I see a wood door and I want to paint it white
December 21, 2011 5:24 AM   Subscribe

Who's right, my realtor or my painter? Should I paint my trim white? Replace it? Details inside (and time is of the essence, the painter comes today)

We just bought a new house and the previous owners were not kind to it. It is a "fixer upper" as there is damage to almost everything. But we're starting right away having painters repair the walls and paint the rooms to non-hideous colors.

One problem is they have wood trim and doors. The trim has damage and so it needs to be refinished or painted or replaced. Before buying, our realtor suggested we paint the trim white (thus not needing to replace it) and leave the doors wood. She says that white trim with wood doors looks great and she sees it in many houses she sells.

We love white trim, we hate wood trim, so this really appeals to us.

But our painter is concerned that the door jamb will still be wood, and the windows will be wood but the trim around white. He thinks this will look terrible.

LONG term we wouldn't be opposed to replacing the doors with white doors, but replacing the windows is hugely expensive and we wouldn't want to do that until absolutely necessary...

Here are some pics of our doorways and windows now:

Doorway 1, Doorway 2, Doorways 3 and 4, Window.

Given that we prefer white trim we told the painter to paint it white, but are we making a huge mistake?
posted by bodgy to Home & Garden (30 answers total)
Why are you not painting the drim AND the doors?
posted by DarlingBri at 5:37 AM on December 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

I would just paint the doors and windows white, too. I bought a similar "fixer upper" and our windows, doors, and all trim were painted various (sometimes patterned!) colors in all rooms. All that stuff is white now and it really is much better.
posted by something something at 5:38 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oof, tricky. I mean, it's a matter of personal taste but... well it's hard to get a sense of the wood quality from these pictures but I PERSONALLY would absolutely not paint over it. That's something that's really hard to undo.

BUT, you hate it, so, that's most important. (I also personally cannot imagine why anyone would replace wood doors with "white doors," given the quality of doors that are available now. Have you gone door-shopping recently? Doors are total garbage. It's almost impossible to find solid, noise-blocking doors at a decent price. These look sturdy and that's a blessing.)

I don't find white trim with wood doors off-putting at all. (It'd be nicer if you stained the doors darker though.)

Also I would be careful with shininess of paint here.

Most importantly, that godawful YELLOW wall paint has GOT TO GO. There's nothing worse than the trend in yellow-variant wall colors; it always just ends up looking dirty. Don't let them paint your house anything with any yellow in it! :)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:40 AM on December 21, 2011

When is your house from? Is there any historic value to the trim and its finish? If not, paint it all (including, uh, the doors and the jambs.)

Paint the windows too.
posted by purpleclover at 5:42 AM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I am not a fan of wood trim, I find it generally looks more 80s-90s fab than "classic". I agree with most of the posters above, paint ALL the wood. Trim, doors, jams, window frames (though frames are annoying, you have a painter so its not your issue!). I like an oil paint where trim will get a lot of wear as it dries without the "sticky" that latex can leave while it cures. And since you didn't ask, my favourite trim whites are Benjamin Moore Oxford White with cool, crisp house colours or Cloud White with warmer colours. I also like to pick ONE trim paint colour for the whole house for easy future touch ups. Best of luck!!
posted by saradarlin at 5:48 AM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

those doors are, to me, too light to look good with white trim. Paint the doors white, as well. It'll brighten up the place.
posted by xingcat at 5:48 AM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Painters gonna paint.

Take the recommendation of a painter whether or not to paint with a grain of salt.

Me, myself, I would not paint those doors or that trim. I would patch and paint the walls and do some cool stuff with wainscoting and wallpaper and really make the spaces sing with vibrance and life because honestly white walls and trim make me barf -- they have no personality at all and make a house look like some generic POS put up by a builder who wants the least offensive thing ever and hence makes something as devoid of personality as a hank of dryer lint.

Also, get a trim carpenter to fix things up. NOT A PAINTER. I don't hate on painters, but if the final goal is "cover it up!" the quality of work generally is pretty low.

