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Mountain House Refinishing Ceilings: Is Good Enough Good Enough?



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Let’s be clear – that is not our house, but I wish it were. A recap: mountain cabin ceilings need and want wood. Sure. I can get behind/under that. While I originally would have been absolutely fine painting the ceiling white, the more time I spent at the mountain house, especially in the winter, the more I agree that the wood on the ceiling is really cozy and lovely and yes, it just feels like a mountain house. Painting it would be fine, but it would be like dressing your child in all black for an Easter egg hunt – it’s not a big deal, but it just doesn’t feel right.

As a reminder, here is what our ceiling looked like pre-renovation:

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Sandblasting Ceiling Walnut Glass Before Pic 1

It doesn’t look that bad in photos, but it just felt like a dark orange or almost a semi-translucent dark stain…closer to paint.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Ceiling Blasting Walnut Side By Side

This is very common and YOU GUYS, let me be VERY clear here – it’s absolutely fine. If you have this in your house, do not look at it and judge it. It’s appropriate and normal and totally “mountain.”

But I had other dreams…I wanted my fantasy wood ceiling. I wanted these:

Emily Henderson Modern Design Trends Dwell Concrete Black White Contemporary Minimal 651
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Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Sandblasting Ceiling Walnut Glass Inspo Pic 151
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Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Sandblasting Ceiling Walnut Glass Inspo Pic 12
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See! I like wood, I’m just pickier about its tone. I also have to make sure for my business and reputation that this house is a representation of my style. It would be like if I were an accountant and my files were slightly disorganized, with spreadsheets named improperly and zeros added where they shouldn’t be. I would never hire or trust that accountant (nor should you), so as a designer, I have to make sure that the stylistic decisions I make are something I want my clients (aka YOU) to see…and those inspiration shots above are what I want for myself.

What is beautiful about all of those is the tone of the wood – it’s warm without going too orange. Most of those are also not V-groove tongue-and-groove (with the little V-shaped indention between the planks) but instead clad like shiplap or flat stock. Perhaps they used a harder wood like oak, alder, maple or walnut…or maybe they used Douglas fir and pine (like most) but tweaked the stain or bleached it a lot.

Again, here is our ceiling in the mountain house:

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Sandblasting Ceiling Walnut Glass Before Pic 171

I knew I wanted to do something to bring it closer to those dreamy inspo shots, so let’s talk through the options. What can we really do to this ceiling:

Paint It White

Coating it in white paint (or dark gray hue – more on that in a sec) would likely cost $5-6k. Well, saying this is an actual option is inaccurate because Brian will not budge on this. I also think my contractor and architect would walk off the job. You do NOT paint wood ceilings in this town. Fine. Again, I DON’T WANT TO EITHER, just discussing the OPTION. Here’s what that would look like (even if it’ll never happen).

Modern Kitchen With White Rafter Ceiling
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Paint It Gray

Oh…but what about painting it a dark gray?? Would that be so bad? Would it give the same sense of warmth and coziness? Probably not, but maybe close? Is this an actual option? NOPE. Brian says no, even though it would make my life (and thus his life) so much easier because it would mean that I could choose ANY flooring we wanted (i.e., I wouldn’t have to worry about matching/coordinating wood tones overhead and underfoot).

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Sandblasting Ceiling Walnut Glass Inspo Pic 34
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Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Sandblasting Ceiling Walnut Glass Inspo Pic 35
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But admittedly, it’s not as warm or “mountainy” as a wood-toned ceiling. How can we get closer to what I want, without losing the warmth of real wood grain? So, I searched long and hard for more options:

Emily Henderson Living Room
photo by Ryan Liebe for EHD

Refinish It

If you have ever had Douglas fir or pine in your life, you know that it’s extremely difficult to take the orange undertones out of them. This is why typically, you see them stained dark, because the darker a stain, the more overall consistent color you are able to achieve. The reason that these two kinds of wood are used so often is due to durability, availability and cost. Getting the same amount of material in hardwood would be insanely expensive, but believe me, refinishing isn’t really an option. I know this because of the ceiling beams in our living room in LA and what we had to do to get them up to snuff. The team that worked on them had to bleach the beams three to four times to ensure that the undertone wasn’t orange, and instead more white…and then we stained it. It was incredibly expensive and laborious and refinishing this ceiling with the same bleaching technique would be bonkers (like $20-30K). And I still might not get the look that I want. Dropping that kind of dough isn’t an option, especially without the guarantee of it coming out just right.

Re-clad it in beautiful wood in the perfect tone like some of those above

This was my original idea. Yes, this would be even more expensive, but I’d get my dream ceiling. It would be in the same range ($25-$35k), but at least there wouldn’t be any unknowns. The problem with this is that veneer does not come as long as the rafters are (probably 16 to 20 feet) so you would have to piece it together. The tongue and groove can be “easily” clad over, but the rafters, not so much. When we discussed this, everybody convinced me that seeing a seam in the veneer in the rafters would make it appear obvious that the rafters were indeed veneered. It would look fake, cobbled together and generally “mickey moused.”

