Whatever floats your boat...

Yesterday's post about the beauty of warm brown woods sparked some really interesting comments so I thought I'd continue on the conversation...

{the carved wooden mirror in my bedroom}

I should say first up front that there's not really much I can't love or don't see a place for.  In the appropriate space and for the right person, I can get into {almost} anything.  This goes for wood- painted, stained, raw, etc.- too.  I think my post about the beauty of wood might have given some readers the impression that I don't like painted pieces or raw wood pieces, which is definitely not the case. 

I have a variety of wood finishes in my own home.  I have dark mahogany pieces, warm honey stained pieces, raw wood, painted pieces and even a limewashed piece or two. 

{My office with a painted white work table, chairs & aqua Gustavian desk}

I love mixing woods & finishes and have seen it done well and seen it done poorly.  I love the mix of woods in this living room by Susannae Kasler:

{Living Room by Susanne Kasler via Willow Decor}

 What started me on thinking of the warm brown woods is not because I don't love the grayed/ raw woods  (I do) but because I think -like everything- that once a trend has taken such a hold of us it's easy to look at the other things -like warm brown woods- and say that they're "out."  For me, seeing something over & over gets me appreciating the stuff that's not as played up.

{my dining room mixes woods}

I love painting over wooden furniture. To me, not much is too holy to paint over if a piece isn't working as-is. That being said, I also love unpainted wooden pieces. There really aren't many absolutes to me. It all comes down to the feeling & desired look of the space the piece is going in. It has to work for the person living in the space.  The room of painted white furniture that might work for a cottage-loving girl won't work for the lady who loves her Bristish Colonial antiques.  I don't think either are wrong and to me, it's difficult to judge the design of a room without knowing who lives there and what feeling they want it to have. 

{Restoration Hardware}

I mentioned the trend of grayed woods & limewashes - and how it's saturated the marketplace and has really taken  ahold as a trend.  Seeing so much of one things tends to get us "over" it way too quickly.  So quickly that I think we judge something on how "trendy" it is rather than on its actual merit.  (I.e. "I don't like that because it's everywhere," vs. "I don't like that because it doesn't work there.")  The shelf lives of trends are short these days and I think they're only going to get shorter because more & more people are beginning to read & write blogs & use the internet.  Something we see that we love in a magazine gets circulated over & over throughout the blogs.  We eat it up and chew on it until we're all sick of it and then we say "over it" before most of mainstream America has even gotten the chance to notice it or purchase it.  Or someone can take a picture of something cool she did in her home and in a couple of weeks it can be seen on multiple blogs and eventually even find its way into catalogs and magazines.  It's happening so quickly.  As natural as it is to get "over" stuff, I can't help but thinking it's not really fair either. 

{The "Brickmaker's table...  was and probably always will be a favorite of mine.  Yes, I know it's everywhere, but I still want it.}

Think about the people who have spent years developing a product- a coffee table for example...  is it really worth it for them to spend all of that time & money developing a product whose shelf life is only going to be 6 months or 1 year?  And think about how much more they'd need to charge for an item if it were to only be sold for 1 year.  OR they have to get into "disposable" furniture that doesn't hold up/ cost a lot to develop but is trendy.  When I arrived at High Point Market a couple of weeks ago, InterHall was packed with the grayed woods & limewashes...  As beautiful as they are, I definitely got tired of seeing "another gray showroom."  It's a natural reaction.  We want something "new..."  or so old or out that it's "back."  But how unfair of me to go there and see all these beautiful pieces that are brand new and get over them in 3 days?  Ridiculous. 

So in the end it seems pointless to chase trends.  Stay on top of them and know what's up?  Definitely.  Add a piece or two to stay updated?  Sure.  Do a a trendy room strictly because it's "in?"  No way, but if you love a trend, go for it.  If you'll love it even when the rest of us think it's "out," then it's worth purchasing.  Purchase what you love because the trends are flying by at a ridiculously fast pace.  Still, don't be afraid to experiment and have fun because not everything you buy needs to last you 20 years.