Get some PERSONALITY going on in your new space!
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:53 AM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Are you looking to sell or live in it? At first I thought you were reselling in which case I was going to say leave the doors and trim exactly as they are - if the new owners want it white they can paint, if they don't they can't unpaint it. But maybe you bought the house to live in... in which case, do whatever the hell you like with it, its your house. I personally think it would look awful, tacky and cheap but its not my house and I don't have to live there.
posted by missmagenta at 5:56 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's nothing wrong with white trim and brown doors. In fact, white trim would be a good decision in my opinion. You can paint the doors after if you don't like the look. I wouldn't have white walls, but I'd go neutral. Much easier and more flexible to give personality to your home through everything other than your walls.

And make sure anyone that suggest wallpaper is available to help you take it down when you're tired of it. Or you can avoid wallpaper at all cost and be much happier.
posted by justgary at 6:00 AM on December 21, 2011

But our painter is concerned that the door jamb will still be wood, and the windows will be wood but the trim around white. He thinks this will look terrible.

I agree with the painter. That wood is not dark enough to look okay with white trim.
posted by crankylex at 6:03 AM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Leave the doors and windows unpainted, and paint the trim. In the UK we pretty much always have white-painted trim, and nobody paints solid-wood doors white, for fear that they might be mistaken for those horrible moulded hollow cardboard door-things.

The colour of your walls will make the biggest difference. Paint the walls white, or off-white, and the trim won't be noticeable at all.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:13 AM on December 21, 2011

And to counterpoint what cranklex said, my upstairs hallway doors are all a very light pine, and all the trim is white. But with white-painted walls it looks fine.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:14 AM on December 21, 2011

My personal taste is that white trim looks fine with stained wood doors. I'm not a fan of stained wood trim or windows, but that's purely a taste question. I *would* make the windows match the trim, whatever you do.

I personally don't agree that the doors are too light.

As has been pointed out, you could always go back and paint the doors if you just don't like what you see after it's done.

I would also agree that painters are going to paint everything in sight if you let them.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:16 AM on December 21, 2011

I think wood trim looks best for all the "public" areas of the house (main floor foyer, living room, dining room, bannister and the upstairs hallway. After that, all bets are off...paint the kitchen, basement and bedroom trim, and the insides of the bedroom doors whatever you like.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:17 AM on December 21, 2011

Paint the trim and wood around the windows white, the jamb white, and the doors take off and stain.

Gunstock is a nice stain color for wood.

But pretty standard to just paint all the trim areas white, including the windows. But also, you might want to leave the windows wood and stain them, as well.

The painter is going to take you to the cleaners if he's suggesting to replace all the trim.

OK, so final decision; paint trim white. Decide later on stain or paint for the doors and windows. They are not a big job and you can do them yourself later after everything else is done, and you won't have to scrape/sand to change them.
posted by rich at 6:18 AM on December 21, 2011

I lived with white trim/wood windows (not the doors, the old owner removed all the doors in the first floor of our house) for years before painting them. Surprisingly unobtrusive.

Paint the trim white. Let the doors be. There's always time to spend more money to paint those too, if you find out that you hate it.
posted by lydhre at 6:22 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree that you should not paint only the trim. If you paint the trim, do the frames and the doors. That said, I would not paint the trim, window frames or doors but that's because I prefer the look of wood to white trim, frames and doors.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:23 AM on December 21, 2011

She says that white trim with wood doors looks great and she sees it in many houses she sells.

I'd put this one right up there with the stereo salesman who just happens to have exact same equipment you're looking at in his house and it sounds fantastic. Realtors just want to make the sale.

I say, leave the trim as-is, move in, and then make a more informed, long-term decision.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:03 AM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Our house (purchased about 18months ago) is from 1923 and has a mishmash of wood and painted trim. We kept the wood trim wood because everyone is always all "OMG you can't go back, you better be sure you want it painted!"

I say, leave the trim as-is, move in, and then make a more informed, long-term decision.

Frankly, I wish we had painted all the trim when we painted everything else. I hate the wood trim now but can't be bothered to tackle that project.

