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Painting the Wood Walls and Toning/De-Oranging the Beams at our A-frame

January 7, 2019  —  Written by Julia Marcum 

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Right before Christmas, literally a week!, we had the main space in our a-frame painted. We were thinking about it for awhile and then it hit us–as soon as we start moving furniture in (we were hosting family starting the 23rd) it was going to become a lot more difficult to ever do it. So we took the leap! It was a big jump, but we’re so so happy with how it turned out.

Here’s a few before-paint photos to remind you where we started:

After looking through lots of inspiration photos, we decided to paint the tongue and groove a warm white, we went with Benjamin Moore China White and de-orange the beams–more on that in a minute.

The painters taped off all the beams and surrounding areas the first day and primed the tongue and groove with Kilz Oil based primer.

And the next day, they followed up with two coats of Benjamin Moore China White in a matte finish. It’s the most beautiful warm white. Not stark. Just right. At this point we knew that the beams were going to look completely different but we thought maybe there was a chance that uncovering them they would be magically be perfect. During this time, we discovered that the beams had already been stained and sealed previously–although they weren’t slick and shiny like you’d expect. Unfortunately, uncovering them, they looked more orange than ever.

We didn’t have the budget (or time) to sand down the beams and start fresh, but we worked with the pros to figure out a solution. We used oil-based paint “watered down” with mineral spirits at a 2:1 ratio paint to mineral spirits. After lots of testing, we landed on Benjamin Moore’s Sandy Hook.

The painters brushed it on and wiped it off immediately, working in small sections. I didn’t want any opaque areas of paint because that could go shabby really fast. I just wanted the look of a light stained wood and this was the work-around. It actually worked wonderfully! I took the in-progress photo below where you can see the beam below the horizontal beam has the thinned paint treatment and above it doesn’t. It really toned down the orange and made all of our other finishes work together so much better.

We decided to keep the window wall wood, too. Although, I’m going to paint the doors and sidelights black.

Everything important, everything that we wanted to be noticed stands out now. I didn’t even see the black metal plates at the top of the a-frame beams before we painted and now they are there and SO cool!

The stacked fireplace, the wood floors can all breathe and shine now. Even though we know it isn’t what everyone would have done, we’re so glad we did it! I really believe that you should never live with something you don’t love completely because you are afraid of doing something “permanent.” Both scenarios are “permanent”…and yet neither are.

What do you think?

  1. Linda says:

    I think its gorgeous! People are often thoughtless in their comments. You are correct to do whatever it is that you like and is best for your family. I love your blog.! Keep it going, you have beautiful taste.

  2. Rachel says:

    Love how the orangey tones are removed – its an insipiration for anyone who has varnished pine that has gone to an orange tone – even my tasmanian oak floorboards first layed in 1968 and varnished have turned orange – the tones you know and have a feeling for – when they don’t match, are not what you want to have in your home – it does take strength, a leap of faith what to do to bring all together, and oh so satisfying because it just works. The beautiful natural stone in the cabinfireplace – needed more taupey – grey – natural not overvarnished orangey wood was so happy when you revealed painted wood ceiling and refinished beams. I am waiting to refimish my floors – either sand or overlay with flooring (something that will cope with our Rhodesian Ridgeback ‘s claws as he leaps around the place forgetting he is now an older dog) to bring in the more natural colours of the wood.

  3. Amber says:

    Please help!! How do I de-orange my cabinets? I attempted the 2:1 paint:spirits and it did not work. Is there something I missed about the type of paint? I got BM Sandy Hook in a sample. Desperate!

  4. Fernando says:

    Is there a way that I could get a picture or a name of the product that you used on the beams?

  5. Fernando says:

    Is there a way that I could get a picture or a name of the product that you used on the beams?

  6. Pamela says:

    I am so sorry about the fire, I wish you the best of luck finding your next cabin. Having said this, I am most appreciative of you sharing how you made these changes and the colors you used. This is just stunning, I love everything about it.

  7. Shanda Ackermann says:

    I am so sorry for the loss of your cabin. I still get so much joy/inspiration from these posts. Not sure if you read older post comments but why did you use a primer? We are about to paint our cabins cedar interior white as well and just wondering.

