What to do About Dark Painted Beams

The Lake Tahoe area, where I am a designer, experienced a building boom in the 1970's.  Unfortunately, many of the styles that were popular in the 70's have not stood the test of time well.  Because so many of the houses in Tahoe are second homes and are not kept up as well as primary residences, I often am called into a 70's interior which has been left perfectly intact--down to the orange shag carpeting, olive appliances and black or deep chocolate painted beams.  

Dark Painted Ugly 70's Beams

The perennial question is, "What can we do about these beams?"  Clients have tried sandblasting or scraping them, but my experience is that these are expensive and not necessarily satisfying solutions.  I've found that paint works best.

If the budget is ample, there are faux artists that can make the beams look like natural wood beams.  My favorite local artist is George Zaffle of Truckee, California (and he does travel around the country).  The photo below is a before pic of one of my projects, a 70's Tahoe house where the black beams had been painted over in an even worse pale mauve paint.

Before--Pale Mauve Beams

And below, the same house with beams that have been painted to look like natural wood.

After faux painting.

Here are some close-up shots of those same beams:

Faux Painted Beam Detail

I am currently working on this master suite, below.  As you can see the dark beams are heavy, oppressive and very dated looking in this room.  

Master Suite Before Beams

Below you see beam painting in progress.  The new lighter color will lift the ceiling and allow the new furnishings to be the show.  Before, the room was all beams.

New Beam Painting in Progress

If the budget is tight, I often simply recommend painting the beams a better color.  In the photo below, the beams have been painted white.  This works really well with walls that have some substantial color depth as do these cocoa colored walls.  

White Painted Beams

I particularly like beams that are painted a mushroom or taupe color.  If the beams were previously stained, you can select a stain and simply stain right over the top.  However, if the beams were painted, you will need to use paint.  The photos below shows a light mushroom paint color.  For mountain homes, I would recommend a somewhat deeper color.  

Mushroom Colored Paint--Go Deeper for Mountain Homes
The deeper mushroom color below works really well for me.  It looks modern and attractive and completely goes with the updated interior.  This would be appropriate in most mountain homes.

There are also some lovely grey colors that will work for beams.  For mountain homes, try to keep the greys warm and slightly woodsey or taupey.  This way they will look a bit more like natural beams.


  1. Do you mind sharing the gorgeous pale mushroom color of the beams?

  2. Would you please share the mushroom and wall color? Please and Thank You.

  3. Hi can u share the mushroom paint color name?

  4. I also would love to know the mushroom paint color?


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