DEAR DESIGNER: I recently bought a beautiful home out of foreclosure. It has great bones, but feels dark. The ceilings are only 8 feet tall and it has large, dark oak crown moldings, baseboards and door casings. I want to lighten up the house but friends tell me not to paint the wood. Can you give me a good reason to paint them? – Kelly
Dear Kelly: Wood moldings with their fabulous natural grains are so rich, I try to preserve them every chance I get. But, it’s not always in the best interest of good design to keep them.
When dark wood overpowers a small space, or makes a ceiling look low, I have it painted. Good design sometimes requires sacrifice. You must sacrifice one great element in order to make the whole room work together.
Which design style are you? If you want a fresh contemporary look like that in the featured photos, your moldings ought to be painted. A terrific advantage to white-painted moldings is the wide assortment of wall colors you’ll have to choose from. A painted crown molding is a quiet and pleasing addition to most rooms.
If your style is traditional, you may want to experiment with the darker moldings before you decide to paint them. The impression you get while looking in an empty room with dark moldings is not the same impression you will get when the home is fully decorated. When we walk into an empty room, our eye is drawn to the darkest item in the room and that becomes our focus. In your situation, you are seeing the wood moldings. It stands out and feels wrong because the room is out of balance. When you furnish and decorate the room, your eye will no longer be drawn directly to the wood moldings.
Do a mock up of your room by laying down a rug and add boxes to represent furniture. This can help you to decide if the room feels too small or dark for your comfort. It’s not always necessary for a room to feel large and open. Guest rooms and family rooms are preferably cozy.
If you decide to keep your stained-wood moldings, paint the walls a light, neutral color and add a dark patterned area rug. The dark rug will counterbalance the heavy wood, anchoring your room. Next, add the furniture. Keep your furniture fabrics light to medium in color and mix in a few pieces of wood similar to the color of your wood moldings. Accent the walls with colorful artwork. When you walk into your completed room, the first thing you will notice is a picture or well-placed accessory. Instead of dragging your room down, your dark moldings will become a complement to your design.
With proper planning, either choice can be fabulous. Be fully committed to your decision and do what it takes to make your room/home look and feel picture perfect.
Cindy Payne is a certified interior designer with more than 25 years of experience, a member of the American Society of Interior Designers, as well as a licensed contractor. E-mail questions to her at deardesigner@
projectdesigninteriors.com or send them to her at Project Design Interiors, 2620 S. Maryland Parkway, Suite 189, Las Vegas, NV 89109. She can be reached online at www.projectdesigninteriors.com.