The Stained Wood Trim Stays! What Colors Will Work With It?


Dear Laurel,

I just found you on Pinterest.  Great boards.  I was googling best neutral wall color with stained wood trim and found you again.

I am desperate.  I am selling my house and the painters are coming Monday to repair all of the damage from ice dams from the winter from HELL in Massachusetts.   I have hideous, badly stained dark woodwork, not nice dark, but leaning towards orange.  I can not afford to make it white to sell my house ASAP as I am also getting divorced.  TMI?  So I have my Ben Moore fan decks out and almost picked Navajo white and Bone white until I read your hilarious descriptions about how bad they are!  Phew.

My dining and hall are already Jicama, but I thought I should tone it down.  I have to stay with some yellow to deal with the horror of the woodwork but my living room is already a cheery yellow.   I hate cheery!  But too white will make the woodwork even more Oompa Loompa.  Help!

Do I have any hope??


Folks, this one is a real email! And I do have permission to use it from this lovely lady. What is totally freaky is that I was just getting ready to start a post on this very subject!

There are several different reasons why you might want or need to keep your stained wood trim

  • you live in a historic home and feel that it would be sacrilegious to paint the stained wood trim
  • you like it.
  • you don’t like it but can’t be bothered to change it.
  • you hate it but don’t want to spend the money to change it.
  • your mother likes it. [let me have a word with her. okay?] :]
  • your husband likes it.
  • your husband is threatening to divorce you if you change it.

If there is one subject that is as hotly debated in the world of interior design it’s whether or not it’s okay to paint over trim that’s already stained. If you wanna hear people frothing at the mouth, this is a great post about whether to paint stained wood trim (on a Craftsman Home) on Apartment Therapy.

Of course…

If you are living in a home-built by Frank Lloyd Wright for instance, painting over the wood trim would be like putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa. (Leonardo probably would’ve liked that.) ;]   The same goes for a lot of architectural styles such as Arts and Crafts, AKA Craftsman Style and sometimes Shingle Style. (although, not all shingle homes are Craftsman). I’m going to come back to this in a bit. Then there’s the Victorian period which morphed into the Edwardian period. (early Downton Abbey)

Oh, this is so difficult! I’m just not a fan of stained wood trim.

Alright. I hate it—

unless it’s done super well and the colors and furnishings are incredibly cool. In that case, I DO like it. Still… this is the girl who painted her brand-new upholstered chairs and cabinet. If there’s white paint and a paint brush nearby, nothing is safe. :] I love paint. I love the freshness. I lurve it!

Still… I need to exert some discipline because this post is about paint that goes with wood trim, not IF the trim should be painted.

Forget it.

I’m not disciplined. I have no self-control.

I want to live here.


via New York Times

not here.



Or, I could easily live here and below too.

Aesthetic-Interior-Columns-home-interior-design-Traditional-Entry-Burlington-Smith-and-Vansant-ArchitectsSmith and Vansant Architects

The two above are in the craftsman influenced style. There is no wood trim except for a door. I don’t see hell freezing over. Do you?

You do???

I bet you expect to see this.


and this.

Two above images via

Well, okay. You’re right. These are vintage craftsman homes. While I can appreciate them, it wouldn’t be my preference.

Oh, but wait. Your home looks like this?



And This?


This house, you’re to paint everything black for resale or else just light a match and put everyone out of their misery.

But seriously now. If you live in a home that was built in some decade when men were designing buildings apparently under the  influence of LSD and quaaludes, you MUST paint that hideous brown trim. There is nothing historical about it. It’s a blight on history! Out damned spot!

I promise you, that you will get the money back on the home sale.

home-talk-painting-wood-trimvia Hometalk

Which would you rather live in? If you say the top one, please just unsubscribe right now!

Oh dear. Wait. I don’t really mean that. I’m sorry. I just really hate it, the stained wood trim; not you. I grew up on a house built in the late 50s with ugly brown doors and trim. I guess that’s where it stems from. And that horrid dark Oak clad Synagogue that was so dark and forboding. (Someone did burn that place down to the ground many years ago.)

Alright, I’ll calm down because for whatever your reasons, you need to keep the brown trim and there are ways to make it look amazing! So, let’s focus on that!

One, is gorgeous architecture

Atelier-Chesterfield-2Anthropologie (1)Frederick + Frederick

What a kitchen!

james-thomas-fabulous-library-stained-wood-trimJames Thomas Alterations

Another way is with beautiful colors and furnishings

house-of-ruby-interior-design-portfolio-interiors-contemporary-craftsman-traditional-living-room-family-roomMelodie Rubin

Can you paint walls white with stained wood trim?

Yes! But with one caveat.

brooklyn-townhouse-dark-wood-trimKitchen Lab Design

The wood needs to be a deep rich color or even an ebony.

Well, Laurel, my trim isn’t deep and rich and I’m not refinishing it either.

Boy, you’re not making this any easier for me. Okay. You don’t have to completely refinish it! You might be able to stain over the ugly orange-y trim. (with a little sanding, of course.) Uh huh! I would never do this with a large piece of furniture or a floor, but with trim, you can probably get away with it. There is a product by Minwax called Polyshades. It is stain and poly in one. You might need two or three coats, but it might be worth it to get the wood looking lovely again. I would experiment first, however.

staircase-before-centsational-girl-wood-trimCentsational Girl took her staircase from this…


To this!

She didn’t use polyshades, but some other techniques that didn’t require a full refinishing.

Let’s get to our colors that go with stained wood trim

First, let’s talk about what not to do.


no bright white with orangey trim.


no “builder’s beige” either.

More Colors That Love Stained Wood Trim

kitchen-lab-design-dark-wood-trim-staircaseKitchen Lab Design

(I love that they painted the spindles white which adds quite a refreshing note to this home.)

