Huzzah! We Painted The Wood Trim In Our Living Room!

Glad that’s out of the way. Painting the trim was as long and tedious of a process as we expected. Maybe more-so actually, but it’s done! Wahoooo! And it feels pretty darn good. Seriously, there was more than one happy dance (one on Friday night when we finished, and another one in the morning when we saw the room in the light). What is it about certain annoying home improvement jobs that make you want to ugly-cry while doing them but happy-cry when you’re done? Talk about roller-coaster emotions. In the end, we never regret them, and we’re happy we got ‘er done. We’re just not ready to “do them all over again” the next day or anything. Haha. Anyway, it’s looking pretty good. Here’s the view in the living room now (ignore the beams, we’ll get to that later):

As far as the process went, experts recommend using oil-based primer to block potential bleed-through when it comes to painting wood trim (followed by latex paint). We threw caution into the wind and went straight to white semi-gloss latex no-VOC paint (Olympic Premium from Lowe’s). I had gotten some gray wall paint on the trim a few days back when we tackled that project, and it seemed to cover well without any signs of bleed through. So I went for it. Could have been a terrible plan. Could have resulted in having to go back and repaint all the trim with primer if I did see some bleed-through. And possibly pulling 60-80% of my hair out as a result. But it didn’t! Oh happy day.

So we saved the nastiness of working with oil-based primer and all the VOCs that come with it. Call it a baby-and-eco-friendly risk that happened to pay off. If it hadn’t we would have sought out the lowest VOC stainblocking primer that we could find, but it was pretty sweet that it didn’t come to that. That’s about where the words “pretty sweet” stop with regards to this project. We vowed to keep it real with you guys, so although we’re eternal optimists who generally love nearly every project that we tackle (even the ones that don’t work), we promised to tell you if something sucked. And painting the trim totally did.

It wasn’t that it was very hard (I used this brush, which I swear by for “staying in the lines” and going a lot faster that I used to move with a traditional long-handed brush). It was just that it took for.ever. I started at around 10am on Friday and went it alone until about 3pm (while Clara took her morning nap and then John watched her and tended the blog), then around 3, out of sheer desperation, I asked John to help while Clara was taking her afternoon nap (he traditionally rebuffs detail work since he’s the “big picture” guy who rolls while I cut in, so he claims he has less control when it comes to fine motor skills with a brush). At that point I was on coat #2 though, so I just asked him to go down the middle of the trim and baseboards with the second coat while I followed him and added a second coat to the top and bottom of the baseboards and trim (which requires a bit more control since that’s where the brush can meet the floor or the wall).

By coat number three it was around 7pm (thanks to a lot of blog, Clara, and food breaks among other things) and that’s when we realized that it wasn’t going to be a three-coat process like we thought. It was going to take four full coats to cover that dark dark trim. Boo to the hoo. There may have been a temper tantrum (not by Clara) but no actual tears were shed (which I consider to be a semi-mature response to such devastating news). But we pressed on. And it was actually past midnight when we finally finished (and snapped this victory shot of our paintbrushes “toasting” in front of the microwave clock). Klassy, right?

If we had used oil-based primer it definitely would have only been a 1-2 coat process (after the coat of primer was applied, which would add up to 2-3 total applications) so it may have taken us until 5 to 7pm instead of 12:30 in the morning. But those 1-2 extra coats were worth it to us in exchange for a completely zero VOC result. Even if it meant dragging a little bit the next day. So for those who are looking for the expert recommendation for tackling this project, use oil-based primer applied with a brush followed by 1-2 coats of latex gloss or semi-gloss paint also applied with a brush (and tape things off if you like to work that way). But if you wanna know how we did it, I used my trusty short handled brush and we applied 4 coats of semi-gloss latex paint (without taping off, since over time I’ve gotten nice and steady without tape). We actually painted all of the wood trim in our first house (including the stuff in the bathroom and kitchen) using this method (no sanding or primer) and we luckily didn’t have any chipping or bleed-through issues after 4+ years there. Fingers crossed for the same luck here!

As for the paint choice, we used the off-the-shelf white stuff that comes without any tint from Olympic Premium called “Base 2” (since “Base 1” is also known as “Ultra White,” and we wanted something crisp and white but not crazy white with a glowing blue tint to it). We love the color, and plan to use it for the rest of the trim in the house. When we finally work up the energy to tackle a project like that again in a few years. Har har.

Oh and the beams. We promised more details about those. We left them au naturale to be 100% sure that we don’t prefer them that way (we don’t). But now that the trim is all painted, we’ve decided that we definitely want to stain or paint them a deeper gray color for some richness and dimension. And of course those fans have to go. So for a vague idea of what that might look like, picture this…

… looking something like this:

They definitely would have looked gorgeous in white just like the trim, but we want to take a risk and do something a little unexpected. We love that it’ll hopefully be just the right amount of drama without looking too heavy (we have standard 8-foot tall ceilings so we didn’t want them to feel like they’re closing in on you). But we think it’ll have a nice not-too-top-heavy look in the end, especially since we’ll be bringing in a large charcoal sectional to ground the room and add balance. Then we can start layering in some bold colors in the curtains, art, rug, accessories, etc. Should be interesting.

