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How to Mix Wood and White Trim, Beautifully!

Yes, you can mix wood and white trim in the same house (or, even, in the same room)! Mixing painted and stained trim is completely doable, as long as you keep these tips in mind.

Our modern cottage home has original solid wood trim, crown molding, panel molding, chair rails, and ceiling beams… but… it’s only like that in a few of the main rooms. The remaining spaces are filled with the same 3″ stained baseboards that fills most homes built in the 1980s.

So, what do you do when some of your home’s trim is high quality and the rest is builder grade? Does it all have to be upgraded ($$$)? Or, do you have to paint it all white (bye-bye beautifully stained original wood)?

Is it all or nothing?

how to mix wood and white trim

The answer is a resounding “no”.

Not only can you mix wood and white trim, you can also mix stained trim with painted trim of any color. Mixing trim is not as easy as “all or nothing”, but the results are well worth the extra effort (and, it might save you some money, too!).

How to Combine Stained and Painted Trim

1. Decide which Trim will be Stained

First, determine which trim, moldings, and casings will remain in a stained finish (i.e. will not be painted). To make this decision, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I like this feature of my home in a stained finish?
  • Is this trim made with quality wood?
  • Does this trim make a statement in my home?
  • Is this trim in good condition?
  • Does this stained trim work with the “mood” I’d like to create in this room?
Dining Room with a Mix of Stained and Painted Trim (also a Homeschool Room)
Stained crown molding is highlighted by painting the rest of the trim to blend in with the walls.

2. Decide which Trim will be Painted

Next, determine which trim, moldings, and casings will be painted. To make this decision, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which wood-stained features do I dislike?
  • Is this trim made with inexpensive wood?
  • Does this trim distract from other appealing features of my home?
  • Is this trim in poor condition?
Chair rail and wall painted white with vintage floral curtains
Chair rail is de-emphasized by painting it the same color as the walls.

3. Determine the Start and Endpoints

The trickiest part of mixing stained and painted trim is the start and endpoints. What do I mean by start and endpoints? Well, for example, this question:

“If I paint the baseboards white, should I also paint the stained door casing which opens to the next room?”

This isn’t always easy to solve. In fact, in several rooms, I have painted trim up to a certain point and then stopped to mull it over for a while. I’m a visual person, and seeing it in real life helps me make the final decision.

My general rule regarding where to start and to end is this: keep each type of trim consistent within a room (with the exception of window and door casing trim). For example:

  • all baseboard in a room is the same color,
  • all crown in a room the same color,
  • etc.

4. Decide whether each Window Casing will be Painted or Stained

So, do the window casings have to match the crown molding… or the baseboards… or the other windows in the room? Nope!

Rather, for window casing trim, choose stained or painted based on the following criteria:

  • if you want windows to feel bigger, choose a low contrast trim color (see image #1, below)
  • if you want to highlight windows, choose a high contrast trim color (see image #2, below)

5. Decide whether each Door Casing will be Painted or Stained

Like window casings, door casing trim can also vary within a room.

For door casing trim, choose stained or painted based on the look you want AND the impact on the adjoining room, for example:

  • if there is a door, you can finish it in one color to the stop in the door frame and another color past that point (see image #1, below)
  • if a cased opening does not contain a door (i.e. a pass-through), paint it all or stain it all based on which is most visually appealing (see images #2 and #3, below)

Examples of Mixing Wood and Painted Trim

Dining Room with Wood and White Trim

For the first example, let’s take a look at our homeschool room (also a dining room). I wanted the room to feel light and bright… after all light is imperative in a space for schoolwork.

When we moved in, the crown molding, window trim, chair rail, and baseboards were all stained wood. All that wood trim – combined with blue-gray walls – wasn’t adding up to the light and bright space I envisioned.

How to Brighten a Dark Dining Room - Before
Dining Room: Before

But, I hated to paint over that gorgeous, thick, stained wood crown molding. How could I lighten up the room without hiding a feature that I loved?

You might also like: How to Brighten a Dark Room

So, I decided to try mixing wood and white trim in the same room (prior to this, I’d only mixed it in the same house). We painted the walls in SW Alabaster and the trim in SW Pure White (to match the adjoining budget-friendly kitchen renovation).

dining room with a mix of wood and white trim
Dining Room: After

It turned out exactly as I’d hoped! The beautiful crown molding is highlighted because all of the smaller 3″ trim blends in with the walls.

Bedroom with Stained and Painted Trim

For the next example, let’s take a look at our master bedroom. We wanted this room to feel cozy, warm, and a bit rustic. It’s a big room that can handle a deep, dark, paint color and heavy trim.

Plus, the wood beams are the statement piece in this room and I definitely wouldn’t want them to fade away with white paint.

Master Bedroom: Before

However, I wasn’t interested in updating the inexpensive baseboards with similar trim to match the ceiling. It would be expensive and difficult to match the stains.

