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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

Cam

Monday 18th of July 2022

Hi! I have been struggling about what to do about the stained wood trim, medium to low quality stained ceiling beams, and red brick fireplace wall in my sunken (three steps down from main level) family room. While I like the rustic look, the ceiling of the family room already looks very low from the rest of the main level, and I think that the wood beams feel heavy and make the ceiling feel even lower and more closed-in. Could I contact you by email and attach pictures? I would be really interested in your thoughts on what might be best to do with this room.

Thanks so much, Cam

Lora Green

Thursday 21st of July 2022

Yes, sure! Send me an email at loragreen@craftivitydesigns.com

Abbey

Monday 11th of July 2022

We are about to mix stained and painted trim in our home. Same dilemma you describe. We just painted alabaster walls and the wood trim everywhere seems too stark. I want to keep the upper crown stained and paint the baseboards (maybe window casings too).

My question is: what do you do to prep the stained trim prior to painting? And do you paint the hardwood floor shoe molding or is that considered part of the floor and should be left stained?? Thanks!

Lora Green

Monday 11th of July 2022

I paint the shoe molding, but I'd say that is personal preference. I prefer shoe molding to match the trim, not the floor; but I know that is not necessarily the traditional method.

As far as prep, I buy high quality paint, such as Sherwin Williams cabinet paint, and don't worry about prep. The paint adheres really well. The only places I have had any chipping are where something actually scratches up against it repeatedly. For example, my daughter's wood bed leg rubs the painted shoe molding in her room, and it is chipping a little in that spot. But, otherwise, in places with normal use and care, there is no chipping.

All that being said, the way to get the paint to adhere the best would be to sand first. I just don't worry about it, I'd rather just touch up every few years where it is needed, rather than sand it all.

Ann

Sunday 19th of June 2022

Hi - I just had my fireplace tiled over brick with herringbone marble. Now, I want to paint it white, but I don’t want to paint all with windows and baseboards to match. I don’t want to deal with knicks and always touching up. Would it look odd just to paint the fireplace a creamy white?

Lora Green

Sunday 19th of June 2022

No, I don't think it would look odd. It will be cohesive with the marble, and won't matter with that it isn't the same as the windows and baseboards.

Mary

Thursday 9th of June 2022

I have wood doors casing and trim, wood window casing and trim, and wood baseboards throughout the house. Living room, dining room, kitchen, family room and hallway do not have doors between them. I want to replace the baseboards with lighter painted ones but keep everything else wood. I like the idea of painted baseboards to match the walls, but I love color and have painted most rooms different colors. And some rooms have dark accent walls. It seems if every baseboard was painted the color of its wall, it will all look quite piecemeal. How do I choose the baseboard color? (I do not like white.) Thanks!

Lora Green

Saturday 18th of June 2022

Hi, Mary! This is a great question. Yes, painting all of the baseboards to match walls could become piecemeal. I'd definitely keep all of the connected spaces (living, dining, kitchen, family room, hall) pretty consistent (i.e. wood and 1 other color). Inside the bedrooms, I wouldn't worry about it and would paint the baseboard the color I though best fit the room. For the open spaces, if you do not like white, what neutrals and color palettes do you like? Depending on what you like, warm neutrals (beige and griege) can look really nice on trim. If you like drama, dark charcoals and navy can also look great. If you'd like, feel free to email me pictures and I can try to provide specific suggestions.

Marlene

Sunday 22nd of May 2022

I am getting all white replacement windows in my livingroom that will be trimmed out in white also. My baseboard woodwork is stained a dark walnut color. Is that terrible to have white windows and dark woodwork in the same room or do you think I should paint the woodwork white also?

Lora Green

Tuesday 31st of May 2022

No, it's not terrible! In fact, this is exactly how my bedroom is: https://craftivitydesigns.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/dark-green-bedroom-master-grasscloth-wallpaper-68.jpg The photo is bright, so hopefully you can see that the windows are white and the trim is wood. The same is the case in my living room. Here is a photo where you can see it (not a styled pic, just real life!): https://www.instagram.com/p/CFMzmKdHN2f/ Hope that helps!