Secrets for updating unpainted wood trim and built-ins


Unpainted wood trim and built-ins can instantly date a home. Typically when a home is going on the real estate market, if it's not a home office or billiard room intentionally outfitted with high-end wood finishes then it's typically best to paint it. However, if you, your spouse, or client is reluctant to let go of your woodwork, we have some tips and tricks to help older built-ins and trim look intentionally stylish.

We recently staged a home for a client that told us we could do about anything BUT paint their library wood trim and built-ins. It was their favorite room in the home and heaven forbid the house didn't sell, they wouldn't be able to live without it. As a designer who LOVES white built-ins, our client gave me a challenge that required stepping out of my comfort zone. In the end, I LOVEd this challenge and we all loved the results.

So let's get into it. The library began as a space specific to the homeowners design sensibility and they loved the warmth the wood and red walls offered. For staging purposes, it wouldn't work. The area rug stole the focus and the furnishings hailed from three different design styles: mission, traditional, and contemporary.

By the time this room was handed over to us, it was a blank slate:

Step 1: Paint the wall color

Red is a great color for a library BUT it's also traditional and can be a tough color for selling a home. We selected a warm grey which complements the warmth of the wood trim and creates a backdrop that is more transitional rather than traditional.

Step 2: Add a quality furnishing that accentuates the wood

It's been said you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their friends. Furnishings are no exception. This beautiful burl wood console is the perfect wing man for the older built-ins. It helps upscale the older wood by complimenting it just enough to make it look higher end.

Step 3: Bring in the reinforcements

To elevate the woodwork even further, we brought in a high end gold framed mirror and flanked it with two gold table lamps. Adding a higher end mirror or art can set a tone for perceived value, which aids in increasing the perceived value of the woodwork.

Step 4: The Furnishings

Four chairs flanking a cocktail table or ottoman is trending and this was the perfect spot to create the cozy conversation piece. After all, the home already had several rooms of sofas so it was important to avoid redundancy. In this case, our space planning ran deeper. The leather ottoman is a concentric element, anchoring the design. The whole room flows around this piece, drawing the eyes in then allowing them to travel. It is a stately expression that exudes luxury and tradition, but accessorized with pieces that create a style more today. The ottoman is intentionally surrounded by transitional club chairs in a light neutral fabric. These chairs contrast the dark woodwork but remind visitors to relax in a more casual elegance.

Step 5: The Accessories

Accessorizing dark built-ins is no easy task. Dark accessories will simply disappear. We selected white accessories which pop off the dark backdrop but are critical in setting the tone for the room. They are contemporary pieces that keep the library more transitional. We added touches of silver and gold to add a bit of sparkle and ties back to the mirrors.

Step 5: Sprinkle in the contemporary

Contemporary pieces, like these gold framed mirrors, juxtaposes the ornate and helps the wood feel more updated. Think gold and grey don't mix? If they are both kept in the warm tones, they will compliment each other beautifully.

The final verdict: by carefully mixing modern with luxurious traditional pieces, there still is a place for dark trim in the 2016. We think this room can rival any of it's younger contemporaries. We're ready for the next design challenge.

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