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Sandblasting Ceiling Walnut Glass Before Pic 101

In case you are thinking “oh, but that dark brown you have right now looks pretty!” allow me to correct you – the light in the room is pretty. The windows are large and beautiful and let in a ton of light, but the dark brown wood looked like a painted dark orange ceiling in person.

Right around the time that we bought the house, I went on the Dwell on Design tour and saw this house:

Emily Henderson Dwell On Design 911
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I asked the architect that day about the ceiling and they said that it was an original Douglas Fir ceiling from the ’60s that had been walnut blasted and left raw, with no stain. The gave me SO MUCH hope. So the last option:

Walnut Blast the Ceiling

Walnut what?? Walnut blasting…it’s a thing, evidently. We did a whole bunch of research for those of you interested as well as picked the brain of Mike from Culwell Abrasive, who, spoiler alert, did our walnut blasting because it’s what we ended up going with, which you’ll see later on in this post.

First and foremost, you might have heard of “sandblasting”, which it seems is just the “Kleenex” of the abrasive grit blasting world (i.e. people just use the term, even if sand is not the blasting medium being used). FYI, sand comes with some warnings, which we’ll get into in just a sec.

Here’s a super formal straight-from-the-dictionary definition of abrasive blasting: “…a process by which an ‘abrasive media’ is accelerated through a blasting nozzle by means of compressed air.” The abrasive used varies based on the surface treatment required. Some abrasives commonly used in the process include steel grit, glass beads, crushed glass, plastic, corn cob, baking soda, copper slag, steel shot, coal slag, aluminum oxide and, why we’re here today…walnut shells.

Mike told us that for customers who ask for basic “sandblasting,” he actually uses copper slag, which is a copper byproduct. Blasting with sand is messier and can create a mess long term because the sand gets stuck in the wood and falls from the ceiling for years to come. From Mike’s mouth to your ears (eyes?).

As for the cost, it varies job to job as many things in remodeling/construction do. In this instance, factors that could change the quote are whether or not you have beams, surface conditions, different ceiling heights, etc., but Mike gave us a “guesstimate” average cost of $3-4 per square foot for sand and 25-35% more for both walnut and glass blasting options. It’s important to note that most pros doing this charge per square foot as opposed to per hour. On the low end, you can expect to pay $1,500 for “sandblasting” with corn cobs on a 1,500 square-foot log home, while on the high end, using copper slag on something like metal and masonry (with cleanup, because that’s def not something you can do yourself) on the same size home is more like $5,000.

For anyone asking “wait, what does abrasive grit blasting (or “sandblasting”) do exactly,” it can be used in tons of ways – plus, it’s chemical-free. For example (according to our research), it can remove paint from stucco and other textured structures, rejuvenate concrete with no color fading, strip back rust from fancy antique metals, remove oil and stains from concrete driveways and garage floors, and bring back the original look of brick, pebbles or other rock designs. While the process is relatively simple, the prep work is labor-intensive. Your contractor will have to take care to protect your windows, roof and landscaping (not to mention everything in your home that’s currently there) before beginning the process because that stuff gets EVERYWHERE.

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So, while we went with walnut shells for our ceilings, there was also the option to use glass as the media. Here’s some info on both, because each has its own pros and cons:


Ideal for indoor blasting on softer surfaces like wood, plastic, fiberglass, aluminum and various composite materials. Pros include less prep (you don’t have to cover your glass/windows because, unlike sand, walnut shells don’t etch glass), speed (it’s a dry process which reduces additional drying time that can eat into tight production schedules) and safety (organic walnut shells don’t produce harmful toxins and require no solvents or additives during the blasting process…they are reusable and biodegradable, as well). One of the most notable cons though is price. Walnut blasting is the more expensive option (when compared to copper slag or sand) due to material costs.


Ideal for steel, metal, sometimes concrete (depending on what finish you want), brick and wood (depending on the type of wood…if it’s too soft, the crushed glass could etch the wood which isn’t ideal). It’s often used on things like cars that are being repainted rather than in a residential building and is the most expensive option. Pros include cleanliness (glass is “dustless”, so the mess and clean up is minimal), and limited embedment (crushed glass doesn’t embed very much into the surface, making it ideal for applications where that’s problematic, like log cabins). It’s also environmentally friendly – crushed glass is inert, which, depending on your location, means it can be safe to use around water. If you’re looking for a speedy turnaround, though, glass is softer than some harder abrasives like, say coal slag, so it can be slower at removing coatings depending on the surface.

