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Design Dilemma
Design Dilemma

Dark dark living room - what color to paint?

Rachelle FranceFebruary 24, 2013
We live in the Redwood Forest of the Santa Cruz, CA mountains. Beautiful yes there is a lack of sunlight, I want to paint my living room which is a sea of dark wood right now. I want to paint the all the wood/bead board and trim a ivory or cram (not a fan of bright white) but not sure what to paint the walls. I am working on the lighting (right now it is only overhead, ). I like blues, grays or a mushroom type neutral but all the colors I am drawn to I am afraid will be too dark and dreary. Room gets very little natural light. There is two small sky lights and French doors to a deck which is blocked by tall redwoods and another window that is blocked by tress. Help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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I'm no expert but personally in your room I'd go for ivory all over. It would look beautiful with your floor.
3 Likes    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 1:26PM
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Denice Shuty
You will get so many good ideas if you look through the thousands of existing ideabooks in Houzz which address exactly what you are wondering about. Just type in the search term "painted wood trim" or "wainscoting" , select Ideabooks, then Search.
1 Like    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 1:40PM
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Sandie Segura Wesolowski
Buy different colored paint samples and try them out on your walls. I recently painted my great room and picked out six different colors because I had no clue as to what color would brighten up this room. I ended up choosing a light blue gray after having it up on my walls for three days. I am so happy with the color! The funny thing is the color wasn't my top color choice but after seeing it on my walls I changed my mind. So I think you should try out the various colors you like on your walls and it might help you find the right color.
    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 1:51PM
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You will be amazed with the brightness of the room by painting the woodwork alone. I agree not to go too white. Sherwin Williams Casa Blanca is a soft white. Pick any light to mid tone paint color for contast.
1 Like    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 2:16PM
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Blue chair is too small for sectional...remove all unnecessary items from room...clutter makes a room heavy. Dog kennel should go in a utility room, not in a room you entertain in. Make sure you have task lighting all around the room...no fluorescent light bulbs! Use a lighter area rug under seating area. Home depot and lowes have 8x10 's for under $300. Use large items vs a lot of small items to keep the room airy. Dont forget to add window panels for softness.
    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 2:22PM
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Do you have two posts? I commented on one this morning but I don't see my comment here!
    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 2:23PM
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One of our Australian paint companies has a nifty program where you can upload a photo of your room and 'paint' the surfaces to try different colours. You can then save a copy to your computer as well as their program.

I took photos of the living room during the day and at night. Tried several different whites, then the sample pots on the walls and am about to order my choice.

Of course the colours won't be an exact match on the computer compared to the wall but, it gives you an easy way of trying totally different looks.

When I'm ready to work on the kitchen, I'll be playing with the counter top colours and the cupboard doors.
    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 2:26PM
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Rachelle France
Thanks. I did repost because I wasn't getting any other responses. This is an older pic after we first moved in and was still getting settled. Chair and kennel are moved. Another issue I have is that stain glass window. I hate it and want to replace it eventually. I am just going to pretend like it isn't there. I have been going through all the idea pictures but very few rooms seems to have the lighting issues I have. I will try a few paints once I narrow it down but I am just so all over right now. I think after reading thru other posts I am going to primer all wood and walls first and then maybe it will be easier when looking at a lank canvas. And what is everyone's thoughts on the doors? Paint them too or leave them wood? I think I should paint them.
    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 2:32PM
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Hi Rachelle France,
Amazing Comments here, I have a few color proposals.

Hope they help you!
1 Like    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 2:41PM
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Rachelle France
Wow what website is that from?
    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 3:07PM
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Hi Rachelle


I'm sure one of the American paint companies would have something similar. You would be using colours you can buy.

You can do the woodwork too. A little more fiddly as the colours in the wood are not as 'flat' as the wall but it can be done.

You have a stained glass window and want to get rid of it? Send it to me - grin. I love stained glass. Is it in the photo above? I can't see it.