The first color is…


There are so many wonderful greens. You can see some of them here and here.

kitchen3blog-dark-wood-trimThe cabinets in this amazing kitchen by  Frederick + Frederick Architects look to be Benjamin Moore NANTUCKET GRAY  HC 111

Impressive-Wrought-Iron-Chandeliers-decorating-ideas-for-Dining-Room-Rustic-Smith-and-Vansanat-Architects-Shingle-style-Craftsman-Style-painted-trimSmith and Vansant Architects

Gold is another wonderful color with wood trim. Some of my favorites by Benjamin More are:



allison-apartment-therapy-dark-wood-trim750_s.fit_via Apartment Therapy

STRATTON BLUE HC 142 is a nice gray-teal


A color one might not think of very often but looks wonderful with stained wood trim is red. A good red to try with a warm stained wood is Benjamin Moore LADYBUG RED 1322

For a rich, warm browny, orangey red, try SPICED PUMPKIN 034


Another wonderful color with wood trim is a warm deepish brownish purpleish color. But not PURPLE! One of my favorites is ELEPHANT GRAY 2109-50. This is such a sophisticated color and a shade that provides less contrast looks elegant with the mid-tone stained wood trim.

making-it-lovely-brown-wood-trimMaking It Lovely

FYI, the paint color is Benjamin Moore BLACK BEAUTY 2128-10

BLACK?!?!?! LAUREL??? With wood trim?

Sure. Why not? It’s really cool. If you don’t know the blog above, please check it out. Her home is filled with wood trim and every room like the one above is cooler than cool!


Photo By Bieke Claessens

A brown-black with a black ceiling! I’m pretty sure that if I only had one home, that I would never do this, but if I had 2 or 3 homes–definitely!

breakfast+room.4.bp.blogspot-dark-wood-trimFrederick + Frederick Architects

The pale blue-gray is a refreshing change with this rich mahogany stained trim. Love it with the wicker which knocks back the formality in a refreshing way.

This color looks a lot like Benjamin Moore SHORELINE 1471

warrenV12-italinc.comInterior Alterations

I guess I just had to end with my painted white. I truly love it. But if you don’t and you prefer wood, then who am I to tell you differently? Unless it’s considered a historic masterpiece, I don’t see the problem with painting it. Most of the periods of time when these places were built in the late 19th and 20th century also had styles where the trim would’ve been painted.

9 wonderful Benjamin Moore Paint Colors that look wonderful with stained trim

It’s just wood. It’s just a house. Life is too short. Nobody died. Paint it. Hell paint Frank Lloyd Wright too! He called our dear Dorothy Draper an INFERIOR DESECRATOR!!! The nerve! That kind of comment will get your face smacked with a paint brush and a pair of white gloves Mr. Wright! Good Day!

Happy Sunday! It’s gonna be a hot one here in NY!



  • bonnie wohlford - May 3, 2017 - 5:33 PM

    Lauren I just found your web site and love your attitude!! I would love to hear your advice on a beautiful home we just moved into that is FULL of wood trim, crown molding, and every door in the house which is 14 of them is a 24 panel door…wood floors, in the dining room there is a beautiful wood coffered ceiling with wood paneling at chair rail height all around the room… I can send pictures if you would like… I did paint the orange brick fireplace thats in the dinning room already and it’s made a huge difference… I just feel like if I paint the wood in one room it will be a can of worms and continue until I die!!!! The doors I wouldn’t paint, or neither would I touch the wood coffered ceiling…it’s beautiful! Oh also I wouldn’t consider my wood work a historic trim…. Maybe just the doors!

    • Laurel Bern - May 3, 2017 - 9:25 PM

      Hi Bonnie,

      Your home sounds gorgeous. I’m sorry though, I am not doing any consulting or taking on any new clients at this time.ReplyCancel

  • Linda Laurel - April 2, 2017 - 8:02 AM

    Hi Laurel! Loved this post. I just got one of my clients to paint their wood trim white. But…their kitchen cabinets may be staying a light oak. It’s an open concept, small ranch home – so you walk in and see the cabinetry right away. They will be painting the living room/dining area and hall Monroe Bisque. There’s a small wall separating the kitchen – so we can change the kitchen wall color (and there’s not a lot of wall here).Their backsplash is neutral taupe, light gray and beige tiles – with pinkish undertones. They currently have it painted green – and it doesn’t work at all. I suggested going dark – but they looked at me like I had 2 heads! So – I then suggested going 50% Monroe Bisque, which is going to be boring but I think it’s an improvement. We will be doing a beautiful window treatment over the window in the kitchen – so that will elevate it.

    I highly suggested that they paint their cabinets. They are thinking about it. If they do…then I can suggest a great color for their kitchen walls. But, do you have any other thoughts about what color I could suggest – if they stay with the oak cabinet color? It’s tough to bridge the warm yellow undertone and the pinkish and cool undertones of the backsplash!



    • Laurel Bern - April 2, 2017 - 10:52 AM

      Hi Linda,

      Eyes rolling over here… I feel your pain. I got to the point in my career where I would not take these jobs. I found it frustrating if working with someone who didn’t seem to mind that orange oak looks horrible with pinky beige. Don’t like pinky beige to begin with. It should be banned from the kingdom! haha. And they can take all of the orange oak with it!

      Sorry that I can’t be more helpful. ReplyCancel

      • Linda - April 3, 2017 - 5:08 PM

        Hi Laurel…guess what? They are going to paint their cabinetry…I suggested White Dove. I am soooo thrilled! Now I can really help them with a great kitchen wall color. We are updating their hardware as well – bringing it into this century!

        These clients also had yellow oak floors and, thankfully, they are going darker. Not crazy darker…but a bit darker (Early American). I think that will help a lot with their wall color in the living room/dining room area. I forget what color they had on their walls but I know it’s one that doesn’t have a yellow undertone…and their walls look yellow beige! I believe my Monroe Bisque suggestion will be good as long as they go darker on the floors. This is a sunny room – not north facing. Now I’m second guessing myself…should I have gone with Grant Beige (I’ve used this successfully many times). Everything in this space is neutral and light. I’ll be bringing in color with art and accessories.

