Asked on Jan 06, 2014

Painting a wood ceiling in white.

by Anangloinquebec
I presently have wooden ceilings that are about 50 years old. We did a renovation recently in which we opened up a room and removed a closet. We had to finish the closet ceiling to work with the rest of the ceiling which has now left me struggling to match the stain of the new ceiling with the old ceiling. After much discussion, I have everybody in agreement to paint all the ceilings white. I am struggling with finding the right white to go with the wood beams. My thinking is to unify all the beams in a dark brown stain which will match the floors. At the same time we are painting all the walls on this main level in white.
So my question is multi-layered, do I paint the same white on the walls as the ceiling, what is a good warm white to go with a chocolate brown hardwood floor and finally since I live in a northern climate I am searching for a white that is not too cold-looking in the winter when our house interior reflects the snow from outside.
Any suggestions?
This ceiling is beamed at 2.5 feet intervals. I am thinking that these beams should be dark as the cross beam in the other image which matches our floor colour.
Here is the problem of not being able to match the stain from the old ceiling to the new. The old is 50 years old so the aging of the wood makes it impossible to match.
  36 answers
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Jan 07, 2014
    Matching stain is a really big problem. Have you tried mixing several colors to get the right mix? I have only limited experience in stains so I am not much help. (I take it that only that lighter spot is what is causing your concern...??) Match this as closely as you can and then why not look for some stunning pendant lights (perhaps wire baskets with Edison bulbs) and make this a focal point for the lights. There are lights out there that are absolutely stunning. If you find 1 light that is amazing, you can have a mural painted in that spot that compliments the light. Do not paint everything white until you have exhausted your options. That is beautiful wood!!!!
  • You are going to paint the boards white on the ceiling in between the beams? Have you tried to match the stain? I know it is a big feat to match stain but the ceilings are beautiful in the wood. Even if you do not match perfectly, you can get pretty close with some patience and lots of samples. I think the beauty in the room lies with your beams and even the wood ceiling and painting it white or even a ceiling white (an off/antique white) may take away from the ceiling. to give some warmth to the walls in the room have you thought about a neutral wall color in a taupe, brown, beige, or even grey? I do not know what brands of paint you have in Canada to suggest a color. Valspar Oatland Subtle Taupe or Woodrow Wilson Putty are two great colors for a neutral palette. Benjamin Moore has Pashmina or hush (beige colors). there are so many whites and I assume your trim is wood not painted so I would look to an off white or beige with no yellow undertones. I have painted wood and have had great results but I painted a section like your ceiling, on a wall tho, that has been driving me nuts for 3 years since I ripped out most of the lap siding in the room but this one area which I thought would be hidden by the flat screen. Needless to say, I do not like it painted white because the seams stare at me while I look at the tv. My husband laughs because he says "get over it" but I hate it. I have beams on the ceiling in the room and painted them white and the ceiling a ceiling white which is a soft antique white and they look good. But in your home the wood is beautiful and I would hate to see you cover it up, just my opinion.
  • Anangloinquebec Anangloinquebec on Jan 07, 2014
    I love the pendant light idea Jeanette but my only problem is that there is a staircase at the end of that wall and since the ceiling is not exceptionally high I am limited in vertical space. That part of the room is left open since it is a "traffic zone" between the upstairs and main floor. But, hmmm.... as you can see I love globe lights, which are hanging over the kitchen island. Your wire ones would solve a chandelier challenge that I have had for the dining table. I tried mixiing stains but it seems that the aging process has coloured the wood into its own unique blend.
    • Z Z on Jan 07, 2014
      @Anangloinquebec, I know this is going to sound crazy, but my thought is to try and match the color of the old wood to a paint chip then turn the paint into a "stain" by adding it to a glazing compound. Paint comes in more colors than stain, even when you take into account all the brands out there, so you'll have a much better chance to find something that matches. It would be a shame to paint your wood ceilings because of a small area. They give your home so much character!
  • Well, I like white ceiling, so I would paint in between the beams white and stain the beams a real dark stain, painting the ceiling white will also make your ceiling's look higher and your rooms bigger.
  • Beth Cole Byrne Beth Cole Byrne on Jan 07, 2014
    Personally, I would paint the ceilings white to match the walls, but in an antique white, which has brown in it. It would be a "warmer" white, which wouldn't look as cold. It will also make your ceiling seem higher and the room, larger. Looking at your photo again, I would consider painting the beams to match the floor, at least as close as you can come. The beams are very attractive.
  • Terra Gazelle Terra Gazelle on Jan 07, 2014
    I have a very small studio to paint..I did the walls a very hazy sage green...very light with a dab of light gray..I took a bit of that color and added it to the ceiling paint and it makes the ceiling look a bit taller..and the light green gray tricked the eye and seems to open the small place up. I think too white a white is harsh you can add a bit of the wall color or a bit of gold. That should warm up the white and give it a dimension.
