Wood French Doors: to Paint or not to Paint

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Posted: 04/07/2017·

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Wood French doors are so beautiful, but today sparked a great debate: to paint or not to paint?

Painting Wood French Doors…?

I suppose I shouldn’t even say a debate was started because in actuality, only three people have suggested that I paint our new mahogany french doors. However, it was my plan, so I guess it’s us against everyone else. So here we go: painted vs. natural wood french doors…

interested in learning more about these wood french doors? click here

Let me give you the back story:

I wanted beautiful wood casement windows, and two sets of tall narrow french doors for our living room. The wood casement windows got the boot with their $13,000 price tag, but I managed to sneak in the doors of my dreams.

I searched high and low, and got quotes from at least 15 different websites / businesses – but nothing came in on budget. I finally found a company online, and discovered that they had my doors, and in budget.

If you have ever ordered doors before, you might be aware of the fact that one doesn’t simply ‘order doors‘. How cute, you thought you would just add those doors to your shopping cart? Think again. Questions like: what size door handle hole would you like? And, left hand or right hand? kept me from ordering the doors for a good month. I didn’t want to make the wrong choice.

One thing I knew for certain was that I would be painting the doors, so selecting ‘paint grade’ was a no brainer.

Once I finally ordered the doors, it took them 6 weeks to arrive. SIX WEEKS. It was torturous waiting for the doors of my dreams, but after what seemed like six years, the doors arrived. My contractor began to unpack them and asked me what kind of wood I had selected? …My answer? paint grade.

He propped them up on the wall of our kitchen, and we both sort of looked at each other and telepathically communicated, “these doors are too beautiful to be painted.”

But what about my plan???

So here I am trying to decide, raw wood vs. painted french doors?

After we unpacked the doors and had our telepathy session, I headed down to our basement to grab a few cans of stain that were left over from the beam. Jeff (my contractor) and I tested them out on a spare piece of wood, and after holding them in many different lights – I think we are going to simply seal the wood leaving it as. is.

Thinking about renovating your home? Read my post about the best renovation investments for a dramatic change.

I reached out to my friends on Instagram and guess what? Out of nearly 200 messages, only two people have suggested that I paint the doors. At this point, it might be considered a crime to paint them. There are a few small little problems that may sway me to the dark side:

  • The wood is paint grade, meaning there are some noticeable variations in wood color, and even once stained, they will still be noticeable.

  • I was planning on painting them black, so I opted for brass hardware. The brass on the natural wood looks (and I quote), “Like something from a Motel 8.”

  • We’re starting to get quite a bit of wood in the design: exposed beam, reclaimed island, reclaimed barn doors in the pantry…I’m a little nervous that these wood doors are going to get lost in the mix, and I really want them to pop!

The top stain is the color of the beam, the bottom stain is simply a sealant. 

See the brass…? Would be great with black paint, but it’s not so great with the wood. 

The whole exterior will be painted white, all of our windows are white vinyl with black shutters…Can you see why I’d want to paint these black?

I still can’t quite believe that this white-paint loving girl is considering leaving her doors raw, but the debate isn’t over yet – I am going to wait until the floors are in and the tile installed until I make my final decision because as many of you on instagram said, “it’s a lot easier to add paint than to take it off.”

If you are visiting here from IG, thanks so much for coming to say hello! I have appreciated all of your input so much – it’s been a blast making this decision with you! 

the options


All White

 Coastal Living Hamptons Showhouse 2006

Natural Wood

Savor Home

Painted Black

h2 Design and Build


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  1. Hello! Did you end up having to put a clear coat or anything finishing coat over the raw doors, I am wanting to do this but I don’t want to make them shiny. TIA!

    • Hi Morgan, We used flat out flat from general finishes :) it’s held up well inside, but definitely not for exterior use!

  2. I used your exact measurements, specs and requested a quote. I was aghast when it came back at $3,500!!! I inquired and it was because I asked for a quote for Oak vs. Mahogany. So, having reread your posts several times discussing how nice the raw Mahogany wood is, I’m thinking to request a new quote. I was worried the Mahogany would be too dark, but the style of these doors (narrow, taller looking) is just too good to pass on them. I could do a wash to lighten or change the tone, if need be, or paint them in the end. Thank you for such great information!

  3. Black all day. Go for it. It will pop the natural will not and may clash with too many wood colors

  4. Amazing blog. Thanks for sharing an article. This post is really informative. And this post is about french door wooden paints and natural. Aroha Plywood is a big organization and works for better quality and 100% customer satisfaction. And it provides better opportunities for employees to work in the leading plywood manufacturers industry.

  5. We are doing a renovation and love the doors you chose! Since I am the carpenter/husband, I am wondering what your door size and ceiling height are. The look is perfect for what we want. Since we have 9′ ceilings, we are wondering if we need to slim the doors down to get that look. I normally like at least a 32" single door opening, but want to bring that size down to get the taller look that she wants. Thanks!

    • Hi Daniel – They are 24" wide each, giving that narrow and tall look. You might be able to stretch it to 30" wide if you go with a taller door and get the same look. We don’t seem to have any trouble with the width of these and we entertain all the time in the summer. I will mention – the stain we used isn’t working to protect the doors from the elements. I need to update the blog post with this information!

  6. Stumbled upon your blog. We are totally re-doing a mid century up here in Portland, OR. I say paint them black! Sounds like you already have wood represented so I dont think you will be missing out. Crisp black with glass windows and brass hardware?! oh my. Beautiful.
    This is a year later, what did you wind up doing?

  7. I have experience with all three finishes so I’ll give you the quick & dirty.

    -Stained & sealed wood doors look AMAZING when they are first done but they quickly lose their luster & when they look bad, they look bad. They should be refinished every year which will be a real pain with all the glass panels.

    • Black doors get hot in direct sun. We had to change the color of one door because the interior door handles would get hot. Now that’s a surprise when you go to open the door! Something else to consider, a friend of mine painted her wood doors black after she was over the yearly maintenance of stain & they get so hot in the summer that the interior painted side bubbles up.

    • Black gets dusty looking, which just needs a good spray down, while white shows where dirty hands have been. Just make sure if you go with white, get a good scrubbable paint.

  8. The variation of wood tones would bug me too if it was just sealed…I say, stick with your first idea and go black. I think it will make all the other ‘intentional’ wooden elements shine and these doors will really become a feature all on their own (plus – I agree that the brass will be yummy against the black).

    • Haha Brenda you’re a girl after my own heart! I keep telling myself it looks "old world" – I am going to live with them for a few months to see if they bug me that much. I saw a photo of some beautiful black doors against the white exterior and it made me swoon. Oh decisions, decisions! …Oh and the brass and black, YES so yummy.

  9. WOW! Chloe your guys’ house is coming along so nice! It’s so so gorgeous I can’t wait to see what you do with the doors! I love the raw wood but that is a tough decision!

  10. Love the raw wood! I keep dreaming of stripping the paint on our front door… But then honestly, I’ve also been considering painting the doors in our house black for a pop , since we have a lot of white. Unfortunately my husband has an opinion about this one ;) and prefers them as they are. So I’m shelving it for now, and I guess I will wait and learn from you… No pressure! Lol. When in doubt, if you love – or even like- something as is, wait to change it. If you hate it, there’s really no risk – go ahead and experiment.

    • Haha Julie – at this point I wish my husband had a strong opinion because it would make it so much easier!!! After looking at photos and walking by our doors time and time again, I think I am in the ‘leave it raw’ boat. I can’t wait to get all of the other finished in – if the doors don’t look great then, I will go with black. Hope you had a great weekend! xo