Painting Wood Trim – Do We or Not?

Our closing date for the house is quickly approaching and we can not decide whether or not we will be painting the wood trim. The argument in favor of painting wood trim is that it will brighten up the house. It will also give it a more updated look and not compete with any paint colors that we choose for the walls. The biggest argument against painting wood trim is that it will be expensive and time consuming. Plus, it will show wear and tear more quickly and could look terrible if we don’t do a great job.

**This post was originally published January 11, 2012. It was updated February 20, 2021**

Since Jesse has more leave for work than I do, he took off yesterday to go to the house inspection. I asked him to take a ton more pictures for me, to help with my room planning and decorating visions. Well, while he was there snapping pictures he came to the realization that he LOVES the wood trim… We had essentially already decided that we would be painting wood trim throughout the house white. Now he’s had a change of heart and I’m not sure what to do!

painting wood trim

painting wood trim




Painting Wood Trim – Weighing the Options

How can we compromise on this issue? It’s not like painting wood trim can be done halfway! Or can it? After thinking a lot, and losing some sleep last night (I’m one of those people that can’t turn off my brain at night so I lay there FOREVER thinking) I had an idea. Since Jesse’s biggest issue with the painting wood trim is that he hates the look of hand-painted windows and doors, what if we don’t paint those? We could just paint the baseboards and trim around the doors white and leave natural wood on the doors and windows! I found a few inspiration pictures to give a visual similar to what I’m imagining.

painting wood trim

Photo by AM Dolce Vita




painting wood trim

Unable to find original image source

This photo doesn’t feature any wood trim, but all of the natural wood elements convey the same aesthetic that I’m imagining. Painting wood trim around the baseboards and doors would brighten up the space. The natural wood windows would help accent and ground the room. I also believe it would make them more of a focal point because they would be in contrast to the other trim work.

painting wood trim

Image via Fight for Our Write




Another idea to brighten the space without painting wood trim is to paint the walls a crisp white. The white certainly brightens up the space while the wood trim grounds the space and keeps it from appearing too sterile. The biggest problem with this aesthetic is that I love vibrant wall colors. I’m not too big on white spaces. However, I could always bring color in with accessories instead, so it is something to consider.

painting wood trim

Image via Decorology




The thing most of these pictures have in common is pairing white trim with dark wood. Even though the wood is usually in the stairs or furniture and not the doors or windows. What I’m getting at is white looks good with a dark, rich wood tone! So why wouldn’t white base boards, door frames, and chair rail look good with dark doors and windows? It’s been awhile since I’ve been to the house, so I’m not sure if the windows are dark enough wood to pull this off. Jesse did say he’d be willing to stain the windows, so long as they remained natural wood. But that also seems like a lot of work. More work than painting even.

So, what do you think? Am I crazy? We are definitely open to suggestions on this issue!

**Update on Painting Wood Trim**

We lived in this house for several years and opted to not paint the wood trim throughout. I always dreamed of painting the wood baseboards and door frames, but never could get my husband totally onboard. We did paint the trim (minus the door frame) and closet doors in one of the bathroomspainting wood trim

We also painted all of the kitchen cabinets white, which updated the space tremendously. I loved the contrast of the white cabinets against the natural wood windows. painting wood trim

I learned to work with the wood trim rather than just painting wood trim. I chose paint colors that complimented the wood tones and didn’t compete. One of my favorite examples is the green master bathroom. I loved the way the wood complimented the green color. So much that I even stained the mirror to match! painting wood trim

If we had stayed in that house, I definitely would have left the windows and eventually painted the baseboards throughout. The wood trim ended up feel beautiful in a lot of spaces, though I still overall preferred white baseboards and door trim.



25 thoughts on “Painting Wood Trim – Do We or Not?”

  • I loke the dark trim against the white walls. We have dark wood doors in our house and I left them and painted the trim around them (similar concept) and it looks great! Thanks for those inspirational photos!

  • Interesting idea. It looks like your trim is cheap builders-grade oak stained that 80’s orange-ish color. You would *have* to darken the wood to pull of the look. Oak grain shows through *a LOT* unless you pick a really dark stain color. Speaking from experience, we have white oak 20 year old hardwood floors that were stained 80’s orange when we moved in (the prior owners had already painted all the 80’s oak cabinetry, thankfully). We had them handscraped and stained a dark brown (coffee brown by dura seal, maybe?). The grain still show through but it’s dark enough to look “hip”. We also had our extra-large solid oak front door refinished in an extra-dark color. It looks great now (link to pics below).
    Before Door http://i55.tinypic.com/2dag178.jpg
    After Door http://i53.tinypic.com/35bdys7.jpg

    Another thing to consider: Brown/dark brown is trending out in colorways right now. The “in” thing is greys. Here’s a link to a blog post about the grey trend:
    http://www.mariakillam.com/2011/06/the-gray-black-and-white-trend-is-here-to-stay.html. So do you jump on the dark brown wagon now or is that going to be a mistake that make your house look outdated again? This is coming from a person who *loves* dark brown and has a lot of it in our house.