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Sandblasting Ceiling Walnut Glass After Pic 311

Regardless of what abrasive you choose, here are a few things to remember if you venture down this blasting path in your own home:

  • “Sandblasting” is VERY noisy and messy. If you have nearby neighbors, you might want to tell them ahead of time as not to bother them or in the case that they also need to tarp/prep their property (anything within 30 feet of the job needs some prep).
  • Some cities require permits for sandblasting, so always check with your town or city hall to see what you might need before starting.
  • Better “soft” than sorry – If you’re not sure whether the surface you are blasting can handle a more abrasive material, you’re probably better off starting with a gentler medium. Walnut shells or corn cobs can be an excellent choice for softer surfaces such as wood; they won’t cause etching. They also provide the additional benefit of being biodegradable, making them among the most environmentally-friendly blasting media.
  • You might want to avoid sand altogether. Why? Sand contains silica, which is known to cause serious respiratory illnesses for workers involved in the sandblasting process. 

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Sandblasting Ceiling Walnut Glass After Pic 231

Our contractor gave us a quote of $5,700 and we okayed it. It would take two days and without feeling confident about any of the other options, we went for it. Here she is after succumbing to the power of walnut blasts. When I first walked in, I was relieved, thinking “okay this is good.” But the more I stared at it and experienced the space, the more I was like, wait…is this good?? The doubt starting setting in because it wasn’t exactly what I originally envisioned. The Douglas fir rafters and pine tongue-and-groove are different tones, the former pink, the latter more yellow. Neither of which I dislike, but together, it felt like a lot.

Furthermore, the texture was EXTREME (see top right photo in the grid below…that is some serious texture).

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Ceiling Blasting Walnut After With Copy 01

I like texture, but man when you blast wood, it takes it down to the grain and there was a lot of depth, knots and variation. I didn’t hate it but it just wasn’t what I had predicted. Also, remember that you all voted (but barely) for “refined” not rustic, so I was like “dear gosh, this ceiling is RUSTIC.”

But let me present another argument – perfection in all your finishes can look like a new build, which is fine if you want a new build. But if you want a mid-century cabin in the mountains then trying to shove the perfect finishes on it seems like a devil’s errand. Erasing charm is anti-everything that I’m for, though I also REALLY want to be happy with the ceilings. So while digging around Pinterest (as one does), I found the following photos of what appears to be a veneer on the rafters. Veneer that doesn’t stretch across and thus looks like what it is – beautiful veneer over cheaper wood.

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You would NEVER notice it (at least I wouldn’t). It doesn’t look ‘mickey moused’ or silly. How often do you stare at the ceiling? Not often. So I showed my contractor, architect and Brian these photos to prove to them that you can veneer without losing visual architectural integrity. Heck, “visual integrity” is in and of itself a ridiculous aspiration. But everyone looked at me like I was crazy…and they weren’t wrong. The ceiling is fine. Good enough. Not bad!! The quote to re-clad was three weeks, at $1k a day (for 2 guys) plus materials. That’s just nuts and not something we can afford.

So I explored even other options – painting the rafters white, so we could leave the T and G, and therefore at least have less contrast and reduce the pink. Like so:

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer Upper Sandblasting Ceiling Walnut Glass Inspo Pic 32
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But I don’t LOVE that as much as much as I should. We would still have to stain the ceiling which would cost $7k at least (if you have a lower ceiling, it’s MUCH cheaper, but when you are up that high with scaffolding, the cost of labor skyrockets).

So as of right now, I want to work with the wood ceiling. I canceled my original wood flooring to ensure that the floor is pulling the best tones from all of the different tones of ceiling. I am embracing it from below and just like most of us, it’s not perfect but maybe it’s likable enough. And maybe that is more important than perfection.

You see, I started realizing that while renovating a quirky house, you can OBSESS about all the details that you might not actually notice when the house is finished. It’s easy to home in on a tiny little thing (LIKE AN ENORMOUS CEILING) when there isn’t anything else to focus on. MUST REMEMBER THIS. Mixing woods is pretty. Real wood in a mountain cabin is crucial. While I haven’t done much of it before and feel like a novice at the notion of mixing a ton of woods, I don’t want to spend more money unless it’s going to be my dream ceiling. Getting “closer” without nailing it seems like a waste of money and time. But because I have a wide audience with so much more experience than I have, I want to ask you – and not in an ‘I design, you decide’ sort of way because it’s too expensive to even propose, but in a PLEASE HELP ME way:

If you have a wood ceiling, have ever clad, stained or replaced a wood ceiling or maybe you have a general contractor in the family you can shake information out of…what do you/they think? What do you like? Am I missing any options? Do you like it as-is? Or do you think that I’m maybe projecting too much importance on a singular finish and should consider the importance that furniture and accessories and PEOPLE can give to a space?