  8. aussiebushgirl says:

    I realise I’m late to the table here, but wanted to add that (imo) the best product on the market today for timber walls and ceilings is Rustoleum’s Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3. It is a water-based, whole-house primer, sealer and stain blocker for interior and exterior applications. After many failed attempts to stop the bleed-through from our knotty pine timber walls and ceilings, we landed on Zinsser and haven’t looked back! Highly recommend.

    Feeling absolutely mortified about the loss of your beautiful A-framer. So much love and attention to detail was poured into your cabin. Out of the ashes rises the phoenix! Regroup, regenerate and rebuild. The old cabin is calling you back to this stunning location. xo heather

  9. Monica Miller says:

    What made you choose oil based paint instead of latex? I have rough hewn cedar wood trim in my basement. It’s orangey. I am wondering if this method would work with watered down latex paint?

  10. Beth says:

    Hi Chris and Julia- Did you apply this treatment to the interior doors as well or did you paint them white? I have hideous flat wood doors (no molding or panels) and tons of that orange wood trim.

  11. Idasco says:

    Just loved the way you did your interiors. Eagerly waiting for more such unique ideas!

  12. Jen says:

    I love the de-oranging!! Do you think this same affect would work on a dining table?

  13. Shannon Withaeger says:

    I love that you painted the walls! And the way you handled the beams is genius! I’m wondering if that technique would work on wood floors? Almost my entire house is that orangey red oak and I want to refinish them. I love the color of your refinished beams and want to replicate it!

  14. Megan Baer says:

    Love the de-oranging idea! It’s sort of like a natural whitewash for wood! Any idea whether the oil based paint was flat or semi-gloss? Also, did you seal the wood with anything afterwards? I’d be nervous about not sealing. But I’d also worry that a finish may add a slight sheen and take away the natural look.

    • Julia says:

      It was a matte paint and we didn’t seal it afterward but oil based paint is very durable

      • LISA CLAUSEN says:

        Trying to find matte/flat oil that they can tint is impossible. Will this work with semi gloss oil? I am in Central Oregon and we have legitimate paint stores and finding this is not available.

      • Julia says:

        I’d do the lowest sheen they had. Eggshell??

  15. Sarah says:

    Everything looks so good! I would love to know more about picking paint colors… even after listening to your podcast episode about it (twice). I’m always confused about whether rooms with lots of natural light should be painted light whites or darks? When can a room handle dark walls? I know you’ve done both Dark and Light walls in your home and cabin, but would love to know more about how you made those decisions! Just an idea for a helpful blog post!

  16. Sara says:

    It is absolutely stunning!

  17. Overzetdak says:

    Wow! This is amazing.

  18. Brittany says:

    Can I just say I was anti-painting. I love it. I was also anti messing with the beams and they turned out beautifully. I love seeing you do things I wouldn’t, so I can see new things to love!

  19. Lindsey says:

    This is amazing! Do you think it would work on wood floors?

  20. Marti says:

    I really love how this turned out. After seeing how the toned-down beams look, i’m curious if you considered that look for the entire space? If yes, what made you choose white over washed/stained wood?

    • Julia says:

      We considered all options but really love the mix of white and wood beams. We really wanted to bring the beams to the forefront.

  21. Jamie says:

    This looks amazing! I was totally supportive of you painting the walls, but didn’t anticipate leaving those beams. It’s perfect! Major props to you for having this vision

  22. Linda says:

    I love it!! So much!

  23. HR says:

    What a fantastic transformation! The whitewashing is beautifully subtle, love it!

  24. Korie Veidel says:

    That last sentence may have changed my life (or at least my home) forever.

    Mindblowing! Makes so much sense though.

  25. Jennifer Ptak says:

    This is amazing! I am looking to tone down the orange wood walls of our log home as well! Did this seem to be a fairly easy process that a “non-pro” can tackle??

    • Julia says:

      Definitely! There was nothing they did that we couldn’t do. But the sheer height and amount with a 3 day deadline made it not possible for us.

  26. Lyndsey says:

    YAAAAAS!!!! THANK YOU!!!!!

  27. Sarah says:

    Love this post!! I’m thinking of trying it on our orange oak doors. Is there a specific type of Benjamin Moore oil based paint that works best? The cabin looks beautiful!

