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Design Dilemma
Design Dilemma

Painting a wooden ceiling?

krizmanicNovember 8, 2012
Just purchased a 1927 tudor and it is our dream home after years of looking, moving, searching. I am so ready to settle in with our 3 little boys and just grow some roots. Space has always been a big issue, both physical space and a "feeling" of space.
I know it is a travesty to cover up or erase period details so I am having a hard time with this. I really love this old house and don't want to do it a disservice. The living room has a vaulted wood ceiling, stained very dark, and original. My first thought was to lighten the stain, or even strip it then do a wash and go for the Swedish look. But it is very cost prohibitive. Soo...second thought was to just paint the ceiling but not the beams. Is this a bad idea?
We are not moved in yet, these are pictures during our inspection with previous owners items.
The floors are a medium oak. Our style is rustic with a little sparkle. Sofa is layered whites/creams, fireplace chairs are belgian linen, I have a 12 light antler chandelier being made, lots of layered creams, oatmeal, some grey, burnished gold here and there, some old silver, a vintage Navajo rug to hang over the fireplace. (we are taking the clock down).
I would like to keep the walls a nice cream. Thinking RL Pale Cream, or maybe since it has good light from the S, W and North I should go on the cooler side with something like a BM French Canvas or even Celery Salt? I like lighter straw tones, but I am afraid with all that light it would really warm up too much? Thoughts? And, then what do I paint the ceiling? Just a nice subtle cream, a little lighter than the walls? The ceiling remains pretty dark in the day. Or is there a trick like using a perle somehow up there? Will the dark beams stick out too much, in a bad way? Any advice is appreciated. Thanks in advance. Any ideas for anything else you see is welcome. These bay windows are going to be tricky for me. Thanks again.
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I would get the walls painted first before touching the ceiling. In my opinion it is very cool architecture and detailing. Is there anyway you can hang a chandelier in the middle of your room? Looks like you have the height with the vaulting ceilings. I love RL paint so you are in the right direction with wall coloring. Congrats on the new house and good luck! Matt

For more design inspiration visit my blog: http://mummeinteriors.wordpress.com
4 Likes    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 8:09PM
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I like the dark ceilings because it's adds architecture and character. I think dark ceilings need light walls. But, it really depends on your furniture choices and what YOU like because this room can look super either direction. I think the mantel needs to be beefier for the stone. Anyway, I think a professional designer in-home would be invaluable for you. You'll feel better and chances are you won't have regrets in your decisions with a pro. Translation..this is a great house and can be perfect!
2 Likes    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 8:43PM
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I am thinking you might benefit from a professional in lighting. They might be able to install lighting to lighten the look of the dark ceilings along with accentuating them as well. I believe lights are as important as paint in a room such as this beautiful one.
6 Likes    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 9:02PM
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I really can't tell from your picture if the beams are or are not a beautiful architectural details. If they are, then paint the space between them so they stand out. If not, I would consider painting the entire thing. The ceiling seems as if it's absorbing a lot of light. If you decide to paint, I would do the ceiling or the parts of it a slightly lighter shade than the walls. As someone else said, once the walls are painted you will have a better idea.
2 Likes    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 9:15PM
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I think the pale cream will look so much better than the cold bright white on the walls. I also like Antique Bone - less yellow. What color looks the best with the stone is the key. Look at grays, too. Use a matte finish, which is washable and doesn't have a sheen to reflect light therefore the color is truer. I think you should paint the walls first.

I doubt that the ceiling was that color orginally. You can get opaque or semi-solid stain and go a lot lighter. Even though you don't see wood grain, think about doing a two tone scheme like this:
Family Room · More Info
If not, don't go too light and match the mantle to the ceiling.

Also, get the stone fireplace cleaned, I can see smoke stains in the photo and I bet it will look even better after it is cleaned.

It is such a lovely room. Good luck!
2 Likes    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 9:57PM
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Staged for Perfection
If you decide to paint the ceiling, paint the beams too. It breaks up the room to have beams in a different color. (Nevermind bad Feng Shui if you are into that)
1 Like    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 10:01PM
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This is just so beautiful and unique. Try the chandilier and the lighting, although I hate recessed lighting for something like this. Rustic sconces could look nice too.

Maybe so discreet uplighting. The windows are big and bring a lot of light in, and pale walls, like a very pale yellow, cream or parchment, will help bounce the light around. Light furniture with washable slipcovers plus some mirrored, glass and glossy surfaces, or maybe some chunky mercury glass on the mantel, and a nice firescreen with a little shine, will help.