I’m leaning towards the latter…

Update: Check out all of The Mountain House REVEALS here: The Kids’ Bedroom | The Kitchen The Kitchen Organization | The Kitchen Appliances | The Powder Bath | The Living Room | The Downstairs Guest Suite | The Loft | The Hall Bath | The Upstairs Guest Bath | The Dining Room | The Family Room

Fin Mark


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Good enough
Rough texture a plus
Gives character
Same with different color of wood
Matching looks new


I worked on construction sites for 3 years. A handful of the jobs renovated old mills into apartment buildings. They used the sand blasting technique. The results were BREATHTAKING. The honey tones were perfection! and the texture was really quite beautiful. Please please please go through with this option!


😉 Not sure if you read the whole thing but Emily did the walnut-blasting on the ceilings and the images towards the bottom show how it turned out 🙂


I really like it! The texture is cool and authentic. Leave it alone.


I am the daughter of a forerster so I might be a bit partial but i definitely think you can work with the wood ceiling you have now. Real wood will never look perfect and i think that’s what makes it beautiful and gives it that “mountain house vibes”. I also think the ceiling will be less noticeble when the furniture is in since there will be other stuff for the eyes to focus on. 🙂


I completely agree– the charm of the wood is its variation. I definitely think you had to take the orangey stain away, but the rustic, organic nature of the ceiling is pleasing. The veneer seems overly ‘perfected’. I can understand how it’s not what you expected, but I don’t think anything will beat the natural aspect of it.

Paula Carr

Yeah, I don’t like the veneer option. At all.


Ditto! It will just be one surface out of six. And really, you want your eye to travel out the window to the beautiful outdoors … which is why this cabin is in the mountains, not on a suburban lot.


I much MUCH prefer what you have created with the walnut blasting to the veneered look which is just too ‘perfect’ (and to me un-charcterful, is that even a word?). It looks real and beautiful and like wood should. I love it.


I totally agree! The veneer is too perfect for me, and dare I say, a little weird contractor grade perfect. I actually love the idea of painting the rafters too, but I think it’s an awesome challenge to work with it with furniture, painting, and decor, as this is a VERY real possibility for several future clients. Also I love the walnut blasting finish, even the more rustic texture. I’m not sure how even a bleach or white wash would look? All that being said, Tim Gunn that shiz girl.


I agree with everything these ladies said. Your ceiling is giving me heart eyes!

Anna McNinja

Agreed!! Perfection is boring ?‍♀️ Work it, Emily!!! You got this!


To me veneer just looks like someone put flooring on the ceiling. Wood ceilings are actual support of the roof, and is made with boards going from beam to beam. When I see boards or beams with seams on them, I can tell it’s fake. Especially if the finish is a modern lacquered finish.


You know, I liked seeing your high budget rooms, but the reason I’ve read your blog for so many years is your ability to make it work, Tim Gunn style. None of us are going to be decorators like you, but we all want to get inspiration on working with what we have. It’s not just practical – working with constraints brings a new level of creativity and interest. I hope you leave it, make it work, and don’t give it another thought. 🙂


Well said!! I’m trying to do the majority of a bathroom for 5k. Talk about constraints. But it does allow for more creativity when you have less options. Such as ordering dead stock inexpensive beautiful hardware. Or making your own mirror from old trim.


Yes, well said.


Agreed. Inspiration is nice, but I feel kind of overloaded on inspiration in this age. It makes me kind of sad to hear how the stretch for perfection weighs on you.




Agreed! And I like the slight rustic-ness without being super rustic. On another note, one Easter I was in the hospital with one of my other children so my parents and husband took the other two the neighborhood Easter party. And one was wearing a black shirt (or if not black something very un-eastery). I was mortified!


Making it work is SO MUCH MORE INSPIRING! (That’s why I shouted it). I think you are missing the reason why people look at your work. They like seeing creative solutions more than mega-budget perfection. You are very creative so I think that you need to have the confidence to say that you can make it look good. Also, you said it yourself- perfection tends to eliminate charm. A mountain house should be a bit “ugly pretty”, you know, that thing that is technically wrong but elevates everything else to something special and unique.


Well said! I was among the refined voters, but if the house leans more rustic, so be it. You’re working with the natural elements and that’s far more interesting and organic than bending the house to your will in order to fulfill a refined destiny. The ceiling is beautiful and I have every faith that you’ll find a solution for the wood flooring.

My family home in Finland has wood on the ceiling and floor. Shockingly, my critical eye has never paid attention to whether they match. There are so many other elements in the house and through the windows that draw my attention. It’s a cozy, meaningful place I visit.

As always, I enjoy reading your posts!


Paint the beams white and leave the rest of the ceiling as-is. I don’t like pink undertones of the beams and I love the last picture you posted.


I agree


That’s my vote as well. Good luck!


I’m not crazy about the pink either. But I’m not sure I’d notice it when the whole room is done. I think it might look great white.
from the pix, i like the way the ceiling was originally. But so hard to tell.


I don’t think the white clad/painted beams will look right. I wouldn’t do it. I think it is ‘busy’ looking as is, but with the rest of the home finished/decorated, it won’t stick out like a sore thumb. But the white…not for your look. It is too traditional.