    • Thanks so much for the tips! And I love the way you transformed your front door! I’m not so much worried about the “outdating” because we are planning on making this our “forever” house, so reselling isn’t in my head at all. I just want it all to match. I’ve been dreaming of a white kitchen for a while now, and my husband is on board with that, so I want things to flow and be cohesive out of the kitchen, hence the white baseboards and chair rail. The dark windows were the only thing I could think of that could possibly balance out with white baseboards and look good. My husband is absolutely 100% against painting the windows.

  • Staining or doing a wash (have you looked into doing washes? Ithink it’d be the perfect compromise for you two!) would definitely be the way to go!

    • We have looked at washes, but for something like the baseboards and trim we think it would look half-a**ed. A white wash kind of looks like a single coat of primer, so we think it would look like we started to paint, but didn’t quite finish. It looks great on certain furniture, but is a little to “shabby-chic” for us. We wouldnt want it throughout the house.

  • I’m actually with Jesse . . . I love wood trim, especially on doors/windows. We’re planning on one day replacing all of our windows/doors for this reason. But, I also love the contrast of the white baseboard and such with the wood. The dark wood is gorgeous too! So many decisions! 🙂

  • I have to admit that I’m a fan of painting the trim white. There is just something about how crisp, clean and bright it is. All of the trim in our house had been painted when we moved in, except for the trim in the kitchen. I couldn’t wait to get a coat of white semi-gloss on it.

    That being said, I do loveee the contrast of our white trim against our dark hardwood floors…but again, I’m a fan of the wood grain just on the floors, not on my trim. If you guys do leave the wood, maybe you could think about staining it dark (brown undertones vs. red undertones) to give a more updated and rich look.

    Good luck with your decision! I can’t wait to see what you guys choose!

  • I have wood trim all in the downstairs of my house. It bugs me sometimes but for the most part I haven’t had a problem with it.

    If you have good room separation you might be able to have wood trim in some rooms and white in others. Or you could have wood downstairs to make Jesse happy and white upstairs.

    • Yea… we thought of that. But I’d still have the window problem. Jesse is 100% anti painting the windows. He doesn’t mind the painting the trim as much.

  • Deep, dark espresso would be my second color choice right after white! I think if you have a big enough place & “interesting doors” (we certainly don’t) dark doors and windows can look great. And I’ve certainly admired white trim with dark doors! The doors are usually paneled though, and not completely plain (I don’t know what you have).

  • I think it would look good if it was done well. I would steer clear of a red based trim though. I find it really limits what other woods you can pair with it – that’s just my opinion and probably isn’t worth much. I think you just need to be consistant. If you’re painting the trim white and staining the doors and windows dark you need to carry that look through the entire house – again, just my opinion. You guys will figure it out. Once you actually live there it will be easier to envision.
    -Diana

  • Hmm, while I like the looks some of those pictures achieve it looks like you would need a darker wood to pull off the stark white with wood grain. I would think that would require complete refinishing of the windows and doors which could be costly and incredibly difficult.

    Also, I wouldn’t throw out the thought of being careful to not make everything look dated. My sister painted her room a very “in” color scheme she loved and then a few years later she hated it. Sometimes we grow out of fads really quickly.

  • Don’t you love when guys have funny ideas in their heads? Kevin HATES curtains, all curtains, we can not have curtains in our house!! He thinks they belong on a shower and that is it. What is up with that? So far I have added some curtains, but he hasn’t said much, so I think I will keep adding them here and there. Maybe you can start with one small room and he will appreciate the beauty, lol!

  • I think if it’s a nice, dark wood and your other colors compliment it, then keep it! We left one room with the wood trim and painted all the kitchen trim. Once we painted the cabinets white, the dark trim looked out of place. I do think you have more options with white/painted trim, though! If you don’t think you’ll look back and say, “Man, I wish we hadn’t painted that trim” then go for it!

  • I absolutely love dark wood floors with white trim. It looks so classy! We did that in our home (which was a fixer-upper). It turned out so great!

    ~Lisha

  • This is a tough one. I am a huge fan on consistency in trim work, but I still think it could work. I actually think if you tinted the stain darker, you’d like the trim work as-is. But, I’m excited to see what you decide. I’m sure it will be right for you.

    Maybe you could Photoshop white baseboards to see what you think in your rooms?

  • In most cases I’m a paint the trim white person but I really love dark wood trim in certain style homes (like craftsman). Honestly I think it depends on the house and how you plan to decorate it overall. And I’m just not sure there are any rules about this- go a head and mix wood and paint. Just do it in a consistent way and make it well thought out and intentional and I’m sure it’ll be great. Can’t wait to see how it turns out!

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