As far as the grayed & raw finishedsI saw at High Point...  will I use them?  For the right client & home, yes, just as easily as I would do mahogany or painted wood or a warm honey oak.

And to capitalspice who left a great comment, I say, definitely paint your kitchen cabinets if they're feeling dark & oppressive to you.  It's the first thing I did in my house when we moved in & I love my painted cabinets because they work for me.

I thought also thought this part of your comment was really interesting: "I was telling my in-laws about my plans to paint my (wood) kitchen cabinets this month and they were shocked. I've noticed a bit of a generational divide on this of people my age (twirtysomething) vs. my parents age (55+). I think for the older set there is a thinking that wood = good quality and painted wood = probably laminate and indicative of cheap materials. Obviously this is limited to folks outside the design industry as painting wood is more commonplace.  I'm curious on your thoughts on it. And if you agree with my mother that it would be positively sinful of me to paint my cherry wood desk and drawers."  I really haven't thought about it like this before, but you might be right.  I had to argue for years with my dad to get him to paint a piece of furniture.  Once of the pieces I did paint (an old trunk) keeps disappearing every time I leave because he thinks it looks junky. 

...but I do think that older generations (not including those who are into design/ decorating/ reading magazines/ blogs/ etc.) might generally be a bit more opposed to painting over "good" pieces than younger generations.   Many antique pieces lose all monetary value when painted, which might play into it.  And often. the wood itself is beautiful so sometimes people can't understand messing with it.  To me thought, if a piece just doesn't work for the new owner, there's nothing wrong with painting or redoing.  If you're not a collector, then make a piece work for you and forget about what it's worth.  (Unless it's serious dough, then I'd say sell it and buy a new piece.)  The younger generations might be a bit more "irreverant" toward wood but I think that's okay. If my kids want to paint up or strip all of my pieces when I'm older, I'll be glad that they even want to use them at all.  (I'm really not going to roll over in my grave at a painted heirloom ;)    I think it's easy to get so caught up in sentimentality and keeping something as-is almost as if it were a museum piece that we forget what it's really all about...  loving something, making it our own, making it work for us & for our style. 

{Eddie Ross's painted secretary}

So go ahead, paint the cherry desk however you want, just don't hate me if you wish you hadn't done it a few years from now!! ;) ;) 

xoxo, Lauren

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.


Stephanie said...

I love mixed woods as well! Different stains or painted. It's always the deciding that is so difficult.

Carolyn said...

Great posts, Lauren. I too am looking at honey colored wood in a whole new light and find the shelf life of trends to be overwhelming. Sorta makes you feel like you need to stop reading blogs and looking at too many pretty photos. (but i won't!)

Sixty-Fifth Avenue said...

Great posts! I love painted furniture but warm wood pieces mixed in make the room. Love your table top, where did you find the tray/bark?

Rie said...

I know what you mean about the design trends and the internet making them go "out" faster. I've been feeling the same way.

The generation thing with painted furniture is spot on. And perhaps it's a trend that will pass in time. Maybe. But at least it can always go back to wood (albeit with a lot of elbow grease). For now, I'll take the painted pieces mixed with wood pieces, but never all wood. At least I can't imagine ever liking that look.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with EVERYTHING you said! We get so saturated with trends that we tire of them quickly. If I see something too much my reaction is to do the total opposite. I have a phobia about following too many trends for fear that it won't be original. Although some trends are fantastic! I say if you love it do it. Trend or not. To you it will be authentically you if you truly love it.

Painted wood is a total generational thing. My Dad builds furniture as a hobby and would die if I suggested he painted one of his pieces or an antique. He looks at me like I'm nuts! Ha ha!

I tend to love both... but I do think a little natural wood whether it be grayed or warm really completes the space.


Tessa said...

I just blogged about this in my own home...today.. just read your last two days of posts. Hope I'm not making a big ol mistake! :) Ahhh!! http://nineandsixteen.blogspot.com/2010/11/theres-no-turning-back.html


Squeak said...

