Should I paint the exposed beams in my living room?

Fairleigh Wren
last month
last modified: last month

I’m framing up my house with paint. I’m painting the walls in Dulux white natural paint. However, should I paint my exposed beams ceiling white also!??

Comments (42)

  • Fairleigh Wren

    Wow, just read what I posted! Very bad AutoCheck and grammar there, sorry about that!
    “I’m freshening you my house with paint, using Dulux natural white paint

  • PRO
    Dr Retro House Calls

    NO! The contrasting beams are a feature of your home and provide a strong rhythm and visual interest to your home. I can't see from your photos but I suspect that they are not actually painted, but have a mission brown stain, which is showing some of the original woodgrain.

    Painting them white will not make them disappear, but it will say "hey I'm embarrassed and I'm trying to hide these dominant beams, but failing". Instead I would be doing exactly the opposite and giving them a dark black/brown stain to get rid of the redness, but still maintain the feature element. Dark stained beams were a common element of many Pettit and Sevitt homes and the design of your home looks like it may have been inspired by this style.

    Best of luck

    Dr Retro

    of Dr Retro House Calls

  • Fairleigh Wren

    I love exposed beams! It’s just such a dark area, doesn’t get a lot of natural light in. I thought the painting walls, ceiling and beams white will create the illusion of more light and airy space

  • amonymousanne

    Are you replacing the kitchen cupboards or painting them ? Perhaps you would have more light with those in white .

  • amonymousanne

    Your lighting is warm white , so a change of bulbs to day white or even cool white might help . Maybe even a change of pendant to something a bit less grey .

  • amonymousanne

    Your taupe wall will be sucking up light and reflecting shadows . Someone else might be able to suggest a better colour and lighting .

  • Fairleigh Wren

    I painted the walls in both kitchen and hallway - already makes it feel brighter.
    With those lights they are only a certain wattage light bulb that can go in them.

    Because the ceiling is so high it’s cheaper and easier to get the spray gun and paint then the individually cut around them.
    Eventually the kitchen will have a new stone bench top and painted cabinets which will also help the lighting issues

  • bigreader

    I wouldn’t paint them either. They are a feature.

  • siriuskey

    Can you add a couple of Velux skylights in between the beams, you would need to look into sizes to fit, Love your house, painting the beams with a darker stain as Retro suggested would be my go to,

  • Bek Turbay

    It’s really a personal choice, but painting them white is the easiest way to lighten up the house.

  • legendaryflame

    I would not paint them

  • siriuskey

    The all white is very Hamptons that everyone has done to death, try a sensitive approach by maintaining the character of the building . It of course is your home and decision

    Chamfer House · More Info

  • Linda Curry

    We found skylights made a huge difference. Took this photo on a wet, cloudy day (today).

  • PRO
    3DA Design Drafting and 3D Visuals

    Everyone has their own preferences. I personally found the beams distracting. Sure its a raked ceiling, but its nothing more than that.
    I would just paint them.

    I would only keep them if its like DrRetro or Siriuskey's example.
    (both example shows rafters and beams that is more than just a beam. It enhances directions and movements, leading to outdoors, and have intricate details)

    If it does not do any of those, just blend it into the ceiling.
    Making the ceiling single colour means you get the play of shadow instead. This in itself is an art.

    If you are not sure, photoshop it in white first, then compare. You will know you like or hate it. Its one or the other.

  • lyndagoulden

    I'm very definitely in favor of painting those beams white.

    They are dated and quite frankly, extremely distracting.

    Ask yourself what do you want people to notice in your room? As it stands at the moment, when I look at your photos, I see the ceilings. I honestly could not tell you what furniture and details are in your room [I'll go back and have another look in a minute] and that's what will happen in reality if you leave them dark. - They force you and your visitors to look up, at the expense of seeing other features in the room.

    Good, if you are a rotten housekeeper I suppose but not great if you have gone to the trouble of redecorating and nobody notices the effort you have made.

    I have the same issue in my house. We bought a 23yr old Lockwood house in it's original state, where walls and ceilings are timber. TIMBER! - That's all the eye can see.

    Like you, I'm just beginning to revamp. Everyone has told me that I must leave it original but I have given that advice the big thumbs down.

    So far, I've painted just two bedrooms and a hallway in Resene Triple Merino White, with the result that now all the nay sayers are asking "how long before you can get rid of the rest of the timber look?"

    If you are unsure, look at photos on Houzz or do a google search for images of painted beams ceilings similar to your ones to get a clearer vision of what your ones could look like painted.

    Be brave and trust your instinct. I think you already know what you must do.