  • Building Moxie Building Moxie on Jan 07, 2014
    This is probably not the answer you want, but I have left exposed floor joists and (underside of) floor boards in several houses. Just hitting them with low sheen poly. ... that said and understanding your dilemma - I think white is a great call. While I don't know if I can give you a specific color, I am absolutely certain in will instantly liven the room. Personally don't think I'd do the walls white if you are doing a white ceiling (I'm seeing something maybe rosy - but idk). It looks like those "beams" have been previously finished and I'd make sure to "de-gloss" before I paint. All and all a good dilemma to have. Good luck. ~jb
  • Niki Niki on Jan 07, 2014
    The ceiling is beautiful! Don't paint it! You can never go back if you do without sanding the entire thing. Play with stains to match the new piece and paint only the new beam white (antique white). Stains now a days are easier to match than ever. You can even take a small piece that you need to match and the paint store can match it almost exact...even make it look old. This will save you a lot of work and keep the original look of the ceiling.
  • Nina Jordan-Smith Nina Jordan-Smith on Jan 08, 2014
    There are so many people that would love to have a ceiling that beautiful...I'm one of them. I understand if you can't stand it but if it were me I would leave it alone. It is so hard to go back once you have done it, especially since they are in great shape. I would paint the walls but show off the ceiling with pride. I would go with a very slight color, maybe a barely there color...sage, beige...I think this would flatter the stain on the ceiling.
  • Diana Diana on Jan 08, 2014
    Ok I will weigh in here. If you paint the ceiling white it will open up the room and make that ceiling seem higher. It will be pretty white the Europeans do this all the time and it is lovely.
  • Cyndi Moore Tippett Cyndi Moore Tippett on Jan 08, 2014
    I usually would tell you to paint it...BUT in this case I would leave them alone. They are so beautiful and add so much character. I would not worry with trying to match the stain now. Give it some time. Stain will get darker. Your ceilings have gotten about as dark as they will get the new stain needs time to really mature. No one will notice but you and if they do tell them you want it that way. Over time they will blend and if they don't after six months try staining the new part again to see how well it blends then.
  • Kathy Kathy on Jan 08, 2014
    I have a white ceiling with dark beams, and the white between the beams make the room much brighter, but the stained beams and crown molding keep the charm of the wood ceiling.
  • Anangloinquebec Anangloinquebec on Jan 08, 2014
    I have to say right away that I am sooo impressed with the responses here. I just found hometalk the other day and cannot believe what a supportive community this is. Lots of great ideas and suggestions. I think I will attempt to take another stab at matching given some of the suggestions. Never thought about matching through a paint chip. The age of the old ceiling is what seems to make it more difficult. I also never thought about painting the walls in a slightly "beige" tone or "putty". I am planning on painting all the walls on the main floor in the spring once it warms up here. :) so, that might be a consideration too. I am not sure if this is acceptable on this site but I have posted more pics on my blog today searching for solutions. I think Niki hit my biggest going back.
  • Barbara Turner Barbara Turner on Jan 08, 2014
    I would NOT paint that ceiling white. You are blessed with some really rich woodwork and to paint it would absolutely destroy the character of the room. BUT if you do, it's always best to prime the ceiling first so that the paint will adhere. BUT before you do that you will NEED to sand the slick finish off the stain there now so that the primer and paint will adhere. It's critical that you do that or you will be sorry. THEN after all that, you'll want to get just a plain basic CEILING WHITE paint. Do not get anything but. And frankly from looking at your room colors, I'd get the paint department to tint it a buff color such as a very very light cream. Good luck but then again, I'd do like Nicole Curtis and strip the wood stain off and mix a custom stain and use that. Let us know how it turned out.
  • Cynthia E Cynthia E on Jan 08, 2014
    No idea which white you should use sorry-- but if you don't want to paint ceiling have you considered stripping wood in-between beams and staining them a lighter color (or even using a tinted stain-maybe a whitewash stain?) and staining the beams darker if needed? Just a thought if you really love the look of wood but want some color or differences in ceiling and beam. I think your ceilings are gorgeous! Painting you would lose the grain/texture of the wood yet staining could keep that look and feeling. Without being able to take 1 of your correct color stained ceiling planks in to be matched it would be very hard to get it right I would think.
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    • Cynthia E Cynthia E on Jan 08, 2014
      @Anangloinquebec it is a huge job but not that much harder than painting all those planks on a ceiling . I would use one of those paint stain strippers you wipe on and off then lightly sand before staining. I could easily see either of these colors on your ceiling with those dark beams. But honestly any lighter stain or sheer color stain so grain shows would be wonderful with your dark beams. From the sounds of it I think you would be happier with a stain in the end than paint. But cant wait to see what you decide! Show pictures when you are done :)