I think this is the option I most prefer as well – the pic I saw with the white beams just looks so beautiful, seems to be best of both worlds, both modern and mountain which I think is what you’re after here. I think it will tone down the wood overall, ground it more as it will connect to the walls and rest of the space and style, and just look so fresh too. I love the look of wood, but the clashing undertones was throwing me… so short of having two different colors of stain to try and create a more cohesive look, I think the white beams would be absolutely beautiful!


Exactly what I was going to write. Love the white beams!


Another vote for the white beams. (Also maybe I read this incorrectly, but it sounded like you said you had to stain the ceiling if you were going to paint the rafters? Can you just leave the ceiling unstained and paint the rafters white?)


I agree!! Or paint the ceiling white and stain the beams?? Would Brian kill me for saying that?


I totally agree! I think this would also bring the refined into the refined-rustic.


Yup, 100%. I love everything else about how the ceiling turned out EXCEPT for the pink tones in the beams. And I freaking love how the white beams look in the example picture. This definitely your best option.


100% The knotty pine ceiling is GORGEOUS. If the two tone is too much, just paint the beams.


I wonder if you paint the beams white is it going to make those knots stand out all the more? If they’re bothering you already you may want to consider that? I like what some of the other commenters said about working with what you’ve got so that we can see how you make it work. I also agree that the natural woods will add to the effortless cabin feel you’re going for, perfect imperfections.


What about painting the beams dark? Have you looked for inspiration photos of that?


I think you are obsessing over nothing! The ceiling is stunning and I love all that texture and knots. Proof that it is authentic.

The two different tones don’t matter as it is authentic to the “function” of the roof and gives it integrity.

Thank goodness the veneer was vetoed!

It you still want to lighten up the wood (and preserve it), have you considered Danish oil (in the lighter tones). Woca do an excellent choice of oils and lyes –


Hi, Emily. I think you have to apply some kind of stain, white washing, bleaching technique. Not to make it perfect, but just to tone down the pink a litle, soften the knots, and marry the two tones. I think it’s worth the 7k you mentioned. This blog is my first read of everyday!


For my two cents, I agree with Alexandre.


I agree… love love love your work Emily and so tempted for your mental and financial health to say it’s good enough 🙂 but I really think it would look better more evened out.. I lean more contemporary so I’m personally in love with the veneered look, but for this mountain cabin-y space, the natural can work… with a little work.


Looks like I need a different name for this blog. I’m fairly new here and have been using “Jen” too. Sorry!


yes yes, I came here to say the same thing. Maybe look at a white wash? something super translucent to still let the tone and grain through, but cool down the pinks. love the texture though!!


This would be my vote as well if you’re looking for “as good as you can get.” While I don’t really like the too-perfect veneer options you showed and I think the texture looks great, I think it’s worth exploring options to blend out the tones a bit.

Thanks for sharing this! I learned so much about sandblasting; it was really interesting and nice to know there are environmentally friendly options to using solvents.


Also don’t love the pink tone. Would you reconsider painting just the rafters?


Maybe you are focusing too much on the ceiling because it is empty. When the room is furnished, and there are other things to divert your attention, will you still dislike it? We are remodeling (it’s a total gut job) right now, and it’s easy to hone in on one thing when it won’t even be noticed when the place is full of things I love.


Please leave it! I really Think the overall look can be refined when everything else is in place.


It looks a lot better than before. And really, I think there are a lot of knots and color variation in your Dwell inspo photo as well.


Looks great. Move on.


As is! Love the character of the wood- that wood tells a story, which includes the knots, the texture, the different undertones. The white beams would look so forced in this situation.


You’re doing carpet at the upstairs open “loft area”, correct? I only have the photos you have shown to go on but I only truly pick up the two tone elements when you take a shot right next to the ceiling. I don’t see the two tones from below (or I do because I know I’m looking for it and can technically see it, but it isn’t offensive) and that is how you will first experience the space. With the wood flooring being so “far away” from the high ceilings, I think as long as you pick flooring that is close or doesn’t compete with the ceiling, you’ll be good to go. Give yourself a break and lean into it.


That’s what I was thinking. In the picture with all the scaffolding, I thought the ceilings were great. So much better than before. I can notice different tones only in a closeup and only because Emily pointed out. I see pine knots in the inspiration photos as well. I think once the fireplace is toned down a bit, furniture and gorgeous art is in, you will never notice. Some subtle whitewash could work to even it out as some readers pointed out but not sure if it’s worth the expense. Would doing some sort of clear coat help with evening the tone out, at least visually? but I think it’s great as is right now.


I process a lot like you do, and I think your final thought is your conclusion. I think it’s lovely as is, and tells a story of trying for ideal, but being content with what is because it’s still beautiful and you aren’t going to have photos of your fave Pinterest shots hung around your house for comparison. Maybe it’s not your dream, but in the big scheme it’s gonna be just fine. I think if you pull out some of the darker tones in the floor you’ll be good to go! And there will be plenty of other lovelies in the rooms…no one will be scrutinizing the pink/yellow. In the pictures it looks warm and inviting, and perfect!