Is that clock built into the fireplace? If not, then I would consider a Tri or Quarterfoil mirror for a touch of old/new.
1 Like    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 10:15PM
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By the way, I bet you can do sort of a decorative paint washing technique that will lighten the ceiling, but not leave it looking flat. Paint the ceiling, dry brush or glaze over it.
1 Like    Bookmark   November 8, 2012 at 10:19PM
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Thanks for the fantastic feedback.
Matt, yes I am having 2 boxes put in for overhead lighting in case I want to have 2 fixtures later to delineate the space, and for now I can swag the 36" antler chandy over towards the center with an antique block and fall I picked up years ago. Ugh, you (and the others) are right, I should just paint the wall first and stand back. It is just SO dark, it literally sucks the light out. You can not even see corners or grooves between the planks it is so dark. I love the fairytale feel if this house, it is full of charm so I definitely don't want to mess it up.

Darzy, I agree re: mantle. I thought about painting it a color that just blends into the stone so that it visually disappears? I really don't want a large mantle or have use for it, I rather like the vertical/narrow feeling of the room and thought a larger mantle might detract from that? Thoughts?

eewalker: funny enough, my husband is a lighting designer (although for concerts/theatre) and my father is an electrician! But you know what they say about the cobblers kids right? no shoes! You are so right though, lighting would make a huge difference. I am going to rework the budget and see what I can come up with in addition to the 2 overhead boxes we plan to put in. Some sconces with uplight might be good.

Houseaon: good to know I am on the right track with a cooler cream.. understood about matching to the fireplace and I will pay attention to that, thanks. It is probably Indiana limestone. Matte finish, check. Yes, cleaning! check! The beams are not anything special other than being old, they are not detailed. Hand hewn, but not carved. My budget does not allow striping the wood, so it's either leave it, or paint it. I love the ceiling you posted, so beautiful.

Victorianbungalow: Yes, I think I am on the same page as you: layered creams, naturals, lots of sparkle from hand cut mirrors, and a large chandelier. I think I may add a few more contemporary items just for the "gloss", like a white parsons table. Thank you for the suggestions. Yes, that is a clock on the fireplace. I find it outdated and it doesn't work. I was hoping to cover it with a vintage Navajo rug. Mistake? Should I fix it?

Thank you all so much!
    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 10:39AM
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Antler Chandy PERFECT for the look you are going for!
1 Like    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 10:48AM
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Matt, I am having them place an antique painted bronze songbird on one of the antlers : ) I like a little whimsy if it is nature based and not over the top. Glad you approve of the fixture choice. yay!
1 Like    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 10:58AM
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Whimsy is always good. I love doing little unexpected touches in my clients homes. :)
    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 10:59AM
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Judy M
we had dark wood ceiling once and during the day, they were not an issue but at night, it felt like a cave, but we didn't have the height you have. I agree lighthing is key, wall sconces and chandelier.

Lucky you, having an electrician in the family. a good lighting store should be able to work up a plan for you and then maybe your father can be your installer.

Beautiful room, enjoy.
    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 11:05AM
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Time Travel Designs
It seems like the majority vote is to leave the ceiling dark. I vote for that! I think it's an absolutely lovely space - It just needs the trimmings! I wish I could come over and play. So fun!
2 Likes    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 11:06AM
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I agree with most everyone...wouldn't paint the ceiling...the house is beautiful! Kick those men of yours in the "you know what" and insist they do this job for you asap! The right lighting will make a world of difference. Tell your husband you're getting depressed from the darkness if he doesn't do the lighting....lol!
I love that you are adding the whimsy to the chandelier...great idea!!! UNIQUE and Cool!
1 Like    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 11:09AM
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I have a wood beam ceiling in my family room. It was dark from years of soot from the fireplace, smokers, and dirt. I would first get on a sturdy ladder with a bucket of warm water, a little Murphy's Oil soap and a rag and wash the woodwork. It may lighten it up. It did on my ceiling. Yeah, it took some effort but it was worth it.

