the only one I have on hand with the curtains open showing off the window casings.

2013-1128 (10)

The only wood window frames we have in the entire house are in the great room.  All other windows are vinyl replacements set in slim, white-painted aluminum casings.  I should also mention that the 3 sliding glass doors are painted steel — not wood.

I’ve received some questions on the blog about my intention to repaint them bright white.  Personally, I love the look.  I think it’s crisp and provides a great backdrop for pops of color elsewhere.  Case in point:

white beams

So, why not strip them and let the wood shine?  You have to admit, wood left in or restored to its natural state IS gorgeous.

Wood trim 2

One downside of stripping our wood trim that we already have a lot of wood going on in this room.  As you can see below, on one side of the space we have the enormous wood paneled wall and on the other we have several large pieces of mid to dark-toned wood furniture.


Would stripping the beams and window frames be too much?  What if we just stripped the beams?


I actually love this look — the main issue I have with this is that our beams continue beyond the windows to the outside … where they are painted white.  Like this…see?


The whole idea of the glass wall is to create a seamless transition between inside and outside, therefore, having our beams change color at the point of the window would not only look pretty silly (in my opinion), but it would be going against the intent of the architect/builder’s design.  In addition, depending on the type of wood (and I have no idea what our beams are constructed of) it can be impractical to have natural wood exposed on the exterior. That said, I have seen a neighbor do a faux wood treatment to make this beams look stripped.  It looked great, but it sounds like a lot of work to me.

Wood trim

Or what if we painted the beams a contrasting color?  I’ve actually seen a lot of our neighbors sporting this look.  This black is a little dramatic for me, but I could maybe get on board with the moody grey.

Dark Beams

Dark beams 2

(Note, these are not our neighbors.  Also note, I would LOVE to add wood planks to our ceilings like in these homes some day!)

The fact is, we have a lot of options here and slapping a coat of white paint on them seems like the easiest and most non-committal solution at this point.  I mean, if we decide to strip them later what’s one more layer of paint, right?

As always, click photos for source. Cheerio!


Author: Olivia @ Mid-Century Modern(ization)

I am a wife, mother, and writer. I am also a crafting, furniture-refinishing, home-designing nut.

3 thoughts on “Wood Trim: To Paint or Not to Paint?

  1. I reeeally like the stripped beams. Would it be possible to strip & poly them for better indoor/outdoor durability? Or perhaps there’s some sort of wood deck finish you could use? I’m always a big fan of more wood in a house, but then again, my bedroom as a child was completely wood paneled, so I may be biased.

  2. Nice dilemma description! We inherited painted beams (mixture of brown and white) and ceilings (white…truthfully, they’ve yellowed over time). Stripping is a big job, and you have to decide if it’s really worth the effort. As you say, you already have some wood finishes, so it’s not like you NEED more wood. We are repainting our ceilings white, gradually, and have repainted all our beams dark gray –ours also extend outside so, for now, they are mismatched. We’ll tackle them when we repaint the exterior. We like the contrast, and I would say that scheme would look great in your place.

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