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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)

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

Jill Brown

Thursday 5th of May 2022

I need help deciding what to keep wood and what to paint. I have a lot of wood.. beams,railing, etc. how/who would I ask to help me?

Lora Green

Monday 9th of May 2022

Hi, Jill! Feel free to send me specific questions in email with pics and I'll try to help :) - Lora

Sue Wagner

Wednesday 6th of April 2022

My home was built in 1964. I have honey oak cabinets, doors , trim, and window casements. Can I replace doors and trim board in white and leave cabinets and casements honey oak? Living area walls grieve.

Lora Green

Monday 11th of April 2022

On the windows, I would keep the window trim matching the window casings (i.e. both oak). On the doors, I'd paint the door trim and door casings to match the door (i.e. white). Like you mentioned, paint the wall base trim white. On the cabinetry, if there is any base trim, keep it in oak (i.e. the entire cabinet, trim and all, in oak - even if some of the trim is the same style as the wall trim). The white wall trim should stop when it gets to the oak cabinetry. I hope that makes sense! Let me know if you have any questions.

biren

Wednesday 23rd of March 2022

The house that i bough has white doors, white window trims & white baseboard but they have a yellow tint to them and marks in certain places as well. I want to repaint all of them white again. My question is - 1) what wud be the steps to do so? 2) I dont know what kind of paint was used earlier etc etc. So do i need to prime them? If yes then with what prime (oil/water) 3) do i need to use a sealer after the paint?

Let me know, thanks.

Lora Green

Wednesday 6th of April 2022

First, determine what kind of paint is on your current doors, and select the primer based on that (here are instructions and a suggested primer: https://www.hillisbrothers.com/post/can-you-paint-latex-over-oil). I do not use a sealer over my painted trim and doors. Just make sure to buy a high-quality paint (Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, etc. in Cabinet and Trim grade). It will be a pricey gallon of paint, but will be worth the money since it won't chip easily. If there is spot that gets dinged frequently (for example... a door that bumps up against the floor trim or something... you can always apply a layer of clear sealer in that spot for a little extra protection... I have done that in a few spots around our home). Finally, make sure to do at least 2 coats. I generally do 3 coats.

Renee

Wednesday 23rd of March 2022

Hi there! We are currently building a new home, I’m wanting to do all stained trim, doors, cabinets. With exception of white window trim. I’ve found pictures of homes with all white baseboards and moulding, and stained window trim. Yet, cannot find anything like I’m wanting…all stained with painted window trim. Reason for wanting white window trim: Prefer white plantation shutters, so it doesn’t lend a “closed off” feeling. Also, our windows will be white. We really just want a more open feel. Could this work? Or do we need to do all baseboards/door trim/moulding white?

Thanks so much.

Lora Green

Wednesday 6th of April 2022

Definitely!! I love this idea with the white plantation shutters! I think window trim is the best place to go with white paint, because it makes the windows feel so much larger - especially if you are painting the walls a white shade, too.

Mark Halvorsen

Tuesday 1st of March 2022

We put down new flooring in the dining and kitchen area. Don't think the flooring matches the baseboard. We were thinking about painting the oak baseboard white Which would work out good except We have a cabinet that is oak that butts up against the wall And I'm not sure And what to do in that situation. The cabinet needs baseboard around it so I'm probably going to go with the oak baseboard there.Can you butt oak up to white baseboard?

Lora Green

Tuesday 1st of March 2022

Yes, I agree the cabinet trim should stay oak. And, yes, you can butt oak trim up to white baseboard. Where would the two meet? If there is a natural break, like a corner, that is where I would make the change. If it is not a corner, feel free to send a pic to loragreen@craftivitydesigns.com of where the two would meet, and I'll be happy to make a suggestion.