Put up a grand chandelier to show off those high ceilings.
    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 1:52PM
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Magical Makeover Interiors
I wouldn't paint the ceiling. I might start by rearranging the furniture to create a conversation area around the fireplace. I see you have two chairs there now, but you might try the bigger pieces in front of fireplace and the chairs set up as a separate seating area(s).Then I would consider painting the two side walls , maybe a warm paprika color, if you can handle something that dark. You might also try a darker mocha/tan color that you pull from the stone in the fireplace I would eliminate any clutter and use soft fabrics and maybe a darker area rug to anchor your new furniture arrangement. Finally I would play with the lighting you will find the darker wall very reflective and your accessories and paintings will pop. You can also try torchere lamps to direct the light up. Finally to illuminate the ceiling you might want to try some sort of rope lighting along the horizontal ledge at the base of the ceiling, of course only if you can hide it and the cords, like you see with illuminated tray ceilings. I would definitely have the chandelier you mentioned but put it on a dimmer. Can you imagine being all cozied up by the fire in a warm sophisticated room with soft comfortable furnishings and coloring that not only enhances the space but the people in it too! I know it's not what you asked for but it's a beautiful room with some magnificent features you wouldn't get in new construction. A few pics...http://jp4.r0tt.com/t_99987080-594f-11e1-bc56-b5dc8c500004.jpg, http://brannonidh1830.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/tudor1.jpg, http://image1.masterfile.com/em_w/03/31/74/693-03317433w.jpg
    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 3:38PM
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Hi krizmanic..here's a picture of the mantel blending with stone. Yes, it's stone, but your idea of painting to blend in the mantel with the FP could work nicely and you don't have to worry about the corbels. Oh..is it just me? I kinda like the quirkyness of the stone clock up there. I'd fix it. :)
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    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 5:09PM
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Yes, leave the ceiling dark and the walls VERY light. It's beautiful!
    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 5:48PM
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Time Travel Designs
I agree, Nevadan! A powerful combo.
    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 6:01PM
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Beautiful wood, beautiful house...please don't paint!
    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 7:15PM
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update: we moved in first week December and I was able to dress the mantle for the holidays. I have decided NOT to paint the dark beams as suggested, thank you. We installed a large chandelier centrally, and decided to go with Ben Moore French Canvas for wall paint. It is not yet painted in the picture I am attaching. I am a little surprised at the color choice since I thought we would have chosen to warm it up by going with a warm color. I learned something in this process; that you don't have to add yellow/ochre to warn something up. The color is a grey really, with blue/green in it but it plays really nicely off the limestone fireplace, and manages to bring the room "in" a bit. Thank you so much for all your advice/ideas/perspectives!
1 Like    Bookmark   January 16, 2013 at 8:03AM
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ohhh, don't do it!
    Bookmark   January 16, 2013 at 8:07AM
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Glad to hear that not painting the ceiling worked out. So much easier that way, and keeps the historic character. Your holiday mantel is so beautiful and it looks like the rest of the decor is looking good too. A nice blend of contemporary and traditional.

I see the clock is still there. I really like it, and I bet you could replace the works pretty simply with some old fashioned clock hands. Here is a historic example of something similar on a medieval building, and an awesome historic Tudor ceiling from England, just for fun.
    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 10:34AM
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Ingrained woodworking Inc
Nice mantle. I love those stars. Have a couple myself. So glad you didn't paint the ceiling. There may be other options for "cleaning" the ceiling to make it lighter. A test piece would be invaluable. Try TSP or a deck Brightener but only on a sample if you can first.
    Bookmark   January 20, 2013 at 11:23AM
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I agree with everyone... If you can find a test area, try cleaning the ceiling and it may make a change... We have wood ceilings and the same dilemma and decide to experiment in one room... Stripping is almost impossible on old timber as it gets really hard, and our ceilings had been varnished, so light stains did nothing.

Now that you've moved in, you'll know how the light changes from day to night. If you're worried about the space being dark at night, don't underestimate the impact that light colour window dressings can have if you can close them because your windows are fantastic and big.

I love the clock on your chimney, but if it doesn't do anything for you, I think the suggestion of a mirror would help a lot.. You could choose an old tarnished or convex one if you don't like seeing yourself. The rug would give character, but probably make the space seem even darker.

Good luck... Hope to see some pictures when you finish.
    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 8:18AM
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Ingrained woodworking Inc
I like the window coverings idea. not sure If the skis on the fireplace would go with a mirror. I was drawn to the red throw on the arm of that chair. perhaps a little more accent of colors would bring the space to a more vibrant level. the flooring and the mantle bring the brownish tones into play so something in the red/brown area for those accents? my 1 1/2 cents (dollar is losing value)
1 Like    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 2:48PM
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the antique skis are just holiday, as are the stars etc. Now there is a low driftwood framed mirror there. I am building a 42" sq ottoman that I am covering in an old kilim to add some more color. Funny, because I really thought I wanted all monochromatic layered whites/creams/neutrals but it is just too blah. In comes some color. A burnished gold bookshelf on the other side warms it up also. Thanks for all the comments.
    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 4:41AM
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