1 Like    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 3:57PM
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Hi Rachelle, I'm not familiar with that website. I made the above adjustments in design software that I use at my 3D rendering firm. I just thought you might like to see what it would look like for yourself. It's what we do at Spacialists to help people make informed decisions about design and visualize before taking action. :-)
    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 4:19PM
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I'd get some estimates on having the trees outside pruned. The ones closest to the house can be a safety hazard when the wind blows. My guess is that the city has licensed arborists who are familiar with the local regulations about pruning. A good pruning job can enhance the trees, reduce the chances of branches (or whole trees) falling, and increase the light in the windows. More information at http://homeguides.sfgate.com/tips-pruning-redwoods-23532.html

Also, don't underestimate the effects of trying higher wattage bulbs in the light fixtures that are always on.
    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 4:32PM
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Rachelle France
Thanks everyone. We do prune the small tress outside the window but not the redwoods that tower over our house blocking the sun. The stained glass is the beach scene that is framed above the couch. It works well because our neighbors house is real close on that side and if there was a regular window I would be starring at their living room. I like the idea just not that particular scene.
    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 4:56PM
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Definitely ivory or a soft white all over having viewed the mock ups. Remove all the dark wooden frames eg the clock and the mirror. I wouldn't be too hasty with the door, depends on what the other doors are like throughout the house. I'd also lift your curtain pole and take the curtains all the way across that wall to keep as much of the glass exposed as possible but to provide some texture and contrast which you will need with lots of white/ivory. It will also help with the proportions in the room.
1 Like    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 10:01PM
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Urbana ~ Designer Ellen Crystal
If wood work is ivory tone (yellow base) then be careful of undertone of wall colour. Make sure tones veer away from anything with a pink/rose base. Your local paint store should be able to guide in that respect. A cafe au lait = paper bag tone is always a great neutral. a grey is not going to be complementary to your rich brown furnishings.

A direction to follow can originate in a great fabric, carpet or artwork for inspiration for a palette. If that is feature, will help.

Concerning the stained glass, contact a local window company. they can measure & install a new clear panel at relatively reasonable cost . They do the same when seal break on double pane windows.

No matter what finishes are used, an upgrade in lighting is needed.

Consider various light levels. Some up-lights to highlight ceiling area would be most helpful as so much is absorbed by the darker wood. Sometimes a track light can be hidden behind a beam to achieve such an effect. Even the new LED strip lights could be very unobtrusive and used to good effect here.

your fan could be replaced by a dramatic drop fixture or if not, the other fixture in front of the slider could be dropped significantly to bring light into the living space.

Also, table lamps.

Wall sconces can be useful as they give general illumination & can be directional too either focused up or down.

borrow some ideas from the theater, where they often have "footlights". a floor light pointing up, even a torch-ere can be idea to throw general illumination into the space.

any lights are ideal on dimmers as they can then be up full or low for mood only.

Check out a quality light manufacturer like Huntington Forge... they have the size & classic look that would suit this space.

If you wish idea photos, just browse the Houzz site & pay special attention to the various techniques the design community employs.
1 Like    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 10:21PM
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I have painted wood paneling in two homes. Both time it really upgraded the look. Lightened a dark room. A little more prep work but will change the whole look.
    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 10:44PM
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Janet Broaddus
Annie Sloan's chalk paint might look terrific on the wood. No prim coat is needed and it's a softer look than traditional paint. Google her web site to get ideas. I agree with the comment re the small chair and lots of dark accessories being removed as well. Beautiful area of the country.
    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 11:32PM
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Rachelle France
Thank you all so much your input. This forum is such a good find for people like me that have no idea what I am doing with this stuff. It blows my mind how many people take their time to help strangers. Very cool. After all the advice I am going to start with fixing the lighting, then primering all the wood and walls and then try to narrow down to a few neutrals for the wall and try them on the wall with the wood gone. I love the idea about moving the curtains out (did that tonight). Now on to the huge job of doing the actual work. That is going to be the biggest challenge of all!
    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 7:14PM
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Brenda Fisher
Paint the woodwork- I'm crying. Sorry your house your choice just wish I had your beautiful woodwork, mine is much simpler. Paint or no I just had to comment on what a beautiful home you have!
    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 10:04PM
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I have also very reluctantly painted beautiful woodwork. It changed the whole room and was stunning. Still see the detail and the quality, but SO much lighter and fresher. Never tired of it in twenty years and NEVER regretted painting it.
1 Like    Bookmark   June 27, 2014 at 9:04PM
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