        If you have any thoughts – I’d appreciate it.



        • Laurel Bern - April 4, 2017 - 12:55 AM

          Hi Linda,

          YAHOO!!! Is all I can say! And give yourself a big pat on the back. I’ve never had anyone say– “oh, I wish we had left the stained wood.” No, it’s just the opposite.ReplyCancel

  • Margot - March 23, 2017 - 9:51 PM

    I have to say it all depends on the house, the trim and the effect you are going for. My house has wood trim in a medium tone. Everyone who visits comments on how warm, comfortable, and inviting our home is, The other trend we are apparently “bucking” is wood floors throughout. While most of our main floor is wood the family room and upstairs are carpeted. We have an open floor plan with a 2-story entryway and our house is very noisy (and I am a light sleeper). If we didn’t have carpeting upstairs I can’t imagine how much noisier it would be!ReplyCancel

  • KMG - March 13, 2017 - 6:34 AM

    More things change the more they stay the same. I’m actually designing and building home with dark trim, molding and floors. What is old is new again 🙂ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 13, 2017 - 1:20 PM

      Hi KMG,

      In my book, it is what is old is always new as long as it was done before 1940.ReplyCancel

      • Kenrick - March 20, 2017 - 1:28 PM

        Is your book online? What is the name. I am trying to get ideas for the inside of my house. Presently I am staining my door frames with magogany color and spraying the doors with dark varnishing. I am yet to decide what color will be for the interior and exterior of the house.ReplyCancel

  • Armen Sarkisian - March 10, 2017 - 3:08 AM

    Hi Laurel:

    I purchased a Spanish style home last year and I’m now ready to paint the entire house. Needless to say, I have a ‘stained wood stays’ situation.

    The front half of the house is fully intact with original beautiful wood trim and stunning windows all stained in a rich deep walnut stain with hints of red throughout.

    Here is my predicament. The second half of the house has two doors leading into what I call the ‘painted zone’ of the house. The side view of those doors before you enter is absolutely awful because you see the beautiful rich color of the stained wood and glimpses of white paint surrounding the trim coming from the other side.

    Since I have a Spanish home, I’m thinking of going all dark on the trim and doors so the transition from dark wood to light painted trim isn’t too extreme. Judging by pictures online, BM’s Wrought Iron and Kendall Charcoal seem to be popular choices for door paint colors. That’s actually fine by me because I really prefer darker doors any way.

    Do you think the dark almost black look of Wrought Iron and Kendall Charcoal would be too extremely different from reddish stained wood?

    I don’t know if going more of a warm brown with the paint for the painted trim will backfire because then it might seem like I was trying too hard to match it when in reality the look of stained wood is impossible to replicate with standard paint.

    Is the safer option to avoid brown colors and just go with a darker color that doesn’t necessary have any warm brown in it? I’m curious if you’ve had other clients with a situation like mine where there are doorways where stained and painted trim clash.

    I have all the BM fan decks. If you know of any darker trim colors that have worked well with your clients, I would love to check out the swatches and see if there’s any chance they might work in my home as well.

    Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 10, 2017 - 2:24 PM

      Hi Armen,

      I think that a dark color is a good way to go. Definitely. But in the absence of any other information about the other finishes, furnishings, etc. it’s impossible to say.

      It is exceedingly rare that I get to use a dark color in my practice for anything. Very conservative area. ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer Danek - February 12, 2017 - 12:21 PM

    I bought one of those craftsman homes in Seattle in 2014 that had never been painted. Everything was deep dark wood – cabinetry and crown molding with floors everywhere! They actually advertised as such, that the wood was all the original. I heard so much of the “you can’t paint it” but read your post and held my breath and had the entire thing painted white, with french grey on the walls. It costs a fair amount because the wood hides imperfections and there’s weeks of prep work to do it right, but it turned out gorgeous. I am with you – paint it white, you won’t regret it!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - February 12, 2017 - 12:25 PM

      Hi Jennifer,

      Absolutely! I mean it’s not a Frank Lloyd Wright. That you can’t paint, but everything else, yes, IMO. And it doesn’t have to be white either. Craftsmen homes look wonderful in all of those great putty, khaki, greenish colors too.ReplyCancel

  • Dee - November 28, 2016 - 6:55 PM

    Hi Laurel,
    Love your work! I just recently purchased a house and it has dark stained wood trim & doors everywhere. I love the bright look of painted white trim but everybody tells me I am crazy to consider painting as the doors are of ‘such great quality’. My question is if I am painting the trim white – should I paint the doors too? And also the stairs (again all dark stained wood). Or can white trim really work with the stained doors?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 28, 2016 - 8:32 PM

      Hi Dee,

      It depends on the style and year the home was built. If it’s an old home and/or a very traditional style, then it was common for painted trim and wooden doors. I know that I have that on a more recent post here. Hang on please…

      There’s one, the Sheila Bridges dining room. But look on pinterest perhaps and do a search. Or google might work too. It’s a beautiful look!

      If it’s a flat 1970’s kind of door, then no, it’s not a beautiful look. ReplyCancel

  • Hollie Rich - November 20, 2016 - 11:52 PM

    My husband and I moved into a 1916 four square home a few months ago. There is lots and lots of dark stained trim. He loves it, of course. I’m a light and airy decor kind of gal, so I’m dealing with it. Considering a pale blush for the walls of our main rooms. Yes, very unusual color for those spaces, but I feel like the blush would really set off the wood trim. And it’s still a lighter color. I can’t go dark in these rooms, or I’d be depressed!ReplyCancel

    • Carrie - November 21, 2016 - 6:26 AM

      Try Bennington gray and Manchester tan, both Ben mooreReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 20, 2016 - 11:56 PM

      Hi Hollie,

      That sounds lovely and I bet that the home is awesome!ReplyCancel

  • Tracy - November 13, 2016 - 11:45 AM

    I also grew up in a 50’s built house. But ours had simple wood trim that was painted in the same flat paint color as the room. It looked cheap and I still think think that painted wood trim looks cheap. Especially white. I hate it. It reminds me of painted MDF and often is.