What a wonderful, well thought out post! I love the grey washed woods and intend to buy a couple of pieces this year. I think they will mix beautifully with my Louis XV and XVI painted chairs, tables, desk and beds.

Whenever I'm tempted to buy something trendy (especially if it's a major piece of furniture), I ask myself if I can envision living with it 20 years from now. If the answer is "yes", then I buy it. So far my strategy has worked. My floral chintz upholstered Louis XVI painted chair looks great next to my white Chinese garden stool. My faux fur throw is gorgeous lying on my sage green wool William Birch style sofa. And I just know that my shell, coral and mineral collections are going to look wonderful in my not-yet-purchased lime-washed armoire.

There is no better advice than to buy what you love, whether it's trendy or not. Even though grey seems to be everywhere these days, I'm still lovin' it!

Filia Artis said...

Dear Lauren,

I felt a sigh of relief yesterday and today - the reason? Because I have been contemplating whether I was going to have to paint a bunch of my wood furniture or whether there was any room left in the world of interior design for actual wooden pieces! I know this sounds strange! I have kind of been planning to paint some of my pieces for a while - the allure of pieces like Eddie's secretary desk is irresistible to me! - but I never have the time. My husband is also of the "older" mindset that you never ever paint over wood. I can see from your images how I might be able to make the wood that I have look better in the home rather than painting it all out. I'm hesitant to get rid of the stuff I have because a lot of it is actually made of nice wood and I'm feeling like the 1970s pieces are going to be "back in style" in some way soon! (These are all hand-me-downs from chez Mom)



Filia Artis said...

Dear Lauren,

I felt a sigh of relief yesterday and today - the reason? Because I have been contemplating whether I was going to have to paint a bunch of my wood furniture or whether there was any room left in the world of interior design for actual wooden pieces! I know this sounds strange! I have kind of been planning to paint some of my pieces for a while - the allure of pieces like Eddie's secretary desk is irresistible to me! - but I never have the time. My husband is also of the "older" mindset that you never ever paint over wood. I can see from your images how I might be able to make the wood that I have look better in the home rather than painting it all out. I'm hesitant to get rid of the stuff I have because a lot of it is actually made of nice wood and I'm feeling like the 1970s pieces are going to be "back in style" in some way soon! (These are all hand-me-downs from chez Mom)



Living It At Home said...

This is such a thoughtful post! I enjoyed reading it very much! Your insight about decorating is very helpful in keeping everything straight. There is so much information out there right now and it is being exchanged rather fast with the internet. It is hard to block out everything you are seeing and hearing and just sit back and relax and enjoy what you have done with your home or what you plan on doing. Thanks!

Have a wonderful day~

Melissa said...

Great, great post. And don't forget, paint can also be removed and the wood refinished. time and time again!

Leigh said...

I'm getting really tired of the Belgian look. Or maybe just the mass marketed version. I've liked stuff from RH before, even if it is a bit oversized, but the catalog this season is just too, too much. I mean, compare this
to to this.
It's like EuroDisney, Belgian edition (see also, Tuscany).

Unknown said...

Great post! I agree with everything you said and love having a little bit of everything in my home- including natural wood-A room wouldn't feel quite right for me without something wood- That being said, I would (and have) paint over any piece that wasn't working for me in its natural wood state. I hope to paint out my kitchen cabinets soon because the yellowy maple just doesn't work for me- on the other hand, I adore my maple harvest table and oak floors. I think it's like anything in life- all good things in moderation.

Jacci said...

Love you, Lauren. You keep it real, girl. I've drastically narrowed down my blog reads, but I keep coming back to yours. You're a thoughtful homemaker - that's what I love. It's not just design for you... it's homemaking. What a lost art!

On Carolyn's comment above - yes, I think it is worthwhile to limit how much we expose ourselves to "inspiration" from time to time. Just to get some clarity and to sort through all we've already absorbed. Whenever I step away from the blogs, magazines, stores for a bit and just live in my home it seems like the changes I make to it - as you would say, Lauren - have more soul. Those are the changes that come out of *living* in my home, not just copying another room/designer. Still, the inspiration really helps us organize our thoughts and hone our personal aesthetic - obviously I find some value in it all or I wouldn't be reading here now! :) I just mean that a break of sorts, now and then, can be really helpful to gain clarity.