At the same time, most of our doors were already painted, which I think is a shame. The one door that isn't (the door to our downstairs bathroom) is a beautiful dark stained wood and I love it.
posted by misskaz at 7:05 AM on December 21, 2011

I hate wood trim, too, but yours doesn't look too bad. I'd either leave it and have it all restained if it's junkier-looking in real life, or paint everything -- all trim, all baseboards, all doors (we have painted wood doors). IMO, it has to match -- I think natural wood doors with white trim would look super tacky. Congrats on the new house -- it's going to be great!
posted by theredpen at 7:18 AM on December 21, 2011

I live in a 1913 Queen Anne house, and all our baseboards, doors, door surrounds, and windows are painted white, with strong colors for the wall colors.

It doesn't look like your house is anywhere near as old as mine, but I do think it's an "everything or nothing" situation. I can't quite imagine white baseboards and wood door surrounds and doors. It would look half finished to me (but my experience with newer homes is not extensive.)

One thing is for sure: if you paint it, and you hate it, it's much, much harder to go back.
posted by anastasiav at 7:44 AM on December 21, 2011

le morte de bea arthur In the UK we pretty much always have white-painted trim, and nobody paints solid-wood doors white.

Au contraire. In Victorian and earlier houses solid wood doors were nearly always painted - unless they were made of an expensive hardwood such as oak or walnut. To me, stripped doors (especially pine) bring back memories of the 80s stripping craze where a lot of wood that should never have been stripped was.

That said, painting is hard to reverse. I'd paint them as I don't particularly like that colour of wood and they don't appear to be very expensive doors. But it really is a matter of taste.
posted by rhymer at 7:56 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

rhymer: point taken, although I was really meant that I've never known anyone to paint a modern, previously-unpainted wooden door. I suppose they might if they were trying to be restore a very old house. The poster's doors look to be pretty modern, and seem to have been stained/varnished already.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:09 AM on December 21, 2011

Former house painter here. Paint the trim and the windows. Paint the door jamb. You can leave the doors alone if you like the look, or you can paint the doors later.

Here is a Google image search with some samples for you to peruse.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:45 AM on December 21, 2011

Never paint over real wood or brick. I'd be STOKED to find real wood trim and doors, even in crappy condition.
posted by coolguymichael at 8:56 AM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bah, you hate wood trim, paint it. We painted some of the trim in our house because it looked better with the wall color we wanted. But we decided to just stain the doors, knowing that painting doors isn't too difficult if we wanted to do it later. It looks perfectly fine to us. And on top of that, your concern with the windows? Our windows mostly have wood trim but are white windows, so we have the reverse and honestly I didn't even notice until you asked this question and I thought to look over at them, it looks perfectly fine. If you liked the wood trim, but were bummed it was beat up, then I would say try to fix it before painting, but you don't like wood trim! This is your house, it will sell fine later with painted trim, and will make you happy now.
posted by katers890 at 9:11 AM on December 21, 2011

Not to confuse the matter even more, but I like the look of unifying the wall and trim color. What color will the walls be? White trim will outline and highlight unpainted areas.
posted by ljesse at 9:42 AM on December 21, 2011

I can't see your pics, but our house (1930s) largely has white trim and dark wooden doors. It looks great. I'm in the midst of taking some of the doors that were painted and refinishing them. Its a lot of work and I would like to curse whoever painted them.

We got replacement (wood interior) windows a few years back and we stained them to match the doors and they are surrounded by white trim. It looks fine and we get lots of complements on them.
posted by buttercup at 11:23 AM on December 21, 2011

I think white trim and wood doors look just fine. The woodwork is relatively recent, and doesn't have the patina and depth that makes old woodwork appealing to me. It sounds like you're committed to painting the trim. Painting the doors later, if you don't like the wood, is easy. Painters and realtors don't necessarily have good decorating skills. Realtors and painters do see lots of other houses, but it's okay to do things the way you like them, especially with things like paint, which is a pretty easy thing to change.
posted by theora55 at 3:59 PM on December 21, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you all! the trim is now white and looks great!
posted by bodgy at 4:38 PM on December 21, 2011

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