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When it comes to beautiful old trim, it's hard to cover it in paint. But sometimes it makes sense.

You bought an older house. You love it. It has character, it has charm. It has ornate baseboards, trim and moldings -- all original wood. But what if you aren't such a big fan of wood trim? What if you wanted to paint it another color? Would it look brighter and fresher with a few coats of white paint, or would you be ruining a piece of your home's history?

I read Nicole Balch's Making It Lovely blog and have been following her ever since she bought her cute little 1910 bungalow in Oak Park, Illinois. She recently posted about her decision to paint her untouched original wood trim white.

It was a controversial decision. Many commenters on her blog took one side or the other. Some felt that it was sacrilegious to touch the original wood, while others were quick to whip out a paint brush and go to town.

"Painted wood trim, no matter how much you agonize over the color and paint it perfectly, is just never as special as the original wood," commented one person who objected to her decision.

"it's your home in the end, so do whatever makes you happy," said another more supportive commenter.

I asked Balch to tell me a little more about how she made the decision. It was a difficult one for her. Her Craftsman bungalow was originally a 2-bedroom/1-bath house, and the attic was converted in the 1960s or 70s to add more bedrooms and another bath. When they moved in three years ago, she was in the mindset that the trim was going to remain as is. She recalls thinking "this house has been here since 1910 with its natural wood in tact. I'm not going to be the one to change it."

However, after years of decorating around the wood trim and trying her hardest to live with it, she gave in to her desire for white trim. "We're going to be here for a while, and I want to be happy with the way my home looks...I've always liked the look of white trim more than stained wood." Ultimately, she needed to make the right decorating decision for her since she is the one who has to look at it ever day. "This is where my family actually lives, not a historical time capsule," she wrote on her blog.

A few things influenced her decision. First, the trim wasn't in the best shape. There were signs of wear and tear that would be easier to hide and freshen up with a few coats of white paint. Also, the wood itself is fir and paint-grade quality. Perhaps she would have reconsidered had her trim been flawless mahogany?

paint trimNicole's dining room before and after. Photos: Nicole Balch

But when she first put that paintbrush to wood, was she sure she'd made the right decision? "I was 97% sure...but that 3% of doubt had my stomach in knots. What if I didn't like it? What if I was ruining my house or driving it's value down?"

I'm sure we would all have had the same doubts. After 15 hours, one coat of primer and two coats of paint, Balch can happily say that she made the right choice. She says she doesn't mind the nay-sayers: "[At first] it can be hard to move past worrying about what other people will think, especially the hypothetical future people that may live in your home after you. The best way to approach it is to think about what will make you happy. If you really love the look of painted trim and the natural wood isn't doing it for you, go ahead and pick up that paint brush."

After all, it's you who lives there.

Need more decorating help? Don't miss:
Great Walls Without Paint
How to Think Like An Interior Designer
Decorating Styles 101: Comfy and Casual


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