Loved the posts!

~Jacci in Ohio

Unknown said...

Trends are too often inspiration killers and many people believe their other stuff becomes outdated and worthless the moment a new trend arrives. Some trends might be great, let say more informal living or use of colors, but some are just too much!
Wood has always been something I have been drawn to, paited, waxed or raw, you can find almost every kind in some part of my house.
I stand my ground to build a home what suits me, my family, my personal style and circumstances, I love collecting all kinds of things, may they be in or out!
I ignore trends mainly, but keep an eye out for development what I might like, trend or not!
I love your post!

Kristen | Cottage Modern said...


Thanks for your thoughtfully expressed post on design trends--both yesterday's and today's. After reading what you wrote, I was inspired to finish a blog post I'd started on "modern farmhouse" kitchen design. I agree with you that certain trends can become overdone, but its so refreshing to look back on designs that incorporate trends and have been done right and done well. While I find it hard to say that anything can be 100% 'timeless', I do believe that we can surround ourselves with pieces we love (and do it tastefully and beautifully), and enjoy our surroundings for a long period of time. Thanks for always echoing this fact, and for your inspiring approach to life and design!

Acquired Objects said...

I say go ahead and paint your desk, if it turns out later you wish you hadn’t you can always sand it down and stain it again. I have wood of every kind and in every shape and I love it that way. I hate trends since they suck the joy out of something I would have loved or appreciated if only it hadn’t been seen everywhere and reproduced by everyone to the point where I’m sick of seeing it. I just go with what I love and it works.

Jennifer said...

The painting wood furniture topic is so interesting on its own! I know that my grandad nearly had a heart attack when I mentioned to him I was going to paint a little table my mom gave me. I don't want to lump everyone who disagrees into one age category, but there is definitely a generational divide. My granddad is proud that he still wears the same sweaters he's had for 20 years (seriously) and I think my gen is just used to more disposable things. We go through items much more quickly. If it breaks, we get a new one, where he tries to repair it -- does this make sense? For me, it comes down to value and opinion. There are just a couple of pieces in my house I wouldn't TOUCH with a paintbrush because of monetary or sentimental value, or bc I prefer they way they look now. But most everything else I have has been mass-produced and is not gaining any monetary value, so it's all fair game! If my kids wanted to paint those few items in 30 years ... I might flinch, but I'd get over it -- it's just STUFF!

Jennifer said...

I've said toooo much already but ... I can love any look, but when it's an entire house it gets a little themey for me. I'm all for a cohesive look, but I need a mix of styles/inspiration/etc. Know what I mean?

Annie said...

I agree with everything you said today & yesterday! I understood you :) I collect pieces in my home that I love - I try to avoid the "in" look because you are right it's so out so fast. My favorite pieces are covered in old chippy paint in bright colors - they make me smile & so I focus on old furniture like that to fill my home. I typically paint wood in my house because I just am not a wood toned girl, but in my furniture business if the wood is pretty on the piece - we don't paint it because someone would love the wood look as it is. I think each piece tells its own story & you have to look at that piece for where it's going - what do they like - we're all different & my favorite houses are the unexpected eclectic ones :)

Carol@6WilsonBlog.com said...

You are so right about how ridiculous that we get over things so fast. It's our insatiable society, I think, and I feel for our kids generations -- growing up in a time where everything is so disposable -- from a juice box to a sofa -- will they appreciate the beauty in things that last?

~Grace Happens~ said...

love this topic lauren! growing up with a mom who was a very avid antique collector, i really know how to appreciate warm wood and it's natural beauty. I have a lot of it in our home, but love to mix it with painted pieces. it's all about balance, which you do very well!

Windlost said...

Great thoughts Lauren, and I share your views to a "T". Surprised? I am a Lauren Mini Me!