  • siriuskey

    Would love to see some photos of your progress Lyndagolden

  • lyndagoulden

    At the moment, the before photos would look better than the after ones, as the painted rooms are now having to act as storage spaces.

    We are awaiting a builder to convert/swap/extend the kitchen and master bedroom & ensuite spaces. Within the next 6 months, I hope to post photos of all the changes.

    Below is a photo - taken from the sales brochure - looking towards the Kitchen and Master bedroom [through closed door] that will trade places.

    The huge amount of timber, while beautiful, overwhelms the senses. This room was professionally back lit but in reality, you have to have lights on at 2pm in the afternoon as the timber sucks out all the light.

    This next photo, shows the painted wall of one of the bedrooms. The rest of the room is a cluttered mess. The carpet has to be replaced but the curtains are new. Click on the photo to get the full view.

  • jurienbay

    Hi, we were told to keep the dark timbers but we painted them in grey tinted ceiling paint so they were matt. we used Dulux Timeless grey, had a feature wall of Tranquil retreat and whisper white on the other walls. Still showed the feature of the beams but made it look like light and much more up to date.

  • siriuskey

    Hi Lyndagoulden, Your house is completely different and needed painting, the ship lap painted finish looks beautiful, love it, look forward to seeing more photos,

  • Nerissa Pinkney

    hi Fairleigh Wren, your house looks like a very similar age and design to mine. I love exposed wood beams but unfortunately the close spacing of dark beams really darkened and dated the house. as the beams weren't a natural wood colour we decided to paint them white and the difference to the feel of the space has been amazing. this is no lights on an overcast day.

  • Kate

    Love jurienbay’s modern take. Best of both worlds

  • siriuskey

    I agree with Kate and with Dr Retro, the beams need to be defined.

  • lyndagoulden

    Jurienbay: I hadn't thought doing the beams like that would make such an improvement I just love how better your ones look. Beats the All white approach or the heaviness of the dark beams. I've only got one massive beam but I think you have given me the inspiration to try that approach on it. Thanks.

  • Mark

    We painted ours a few years back and it made a huge difference - lifted the ceiling and made the rafters part of the house rather than something that felt like it was enclosing us in.

  • siriuskey

    Jurienbay, You must be very happy with the end result it looks beautiful, is there a kitchen connected to this as open plan

  • jurienbay

    thanks Siiuskey. we loved it. the kitchen was a separate area, behind the family room but still open. we moved a pillar and opened it up more.

  • siriuskey

    What a big difference, very pretty and bright well done

  • macdonasas

    Hi Fairleigh Wren - I had a similar decision to make except my beams were a peppermint green! They are now white and that has made the space seem so much larger and lighter.

  • The Doktor

    We have exposed beams in our place, rising up to clerestory windows (built in 1980) and love how they highlight the bones / engineering of the place.

    There is no way we could paint them white.

  • Fairleigh Wren

    Thank you everyone for your help and suggestions. At this stage I have decided to paint them white. Always wanted to see what it would look like. For me and my style I’m really happy. Now you can actually see the expensive lighting we put in! Haha they were getting lost in the beams before

  • amonymousanne

    Your lighting looks so much better . Is your fur baby going to be posted ?

  • Kate

    Thanks for posting photos of the completed project. Looks fantastic.hope it improves your happiness.

  • Linda Curry

    The room looks so much lighter. You made the right decision.

  • macdonasas


  • gwyn5

    Lordy! Those grey beams are FANTASTIC. No. Leave the beams. Its like people who render brick. Its not always successful and it looks just looks like it is. Embrace the timeframe in everything. Everything has its time.

  • fiogre99

    Painting the beams was a good decision - the room looks better. Consider replacing the picture with one that isn't as wide and has blue/green tones, and changing the orange and white cushions. It would balance out the orange of the floor and white of the walls and rugs.

  • PRO
    3DA Design Drafting and 3D Visuals

    great job! now is the time to shop for grey pet bed

  • PRO
    Melissa Treadgold Architect, Sydney, Australia

    Yes - paint the rafters to match the ceiling colour.

  • robynzdesinz

    Definitely paint them.. The look changes completely without those overbearing beams. And watch beams in the bedrooms. I believe that heavy beams in the bedroom are bad feng shui particularly if they 'split' the marital bed down the middle..

  • PRO
    Pleased to Bijou Design

    the beams are the whole architectural focus in house of this style. I can understand people wanting to paint when the ceiling is low and flat as the dark timber can feel intrusive. once painted, the home's point of difference will be lost forever. maybe you should get a designer decorator out to your house, who has worked with style before - they will probably have some great suggestions for other ways to capture more light, through light furniture, reflective surfaces, window treatments, different lighting and mirrors. skylights do make a world of difference too🌞