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Arghh..paint old oak beams or not?

(64 Posts)
Flatbread Sat 05-May-12 16:55:03

We have an old farmhouse with blackened oak beams in the dining room and living room. The ceilings are low and the windows small. So the rooms look dark and heavy.

We have the painter over and tested painting the kitchen beams with F&B matt All White. Looks ok, but has a very painted feel.

Don't really want to follow through in the dining room, but not sure what else we can do to lighten the room.

Any suggestions? Painter is here tomorrow as well. Maybe limewash is the solution, but how on earth do we get it in France (I heard it takes 6 months to age). Or is lime wax an alternative...?

I also have some casein distemper in Pointing from F&B, should I use that instead on the beams and ceiling?

Or just leave it alone and get used to to the heavy look?

So confused...please help!

oreocrumbs Sat 05-May-12 17:26:04

Is it possible to have the wood sanded/stripped back? It would be a big job and probably expensive (I have no idea, its not something I have ever done). I saw it on a tv program ages ago and the end result was lovely.

If that is not practical, If I were painting them I would paint the beams a pale colour - perhaps off white ceiling and pale cabbage green beams - pale and subtle though, I wouldn't want it to jump out, more blend in but add interest when you look up.

I don't know how well lime wash/wax would work on black, I think they are intended for wood coloured wood, and might end up just looking like something got smeared on the beams rather than a finished look.

Flatbread Sat 05-May-12 17:59:55

Oreo, thanks. Not sure about sanding beams back as it would create lots of dust, and we already have the walls painted (F&B Pointing)

I like your idea of pale colours...just very nervous that painting beams might be a 'fad' and it all might look really date in a few years. And then we will be stuck with painted beams as it is almost impossible to reverse.

On the other hand, is it any better to be stuck in a 'woody' home with little light...?

Flatbread Sat 05-May-12 18:31:16

This is the look I would love to copy...any idea what materials and colours have been used?

lucyellensmumnamechange Sat 05-May-12 18:41:32

noooooooooooooo don't paint it!!! Once you have painted it thts it, it will get into the grain and you wont ever really be able to restore it to its former glory. Talk to the painter about some sort of bleaching techniques. I really can't get my head round the "i must paint everthing that doesn't move" fad at the moment. Im sure there are other ways of introducing light, maybe live with it for a while and see how you feel, like you say, there wont be no reversing once its painted

oreocrumbs Sat 05-May-12 18:45:03

I think it has been painted and distressed. If you were doing it on say a piece of furniture you would paint it perhaps cream (several coats to cover the black). Then lightly rub over areas with a candle and paint the next coat white. Then with wire wool rub over it and where the wax is the white paint rubs off and shows the cream. The idea is that it looks like a really old piece of wood that had been painted many times over the years but is now shabby and chipped and cracked "sabby chic" as they say.

I'm not familiar with the F&B paint colours, but I presume the distemper on the walls is something similar to the colour in the link, so I would look at getting a darker, more cream colour (still on the white and cream chart), and then use the distemper as the second main colour.

In the link, I think that it is just one coat over natural wood, hence the patches of warm colour breaking through, so you will need a paint effect rather than being able to achieve the look with once kind/coat of paint.

Covering the black is going to be a bugger though!

oreocrumbs Sat 05-May-12 18:46:36

I do agree with lucy though, taking it back to natural wood would be the best solution!

Flatbread Sat 05-May-12 19:01:39

lucy, you are right, it is a fad...but I do love the bright, white look. I can look into scandinavian bleaching methods, but it will still look so, I don't know, masculine , if you know what I mean.

The thing is, the beam are two hundred years old and blackened because the current dining room used to be the kitchen. People comment how lovely they look. But honestly, I really don't like them at all. I would love to have them white, as long as it is some easily reversible method that I can use once I come to my senses in a few years.

lucyellensmumnamechange Sat 05-May-12 19:12:28

Why would you move into an old farmhouse (which would be my dream) if what you really want is modern whiteness? 200 year old beams and you want to pain them?? really??? Come on woman, get a grip grin

lucyellensmumnamechange Sat 05-May-12 19:13:45

I have the solution - get a carpenter to make a covering for hte beams, that way, WHEN you come to your senses you can just remove them smile

Flatbread Sat 05-May-12 19:22:08

The beams are actually quite ugly...riddled with old worm holes and all squiggly-wiggly. I crave Scandinavian clean lines and brightness. But I understand that I might come to my senses one day, and hence the desire for something reversible.

I looked into coverings for beams and they are very expensive. I think I might just leave them (sob) and paint living room/dining room furniture following Oreo's method.

Honestly, it is quite oppressive being surrounded by wood...I've lived here for five years and and am so ready for bright, clean lines!

I agree Flatbread that heavy dark look is oppressive. We had very dark brown painted beams in a C16th cottage and upstairs it felt like being in a cage. I have a few in our current house (varnished/painted dark brown) which I painted with an eggshell and then wiped down with white spirit and they look fine.

Although what about these people?

NicholasTeakozy Sat 05-May-12 20:10:31

Oak should not be painted as it needs to 'breathe'. The reason so many oak framed Elizabethan houses rot is because the Victoians painted them. As your beams are soot blackened get them sandblasted and then protect using a natural wax. That should give you a nice light colour.

GrendelsMum Sat 05-May-12 20:12:37

I do know what you mean. We had some beams which were already painted black, and painting them white has made a big difference. We wouldn't have messed with them otherwise, although you could probably argue for it being historically not inaccurate. I suspect it will date quite heavily and future owners will swear at us, but it looks nice here and now.