*pull out some of the darker ceiling tones to use in the floor, I meant


The texture is very cool. The knots arre a little much. I love mixing woods, and my suggestion is to have one if the talented artisans you know create one try new item (small table, cheese board, kid’s toy, display shelf, etc) that incorporates the various would tone, types, and textures. It’s unlikely you will hate it; more likely you will love it, and it will be a great grounding/ jumping off point for the interior.


Well, I liked the before but understand why you didn’t. I do like the varying shades and think with stain they would be fine. I think you’re at the “holy heck, what have I done?!” stage. Deep breaths. You always create the best rooms! Once you get all your furniture and art work in there, it will be all pull together.


I think your last picture of cladding does look mickey moused…don’t! Your ceiling looks better after blasting but it’s not there yet. It seems to need some smoothing (stain? paint? something else?). I hope someone has useful suggestions. I know you’ll figure this out in good time.


I would leave it as is and see what all the sunlight does to the raw wood. Without the protective topcoats the sun may bleach it over time? Not sure. I really like the zoomed out picture of it and you are not going to zoom in on the ceiling for pictures. It will be an accent.


Oh, that’s an interesting thought. I agree to just leave it and live with it for a while. I keep imagining some kind of clear waxy finish but anything too clear and too shiny will just enhance the appearance of knots and clashing tones. Leave it and then down the road if you need to you can bleach or stain.


On this note, as a person with an untreated log cabin interior, wood changes over time! Sometimes a lot! Our cedar walls have darkened considerably.

In fact, we have a future project on our list to sand (or maybe blast) our interior and use some kind of sealant. One of the problems with raw wood, especially when it is textured, is that it gets dusty and isn’t super easy to clean. I swear it attracts dust and it STICKS. If you go with a wood burning fireplace this will add to the problem.

I am just unsure of what kind of sealant I should use…something matte that won’t yellow over time and is easy to wipe down.

Also worth exploring vegetable based stains to tone down the pinks and oranges. I have a friend who used it on her pine tongue and groove ceiling and it came out a lovely grayish tone, which might look nice in the mountain house.


Leave it! You really are underestimating the power of the furniture you put in it. Plus, clients value a designer who can make a variety of things look beautiful, not just one look! (ie the ‘Emily Henderson look’ which is great, but you don’t want to be a one-hit-wonder). I personally love the texture.


I hate that slightly disappointed feeling after researching ALL the options and the result isn’t quite what you’d imagined. I think a light white-washing is also the way to go as another reader mentioned. It would tone down the knots and varying tones, and it would still be real wood. That’s my vote! We’ll love it no matter what.

Ingrid Porter

I grew up in a deck house and our ceiling were pine, the beams were alder and stained dark almost black. I would lay in my bed and look for all the “faces” in the knots, you know like finding shapes in the clouds. I loved all the texture and colors in the ceiling so my vote is to leave what you have and embrace the wood as it is. Lean into what is not perfect and enjoy the beauty!


I did the same thing in our wood ceilinged beach house as a kid. I remember there were lots of bird shapes in there.


Looks awesome! I would consider painting the beams a dark color because the pink tone of them might bother my ocd ?


That’s what I was thinking 🙂


There’s a saying that goes “perfect is the enemy of good” It’s happening to me on my remodel; I can’t see that something is beautiful because I’m too focused on “perfect”

Your contractors have probably told you this but wood generally has orange/red “warm” undertones. It just does. We live in a world of filtered photos and when I see creamy buttery woods I usually assume some filter has been applied. Is it safe to say that you will be using a filter of some sort for your photos? Just color correct what comes thru as orange?

Nora Stone

Yes! In the wide shot scale, the ceiling looks awesome. Up close it is not totally perfect, but it is better than ever. Just color-correct it when you need to! And focus on all the other great stuff you’re going to do in there.


I think it looks beautiful. I really enjoyed reading this b/c although I have no experience with this type of ceiling, I’ve had a similar experience in other parts of my home. And I absolutely think that you are obsessing now, but once you have furniture, accessories, floors, rugs, you will realize that you maybe even like it more than you thought you would! And to your point about having it look just right for your portfolio as a designer – one of the things I love about your blog and your design is that you work so well and creatively with what you have. Anyone can rip things out, do a new build, completely demo something and make it look beautiful, but lose the charm and authenticity of the original home. And so many of us don’t want that, nor is it even practical. I love to watch you create with some limitations (whether it’s space, size, historic preservation, husband’s desires, etc…) – I think that is where you shine and it’s so much more valuable to me as a reader than just a completely perfect new build.