  28. Ruby says:

    This has clearly has been an issue for many of us with too much orange in our lives. I recently refinished white oak floors that were orange with a soft finish called Nordic, they look awesome. I have lacquered doors that are still in the orange hue and want to tone this down a bit but keep the wood grain. They are solid wood doors. Would this work?

  29. Paige Lloyd says:

    Love, love, LOVE ????????
    I have been very excited for this post. We have 1981 Texas Ranch home… We have orange-tinted beams.
    Sooooo if i take the 2:1 ratio mentioned to Benjamin Moore can they mix it up? Or did you all purchase the stain and mix it with the mineral spirits yourself?

    • Julia says:

      We mixed it ourselves because we were very much still testing things at the time. I’m not sure if they’d mix it for you or not!

      • Paige Lloyd says:

        Thank you, THANK YOU! Just any Mineral Spirits? Where did you purchase it? I am like BEYOND giddy about this but nervous as all get out????!! But something needs to be done ????????. we sold what we thought was our forever home {in Idaho Falls☺!!!} only 3 years after building it. The new home we bought in Dallas has good bones- but is a definite project ???? I love what you mentioned about living, enjoying your home through the process. #truth #preach
        next project= beams!

      • Julia says:

        Get it! (yes, any mineral spirits)

      • Paige Lloyd says:

        Man, i have been grueling over our beams… First, the mixture didn’t even think about penetrating the beams… Pretty much ran down the front and laughed at me ???? ….So i am SO CURIOUS what was on your beams existing {i knows you mentioned you don’t know}…. So i bought liquid sander and rubbed that on to get past the topcoat. Put the mixture on. SUCCESS…. We are in… and then it just became a disaster! The paint almost pulls differently than the mineral spirits {almost like it wasn’t a homogenous mixture… which if it sets it seperates , i know…..but I got to the point where i was mixing with one hand- applying with the other, stop mixing with hand #1, and use hand #1 to wipe off…. and it looks really shabby/chic white-streaked. So now we are on to the next, next, next plan{the joys of DIY’ing}… Haven’t totally come up with it yet… BUT just some food for thought if anybody is wanting to try this…. Silly me thought it’d be the easiest project because you had such great instructions!!!????

  30. shannon says:

    This looks SO DREAMY!! Great work trusting your gut, and going after what you wanted. I know it isn’t easy!

    Question: How did you select a white to tone down the orange? I have a feeling you will say “undertones” but I’m struggling with how to work with them. Did you select a purple-y white to work against the orange? or something a little orange to work with what you had, but tone it down a bit?

    We have some pretty wood built-ins in our house with a green tone I’d rather wasn’t there. I’d like to try this technique, but I feel paralyzed by picking a color!

    • Julia says:

      We chose the white paint first. And we just chose one that felt warm. We didn’t choose the beam color until after we uncovered the walls so that we could be sure the undertones colors coordinated. The painters were convinced that we needed a gray with blue undertones to cut the orange but that brings a lot of cool tones with it. So I suggested Sandy Hook, which has more green tones–which cut the red/orange tones of the wood perfectly without it going too cold.

  31. Renee says:

    Great example for your readers on how light changes the look of a color (angled roof versus the wall between them and the floor). Odd comment, I know, but I felt like sharing.

  32. Elze says:

    Honestly, just hearing Sandy Hook sends me back into the sadness and horror of that day, that I’ll never forget… how can Benjamin Moore still keep that as the color name? Do any of the proceeds of this paint go to help the victims of Sandy Hook? I realize it’s ‘just a name’ but Sandy Hook has been forever tainted by the violence and terror that happened there years ago #neverforget

  33. It turned out so beautiful. Great choices in paint colors. I love the two toned look you are going for. As always, well done.

  34. Sarah says:

    It looks amazing! I’ve been waiting for this post as we have a bunch of honey oak throughout our house. Do you think this technique would work on doors and baseboard? Some of our doors have a lot of grain and I’m unsure if the paint would settle in the cracks and not come out. Do you recommend any specific oil based paint for this project? Thanks and love how you have transformed the space!

    • Julia says:

      I think thinning out the paint with the mineral spirits really helps nothing settle in the cracks. Our team used benjamin moore paint!