    That said, I also hate my golden oak woodwork in my 90’s snout house. I would like to go to a Arts and Crafts style with more squared off woodwork. Maybe in a dark oak or dark cherry. Something with staying power that says “organic” and blends with the countryside outside my windows.

    The photos that you want to live in look urban, cold and uninviting. The kind of house I would visit and look for a dog to pet; except there’s no dog because everything is white. So I’d just leave as soon as possible.

    I realize that in real estate “forever is seven years” but at what point do we stop decorating for other people? My husband and I live in our “forever home” at this point. So we want what we like, but also don’t want a dated look. Because in 2020, white/grey is going to look “so 2010”.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 13, 2016 - 11:53 AM

      Hi Tracy,

      There are two posts about wood trim. The most recent one has largely white walls and the one you’re commenting from has largely colorful walls and many craftsmen-style homes.

      There are so many versions of classic. I love a lot of different things. I love white and I love color too. I always say to go with what you love, keeping in mind that there should be some sort of integrity if it’s a historical home.

      Also, you’ll almost definitely have to repaint before you put your home on the market. I recommend that highly for a lot of reasons. People want move in ready, even if they are planning on changing it.ReplyCancel

  • Betsy Mordino - October 21, 2016 - 9:08 PM

    Hello Laurel,

    I need so paint color advice. I have a 1917 Historic Craftsman home 5 minutes from the ocean in Long Beach ca. I need to sell it. I am trying to find colors for the LR and DR. I scraped all the paint off of the Douglas Fir waynes wall that has about one foot between each board, So I need a color for the wall between the waynes wall. Then above that is about 6 feet of wall,I need another color that I was thinking a very light teal with a white ceiling. Is a darker teal between the douglas fir waynes wall ok. I don’t want the house too dark. There is a carport that darkens the parlor a little. Also at the back wall is all built in cabitnets with a beveled mirror in the middle.
    Can you give me any thoughts on inside colors please? The outside of the house iss various colors of greens and leaf orange around the outside windows, ThankReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - October 21, 2016 - 9:12 PM

      Hi Betsy,

      Unfortunately, I won’t be able to help you because I’m not there and if I was there, I would be charging a hefty consultation fee.

      Those are my thoughts.ReplyCancel

  • Teresa Stanley - September 12, 2016 - 2:35 PM

    I love your sense of humor! I keep going back and forth on painting the orangy built ins on either side of the fireplace. I read your blog yesterday and signed myself up as a subscriber too, was ready to paint them. Maybe Cotton Balls, as a matter of fact. One raised eyebrow from the hubster later and I reconsidered. Nope, too stark, too much white, blinding… I came back to get inspired once again 😀 I shall paint those eye sores, I shall!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 12, 2016 - 11:29 PM

      Hi Teresa,

      There’s a fairly recent post here about husbands and painting woodwork. Typical response.

      But, there are other options than white or you could go with a creamier white.

      Best of luck with that!ReplyCancel

      • Teresa Stanley - September 13, 2016 - 12:27 PM

        I will consider a creamier white. I just bought your paint handbook and am currently studying that. You have some greens close to my wall color and I’m looking at which creamy whites you list that I am feeling. That color book is great in that way, suggesting coordinating trim and cautioning about companion colors the paint will not support, great purchase. Oh, my favorite tip: The peach / mauve floor tip and the recommended trim to combat that. My tiles can read a little peachy in some light, great tip!ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - September 13, 2016 - 7:15 PM

          Thank you so much Teresa. I’m very proud of the paint collection. And believe you me, agonized over nearly every color!

          If the room gets good light, you can’t go wrong with linen white, but in some darker rooms, it can go peachy. Ivory, always looks great.ReplyCancel

  • Ken Jones - August 7, 2016 - 8:55 PM

    I am a hobbyist woodworker, home designer and have noticed that all the HGTV interior designers, for example, NEVER use stained woodwork. It’s all painted a shade of white. Supposedly this is the style preference of the typical new home owner. Perhaps, it more a cost consideration than a style choice because as you say, in order for stained woodwork to look great, it has to be done really well. `It has to be a high grade of hardwood; has to be stained the right color and has to be used in architecturally impressive ways; otherwise, white offers a much safer look. I live in a 1911, craftsman style house, that has some unique features. But the one standout feature is the huge amount of oak and wood trim, some original and much that I replaced or added. The oak had been poorly varnished a dark color and I stripped all of it down to bare wood and restained it a medium color of reddish/brown. I gutted all the windows and enhanced the new trim by using quarter sawn white oak stained with Micheal’s Cherry Stain. All the floors are 3/4 inch select red oak, finely sanded to 220 grit and stained a light shade of reddish/brown. I added 3 piece crown systems made of paint grade poplar that I painted off white. I prefer ceilings to be brighter. As a woodworker, I appreciate the beauty of natural wood. At night, the rooms with all the oak look very warm and inviting. But I do agree that lots of wide woodwork stained in medium to dark colors can have a cave like heavy feel. The key is selecting wood that has naturally beautiful grain, like quarter sawn white oak or select cherry and using it to showcase architectural features, accents or cabinets. Also, one interesting point about plain sawn red oak. The new oak of today has a rather harsh, wavy, wide grain pattern. The old red oak used at the beginning of the 20th century has a much tighter, denser grain pattern. It looks nothing like the select red oak I used on the floor and at a glance looks more similar to the new quarter sawn white oak. My second floor is all new woodwork, mostly poplar and maple, painted off white. I love and appreciate both looks, but when I see a good grade of hardwood used, I know the cost factor is much higher.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 8, 2016 - 12:26 AM

      Well, Ken, that’s the thing about HGTV that drives me the most nuts. It’s predictably and horribly scripted and designed to appeal to the masses. yawn.

