Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Thank You This Old House

This changes everything! Well, perhaps that is an exaggeration but it does make some decisions much easier and the final product will look worlds better and more cohesive, in my humble opinion. We learned that the exposed wood trim in the living room and dining room was never intended to be left thus. It is was originally installed as a paint grate wood, always intended to be kept as such. I was planning on toiling over the wood (baseboards, picture rail, doors, mantle, built in) in an attempt to make it look uniform and polished. What a struggle that would have been! For the most part it is all fir with random pieces of other paint grade wood tossed in for good measure. I still wasn't convinced that it was always intended for a life of paint so I did some research. Imagine that. This is what I found and what I shall do:

1) What would be authentic to the era? (referring to a 1920s bungalow style home)
During this era trim made of fir was meant to be painted. Hardwood trim was meant to be stained and varnished.

The fir wood isn't particularly nice looking - it's coarse-grained and doesn't take stain very well, so would it have originally meant to be painted?
Yes - I tell my clients that fir was "born to be painted". It wasn't considered a fine finish wood. But since they didn't finger joint it that clue isn't there. During the last part of the 20th Century many many people stripped painted pine/fir trim, stained it and covered the stain with polyurethane. That is another clue you picked up on.

The trim seems to have a polyurethane finish on it, so it may not be authentic.
I had a client that was making himself just crazy because he stripped all the trim in his 1910 home and sanded, sanded, sanded...he just couldn't "get all the trim to match". When he showed me I found that the trim was actually a couple of different kinds of wood - gum, pine, fir, etc. I asked him to sit down before I delivered the bad news: The trim was "born to be painted". The good news (and yours is the same) is that since he stripped it and sanded it the painted finish would be beautiful - no alligatoring, no chipped paint in the final coat just a beautiful painted finish!

2) Would it be terrible to paint only the crown molding to match the ceiling colour? Even though the ceilings are about 9 feet high, the dark band of trim really accentuates the line between wall and ceiling.
Consider painting the ceiling above the crown molding the same color(s) as the walls in the room. If you paint all the molding in the rooms (probably some shade of white) and leave the ceiling white the moldings will disappear. Consider showing off the moldings by painting all the plaster areas on the walls and ceilings. The colors need not be dramatic, though they could be if that is how you are inclined.

3) Is this an all-or-nothing proposition? Could we paint some rooms (i.e. the living/dining room) for a more refined look and leave the more informal areas (kitchen/family room) as wood for a warmer more informal look? Or, is this just a bad idea?
I would vote for painting all the trim - and painting it all one single color. It is usually best to not use bright white - that color is too modern and too stark. It also reflects the most light possible and the nuances of the milled trim can be lost.

Most of the top paint manufacturers have standard white ranges that can be used to coordinate with your final colors for the plaster walls and ceilings. Don't forget the ceilings - they are a large part of the overall room decor and when you have moldings to set them off they can really show off the craftsmanship in your home.

Painting all the trim throughout the building will provide a consistent background, place the look in its proper historical perspective and allow for each room to be customized, decoration-wise in its own way according to your desires.


We received a quote for sheet rocking and texture in the bathroom/kitchen/MBed and tying the sheet rock into the old plaster where necessary. We also learned that the walls in the front of the house were skim coated (plaster covered over with a bumpy layer to hide cracks). Fortunately, it seems that when we remove the popcorn we can also take most of the ugly skim coat off. I'm not sure what we will find but ultimately it will be a much more polished look more authentic than what someone called the "Sesame Street Walls". If I were to guess, I think it refers to the fact that our walls look like a Muppets shaggy fir. It is just a guess.

Up Next -
Kitchen wall framing Monday & Tuesday (Rick Hoffman Services)
Electrical placement (K begins tomorrow)
Utility room sheet rock (E next week)
Remove wall heater in MBed (K next week)

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