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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.

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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)

6. Decide whether Doors will be Painted or Stained

If you have a door between rooms, you’ll have to decide whether the door will be stained or painted to match the trim. Just like all trim doesn’t have to match, doors don’t always have to match the trim, either.

In general, you have 4 choices:

  • painted door with painted trim
  • stained door with painted trim
  • stained door with stained trim
  • stained door on one side, painted door on the other side

Typically, I don’t recommend the last option. In this post about How to Mix Wood Stained Doors with White Trim, I explain how to decide between the other 3 options.

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 dark green bedroom 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 trim contrasts with the grasscloth-covered wall, while also complementing the green curtains (here are 9 more examples of rooms with painted green trim).

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

Tim Weaver

Thursday 16th of May 2024

We have a LOT of honey oak. All the trim, floors, most doors and casings. My question is would it look ok to paint the risers and stairway trim white even though the rest of the home trim is honey oak

Lora Green

Saturday 1st of June 2024

Yes, definitely! This is a great way to mix wood stain and white.


Tuesday 2nd of April 2024

I have a dining room with beautiful 4-inch stained wood trim and casings. I want to add a chair rail and paint the walls and add wallpaper. Do you think that the chair rail could be white or moss green (the color of the walls)? I think it will be almost impossible to stain the rail to match the rest of the wood. Will it look weird to have the chair rail painted and all the rest of the wood stained?

Lora Green

Monday 6th of May 2024

Yes! Definitely paint the chair rail to match the walls. Do use a semi-gloss on the chair rail though, even if you use an eggshell or satin on the walls.


Saturday 23rd of March 2024

I’m having a dilemma in an older small bungalow we are going to Airbnb. We’ve removed all the baseboard and changing it to 5”pine. The trim is staying as is until we “have” to replace it. Existing trim is painted white. Walls are SW Modern Gray. Some say paint the baseboard to be consistent but I prefer stained baseboards and trim, I feel with when it’s Time to replace trim we could then change that to stain. Thoughts & Advice welcome

Lora Green

Saturday 23rd of March 2024

If you prefer stained trim, then yes, definitely don't paint it! The pine will look just fine with white trim and modern gray. I think it will be just fine, but if for any reason it doesn't feel cohesive enough, do the following: If the pine doesn't feel cohesive, add pine picture frames/art frames, pine shelves, or taller pine furniture so that the pine is repeated through the space at eye level (where window trim would be) and feels intentional. Similarly, if the white trim doesn't feel cohesive, bring in some white elements such as white baskets or furniture lower to the floor, where white base trim would be located.

Sharon Wonders

Tuesday 20th of February 2024

We are in the process of painting our window trim white of an older farmhouse but room that is getting painted white trim is an addition. Rest of room (open concept) has the deep windowsills that are stained. We are keeping stained wood windows but painting windows and sash white. Would it be ok to leave window sill stained since windows are stained? Blend the stain with white as other part of room is stained? Also need help with stained staircase to blend white some with it. Thanks

Lora Green

Monday 11th of March 2024

If I'm following correctly, you are looking to do something like this: except the window is stained as well? If so, yes, I think that would look lovely with old farmhouse deep windowsills. For staircases, I like the option to only paint either the balusters OR the handrail and newel post. I hope that helps! Good luck with your renovation :)

Janet Pitzulo

Thursday 25th of January 2024

We have medium colored oak throughout our house - plus oak floors in kitchen, foyer, and hall that runs along the back of the great room. Open plan - we currently have carpet in the dining room and great room (open to each other) and built in oak bookcases along each side of fireplace - high cathedral ceiling - my question is two food - if we replaced the carpet with the same oak floors would it look ok to paint the bookcases a soft white - close to the wall paint I’ll be choosing - just to break up all of the oak in the room. Also there is wide crown molding above each bookcase and at the top of the fireplace wall plus a wall across the room from bookcases and fireplace. Do I keep those oak or paint those?

Lora Green

Thursday 25th of January 2024

Yes, I think it would be smart to paint the bookcases in order to break up the oak. I think soft white similar to the walls is a great choice. I'd recommend painting the crown molding above the bookcase to match the bookcase.