      I know what you mean. I’ve seen gorgeously paneled rooms from 100 year old cherry or oak and it really is a different animal than much of the drek being produced today. I bet that your home is awesome! Thanks for stopping by.ReplyCancel

  • Natalia - August 6, 2016 - 12:42 PM

    Dear Laurel,

    I hadn’t seen your blog until today when I searched google for some ideas on how to style a slightly dated home without remodeling it. I loved this entry! (The Stained Wood Trim Stays!…)
    First of all, my parents own a home that was built in 1954, although they bought it in the early 90’s. It was absolutely full of cheap orange stain on all the cabinets and floors, and some of the rooms were carpeted over the wood floors. My parents have completely renovated/updated it, taken out the carpet (and replaced the carpet in some rooms/the basement), put white cabinets in the kitchen, stained the floors a rich dark brown, etc, etc. It looks absolutely beautiful, fresh and new, yet timeless. The walls, window treatments and linens are neutral colors with various colorful items. Everything looks really clean and bright and cozy. They live on the coast in Washington, so their backyard is an evergreen forest that looks enchanted and brings the outdoors inside because of the large windows. That is where I grew up and what my husband and I find appealing.
    That being said, my husband and I live in the midwest (I won’t mention which state, as I don’t want to offend anyone. hehe! The midwest has its charms.) and we are moving into a rental house that was also built in the 50’s. It has been remodeled, although the remodelers never cracked open any book on styling kitchens and bathrooms, and were totally unknowledgeable of colors, textures, etc. The appliances and light fixtures were purchased from The Habitat for Humanity Re-Store (Don’t get me wrong! I love repurposed items and not always buying from the usual places), but some of them don’t match at all. (e.g. The kitchen light fixtures are oil-rubbed bronze, while the small dining room right beside it has a gray/green ceiling fan that looks a little industrial.) The kitchen cabinets and doors throughout the house are oak and hand-made (which I think is neat), and are stained with a slightly orange finish (which I do not think is neat). The kitchen countertops blend almost perfectly with the vinyl kitchen floor, which obviously looks odd. One of the only redeeming factors is that they mercifully painted most of the walls a soft, buttery yellow, the windows are white, and the faucet fixtures/drawer hardware is all brushed nickel (as opposed to different types).
    First let me say that I am not a matchy-matchy person. My husband and I have traveled to various different countries and I love pretty, brightly-colored textiles. However, my linens and curtains are cotton or linen, white or off-white, gray, and blue. My kitchen items are either white or Indian/Middle Eastern/Spanish patterns with oranges, blues, reds, etc. However, I do think that all of these things can blend together and create something that doesn’t hurt your eyes!
    What would you say to give me some ideas on how to style our “new” rental without taking away the components that are a bit undesirable?
    Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 6, 2016 - 1:10 PM

      Hi Natalia,

      I’m sorry but I am not doing any consulting at this time. I am up to my eyeballs just answering 100s of comments, creating my blog and products that I’m selling. However, this blog is filled with tons of ideas. Wishing you well.ReplyCancel

      • Natalia - August 11, 2016 - 1:53 PM

        Thanks, Laurel!

        I understand that you’re way too busy. I have been checking up on some other websites and I’ve already found some great ideas, plus every photo in this blog entry is lovely. I have found that I already have lots of ideas in my own head and in our current living situation, but I was feeling a bit overwhelmed the first time I wrote!

        Thanks again and keep up the great work!ReplyCancel

  • Carrie - July 16, 2016 - 7:57 PM

    We have a 160 year old house with lots of orangey trim and pumpkin pine floors.

    I wish the trim was either white or darker, but I’d still be stuck with super orange floors.

    Right now our walls are BM Bennington Gray. It’s ok but not great. You mention above that with orange trim you should not have white walls.

    What can I do? If I paint The trim white my floors will still be you very orange, and I’ve heard that staining pine floors is very hard and it gets very blotchy so staining all the trim darker plus the floor doesn’t seem to be a good option, and I’m the kind of person who loves light and bright white and gray is there any wall color that would give that feeling but work with the orange trim?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 16, 2016 - 8:16 PM

      Hi Carrie,

      No worries about the floors. It’s the vertical plain we are discussing– The trim. If you paint the trim, you can choose a lovely warm white like ivory white possibly. That is not a definite as I can’t give paint recs in the comments since I can’t see what’s going on and also, I’m not doing paid consults at this time.

      If you can’t paint the trim for some reason, then what you are wanting is probably not going to look very good IMO.ReplyCancel

  • Julie - June 22, 2016 - 12:40 PM

    So, my problem isn’t dark stained trim… my problem is blue/gray trim. Think colonial houses that have blue trim and white walls. Yuck. I hate it but my husband loves it. Maybe b/c we live in his parents former home and it reminds him of Mom. I don’t know. At any rate… I can’t paint the trim. The worst part is a fireplace alcove with shelves all painted this same color. What’s a girl to do?? I desperately want to lighten and brighten the room but I’m clueless as to how to move forward. Oh, and did I mention the adjoining dining room has gray/green trim?? HELPReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 22, 2016 - 2:17 PM

      Hi Julie,

      Oh wow! I feel a great blog post coming– hang on! No promises, but maybe tomorrow. ReplyCancel

  • Francesca - May 29, 2016 - 7:01 AM

    I loved your article. Laughed out loud many times by reading this! Thank you!!ReplyCancel

  • Morgan - April 30, 2016 - 3:56 PM

    I have the opposite problem in the house I just bought… lovely white painted wood trim throughout, but still oak wood doors and an oak banister (though white spindles). The orange kind of oak. The house has Victorian architecture but is slightly modernized. I am having a terrible struggle trying to decide between staining all of the orange oak a darker walnut color, or painting everything white. What are your thoughts on darker wood doors with “cotton balls” white trim? The hardwood floors are a fairly natural lighter wood as well. Not ready to refinish those, yet.