And why not end with a nice little flash-back to what the space looked like a little over a month ago when we moved in?

Oh the memories. Change is good.


  1. Marie says

    For baseboards with carpet–a combo of newspaper, dropcloth or other covering, taped to the carpet, plus one of those big metal edgers to push the carpet down as far as possible, worked for me. It’s a real pain.

    So worth it though–that white trim really makes your gray pop!

  2. Sarah says

    Love this! What a nice change! Have you discussed your furniture anywhere? I love the light color but wonder how you clean it. We have a son who’s a few months older than Clara, and a Lab, so I’m starting to realize the importance of kid- and dog-friendly furniture.

    • says

      Hey Sarah,

      The sofa is slipcovered which is a lifesaver! We do plan to get a dark gray sectional in there (for a lot more seating) but we’ll never not get slipcovers again- they’re just perfect for the not-so-perfect way we live!


  3. Sarah says

    I started painting all of our wood trim a few months ago (the day job and kids are making it a loooong drawn-out process). I actually did sand first and used the same exact paint you all used-even 3-4 coats. It looks great, but I’m seeing some chipping on baseboards and around doors. I spoke with a professional painter and he said we should have used an adhesive primer first. Oh well. I hope you all don’t have the chipping issues I have.

    • says

      Hey Sarah,

      Thanks for the heads up! We actually painted all of the wood trim in our last house with this method (no primer) and we luckily didn’t have any chipping or bleed-through issues after 4+ years there. Fingers crossed for the same luck here!


  4. Erin @ WriteTasty says

    The gray walls look so much better and “obvious” (wrong word but you get it) with the white trim– love it! I can’t wait to see the room once the ceiling has been done, as well.

  5. Patti says

    I sooo feel your pain when it comes to those tedious jobs, I curse the heavens while doing it but dance a jig when it’s finished. And the last pic is why I keep coming back, you guys always nail it. Love the plans for the wood beams.

  6. ronda says

    Did you have to sand since you didn’t prime first? I have to finish my upstairs but have been putting it off…Your project looks great and I am anxious to see what you decide with the beams.

    • says

      Hey Ronda,

      Nope, just like in our last house, the trim was very chalky feeling (as opposed to glossy) so we knew it would grab the paint really well. We actually painted all of the wood trim in our last house with this method (no sanding or primer) and we luckily didn’t have any chipping or bleed-through issues after 4+ years there. Fingers crossed for the same luck here!


  7. Kristen says

    I love the idea of the gray beams, which surprises me. I normally love exposed wood, but there’s a dreamy quality to the room with the beams being gray. I can’t wait to see what else you do with it! Also, thank you for showing me that with LOTS of hard work, you don’t have to be scared off by wood trim. We have been looking at houses in our area and the majority of them have wood trim, which my husband and I don’t like … now I know that they’re not the end of the world!

  8. says

    You can really see the gray pop now! Looks great! I wanted to thank you. I have gotten pretty good at daring choices of color and not needing “help”- aka sample paint. But seeing your samples of gray made me rethink a color I was just about to buy. SOOOO glad I did. On the wall I HATED it. Just to be safe my runner up is going to get a sample purchased as well to test it out.

    As for crying about a long project- we just finished our backsplash and you can read about it on our blog. But I would say the worst was our master bedroom. It is HUGE. And we also did our master bath too. Oh and 2 of the walls were a deep accent color. Oh, and I was 3 months preggo so feeling awful. Mask on, tired, nausea…. there were exausting tears shed on that one.

  9. says

    The room looks incredible! I can’t believe what a difference the white trim makes to the feel of the room.

    Also, every time I see a sneak peek through to the kitchen, I get all giddy thinking about what you might have in mind for those dark cupboards…

    For now, put those brushes down and take a well-deserved break from the paint cans!

  10. Rachel says

    Nice work! It would be neat to see what those beams would look like white, with the ceiling maybe the same gray as your wall color.

  11. Harinee says

    Threaded comments seem to be working this time! Looks good!

    I love the grey beams too but I was picturing the beams much darker when you said charcoal.. The wall colour looks beautiful now!

    • says

      Hey Harinee,

      Wahoo! We definitely spent more hours trying to get that to work than painting trim, so we’re hoping that the site doesn’t crash or anything…


  12. says

    How does your trim not get brush strokes using the glossy paint? We are considering painting our entire house trim to the bright white from the current off white (or what we refer to as vanilla almond latte color) but terrified! We are afraid the doors and trim will have brush strokes, on top of the time, hand cramps, and frustrations. Job well done for sure and cannot wait to see your contemporary transformation of the wood beams over head, should be divine!

    • says

      Hey Mary,

      Thin and even coats of paint is the key. Too thick = brush strokes. You also want to allow each coat to fully dry. And don’t judge the first or even the second coat (it will have brush strokes) but once you get to the third (and fourth in our case, ouch!) when the coverage is more consistent it’ll look perfect!


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