However, is the real problem that the rest of the room is gloomy or dark in some way? Can you not address this in a less permanent way, through wall colours or furniture colours etc? There was a lovely French chateau shown in last months' World of Interiors, which felt all Scandinavian bright and clean, while at the same time very French traditional. There's a pic here

We have another room where the beams are the original oak colour, and that doesn't feel at all heavy - we have modern, light furniture, blinds rather than curtains at the window, very pale floor, glass table rather than solid table, etc. It's lovely, actually. (In fact, a friend just spotted that the company that did the repairs are using it as an example on their website.)

Could you post a few photos so we can give suggestions?

Flatbread Sat 05-May-12 20:37:10

I've put one picture up on my profile. The walls on the other side are exposed stone. It is a dark, heavy room...

Bee, thanks for the link. I think even if we got the beams back to a lighter natural wood colour, the room would still feel a bit oppressive. Grendel, maybe your ceilings are higher? Ours must be 8 to 9 feet.

Nicholas, if, and a big if, we paint the beams it will be with F&B casein distemper which is supposed to be breathable or limewash ( I am not sure what is the difference between the two)

Catsmamma Sat 05-May-12 20:43:18

can't you just paint the ceiling between the beams?? I'd be loathe to paint the beams themselves.

GrendelsMum Sat 05-May-12 20:48:00

Oh gosh no, our ceilings are 7 feet in a tall room, 6.5 feet in a normal room!

Am I right in thinking that between your beams there's pine (or similar) varnished ceilings? If so, I'd start by painting those off white, and see how much lighter it feels.

Also, am I right in thinking that room is very much in renovation, poss with a damp problem (may just be the shadows in the photo, so apologies if this is the case), and that the room as a whole currently feels rather miserable and cold? If so, I think that you could do a lot with the walls and floor before you worry about the beams. I could try and send you some pics of our house to show you what we've done....

TunipTheVegemal Sat 05-May-12 20:50:48

I'm with LucyEllensMum here. Don't do something irreversible. If you crave Scandanavian clean lines and whiteness you're in the wrong house.

I think you need to accept the dark and heaviness and think what would make that a good look. Rich jewel-coloured cushions etc. When people try to make a room into something it's not it looks silly.

Flatbread Sat 05-May-12 20:57:12

There is oak between the beams, but for some reason it is more reddish in colour. The room (and house) are finally emerging from a long, painful renovation. The room will always be a bit cold, as one stone wall is below ground level. But we have lime rendered it and have put in underfloor heating, so hopefully the house will feel warmer and drier.

The other walls have just been painted. The plaster/painter is in his last few days of finishing up and I am panicking. He is contracted to paint the ceiling, but I am now getting cold feet.

We could just paint in between the beams, but am worried it the contrast will be too strong, with a zebra look. And the plasterer/painter is on a mission so wants to finish the job and go back to the UK asap.

Have to decide a final course of action by tomorrow...oh ho confused

lucyellensmumnamechange Sat 05-May-12 21:04:38

i'd paint the ceiling but not the beams, get them bleached if you can, but please don't paint them. We live in a 1930s terrace, its nothing compared to your beautiful house, im sooooo envious. When we moved in, all the original paneling was covered with 1970's plywood and painted. Fuck, it was horrible - we are slowly exorcising the horror that is 1970s naffness. Believe me you will feel the same if you paint those beams. Get reflective paints on the walls (My DP says that most of the decorators he knows, hes a builder, think F&B paints are over rated and most will use Dulux trade by choice) I think you can get reflective paints that aren't shiny! And i would go for warm accesories. Im so envious of that room by the way!!!! If you paint the beams, im coming to slap you wiht a wet fish! grin

Flatbread Sat 05-May-12 21:06:03

Actually, the wall in the photo has just been rendered, ready for painting tomorrow.

I think you may be right, Tunip, might be safest to leave as is...I am not that much into sumptuous and prefer clean and bright, but like you said, the house is stolidly what it is.

GrendelsMum Sat 05-May-12 21:11:26

ah, that makes more sense - it's a newly rendered wall in the photo!

I think you're still thinking of it as the cold room it was, whereas now it's been lime plastered and has underfloor heating, it'll be a much dryer, happier space.

You can easily paint the beams yourself anytime you want, surely - you're not actually dependent on a UK decorator.

Give it a year or six months, see how you feel about the room then, and then make the irreversable decision to paint the beams / ceiling.

Flatbread Sat 05-May-12 21:12:37

Lucy, don't be envious at all! Even on the brightest, sunniest day you need to switch on the light to read. I would love the light, airy brightness of 1930s architecture.

It has taken years of fixing to undo the modern American movies inspired flights of fancy of the previous owners. And the awful cement rendering that was the solution to every problem in the 70s.

Is the consensus that we paint between the beams or just leave as is?

Flatbread Sat 05-May-12 21:17:25

Ok, will leave as is and come back to it in a year. Need that much time to recuperate from the nightmare renovation!

Thanks so much to all of you. You have saved us from making an irreversible wrong choice thanks

TunipTheVegemal Sat 05-May-12 21:26:43

hmm there must be a way to do something that is not sumptuous but also works with what's there.

The thing your photo reminds me of is a monastery I visited in Greece - there was quite strong dark wood but there was also simplicity.

I would say don't paint either beams or spaces between for now because if you change your mind it can be done in the future - painting a ceiling just means you have to cover everything up with plastic sheets, it's not the furniture-moving-carpet-taking-up pain that painting walls can be.

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