  • Sharon hazen hall Sharon hazen hall on Jan 08, 2014
    I did't read the other comments. We have a 1907 home in Oregon. Most of the wood ceilings were already painted...with the exception of my office. We are in the process of painting the whole room, including the ceiling. the color we will be using appears white, but has a "warm" tint (yellow)...that allows the room to feel warm and inviting even with our GREY days / winter time. The use of a warm color (yellowish) white eliminates the reflection of the drab winter outdoors. I promise this works.. I understand ones opinion about not painting the wood. I got over that a long time ago...good luck from a "retired interior decorator" grammy
  • Wilson Builders Wilson Builders on Jan 08, 2014
    The ceiling has character, I would find a good painter to stain them. It makes the room feel warm
  • Sandra Hellewell Sandra Hellewell on Jan 08, 2014
    I think the easiest thing to do, if you like the wood ceilings, is to stain the new beams in the closest color to the old ones & then put a dark wax on them to give them the aged look to match the 50 year old beams. There is lots of info on this technique online. Do some research 1st! Hope this helps!
  • Catherine B Catherine B on Jan 09, 2014
    I would offset the new ceiling with some decorative wood, but I would NOT paint that beautiful old ceiling..
  • Peggy Donlon Peggy Donlon on Jan 09, 2014
    those ceilings look like either knotty pine or ceder..I would, if you could afford to have them stripped and refinished in natural...pine and ceder are both very pretty in their natural would lighten your room and still give it a warm feeling...
  • Laura jeffreys Laura jeffreys on Jan 09, 2014
    My living room has the original knotty pine tongue in groove walls and ceiling with dark oak floors; did I mention it is north facing? Depressingly dark so...sent hubs to the beach and painted the heck out of it. That was 20 years ago and haven't regretted it yet. He even loved it (after the fact). My favorite white is Valspar Betsy's Linen which I use in semi gloss to reflect light without being harsh. Love my painted wood! Words of wisdom if you paint: prime, prime, prime first.
  • Paula Wyrick Paula Wyrick on Jan 09, 2014
    I love the look of white beams on a white ceiling. I would add a warm caramel color or even pale aqua on the walls to cozy up the space...throw pillows and comfy throws will also make a welcoming difference.
  • Marcia Crill Marcia Crill on Jan 09, 2014
    I would just sand and restain the large cross beam a lighter color as it sticks out way too much, then maybe paint the bright, white wall in a light chocolate or mocha to go with the mint color in the rest of the house.
  • Belinda Belinda on Jan 09, 2014
    We have a guy at Lowes in the paint department that mixed a stain to match for us! You can't tell the difference
  • Sandra Hellewell Sandra Hellewell on Jan 09, 2014
    another suggestion! whitewash the wood with 1 part white latex paint & 1 part water. This way you can still see the wood grain but you have lightened & freshened up the ceiling & it all looks the same - old & new!
  • Sue R Sue R on Jan 09, 2014
    I have the exact same ceiling and thought about painting it, but I love the wood so much I don't want to ruin it. I have also had to strip a lot of painted woodwork in the past and have always thought "why would anyone paint this beautiful woodwork" So I don't want someone 30-50 years from now saying the same
  • Anangloinquebec Anangloinquebec on Jan 09, 2014
    Thanks everyone! I am going to play around with the section that is not yet stained and try out some various stain colours and see what I like. If I find one that really >wows> me then I will get busy and start sanding. Great ideas and I guess I have to figure this out. THANKS!! :)
    • See 1 previous
    • Pat Schoffstoll Pat Schoffstoll on Apr 03, 2016
  • Matina V Matina V on Jan 09, 2014
    Oh I vote to whitewash the wood instead of painting it! Paint is just paint, wood has character and depth and warmth. Yes it would be a huge pain to sand it but stripper really helps. It's so personal though. If you like white paint then pick one with gold or pink tones, never blue or grey because those will be cold looking in winter light. Good luck!
  • Cheryl Cheryl on Aug 11, 2015
    How about a white milk paint... the wood grain would show through... very pretty, rustic, shabby sheek.
  • Cathey DeRosa Cathey DeRosa on Aug 19, 2015
    I watch alot of home shows, and read a few magazines. It seems to me, wood everything is sort of coming back. The main thing: once you paint/stain, you can't go back. Every style comes back and I personally think anything of wood is a beautiful addition to any home. It lends a warm feeling. Just think about the work involved to change things back. Once you change it, and the style goes out, what can you do to get you "old" wood back? I say leave's beautiful.
  • Terra Gazelle Terra Gazelle on Aug 20, 2015
    I like having the ceiling lighter then the floor..with dark stain on the floor and the ceiling you make the room look smaller and the ceiling height lower. There is a white in Sherwin Williams that I like , its called Downy. Its not a stark white but warm. I love Painted ceilings... its makes the room look cleaner and airy and roomy.
  • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on Aug 20, 2015
    My opinion only but I would I match the stain on the new wood. I have done a lot of match ups so you will probably have to work with 2 or 3 stain colours at the same time to get it right. You might end up with too much white otherwise.
  • Sierra Joy Sierra Joy on Apr 13, 2020

