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Starting Fresh: How We Chose Paint and Trim for Tree House

Over the long weekend, we loaded up the dogs and spent a one-nighter at Tree House. Our list of things to knock out was long, but each task was relatively simple – measuring for lighting, ceiling fans and a couch (this one, specifically!), installing new locksets and, the kicker, choosing paint colors and all new trim work! This week, our favorite Chicago contractor and his team is spending their days at the house, removing the non-functioning chimney, replacing moldy drywall with new and moving a few plumbing lines for a washer and dryer, among a few other tasks. And next week, we’re having our floors refinished! It’s going to be an exciting month of renovation dominoes, and although we’re doing our best to pace ourselves, we’re also really excited to be knocking out our Tree House to-do list before the end of the year (while also pulling together the nursery and forcing ourselves to relax every now and then, too – ha!).

But! Back to our current tasks at hand. We shared some behind the scenes on our Stories, and a reoccurring question we received (both then and in general) was how do we choose the right paint color? Our goal for the weekend was to choose not only the color, but the perfect shade of not-too-cool and not-too-warm off-white for the living room, kitchen, mudroom and loft. The loft connects to the living room (with no breaks in the drywall for a clear division of space), which is open to the kitchen which is open to the mudroom, so, no pressure! Although we hope to get it right the first time, we do reassure ourselves that if we don’t love a color in the long run, it’s just paint, and – as much of a pain as it may be – we can always repaint. In addition, we were also on the hunt for a super soft blush in the larger bedroom, so I thought we’d dive a bit more into our thought process and where we landed. (Spoiler, we’re 99% there, but my pregnancy brain is making it difficult to commit.)

First, we picked up countless paint chips from Lowe’s. There was no holding back; we grabbed anything and everything that caught our eyes. We also snagged an Ultra White chip, which we knew we’d be using for the ceilings and trim throughout. We taped all the paint chips to the bedroom and living room walls the morning we arrived at Tree House, and as we worked on other tasks throughout the day, we would stand back and watch as the colors shifted through the morning and afternoon light.

The natural daylight shifts drastically throughout the day due to the surrounding trees, and this was one of our first truly sunny weekends at the house, making it even trickier! The sun injected an insane amount of warmth to the existing white paint color, although the moment a cloud rolled by, the whole house took on a cool hue. Even still, taping all the chips to the wall allowed us to immediately see the varying shades of white that is virtually impossible to see under artificial store lighting. In the living room, our next step was pulling down anything that immediately read as too pink or too green so that we could focus on the our top five-ish:

In the bedroom, we pulled off the pinks that we gravitated towards, and I gathered them around the Ultra White paint chip to see them pop against our future trim and ceiling color. At this point, we had finally narrowed it down to four colors that could work in the bedroom, and five whites that could work throughout the main living spaces – phew!

We went back to Lowe’s to get paint samples of all the final contenders, and we painted them onto the walls in several places throughout each of the rooms – north facing walls, south facing walls, across from one another, in the kitchen, in the mudroom and on the largest wall in the living room. Everywhere.

The next morning, the owner of the company that would be refinishing our floors (and installing new floors in the master bedroom – we can’t wait to share those updates with you soon!) stopped by to share samples of what we could expect our floors to look like. As a quick side note, the floors in Tree House are Douglas fir, and we’ll be stripping them down to their natural state and sealing them in a commercial grade, water-based matte finish. With a plank of Doug fir in hand, we went around the house and sandwiched the Ultra White paint chip between the contending wall colors and the sample:

The winning combination? Valspar’s Heirloom Pink in the master bedroom and Paramount White throughout the living, kitchen, mudroom and loft! It was tough to edit these photos to show the true colors of the chips, but between all the sun and clouds, these colors felt the most inviting, relaxed and casual – the three words we want Tree House to embody. Note: I’m mostly on the fence about the white, but it still may be a while before we paint all the main living spaces. So, really, I have time to change my mind. Maybe! And all that to say, it’s totally normal to feel unsure when choosing such subtle shades of white / off-white / gray – they’re tough. 

Next up – choosing trim! We pulled up almost all of the trim during demolition weekend (with the exception of the loft and bathroom), knowing that we wanted to replace the 3″ baseboards and decorative door trim with something more substantial and less fussy.

We picked up an 8′ length of primed general purpose trim for the doors, and we chose two types of baseboards in 4 1/4″ and 5 1/4″ heights. Below, we paired the simple door trim with the shorter, 4 1/4″ baseboard (and for fun, we snugged the lighter, stripped wood flooring samples up to the trim):

And here’s the 5 1/4″ baseboard:

Although we thought the 5 1/4″ might have been a bit too decorative, we surprised ourselves by liking that one much more! Not only did the height feel better for the room, but the decorative details helped to balance out the heaviness of the exposed beam ceilings, too.