Well, I think you need to start considering the other elements of the room. The flooring and wall color will make a significant difference. And, you can’t forget about your view out the windows. That view is your art and your biggest asset. I would probably put in a dark stained wood floor and stain the beams to match, leaving the pine ceiling as is. Photoshop/sketch up will help determine if that is a good idea or not. That being said, I will tell you that I don’t like knotty pine or too much texture. I would not have purchased the house unless I could paint the ceilings white. The woods are outside – by bringing that much of it indoors you are just competing with your biggest asset.


We live in a 1970s a frame with tounge abd groove redwood ceilings/walls that were pickled a light grey/white which I love.


I like the texture and knots. I also think the pinkish color will fade away once you have other things in the room. Stop obssessing. It’s easy to be hyper focused when its the only thing you’re looking at, but once the house is done it will look great. And if not maybe stain it then, but wait until everything comes together to see if it still bothers you.


Well, I think you need to start considering the other elements of the room. The flooring and wall color will make a significant difference. And, the views outside your enormous windows are an important part of the color story. I would probably put in a dark stained wood floor to balance the texture. I would consider staining the beams to match the floor or adding a whitewash to accent them. I’d leave the pine ceiling as is. Photoshop/sketch up will help determine if that is a good idea or not. That being said, I will tell you that I don’t like knotty pine or too much texture. I would not have purchased the house unless I could paint the ceilings white. The woods are outside – by bringing that much of it indoors you are just competing with your biggest asset.


Go texture! I love the photo of the whole room – what an improvement! The close up shots of the details – no one but you will get that close. And I kinda like the texture, don’t mind the knots and don’t really notice the color difference in the pulled back shot.

The other thing is that the color of the wood will change over time in ways you probably can’t predict fully. So embrace it the way it is – or at least wait until everything else is in the room before you make up your mind.

Meg T

I see what you are saying about the matching undertones, but I think you could probably make it work. Instead of trying to match the floor, how about you go for contrast, like very light wood or very dark wood. That way it does not compete with the ceiling but compliments it. I feel like you could work the undertones into your design and have it work. For example, incorporate landscape paintings/photos with some subtle yellow and pink in them. That would tie into the ceiling more. Just a thought! I look forward to seeing what you do!


i like the texture/color of the ceilings, don’t stain them, I would paint the beams.


I know you’re taking up close/just ceiling pictures to make your point for the post, and likely choosing some of the worst offending areas, but those are definitely the only shots that I notice anything “wrong.” Any more pulled back shot that you’ve included looks totally fine and fully authentic to the mountain house vibe. And if you think about it, the reason some of these treatments are so expensive – aka your vaulted ceiling – is exactly the reason why you won’t be getting up close and personal with the ceiling on a regular basis. When you look at the ceiling as part of the entire room (which it is, by definition) it adds something amazing to the space and is not something people will be focusing on when this is all said and done. It is hard to work with different wood tones – we’ve had stained wood trim in every house we’ve owned (three now). It’s hard to pick paint colors (lots of popular ones that look great with white trim just do not work with certain wood tones) and coordinate your floors, but that’s part of what I’m so excited to see you do with this… Read more »


We have an MCM with exposed beams and the previous owners tore off the original mahogany veneer (it was thin plywood) and put up this ugly, dark stained poplar. It was pretty terrible. So last year we tore all that down and decided to veneer the beams with mahogany to match the original trim. We used a combination of solid mahogany and mahogany-veneered plywood. It definitely has seams because it needed to cover a 50′ span, but the seams are barely noticeable. I’d be happy to send photos if you want; just let me know where you’d like them sent.

Katie Loecken

clearly I’m not the only one who feels like it would be more interesting to see how you guys can make it work as opposed to just covering it up.

I like the idea of treating the beams different than the T&G. They have different undertones, so will always look different. So maybe painting the beams.

You should look into rubio monocoat. Its a matte finish that can de-saturate wood undertones.

I think it would totally help de-yellow if you do a white or a grey undertone.


This could be a great solution – I would definitely focus on de-pinking the beams if you are going to do anything else.


The full room “after” shots look good, and filters would give you the inspiration shots for the blog and us readers. And I know that you will furnish and style it so that the ceilings are just a small contributor to the big picture even without the photo touching. But honestly, I think the knots/heavy grain/pink tones are a fairly common design conundrum – and I would be thrilled if you were able to solve it for all of mankind! (tinted wax? Matte Oil?)


Love this product and the color options! Great idea.


I think it looks great. Leave it.


Why not go with a spray whitewash and choose a beautiful wood floor in the tone that you want? I don’t feel like you lose any warmth or interest with whitewashing and it would help cover up your knots and the two different wood tones, which would personally drive me crazy with such a prominent ceiling. It might also look interesting with the rough texture of your wood. I think it would look very Swedish cabin.

Erik Jacobson

I think it looks great as it is and once you get furnishings in it, the focus will be on them, not the ceiling. That said, I know that it’s hard when it’s not as perfect as you’d like. I personally have redone things in my own home that my friends thought were unnecessary.