Instead, we chose to replace the 3″ baseboards with paintable 1″ x 6″ boards. I painted the boards with SW Rookwood Dark Green (at 50%) – to match the walls – which keeps the base trim from competing visually with the ceiling beams and trim.

green baseboard painted trim with grasscloth wallpaper and green walls

Plus, I love how the dark green baseboard contrasts with the grasscloth-covered wall, while also complementing the green curtains.

green baseboard painted trim with grasscloth wallpaper and green curtains

Tips & Tricks for Painting Stained Trim

  • Use a high-quality semigloss paint, preferably with primer built-in. I like Sherwin William’s Emerald Urethane Trim Paint for both trim and cabinetry.
  • If your home is older (pre-1978), there is a possibility that there could be lead in the stain, varnish, or original paint. You can buy a lead test kit to confirm the existence of lead. Then, use a lead encapsulating paint as a primer/barrier before painting the trim.

Mix Wood and Painted Trim

Now it’s your turn! Embrace the stained trim in your home by making creative choices with trim color.

Have questions? Feel stuck? Leave a comment, below. I’d love to help you figure out how to beautifully combine stained and painted trim in your home!

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How to Mix Wood, White, and Painted Trim

Jen

Friday 24th of September 2021

Hi! I have stained moldings around the windows and doors south facing part of the house is a cherry wood and north facing side of the house a light oak wood stain. I want to paint the entire downstairs one color and wanted to do a gray....maybe a repose Gray. I want something light and airy....will this go with all my trim? I wanted to then add white crown molding. Would this work? My floors are title in creams and beige.

Lynn

Thursday 9th of September 2021

Have beautiful birch paneled walls, crown, chair, wall moldings (like picture frames) and baseboard in living room. Beige carpet. Tan sofa and chairs. Way too brown! Would white window frames, white door frame and white accent pieces be enough to lighten the room?

Lora Green

Thursday 16th of September 2021

White window frames, door frames, and accent pieces will make a huge difference (while also letting the beauty of the birch shine!). Here is a great example of wood paneled walls with white trim (https://www.gapinteriors.com/imagedetails.asp?imageno=63378). Here are some specific pieces I'd consider adding: (1) white/cream/light pillows and throw blankets to lighten the sofa and chairs (2) white curtains hung high and wide (3) maybe layer a white/cream rug onto the carpet (4) artwork with oversize large white mattes and (5) white coffee table/ottoman, side tables, etc. Hope that helps!

Terri

Thursday 2nd of September 2021

I am remodeling a kitchen living room and dining area. My current trim is an inexpensive stained “ranch style” (plain and flat). I want to replace baseboards and trim around windows and doors with new white molding. Can I leave doors and casings the stained cop wood or do I need to replace or paint. Also how should I paint so that it sticks and doesn’t chip. Thank you.

Lora Green

Friday 3rd of September 2021

Hi Terri! Yes, you can leave the doors stained. In our home, sometimes I have painted the wood doors white, and sometimes I have left them stained. My attitude is always this: if I'm on the fence, leave it stained and live with it for awhile - I can always come back and paint it later. As for painting it so it doesn't chip, I think the most important thing is the paint selection. Buy high quality paint - even if it is pricey. I have used both Valspar Door and Trim Paint and Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel. The SW Emerald is much more expensive, but beats Valspar by a mile. I have had no issues with SW Emerald chipping. On the other hand, the Valspar paint is very prone to chips in high traffic areas.

Martin

Monday 23rd of August 2021

I like the clean visual that white baseboards bring to a house, but at our house the door casings are all stained. After read this article, I would intend to install white baseboards, but there is a large brick wall at our living room. So, I do not know if it would match with all the elements: white baseboard, stained door casings, one brick wall, wood floor, white painted walls. Should I keep stained baseboard in this room? Could I mix a stained baseboard (for brick wall) and white baseboard for the other walls? Thanks!

Lora Green

Wednesday 25th of August 2021

That is a great question, Martin! I think a white baseboard would look just fine with the brick (take a look at this room with a brick wall, white baseboard, dark window/door casings, and wood floors). So, I think I would keep all of the baseboard white and leave the stained door casings. Hope that helps!

Jackie

Saturday 21st of August 2021

Hi!

We are about to close on our first home and we are SO excited...just worried about the headache of very dark, walnut? trim that is on walls, doors, & windows. The house is average but not large, and I worry it's making the space smaller. There is beautiful dentil molding on top but thin 3" molding on the baseboard. Would you recommend replacing the 3" stained baseboard with white trim and leaving the dentil stained as is? Then comes the headache of what to do with the doors and windows....to leave the door casings and windows stained? Swap for white doors? We also plan to refinish all floors with a more natural stain color as right now its dark as well and paint the walls with something light and neutral to help. Any recommendations are appreciated :)

Lora Green

Wednesday 25th of August 2021

This sounds similar to my dining room (cheap baseboard with beautiful crown moulding). I would paint the walls white and do white base trim, so that the dark walnut dentil crown moulding would become the feature in the room. It sounds gorgeous! If the door/window casings are also high-quality walnut trim, I'd keep them stained as another architectural feature. If they are cheap 3" trim like the baseboards, I'd probably paint them white. I hope that helps!