  35. Erin says:

    LOVE what you guys are doing to the place. Do you think the approach you took with the beams would work with satin finished cabinetry? I’ve been wanting to refinish my kitchen cabinets. I love the wood grain but I can’t stand the yellow. However the finish is a traditional satin. Thoughts?

    • Julia says:

      There’s no reason it wouldn’t! I would probably start with a de-glosser first since cabinets are usually more glossy/finished. And then be sure to still use oil-based paint with the mineral spirits as it adheres a lot better than traditional latex.

  36. Juanita says:

    We have DARK wood beams in our living and being in the woods just makes the room feel cavernous (in a not-cozy-way). I’ve been contemplating trying this to lighten them to a more natural tone. Do you think it would work on dark wood? I’m mean like chocolate lab dark. ????

  37. Alisha says:

    Love the beams! Do you think that method of “toning down” the orange could work on cabinets too?

    • Julia says:

      There’s no reason it wouldn’t! I would probably start with a de-glosser first since cabinets are usually more glossy/finished. And then be sure to still use oil-based paint with the mineral spirits as it adheres a lot better than traditional latex

  38. Heather says:

    do you think this technique would work on orangy oak cabinets?

    • Julia says:

      There’s no reason it wouldn’t! I would probably start with a de-glosser first since cabinets are usually more glossy/finished. And then be sure to still use oil-based paint with the mineral spirits as it adheres a lot better than traditional latex

  39. Nancy says:

    Love it! Don’t apologize for your choices! Do what you like, that’s why we all watch your progress! To see what choices you make and why! It’s beautiful, and I can’t wait to see what else you do!

  40. Jacqueline says:

    I love your solution for minimizing the orangeness of the wood beams. I have a traditional wood judges paneled room, circa 1980’s, and have been dreaming of painting it since we moved in. My husband is against painting wood so I’ve been pondering and thinking about restaining to neutralize, lighten, and soften the color of the wood. I’m going to add your solution for your beams to my memory bank for when we get around to redoing our “Wood Room.” I appreciate this as a solution that (potentially if my hubby agrees) both of us could be happy with. Thanks for the idea!

  41. Nikki says:

    Love this! The cosmos must have been listening… I too am looking for a way to de-orange beams in a cathedral-ceiling 80’s house. The idea of stripping is daunting – although really I want a raw wood look. I could definitely live with the look you got here.

    Wondering if you had to sand at all before applying the oil paint/spirits mixture?

  42. Amanda Taylor says:

    It looks so fresh! I love it!

  43. Jaime says:

    Wow! I think you guys did an amazing job!!! I was wondering what the hard wood floors are and were they prefinished?
    Everything looks great!!!

  44. yasmara says:

    Love love LOVE it! I knew it was the right decision as soon as you said it but it looks even better with the beams toned.

  45. I have a lot of honey oak in my house. Slowly trying to irradiate it, but I’m realizing I don’t want to get rid of all the wood, just change the tone. Specifically on my banisters (all 70 feet of them) and I think I’m going to try this on the handrails! Thank you!!!

  46. Leslie Bernardon says:

    I LOVE it! I would have done the exact same thing. Love watching this project unfold ????

  47. Elizabeth says:

    Wow! I was against painting the wood but it looks so much better now! I love watching you transform your spaces!

  48. Elyse says:

    Ya know, I wasn’t sure about the painted walls, but it turned out AMAZING! The de-orangifying is such a huge game changer! I really love the direction you’re headed in! It’s just a touch calmer and less busy, but it doesn’t lose the cabin vibe in the least!

  49. Karen says:

    I LOVE it!! Only one question, was it difficult to air out the smell of the Kilz and the oil paint/pain thinner??

    • Julia says:

      They had professional grade fans airing it out and the windows open. Honestly, I was surprised it didn’t smell in the least when they were done. But when we took the progress pictures, there was a smell. If you attempt it yourself, definitely wear masks–the whole crew did.

      • Diana McLean says:

        All paint has a curing time. Off gassing is another term which definitely applies to oil base paint.
        My newly constructed bookcase was painted with Advance paint from Benjamin Moore. Has the look of oil paint, not latex but much healthier to use.
        The cabin is just beautiful sans the orange stain.

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