Another option that you didn’t mention, and perhaps because it is just too expensive, is paneling over the whole ceiling, beams and all. I love beams, but I think wood ceilings without them can be just as cozy. With this option, you wouldn’t have the problem with the seams of the veneer. Here’s a pic of a good looking vaulted ceiling with no beams visible:


It looks great! Real, original wood is authentic. You’re never going to make your renovation look like a new build and that is a GOOD thing, it has character. Honestly, the fact that after spending $5700 on walnut blasting you are still considering spending thousands of dollars to make it “perfect” and “pinteresty” is so frustrating and wasteful. Wood is a natural material with variations in color and texture and that is what makes it beautiful. The grain in Douglas Fir is one of the most beautiful grains in softwood. The knots in pine are so interesting because they are the story of each individual tree. I used to stare at the pine ceiling in our cabin and find knots that looked like different animals etc. It’s interesting and not something to cover up or run from. You’re a talented designer but it seems the Instagram world is pushing you to obsess over small details that hold you back from really embracing your talent and moving onto the next step of the project. Yes, your ceiling will never be as clean lined as a brand new quartersawn oak ceiling, but that isn’t a bad thing. Yours is a different wood… Read more »


I love the idea of celebrating the imperfection of the trees. I was so impressed by how great it looks after the walnut blasting, and was sad that you weren’t excited too! You did great, gold star, all done. 🙂


Hallelujah to this comment! Wasteful is exactly what I was thinking too. And this strive to make something that’s already beautiful even more “perfect” and instagrammable makes me feel sick. I do realize it’s Emily’s brand. But, holy cow this was too much. I almost died at the thought of painting them a dark grey! That would look so dated eventually whereas natural wood, orange undertones and all, will always be gorgeous.


Would this technique work? It would be a win-win between keeping the warmth of the wood by not completely covering it with paint. The grey washed tone I believe would work well with the aesthetic y’all are going for. Too expensive to execute? Wouldn’t look consistent with the varying wood tones and knots? These things I don’t have the answers to, BUT surely you do! ? Worth a look! Link below….

Another option would be to just whitewash it without a stain beneath. Perhaps that would be a fresh look without taking away from the integrity of the wood. Less expensive perhaps? If only I had all the answers!

emily jane

whoa Shannon -beautiful… thank you for sharing the link : )
you should totally check it out Emily. it feels like the solution to your quest for “wood ceilings and beams that maintain their ‘natural’ qualities but also leave you with that feeling/ease you get in your gut when you know the something is Right” might be hiding somewhere in the technique used here..? as always, love hearing about your process and can’t wait to see the finished project (which i’m sure will be wonderful whether the ceilings remain as they are now or go thru another transformation ; )


Seriously? It’s a mountain cabin with beautiful, existing ceilings. I think you’d be crazy to put veneer over that or even paint the beams. Get your furnishings in there and THEN rethink it if you must. I think you’ll find that you love the warmth. I already do!


I would paint it all white. If you leave it as is it’s going to be a looooot of wood once you get the wood floors in. You can leave some accent areas of wood ceiling if you like. The pink tone of the beams do not look good. I’m also not a fan of the cladding, it looks too “finished”, for lack of a better word. DO NOT PAINT IT GRAY!


The ceiling looks gorgeous! The texture adds character, and although I’m someone who is usually really bothered when colors or tones don’t “match”, in this case it just makes it look natural. With this much wood, I think it would look fake if there wasn’t the difference, and maybe a little flat. I love the knots, which again, add character and dimension but are not overwhelming at all. It’s ok to move on to the next issue…..


I’d vote pickle/bleach just the beams to take the pink out and then sand down the rest a little to smooth it out/add refinement. I think you’ll be much happier with the uniformity. I did this with a table I made and the more I sanded, the better it got. Even went so far as applying a dark stain, then a grayish stain and sanding the both back out, which worked wonders for tone. You could also try this for just the beams to adjust color. This ceiling is probably always going to drive you crazy if you don’t do a little something more to make it closer to what you envision (I say this as a fellow obsessor/writer). You’ll find yourself making design choices to make the ceiling “work” instead of doing what you want to do with the rest of the house.


Yes, the latter! Definitely. You’re being a little nuts about this. I mean that in the best possible way. I think it looks great! And I like the knots. I actually don’t care for the two examples of veneered ceilings without knots.


Paint beams white. Or just clad beams to match ceiling. Ceiling is great – leave as is.

LJ Jasper

Paint or stain the Douglas Fir beams / rafters. The grooved pine with all the knots and Varitions in color is BEAUTIFUL as is!


Leave it! The result looks very close to the home from the Dwell on Design tour. That ceiling has variation and lots of knots. I think it will all come together once the room is finished.


All of your top inspo photos have knots as well. The texture is perfect for this mountain house, and can still look refined. I say leave as is.

Jennifer Brasher

LOVE it as is!! Don’t continue to mess with it.

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