Our First House. Built in 1939.

Our First House.  Built in 1939.

3 Houses

I didn’t intend on talking about home renovation because it is not prominent on my radar screen right now.  But the truth is, it comes and goes.  My husband and I have renovated three 1939 homes over the last 17 years.  On one hand we really enjoy doing it together.  On the other hand things are always harder and more involved than you think they will be and it is a great opportunity for discord.  Through the years we have certainly learned much about how each of us operate under those kinds of stress and how to be sensitive to each others quirks.  But good gracious, we voluntarily put ourselves there.  Note to newlyweds:  Don’t start your first year of marriage renovating or building a house.  Just have fun.

Anyway I grew up in an old house (the one we live in now) and so I have always loved the “old house” character.  Wood floors, nice woodwork, a sense of history.


My general theory about the home I live in has always been that I want it to feel like I’m on vacation.  Because I love that feeling of freedom (key word for me).  Fresh air by the ocean or in the mountains, not a care in the world, focus on nature,  exploration, only the few clothes in the closet that are comfy and I will wear often.  Things like that.

So, I try really hard to make my everyday life that same way.  And let me tell you, it is a constant effort.  Some of the key elements have been sparse and uncluttered rooms with only the necessities.  And, of course, white woodwork with painted walls versus wallpaper that can feel cluttered. (That’s just me.  Don’t mean to offend!)  That combination makes me feel free.  It makes me feel like anything is possible.  The sky is the limit.  My mind can think and create and focus on the people around me (husband, children and others) versus the stuff.

I’m just one of those people that atmosphere is everything.  I would rather go to a restaurant that has great atmosphere and so-so food, than one that has wonderful food, but lousy atmosphere.  I want to be able to sit or putter or whatever and have the space around me add to a sense of peace and calm.   I’ve always been a visual learner so maybe that is why it’s a big deal.

Nothing but Oil and Extra White

So today I  want to talk about white woodwork.  In the three houses that we have renovated, we painted all of the woodwork and walls.  We began with lots of help from a dear painter friend in the beginning – thank you Lonnie – and slowly evolved to doing it by ourselves.  We could probably be hired out as professional painters now that we have  had so much experience.  And we have fun doing it.  It’s a nice departure for husband after contorting his brain into all sorts of combinations in the law business and for me after spending days conversing and explaining and training little people.

On the first house I spent a ALOT of time picking the perfect white for all of that woodwork.  And there was a lot of woodwork.  (Are you sick of the word “woodwork” yet?  I am already.  Oh well.  It has to be said.)

The name of the color was “Champagne” and it was from the Valspar Historic Colors at Lowes.  This is back in 1996.  I don’t think it is on color cards in the store anymore, but they still have it in the paint computers.

We used that same paint on the second house.  Again, tons of woodwork and so many hours spent standing around the store waiting to get the paint tinted.  Finally when we got to the third house, I got smart.  I tried the plain, “extra white,” no tint at all mixed in, and guess what?  It’s my favorite.  Clean and crisp.  And all I have to do is walk in the paint store, grab a gallon, have them shake it and we are done.  No standing around waiting to have someone tint it and then possibly getting it wrong (which you don’t usually know until you start painting and you realize it doesn’t match what you have been using.  Arggggggggg.)

Here is what we use:  Sherwin Williams.  Extra White.  Semi gloss.  Oil based.  Sorry, but it has to be oil based if you plan on living there a while.  I tried to talk myself into latex at one point and we tested it out, compared it to oil, wanted to like it because clean up with water is so much easier than paint thinner, but it is just not good.  Some paint store people will try to tell you it is.  Don’t believe them.  Oil has the perfect sheen, its easy to wipe clean and will last a very long time.

Semi-gloss versus gloss

I have tried both.  Our first house and our third house have semi-gloss and our second house had gloss.  Here are pictures to show you a comparison. This first one is gloss.

Check out that shine on the cupboard.

Or how about the shine on the inside of that cupboard.

That gloss is very pretty and crisp and I kind of like it, but I found myself walking around that house and my eye was always drawn to the WOODWORK.  That shouldn’t be.  It should be background.  Foundation.  But it was “Hi, I am your shiny woodwork.  The woodwork you worked your bottom off painting and now I am shouting at you!”

So here is a picture of the woodwork in our current house.  This is semi-gloss.  It still has a nice sheen, but it doesn’t talk to me.  Thank goodness.



There you have it.  That is my little bit of wisdom on woodwork.  Once you have that task done – the rest is easy.  It’s like having a good foundation to build you life around.

So do you like gloss or semi-gloss?  Why?  Maybe someone could design a personality traits test that divided people into gloss, semi-gloss, satin, egg-shell and flat.  Ok.  Maybe not.

God Bless you all!


  1. Gina Chase says:

    Thank you for putting this category on your site. You are very talented is this area and give much inspiration.

  2. Jenny Tonnell says:

    Allison, I love this! Thank you for including me. You’ve already answered questions that I’ve wondered about as we slowly try to transform our home. You are inspiring~ renovating 3 homes and apparently still find JOY in doing it! Now I’d like to walk down the street and see your accomplishments with my own eyes. Then maybe I would start to work a little faster!

  3. Allison says:

    Gina – Thank you. You KNOW how many times you have been an inspiration to me!
    Jenny – You are welcome to come by anytime. Sometimes after thinking so hard on other things like marriage, children, the world, etc – the mind numb of painting is a very welcome thing!

  4. Mama says:

    Great job. I never knew how complicated different kinds of paint are. You are the professor. I am sure it will help a lot of people.

  5. Allison says:

    Thank you Mama!

  6. Jeanne says:

    Semi-gloss and white woodwork!!! Ditto from a wood floor, white woodwork friend. Always love what you have to share and how you express your views.

  7. Allison says:

    Hey Jeanne. I learned so much of this from you!! Thanks!

  8. JoanRenae says:

    I am curious as to whether or not you use this same paint for the kitchen/bathroom cabinets? :) I am totally enjoying your blog btw!

    • Allison says:

      So glad you are enjoying! Yes, I do use this for kitchen and bathroom cabinets, but for the walls in those two rooms I would use a latex semi-gloss paint. In all other rooms I like satin. Flat paint is too flat for my taste (except for ceilings). I like just a little sheen to the walls which satin gives. But I like semigloss in kitchen and bath because its easy to wipe down. God Bless!

  9. Jenn V says:

    So I know this is an old post, but I just wanted to thank you for the information on painting woodowrk white. We live in a forty-year-old house with some ugly woodwork I’d like to make crisp and clean, but the last time I tried to paint the woodwork I totally chose the wrong paint. Great advice!

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