Funny, but as some people posted about High Point, I was surprised to see all the grey. I thought it would be so "out" amongst the cognoscenti and thought that High Point would be the Next Big Thing. Maybe it was with all those vivid colours I also saw.

I feel the same about trends as you. Buy them if you love them and will still love them in a year or two or ten.

I also agree with the painting of wood. If you are not concerned about its value as an antique, then strip or paint away!

Now, I need your help on this - we have a serious 1973 room in our house - old brick fireplace (i can live with) and mid-tone WOOD PANELLING (elm). It is flat panelling, with nice architecural detail from moulding. It is our TV room and is the dark gloomy ugly man cave room that I hate. David forbids me to paint the walls, which would be gorgeous painted in a nice Farrow & Ball architectural cream colour. I would love to paint the fireplace too - a lovely stone colour to get rid of all the red/brown/beige brick. But David is livid at the thought. Now THAT is a tough battle because unlike a piece of furniture it is harder to fix/undo. Not to mention his 66 year old mother and our almost 70-year old carpenter neighbour have both flipped out when David told them I wanted to paint it. They both live in 1970's houses which are still stuck in that era, so I am not keen to take their taste as gospel. But it is like me versus the hundreds.

I need to post about this...and get David watching the design shows.


La Petite Gallery said...

Do so like that dinning room table.
I have an antique secretary
and love the garden stool. Pretty post , IT ROCKs MY BOAT..


Unknown said...

I totally agree Lauren. My dad is a refinisher of antique furniture and teases me that I will paint anything that is standing still:) While painted furniture works for me I still love and own wood pieces as well. Go with your gut and enjoy it. You may regret it later but that's life!

kayce hughes said...

Well said!

Vintage Home said...

...very good point of view!...i agree!

autumn said...

loved this post.
and i totally agree with you about the trend thing. i like that you brought up the "give it a chance" point of view. just because we see a lot of something doesn't mean it isn't beautiful...and doesn't mean that it might be around for decades. and the bottom line is, if you love it, then put it in your home.
i totally agree with your comments about wood too! people always ask me if if it's ok to mix woods. or paint them....especially those from "older" generation.
i loved that you said you would be fine of your kids wanted to paint something of yours one day, as long as it's getting use!
what a great post.

Unknown said...

So interesting. I am really thinking about your last sentence...as I have a wonderful room that is the cocktails and conversations room in the house. It has LOTS of cherry wood including dental molding and bookshelves. We painted the walls dark brown, which I love, but I've been debating painting it all a high lacquer brown, including the cherry. Hmmmmm....think I'll sit on that for now!
~ Elizabeth

Staci Edwards said...

Love the painted secretary desk! Lovely.

alison giese Interiors said...

This post really resonated with me. My husband inherited several pieces of furniture from his grandparents, and they just don't "work" for me, but won't let me paint them. He cites all the reasons you listed: sentimental attachment to how things looked in his grandparents' home, the "it's good wood" argument, etc, etc.
I'll have him read your post, to see if he'll "see the light!"

Thanks so much for always applying your easy-going and practical sense to our design dilemmas!

alison g.

Danielle Sigwalt Interiors said...

For me if the wood is high quality and gorgeous...don't paint b/c it really is difficult to turn back time and expensive to have it properly stripped and getting the right sealant or varnish is tricky too, especially if you go the eco-friendly way like I do. I recently painted a desk, but would have just sealed it if it had not been for some strange new wood parts that didn't match the other wood.
Interesting thoughts Lauren!!

Karen said...

This has been such a great dialog! You have really firmed up my fairly new-found conviction that it is important to stay true to ones style. If you love antiques just as they are, great. If you only like the brightness a room receives from plenty of lighter colors, including white painted furniture, go for it.

I thought you made a very good point about the impact our throw-away tendencies might have on the future of furniture. Thanks for continuing this topic for 2 days (and future discussions, I'm sure) it helps to keep us on track.
Karen at Garden, Home and Party

Peggy and Fritz said...