We plan on using the general purpose trim for the doors and windows throughout, which is essentially a primed 1″ x 4″ with a slightly eased edge. Across the top, we’ll include our own detail by adding a stop, that raw pine piece you see Scott holding below (and of course, everything will be painted Valspar’s Ultra White):

And that is how we chose the paint colors and trim work for Tree House! Is it a lot more work to start fresh and re-do all the trim throughout? One thousand (million) percent. It’s also my least favorite job during a renovation, and yet we still do it because it makes all the difference in the world.

We’re happy to have these choices behind us, and in a few weeks, we’ll have new-to-us flooring, fresh drywall and, fingers crossed, we can start painting a room or two! The dominoes are starting to fall faster and faster, yesss.

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  • Bernadette11.29.17 - 8:44 AM

    Love the pink for the bedroom! I’m weary of the living room color, though. Homes surrounded by trees are so much trickier for paint selection. When the trees have leaves again, you’ll have to contend with the green/yellow hue that reflects and tints the sunlight streaming in. Might be worth waiting until spring to commit!ReplyCancel

    • Kim11.29.17 - 9:03 AM

      That’s a great point! At the same time, that could have been half of my commitment problem – there are still a lot of colorful trees surrounding Tree House while we were choosing samples. It would be nearly impossible to please all the lighting conditions, but we can do our best, ha!ReplyCancel

      • Bernadette11.30.17 - 3:15 PM

        If the trees still have color, I’m sure you’ve made a good choice! And if the light reflects neon green when you start painting, you’ll have the opportunity to rethink your choice ;)

        (And thank you to the proofreader; I did intend wary, but I cannot edit my comment after the fact to correct it.)ReplyCancel

    • KarenJ11.30.17 - 12:38 AM

      That’s wary not weary unless you are saying you are tired of the colour they have chosen for the living room?ReplyCancel

  • Chris R.11.30.17 - 8:27 AM

    Choosing off-white paint has to be one the hardest decisions to make in renovating! I love your choices though! Can I ask where you bought your trim?ReplyCancel

    • Kim11.30.17 - 9:16 AM

      It’s definitely a toughie! The trim is from Lowe’s.ReplyCancel

  • Eileen11.30.17 - 8:48 AM

    I think your paint choices will work well in the space! I am someone who always agonizes over choices and have to remind myself that there are lots of choices that will all be great in their own way and I don’t have to find THE ONE. And as you have noted, the paint colors will be affected by so many variations in lighting that there is just no way to account for them all. It will be great to have everything fresh and clean and honestly, once the baby arrives, you will have so many more things to feel and think about that the variations in shades of white just aren’t going to matter as much. But, in the meantime, the Tree House is an exciting project and its great fun to see you work through all the details. It is a wonderful spot to make lots of memories!ReplyCancel

  • Paige Flamm11.30.17 - 3:37 PM

    Whites are some of the hardest colors to pick because they all tend to actually be just a very light version of another color. I love the one you picked!


  • Mary12.12.17 - 11:14 AM

    The picture you show of Scott holding your final paint choices, the Heirloom Pink looks like a pale gray to me. Does it look pinkier on the wall?ReplyCancel

    • Kim12.12.17 - 11:17 AM

      It was the most ‘gray’ pink of the bunch! My worry was that it wouldn’t be pink enough, but Scott is obsessed with it. I think once it’s covering the whole wall, it will read much more pink – but still subtle.ReplyCancel

  • Julie6.16.18 - 12:31 PM

    I love your trim choices! We have picked out very similar trim for your house and I’m wondering if you used pine or MDF for the door casings and baseboards. We bought wood baseboards and we are having issues with the wood warping. We want to try MDF but I’m worried it may not hold up or look as nice as the wood.ReplyCancel

    • Kim6.18.18 - 7:08 AM

      Shoot, I’m trying to remember, but I want to say that we have pine for the casings, and I know we definitely have pine for the baseboards. I wouldn’t worry about the MDF holding up – as long as you paint it with two coats of a satin or semi-gloss paint, the only thing is that it’s going to be much heavier! That said, MDF is typically a lot more ‘perfect’ looking, and I think in some cases it’s less expensive as well? Anyway, either would look great!ReplyCancel

  • Steph H9.16.18 - 7:58 PM

    Hey guys,
    Remind me, is Ultra White your white for doors and trim in your house, rental space and treehouse? Is it by Benjamin Moore?ReplyCancel

    • Kim9.18.18 - 8:11 AM

      Our Chicago home is Ultra Pure White by BEHR (straight from the shelf in semi-gloss), and we use Ultra White by Valspar (straight from the shelf in satin) at Tree House!ReplyCancel

  • Emily5.11.19 - 4:56 PM

    Obviously this was a while ago, but do you happen to remember the size on the small pine stop you used for the trim? I like the ratio and we are getting ready to re-do our entire house trim!ReplyCancel

    • Kim5.13.19 - 8:23 AM

      It’s maybe 1/4″ x 1″, I would say.ReplyCancel

      • Charly8.9.20 - 7:41 PM

        Hi, Kim – another follow up for the trim stop, if you don’t mind.  How much longer did the stop extend than the width of the top trim, or did you just kind of eyeball it?  Thank you!ReplyCancel

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