When deciding to do dark wood trim I was very concerned. I had thought it was always a bad idea. Just a concept I had picked up along the way. In writing this page I searched for sites to quote about why it is bad and found the opposite. Apparently I was wrong and dark trim isn't universally considered bad. So I quess I don't have to defend it.

I don't like to flaunt design "rules" just for the sake of being different. If I ignore a design guideline I think it though and try and make sure I understand why other designers have an issue with something and make sure I've dealt with the issues. Or at least I go forward knowing I may not be doing something very smart.

TV and magazines like to tout design "rules". It appeals to their demographic who have an interest in the results from good design but not enough to listen to all the little nuances. Not everyone has that kind of time. Few designers actually have any rules. It's more an issue of things going together or not.

I like a natural wood finish. It improves with age. It can incorporate dings and scratches, once oiled, into its patina. Paint looks great the first day and then it's all down hill. You can't really retouch paint and have it look as good. Layers of paint can obtain a patina of its own, but is best on a few pieces, not an entire house.


Top: ½" x 1 ¼" solid quarter sawn white oak, 100+ years old. Screwed to wall. Only this peice would have to be removed for painting.

Middle: ½" x 1 ¼" thick popular stained ebony and mahogany. Nailed into top of plywood.

Bottom: 4" tall. ¼" red oak plywood glued to ½" plywood to build out to ¾". Screwed to wall.

I do wish I had stained the bottom plywood to match the white oak on top. Too similar to contrast, too different to match.

I clamped the plywood glue up to an aluminum I-beam. Very solid, nice straight result. I get a lot of use out of that I-beam.

Screw Evolution - Or, The Evolution of Screws

I've run into a few Maker projects. One of their tenets is objects should be repairable; easy to open to get at whatever. It's blowback to manufacturers making things that can't repaired, saying to people they are too dumb to fix stuff any more. Being the person to maintain Feydeau it is a concept I can get behind.

I decided to attach trim with screws instead of hidden nails. Brass was the first choice. Wanting it to be as strong an element as possible I went with round head screws so they added dimension.

On a door jam I didn't want the protruding round heads to catch on clothing so I used brass flat heads. I liked that a lot better. I ordered several hundred replacement brass flat heads.

The evolution, 2 round heads and a flat head in the foreground.

Looked first. It got to be too much. Protrusion the main problem, but shiny brass was distracting too.

Next, blackened steel flat head. This worked very well. Much more Arts and Craft. Has a look of pegs.

In my photos you may notice a mix of black steel screws and brass. Replacement of round head brass is on my list. Flat head brass may continue in some areas.


Chevron? Keystone? I'll go with keystone. Art Deco & Craftsman overlap.

In either case this is another example of recycled material pushing design detail. Some of my prized Brazilian cherry was pretty warped and twisted. True whether recycled or not. Attaching it with steel wood screws helped a lot in straightening out many twists. However some were just too bad.

Wanting to make best use of my material I needed a new plan. Cutting a warped piece in half can cut the amount of warp in half too. The keystone is born. I backed each keystone with 1/4" plywood so it stood out from the adjacent pieces.

You may have noticed a glaring problem...boy, that top really sticks out a lot on the left and right sides. Yes, it does. I don't really like it, but I wanted to live with it awhile; see if it grows on me. It hasn't.

The reason it sticks out so much is I cut all the tops as single boards, before the wraping got to be a problem. When cutting the boards in half for the keystone I didn't want to waste wood so I left them long. More is better, right?

The good news is they are easy to remove, cut, finish and replace. And this isn't a 4,000 sq.ft. house with 37 doors and windows to trim.

The difference in color is because the wood for the keystone is from a different source and is different in color. No stain was used. I liked the contrast, all keystones do match each other.


I had the bedroom door all trimmed when I saw a problem. With the door closed there is no way for AC and heat to flow out of the room to the air return in the hall. The previous owners had solved this problem by cutting holes in the doors and installing grills. Not a good look.

The current standard practice is to put a grill in the bedroom ceiling and one in the hall ceiling and connect them in the attic with duct. I don't like the ugly grills and I don't like the energy loss into the attic.

It took me several weeks to figure this out. Transum of course. It was common for transums to be used for ventilation a few decades ago.

I've always liked the look of transums so this was my chance to have one. The screen is from a fireplace. There are two screens, one on the bedroom side, other on hall side.

Fireplace screen is a great material. I love the look and feel. It's easy to cut to any height, easy to splice into whatever length you need.


When I cut into the dry wall for the transum I got lucky. This is a bearing wall so I expected a header. And there is a header but it is up against the top plate. Sweet.

However, there was romex wire running through the opending. Another opportunity to add detail. I enclosed the romex into flexible conduit as required by code. I secured the conduit to the bottom of the header with copper straps so it could be seen through the wire screen.

Copper bracket for securing conduit. How to build.

Shutter Lift

This house came with roll up shutters on the outside. These are common in Germany but not here. Makes the house look like a prison or a house inside a prison. But I came to respect their usefulness in energy management, privacy and even security.

Inside were very ugly plastic crank deals. Very hard to operate, took forever to raise and lower. Removing the crank and just pulling the cord the shutters went up much easier and faster. I added old window sash pulleys, mounted inside out, to guide the cord.

Near the floor I added a simple wood towel at a slight down angle to hold a loop in the cord. Burns 0.3 calories. But since my wife and I aren't veal calves, we're OK with this kind of vigorous exercise. I know in most homes this type of thing would have to be motorized.

To release I only have to release the tension on the cord and the loop falls off the peg. We're not against exercise, but we're not fanatics.

Craftsman Pulley

Before I found the old window sash pulleys at Zinnias I made pulleys for the windows. 1/2" copper pipe for rollers with a wood dowel inside.

These are good for the white straps that came with the shutters, but I don't like the white straps. They don't stay white. I've since replaced them with black cord. The sash pulleys look better with the cord.

Contrasting Woods

Using found lumber to trim a home is almost always going to mean using contrasting woods. Using the same wood for each section within a trimmed element helps so all windows match, doors carry the theme, etc.

It is possible to stain different species to get a uniform look, if the grains are similar. I have hickory and Brazilian cherry side by side in some door jams and I don't think most people could tell.

Standard White Trim

I do like white trim...a lot. And, although I don't like to admit it, I like MDF over popular for painted white trim. And that's what I put in the kitchen.

Moving from all the wood trim in the rest of the house into the kitchen is not at all jarring. The kitchen seems very utilitarian, not flashy. And that is what I'm going for here. This kitchen is a bit of an experiment.

I want the kitchen to be like my shop, but for creating food. Like kitchens were a few decades ago before they became primarily a showcase.

The kitchen in Phase II will also be used as a gathering place.

Door Lock

The first hammered copper object I made was a bolt for the double doors in the kitchen. These are used to push the door against a gasket to get a good seal. There is a matching bolt at the bottom of the door.

Wood is mahogany. Knob is a solid brass cabinet pull. I epoxied the pull's bolt head first into a ½" copper ell.

You can see the black EPDM gaskets I made in the door frame. Double rows. I've found many uses for EPDM after first using it as a liner in fish ponds. I have a large sheet over a cache of lumber in the backyard. About twice the cost of a tarp but will last 20 times as long and never leak. And then you can use it for a roof or pond. I've been cutting strips off of it this entire project and now it barely covers the lumber.