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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

Shannon

Saturday 12th of November 2022

Your home is beautiful! I have a 1969 ranch where there is a lot of clamshell trim. Some in not good shape in the entries and living spaces but in good shape in the bedrooms, especially the baseboard trim that is stained and matches the hardwoods. I'm leaning toward brightening the space like you did and I'm wondering if I could like the baseboards and then paint the door trim white so that I don't have wood trim extending upwards in a room which makes it feel dark. Do you have any wood baseboard trim with painted door trim?

Lora Green

Tuesday 22nd of November 2022

Hi, Shannon! Great question and thank you for your kind comments about my home. No, I do not have any painted door trim with wood baseboard, I only have the opposite - wood door trim with painted base trim. If you are certain you want to paint the door trim, you could always do that first and live with it for awhile to decide on the base trim. I often paint in phases to allow myself time to decided what will get painted.

Carol Nichy

Friday 21st of October 2022

I'm remodeling my ensuite bathroom. Gray and white. Gray floor, 2 tone gray shower floor, linen color vanity with matching huge mirror frame and matching linen closet. White quartz vanity top with light gray sparce graining and similar shower wall tiles. My problem is my entire house has wood stained doors, windows and frames which I love. But that won't work in my new bath. I need help as to what to do with the stained door and trim in the bathroom. I'm stumped. Please help! Thank you.

Lora Green

Friday 21st of October 2022

Well, I'd definitely paint the trim in the bath to match the bathroom. I'd probably consider the linen color that is on the vanity for the trim. As for the door - is it a linen closet door, also - or just the entry door? If a linen closet (i.e. inside the room), I'd paint it the same color as the trim. If just the bath entry door (i.e. shared with another room/hallway), I'd leave the door stained but paint the trim around the door AND inside the bath. You don't need to paint the trim outside the bath (I have an example image in my post of how to paint inside trim one color and outside trim another color). OR Go all in and paint the whole door and inside/outside trim the linen color IF it would be cohesive with the adjoining room/hallway that is the stained wood trim everywhere else. I'd go with option #1 most likely, but feel free to send pics and I can provide any other suggestions.

Rhonda Harrison-Goode

Wednesday 19th of October 2022

I have a chalet type house and I want to paint baseboards and window trim white but leave doors, wood beams and around fireplace stained. Would this be pleasing to the eye. I as well am a visual person . We get tons on natural light

Lora Green

Friday 21st of October 2022

Yes!! I think this sounds lovely!

Carol

Thursday 13th of October 2022

I am stuck! I want to keep trim in main living wood but paint the built-ins. The room has vaulted ceilings where space above built -in is part of wood crown I'm wanting to keep its original wood color. This same piece is quite elaborate and encases the balcony. Where do I go from here? Desperately not wanting to make a mistake as it would be impossible to fix... Can include pics in follow up. Thanks:)

Lora Green

Friday 21st of October 2022

Hi Carol! Yes, please send pics, if you are able. Generally I recommend painting the trim/crown at the top of the built-in, cabinet, etc. the same; but this sounds like a unique case.

Drea

Thursday 6th of October 2022

Moved into a house filled with honey oak trim, honey stained wood floors, and honey oak wood windows. We recently had all rooms painted BM edgecomb grey.

Two rooms I am stuck on our kitchen/family room and sunroom. 1.sunroom. This room sits off of the family room separated by oak doors. The ceiling in pine. I would say a warm pine that is similar to the oak in color. I need to restain the windows and Patio door in this room due to some dark staining from years of neglect. I am afraid I won’t be able to remove the stains. I am considering either restraining a darker color or painting. What colors would be good stain choices paired with the pine ceiling? What colors would be good paint choices?

2. Kitchen/family space The kitchen is cherry cabinets with a busy granite countertop. Since this opens up into the family room I am having a really hard time designing on furnishing for both spaces. I am considering painting the baseboards white and leaving the windows unpainted or only paining the window trim white. This area is really dark as the windows sit at the end of the room butted up to an oversized fire place. So close in fact that I can’t properly hang curtain because the windows don’t have clearance in either side. Again, narrow room. Will it look weird to paint the trim around the window white while leaving the window and doors that open to the sunroom oak stained? Would painting the oak fire place edgecomb gray look off? I want to minimized the huge oak mass that it is. The insert is red brick.

Also will have floors restrained at some point. Thinking a walnut is a good “neutral choice to flow through spaces that open into each other. Thoughts?

Lora Green

Saturday 8th of October 2022

1. I'd consider staining or painting the window trim a dark near-black (similar to the entryway in this home with edgecomb gray, oak floors, and black railing - https://www.younghouselove.com/photo-gallery-2/our-current-house-2/). If you don't use black as an accent in your home, or if you don't want as much contrast, you could simply do a semi-gloss of edgecomb gray (or a shade or two darker if you want a little contrast). Going with a color similar to the wall will make the sunroom windows feel even bigger. 2. I'd be inclined to paint the window trim by the fireplace and the fireplace itself, the same color. Since the fireplace is large, and the windows are at the end of a long room, I think that would provide a cohesive feel. It is definitely fine to paint those windows without painting the doors or other windows. Especially, if you paint it the same color as the fireplace - that will feel completely intentional. With that said, I'd go with white or edgecomb gray for the windows/fireplace. I'd probably be most inclined to go with edgecomb gray - though I think eitehr would work. 3. Yes! I think walnut is a great neutral that is not too yellow or brown, it is a great option for wood stain.