Normally, in remodeling an old house, I like to keep the wood trim more focused on being wood than trim. I prefer mellow stain tones that “pull the grain” and a subtle rubbed effect finish. I rarely like a high gloss finish and I fairly despise dark stains that hide the grain. In a couple of house renovations, I went to the lengths of stripping off the layers of old paint and varnish in order to refinish the trim completely. In the case of oak, it’s well worth the effort. With pine or fir, not so much.
In this house, the old fir trim and doors are almost black. I’m actually not sure whether the nearly hundred years of aging is the cause or if it’s that some enterprising soul thought it tasteful to cover the wide baseboard and window trim with a very dark varnish. In the few cases where some previous owner stripped off the old finish, the results do not justify the work. The grain is plain and the effect quite uninteresting.
So, we presently have the halls and rooms upstairs lined with light absorbing trim that renders the mood of being trapped in a Victorian era sanatorium or in a Stephen King novel. A month of full-time work could refinish all the doors and trim, tons of work stripping and sanding and staining and varnishing with very little change on the effect. In light of that, I’m thinking painting is the preferred solution.
I know that some people would be aghast to think of covering up natural wood with paint but there’s nothing natural looking about this wood. I have tried for two years to make myself believe that it could be made lovely with a relatively mild bit of expense and a decidedly intense bit of effort. I’ve surrendered that fantasy to the reality I see before me.
Of course, de-glossing, prepping and painting with two coats of primer and one coat of enamel won’t be a quick route, either. Going from black to white isn’t done with one smooth coat, regardless of what the paint manufacturers may claim. Sometimes life doesn’t give us the choice of easy improvement. Sometimes we have to choose which option will yield a better result with less effort. And sometimes we have to make a choice we’d rather not make, having found ourselves in circumstances not entirely of our choosing.
Perhaps it is in those cases most especially that we ought to choose wisdom over wishing.