EXPOSED WOOD BEAMS AND WHITE PAINTED CEILINGS

As a designer I find that few things transform a space as easily and dramatically as a coat of bright white paint.  I'm also one of those people who firmly believe that most wood plank and beam ceilings should be painted white, all white! (The same goes for wood paneling on walls, in my opinion.)

In almost every case, except maybe a ski lodge that calls for an ultra "woodsy" feel, I believe white wood is the way to go!  It's amazing the amount of increased light that fills a space when it can reflect and bounce off white ceilings as opposed to being absorbed and muffled by too much dark wood.

For example, can you imagine how much heavier this living room in Amy Butler's home would feel if those ceilings and beams were a dark wood tone?

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And by comparison, even this beautifully-styled space is weighed down by all the dark wood... 

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I recently advised my dear friend Ali to go with white on the ceilings of her newly purchased home. 

Check out the transformation ... I mean the second photo just makes you feel like you can BREATHE better right!?  (Accenting the french doors and fireplace brick in black and hanging that gorgeous wrought iron lantern also helps this space out a TON.)

BEFORE
ROSA BELTRAN DESIGN
AFTER
ROSA BELTRAN DESIGN
(The paint color we used is Benjamin Moore "Simply White" OC 117, by the way.)

Here are some other massively transformed "before & after" wood ceiling projects I came across:

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AFTER
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(It's a little sacrilegious for a preserverationist-minded architecture buff to mess with original period woodwork, but if I ever owned a Craftsman bungalow like the one above I would totally paint all that dark wood paneling white!)
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AFTER
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Obviously it took a hell of a lot more zsushing than just white paint to bring the room above into it's current state ... that's a pretty drastic "before & after!"

Need more convincing?  Feast your eyes ...

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I can also get behind exposed beams finished in a very light weathered grey tone like so ... although it can be much costlier to achieve this effect than simply painting over the wood ...

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Anything that veers into the territory of white ceilings with the beams left dark just leaves me cold ...

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Even in this very beautiful room, I kind of feel like I'd like it better with white beams??

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Pretty much the only time I find myself enjoying the look of beams left dark is if they are ultra-aged and weathered and distressed.  Like these beams that are obviously ancient and would silly painted anyhow.  They lend great character to the right space ...

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Maybe it's all related to my lifelong aversion to the look of Tudor-style houses?  There's something about all those dark lines against the white walls that I find too busy and distracting ...


Which brings us to our next design challenge at my friend Ali's house.  It's a Tudor cottage that the previous owners painted white with brick red lines.  This isn't it, but you get the idea ...


So we'll be thinking up a more subtle and pleasing color palette when the time comes to re-paint the exterior.  Thus far I'm liking a combo of grey and ivory tones the best ...


That's a wrap!  Hope your week is going swimmingly!

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21 comments:

Robyn S said...

Really love this post! Ali's new home is going to be amazing!

Rosa said...

Hi Robyn,

So glad you like Ali's bright, fresh new ceilings...they look gorgeous!

Thank you!

Gwen Buchanan said...

I really love your take on painting ceiling beams.. I agree 100%. Great Post!

Jojo said...

I'm thinking of painting my bedroom exposed rafters (or beams). The bedroom is small and all the walls including the ceiling is white already.
Wondering do I need to do anything before painting (primer?) or can I just go ahead & paint straightaway?
The beams are rough to the touch and (I think) have been painted a really dark brown colour.

Giovana said...

Wow, all the pictures were so beautiful. It's amazing the effect that the exposed beams have on the room. The designs were topnotch! http://www.simplyoregon.com.au/products/

Anonymous said...

Rosa,

Beautiful work. I have a question when it comes to painting the beams. Do you have to do any pre-treatment to them in order to make sure the paint adheres properly?

Thanks for the post it will help my husband see that our living rooms space will look more updated once the beams are white.

Rosa said...

When it comes to painting a bit of sanding and a coat of primer goes a long way!

Maureen said...

Thank you for this beautiful post! I have been trying to convince my husband of having the high tung and groove ceilings w/beams at our lake home painted white. Years ago, my mother in law painted the complete interior of this home a mauve/gray color over the original natural wood... my husband was mortified! He and his dad had sanded and stained every board and beam themselves when building the house in the late sixties. To restore back to natural wood would be cost prohibitive, so paint is the best option. I love the white... it is tricky choosing the right one, but I am doing my home work with consideration to amount of light coming in and other elements of the remodel. The pictures in your post have given me the inspiration to go forward...Thank you again!! Maureen

Leigh W. said...

Rosa,

Thank you for these lovely photos of white ceilings and beams. I'm considering painting the ceilings and beams in my den. Do you generally use semi-gloss on the beams and flat paint on the ceilings, or just flat paint on both beams and ceilings (or do you think it matters?) Thanks!

Leigh

Rosa said...

Hi Leigh,

I'd say if your beams have a rough surface, which they generally do, use a flat paint. Anything glossy will just highlight the roughness and irregularities of the wood.

Leigh W. said...

Thank you!

Brian said...

Hi Rosa - In regards to Leigh's comment re: flat/glossy paint. I have beams over drywall ceilings. Should the drywall be painted with flat as well? So, use flat paint for BOTH the beams and drywall? Thanks! Brian

Silvia Jacinto said...

Every time I visit your blog it really completes my day, and hey its not a joke. I am telling the truth. Thank you for always inspiring us and for writing a very touching article.

zandra

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Anonymous said...

Just want to say THANK YOU for this post! I'm trying to convince my roomie to paint his hideous ceiling beams, and I'm crossing my fingers that your post does the trick. XOXOXOX

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Shane said...

What a difference white can make!! I'm looking at buying a new house which has timber exposed ceilings. After looking at your before and after photos, I'm convinced it could look amazing. Thanks so much

Raksha Varma said...

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The Holms said...

Would you still paint the beams ceiling white if the walls are not white? All but one picture above has white walls. I have an open kitchen living room with General Finishes Driftwood on the kitchen cabinets and Valspar Silver Thistle Down walls with accent wall Packed Sand.
Thank you!! 'I'm really torn on what to do.

Laura Maye said...

Love your style and totally agree with the all white look. But where's the insulation? We are re-doing a small woodsy cottage in Michigan (a far cry from Cali weather!) and curious what we do once we take the ceiling up to the roof line. Help! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Someone who actually has skill crafted the woodwork you're carelessly covering. I can't count the amount of homes I've worked on where beautiful walnut or oak has been painted white because some bored housewife saw it in a magazine and thought it looked cool. Destroying woodwork like this is not only a poor design choice, but also can negatively financially impact a home's value. Advising people to do so is simply irresponsible.

The best advice I, as a fourth generation carpenter, is work with your home's features, not against them. If you have a large wood support beam, do you best to highlight it, not hide it. Brightening up a home can be accomplished with paint choice and proper lighting, there is no need to take the easy way out in an effort to lighten a room.

Unknown said...

what paint base of finish do you recommend? We have a wood fireplace and I'd like to be able to wash the ceiling but don't want a super shiny also!

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