    Thanks for another great post!ReplyCancel

  • Laurie - April 28, 2016 - 1:19 AM

    Like you, I like painted trim so much better than stained trim, but I feel like it’s not that simple in our house. Like so many other newer houses out there, we have standard not super-wide stained trim with matching stained doors, and the doors are just flat — no panels or anything. It seems like flat doors and thinnish trim would not look great painted white… would you still paint these? And with a bunch of kids in the house, would stained trim hid a lot of nicks and wear that white trim wouldn’t? My husband thinks wood is more practical for a family with kids. Also, is latex semi-gloss the way to go for trim?ReplyCancel

  • Jeanette - March 15, 2016 - 1:15 PM

    I just found this post and love your comments about painting wood trim. I, too, just bought a house that has lots of wood trim that my husband likes. :-). I’m tempted to paint it, but am not sure what to do with all of the wood doors. Can I paint all of the trim but leave the doors wood?ReplyCancel

  • Chris - March 13, 2016 - 8:11 PM

    Hi Laurel,
    I agree with you and would love to paint all of our doors, door jams and windows white. This is our dilemma: We have a Tuscan style home and there is no framing around the doors/windows; everything is bull-nosed. Painting the doors and door jams is not a problem, but our window casings and actual windows are wood trim. Painting the windows that open and close is going to be difficult (they open outward via crank like a door would open) and the hardware (the crank lever, the locking mechanisms, etc.) are all a silver/grey color. Even if painting these windows wasn’t so daunting, I’m not certain that the silver/grey would look right next to white. Soooooo…..what should we do??? Should we paint the doors and door jams, but leave the windows and window casings white? I think this might look odd. What should we do, we are stressing over this!!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 13, 2016 - 8:57 PM

      Hi Chris,

      I wish I could help you but I’m having trouble visualizing this. In my vocabulary window casing and door trim are the same thing. You can mix silver and white. But I don’t know what else is going on. Sounds like you need to call in a pro if you’re struggling. ReplyCancel

  • Ann zager - March 10, 2016 - 9:04 AM

    I love everything posted. I have a knotty pine lower level and I am afraid to paint. I can’t decide if painting only the trim would be a bad idea.
    I’m always trolling the Internet for inspiration .ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 10, 2016 - 6:45 PM

      Hi Ann,

      I’m assuming that you are talking about knotty pine wall paneling. You would either leave it all wood or paint the entire thing. With knotty pine, it very much depends on the knots. Some of is VERY knotty and has big gouges, etc and some more subtle. In either case, I wouldn’t do anything shinier than an eggshell. If the pine is very knotty and gougy, it might need a bit of judicious spackling. Not to cover it up entirely, but just to tone down the knots. You could always experiment on some knotty pine from a lumber yard. OR, if there’s an inconspicuous spot that’s normally covered by a piece of furniture, you could do some samples/experiments there. I think you’ll love it painted. It is such a fresh look! I’ve had lots of clients who’ve painted their pine paneling and everyone loved it.ReplyCancel

      • rose - May 21, 2016 - 10:45 AM

        We painted our knotty pine in the living room and hallway. We filled in the knot holes with spackle, lightly sanded the walls, used a stain blocker and then painted with beige eggshell finish. It turned out beautifully and brightened up everything.ReplyCancel

  • Monica Ames - March 8, 2016 - 1:11 PM

    I am so happy I stumbled on this post! I just bought my first home (100+ years old) & I fell in love with this house because 1. All new appliances! Woo! 2. The tall ceilings 3. Beautiful woodwork that would look better white. I mentioned painting the woodwork to my mom and she gave me that “I brought you into this world, I can take you out” look so I never brought it up again. Yes, the wood is intricate in some places but it’s super old and a lot of the floor trim doesn’t match and there was definitely some water damage on some of the window trim in the office space. I don’t think it’s any sort of valuable expensive wood of times past. Some of it I’ll paint, others I just need to replace as the crappy children that lived here before carved their names/put stickers on the doors and trim in the bedrooms!! This just solidified my decision to go white! I really think it’ll make the large rooms feel even airy-er! Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 9, 2016 - 9:59 PM

      Hi Monica,

      I promise you that you’ll love it!

      note to self: please laurel, remember that you are no longer attached to your children by umbilical cord and that they are also potty trained.

      it’s very difficult even though they are now in their 20’s. lolReplyCancel

  • jennifer - January 13, 2016 - 10:09 PM

    This post is so funny!!! I bought a 100+ yr craftsman home in seattle that looked like a moose lodge there was so much dark wood. All I could envision was how beautiful it would be all white. I can’t tell you how many times people tried to convince that I COULD NOT PAINT THE WOOD. I painted it in bits and pieces and now it’s all white dove – wainscoting, built in cabinetry, stained glass windows, crown molding — and it’s glorious! So I support….paint the trim!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - January 13, 2016 - 11:10 PM

      hooray Jennifer! I’m so proud of you bucking the naysayers! I don’t know what it is! It’s the difference between stain and paint. One is translucent showing the wood color and the other one is opaque showing the paint color. What’s the big deal?!?!?ReplyCancel

  • dayna romano - January 8, 2016 - 11:30 PM

    wondering what the wall color is of the picture that says interior alterations under the pic.greenish color wall,brown moldings ,black leather couch..thank youReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - January 8, 2016 - 11:58 PM

      Oh gosh Dayna,

      That is a very good question! It’s not my room so I couldn’t say for sure. And then I don’t know how your computer screen is reading the color. Then, it depends on lighting. But one of my favorite rich muted greens is 1497 Rolling Hills. For a lighter shade Nantucket Gray HC 111 is also very nice.ReplyCancel

  • Sara Hansen - December 16, 2015 - 11:45 AM

    I just wanted to say: THANK YOU!!!!! I want to say I love you but that’s a little weird. But I kind of do feel like I love you.