I completely agree with your post and I think it's a great topic by a designer in educating readers that cannot hire one. I think the best analogy is if leopard prints are in - you couldn't wear leopard head to toe. The key to any trend whether it's color, wood color, etc. is to incorporate it into your current design. I think many people take it too literally and do their entire house head to toe and some people do it in fashion as well. All Interior Design trends come from Fashion (hence the gray) but the key is to have classic pieces and incorporate what's trendy in to make your home look fresh but not over the top. I agree with you on the painting. My dad is a contractor and we use to fight over this point. I always said if I told like it I can strip it and have it restained. I think people like my dad look at it strictly as wood and he is looking at the grain while designers or anyone creative is looking at the piece for the lines, shape, and look. I saw paint what you want to paint - including those cherry cabinets...and in a few years if you get bored - you can strip them and restain them. A woman and/or a man has a right to change their mine. Especially anyone with a creative side :)

Cristin // Simplified Bee said...

I know! To paint a wooden piece of furniture or not. I am not sure there is a right answer. I have a older piece that is in my entry. I think I am going to find out if it is an antique before painting.

Also, I am w you on the grayed casegoods. I love them in small doses. Perhaps that is because my style is a little more relaxed and eclectic.

So happy you were part of my "What Would you Do?" Designer Series today on the old blog. Many thanks!


AnneHH said...

You are always so right on these issues. And, I appreciate you raising these questions so that the discussion can occur. This is one of the many things that make blogs such a fantastic forum for people who share an interest like interior design. I think that the prettiest interiors are ones that gel around a collection or personal inspiration and that means that the furniture and furnishings cannot necessarily be "on trend" but instead work with the inspiration as well as the architecture, geography and individual(s) living there.

................. said...

Great post!!! I was totally relating as I read this because last weekend I asked my dad to help (and mistakenly asked for his opinion) on a couple of chairs that I want to paint black. They are natural oak wood chairs and when he saw them he yelled "Are you crazy? those are good quality expensive chairs, you are going to ruin them" and walked away...so there went my help. But I completely have to agree with you, they are not ME and I am not comfortable with them (a little too cookie cutter manufacturer no character/charm for my style), so I am still going to go for it and cross my fingers that I don't regret it ha-ha.

Antiqueaholics said...

I really enjoy your blog and enjoyed reading this post. I like the gustavian rooms and the limewashed woods as well. At the same time, I don't own one piece of it as our home has warm woods, creams, browns, neutrals.

Anonymous said...

Both are great posts, Lauren. I agree completely that a mixture of wood tones, and painted ones can work so well together and reflect the personality of the people who live there! About painting wood, when we remodeled our first house, we chose to paint the oak cabinets in the kitchen. Our neighbor came over to see the project and his jaw about hit the floor when he saw the cabinets. His comment? "You can't paint oak!" This quickly became our tag line. My husband and I have shouted it out to eachother across the houses and years since then. Can't paint oak? Oh, yeah? Watch us!
On the other hand, we're now in a rental that has honey oak cabinets, which we can't paint, so in working with that, I found that a warm gray wall color is amazing, making the oak cabinets look better than ever!
Always love checking your blog, Lauren!

Anonymous said...

Wow! I'm so flattered at your attention to my comment, Lauren! Thank you!

I will send you a before/after picture of the kitchen cabinets. Sadly, I can't do them this month after all. My home improvement budget for the month has been eaten up by an unexpected costs (stupid washing machine malfunction).

As for painting the cherry wood... it's time will come. I was waffling a little then saw the painted secretary you posted from Eddie Ross and I just LOVE it. Painting is just the way to go for me. My mom can keep all the polished walnut she wants but if it's in my house, it will have to live with my rules.

oh and as for the greywashing - did anyone else look through that Restoration Hardware catalog and feel like their eyesight was fading? I was worried I'd look up from the page and only see in sepia!

Dana @ Cooking At Cafe D said...

I do get a little bothered when something I've been doing for years *suddenly* becomes all the rage.

But, I get over it.

I love mixing woods. And, I particularly like to mix rustic woods with silver antiques.

There are somethings I will *always* want. A fabulous chunky dining room table (that my sister currently has) is on my short list!

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