    I have similar ceilings and I'm thinking of painting them. Do you have any "after" photos?

  • Kate Garrett Kate Garrett on Apr 13, 2020

    There is nothing wrong with using the same hue for walls and ceilings. Traditionally, ceilings are done in flat or flat/matte; walls usually do better with at least an eggshell finish.

    The glossier the finish the easier to keep clean, the flatter the finish, the easier to hide imperfections in the paint job. Painting ceilings is difficult, so there are always imperfections, & you don't have to worry about people touching ceilings with any regularity. I usually get "ceiling" paint, that is a bit more watery & very flat, for ceilings & use either eggshell or semi-gloss in the best quality I can afford for walls.

    As for warm whites, your best color option depends on your furniture, the angle of your windows, & personal taste. But, you could make it easier on yourself and go with a stock off white. Depending on the brand, it may be marketed as Swiss Coffee, Blanched Almond, or something similar. These classic neutrals tend to be a bit to the warm side without being over the top.

  • Deb K Deb K on May 19, 2023

    Hi Ananglo, I think white paint would brighten up your room and make it look more open, I say go for it! Just be sure to use a primer first to avoid bleed into the white paint.

  • Mogie Mogie on May 19, 2023

    While I agree with painting it white I would white wash it. I love the look of real wood and the white wash would keep that natural look while at the same time lightening it also.