    I live in Iowa. A very small town in Iowa that nobody ever visits or cares about except the people that live there. BUT everyone that does live there and visits my home comments on the beautiful medium oak 6 inch trim, columns and staircase. It is gorgeous. And old. And has an orange tint to it and I am not an interior decorator. I’m trying, but I just don’t know how to do it. I painted so much damn yellow in that house I’m about to puke. I went from mint green (previous owners loved, loved mint green, country blue, and mauve, and ducks, hearts and flowers). Soooo, we’ve been slowly updating this old house – it’s over 100 years old. My husband is a carpenter so I keep him very busy. Here’s the thing: I love white trim too. I adore it. I want it! BUT people just gasp when I even mention painting the trim and columns white. What I want to do is paint it all white but have dark stained doors. It’s really the only way I think I can get this old house to look and feel new again. You have helped me to feel like I can do whatever the hell I want. It’s my house and it’s old anyway. If people think I’m crazy, they can suck it. It’s my house and I’m the one that has to live in it. RIGHT? But if I change my mind again or let someone convince me to not paint my trim, I at least have some wall color options to go with now that aren’t yellow. By the way, the yellow that I picked takes on a light lime green color next to the orange trim in the evening when I have my lamps on. Gross.

    Big hugs to you!


    • Nataliya - January 28, 2016 - 4:32 PM

      Oh my! Sounds like we are sisters LOL. We moved into our house a year ago. I am dreaming about painting all orange wood white. But what to do if it’s your mother 🙂 who likes it and tries to convince you not to? How many times I said to myself – it’s myyyyy house. Yesterday I primed the largest window and cry now. The wood is bleeding even through oil based primer. AhhReplyCancel

      • Laurel Bern - January 28, 2016 - 11:03 PM

        Hi Nataliya,

        I strongly recommend that you take your sweet mother, tie her up, blindfold and gag her. lol Alas… I guess you’d have to ungag her so that she could get a little nourishment. And then, she would use the opportunity to do what mothers so often do. Oh well.

        As for the wood bleeding through. I’m not sure why, but a good thing to do is do a search on the problem. Like, primed stained wood is bleeding through. You’re apt to find a forum of professional painters/contractors who are discussing that very thing. You can also speak to the place that sold you the paint. They might have some suggestions.

    • Laurel Bern - December 17, 2015 - 2:42 PM

      Hi Sara,
      I don’t think it’s weird to say I love you, but I know what you mean. There are different kinds of love.

      Arrggghhh, you are fighting an uphill battle against the majority of stain is better than paint folks. And once it’s stained, it’s sacrilege to paint it.

      My last post shows my beloved antique bookcase. I dug up the before pic which was a dark mahogany. I had it painted pronto and never looked back. I LOVE IT PAINTED!!!

      However, if I may offer something you can say. Say, “I’ve done a lot of research and for homes of this era and earlier the wood trim was most commonly painted. I am just restoring it to what was authentic to that period.

      That should shut them up! Well, we can hope!ReplyCancel

      • Marie Little - July 28, 2016 - 3:46 PM

        Best answer ever!!!ReplyCancel

  • Trisha - December 14, 2015 - 11:53 AM

    Hi Laurel, thanks for a really good piece which helps me a lot. We are about to move into a ten year old house that has been a holiday home used by one couple all that time – so hardly lived in at all! It is in the Scottish Highlands and it has the local pine wood throughout – doors, skirting boards, window frames, stairs. It is so much of the style here, where there is so much wood, that every new house is awash with it. Actually I am quite odd and like the warmth and glow of it, especially as so cold here at times! Painting it would add to the costs too, as all the wood is nicely oiled to a patina and would have to be sealed etc before painting and loads of it in house. We have a kitchen to redo and several bathrooms so out of question, especially as its all like brand new. Our present house has the same wood but it more orange as the house is older and the wood was varnished. However, I discovered through trial and error that the following colours went with it – teal, very deep purple, chartreuse and a deep, warm, rusty red. We have natural exposed brickwork in present house too, it is deep charcoal grey brick, local colour again, and this does tone down the orange too. I am a textile designer, not an interior designer, so am challenging myself to come up with some fabric purchases that go with the wood in the new house – actually it hard, but I love a challenge!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - December 14, 2015 - 7:49 PM

      Hi Trisha,

      So glad that you found the post helpful! Your home sounds incredibly charming.

      For window treatments, I usually either pick up the color of the trim and/or wall color. That way the window treatment feels connected with the wall. However, sometimes, it’s nice to do the opposite. Like white walls and black or brown drapes. ReplyCancel

      • Trisha - December 19, 2015 - 10:52 AM

        Hi Laurel, thanks for you helpful comments! Yes, I too feel the fabric at windows must connect with the wall colour. I tried the teals, etc in this new house (large swatches of paint on white paper) and as the house is smaller, it looked odd this time, so feel I need to tone down the wood trim tones with fabric and wall colour. Those complementary tones of teal etc, seemed to draw attention to the wood colour (not what I want) so felt smaller and slightly claustrophobic as a result. I don’t feel the hunting lodge/ski lodge highland thing is quite correct for this house, even though its in the Highlands. I’m thinking more modern natural feeling, going towards linen / neutral colours and textures in fabrics and ceramics etc, slightly Scandi feel to tone down the wood this time.ReplyCancel

  • Melissa Fox - December 8, 2015 - 11:07 AM

    Hello! Any tips for a redecorating a wood office built in the 80s? Its a grand room with great features but the built ins, ceiling and floors are all maple… I can’t figure out where to start… I cannot stand all of that red maple! Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - December 8, 2015 - 11:33 AM

      Hi Melissa,

      Sand, prime, sand, prime and PAINT. No more fugly red maple. :]ReplyCancel

  • Esther - September 25, 2015 - 7:32 AM

    Hi Laurel, I just read your post on painting the wood trim white. I recently became the owner of a home that I would have shared with the man that would have been my new husband – unfortunately he passed away weeks before our wedding this summer and now I wish to sell the house. The house is a 1990’s era Victorian Style house with oak trim everywhere. To survive the oak trim which he sort of liked and I couldn’t stand, I had painted the walls BM Revere Pewter which toned down the orange/yellowish hue of the oak trim. Right now I must admit, I am dreading the sanding, priming and cleanup, but loving the idea of the fresh, pristine white trim and doors.

    Two questions to ask your advice on. With the fresh white trim that will prevail from my efforts and dedication to eradicate the oak orange and brighten things up. What’s your thought about the BM Revere Pewter. Do you think that needs to change and if so, which neutral would you suggest? One realtor said beige, I recently sold a home I did in BM Bleeker Beige but, is the grey/gray color family the way to go or is white ultimately the best choice?

    Second question, the oak banister for the steps and the way too much oak cabinetry in the master bath. I currently can’t rise to the financial challenge of replacing all of that with a total bathroom remodel before putting the house on the market. What are your thoughts on re-staining it all to a deep, rich blackish brown tone? Has that trend been over done and doesn’t appeal?

    Much to do before the leaves drop and it’s too cold to freshen up the exterior and landscaping too. But I am up for the challenge of all of it. My efforts start this morning!!

    Please keep up your witty writing, it’s so much more fun and informative than some of the old school male expert sites, who often aren’t so expert.


    • Laurel Bern - September 25, 2015 - 10:23 AM

      Hi Esther,

      I’m so sorry to hear about your fiance. How devastated you must be!

      I wish I could help you out, but at this time am no longer doing paint consults. If I was, the minimum fee is $225.

      What you are asking of me, would require photos and hours of my time. It’s impossible to throw out advice blindly. No worries, you’re not alone. I receive requests such as this on a daily basis.

      I may make it sound easy, but it’s not.

      best to you!ReplyCancel

      • Esther - September 25, 2015 - 11:38 AM

        Hi Laurel,

        Thank you for getting back to me and for your kind thoughts during this difficult time.

        I am not opposed to paying you a fee, it is likely a worthwhile investment in myself and the sale of the property as I have had conflicting opinions from realtors and I have my own thoughts about color. As so many things are flying at me mentally currently, I’d like a professional opinion.

        What is the best way to have a discussion about this further and put together the items you would need to do that color consult for me?

        Best regards,


  • Mary Anne - July 23, 2015 - 6:46 PM

    just read your article of the stained wood stays. What is the green paint in the anthropology room?ReplyCancel

  • Leslie Turner - July 21, 2015 - 6:09 PM

    Another wonderful post with fabulous advice! Laurel, you are the best!

    Splendid ideas on color, brilliant repartee regarding mediocre mid-brown psuedo-panelling, and your zeal for announcing “The emperor has no clothes!” are just three of the many reasons I am your biggest fan.

    Thanks for your continuing lessons in good taste and educated discernment.


    • Laurel Bern - July 22, 2015 - 11:04 AM

      Oh Thank you Leslie! It’s funny, but I’m quite fond of the emperor analogy in many areas of life. You should’ve heard me railing against our former (corrupt) school board 5 years ago! I spent countless hours pouring over an insane budget that came to costing some 31k to educate one child. Yes. Public School. There isn’t even a pool. And the high school theater is a total embarrassment. You’d think that each child was personally transported to school in a Rolls for that kind of money. No, in fact, the children were getting royally screwed. :/ReplyCancel

  • Ginger Finder - July 21, 2015 - 5:13 PM

    Laurel, I enjoy your blog and this post nailed it! I’ve practiced design for (gasp) 25 plus years. My present house is in St. Louis. It is a 1901 Renaissance Revival with almost all of the original quartersawn oak wainscoting, etc. I have close to 10,000 sq. ft. including a ballroom on the 3rd floor. Personally, I don’t like oak – but I’ve worked around it. BM Fernwood green and Farrow and Ball Vert get many ooh’s and ahh’s. FB Dorset Creme is the next main color. If I could figure out how to send a pic, you would love to see the God awful mantle that previous owners spent bookoodles staining the worst cherry red…it is now white. The color visually chopped the room in half and now there is continuity. I do have a 70 yr. old library done in English Knotty Pine. Has the most gorgeous patina – and I (the same one who has ripped out c. 1950-60 knotty pine kitchens) – adore it. I’ve carefully chosen which rooms to paint the oak trim and not looked back. The house began to breathe! The dining room was Terra Cotta for awhile and that was a good choice with the dark, golden undertones. After 8 years of reviving this Grand Dame, I’m preparing to put her on the market. Next house will have all white woodwork!!!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 22, 2015 - 10:56 AM

      Oh wow Ginger! That sounds amazing! My 92 yr old mom is from SL and of course, I’ve been there many times. Lovely city.

      I think a small library done in English Knotty Pine sounds warm and cozy.

      No burden, but if you can send photos, I’d love that! And thanks for the paint suggestions! I looked at Fernwood Green and like it a lot. It’s what Guilford Green should be, but isn’t. ReplyCancel

  • Joan Crow - July 19, 2015 - 11:26 PM

    Enjoy your blog so much – great advice. This topic really made me laugh….it was a huge frustration when trying to help a customer, with husband or a Dad along. Trying to convince them that God wasn’t going to come down and strike them dead, or that Mom wasn’t going to roll over in her grave, if they painted some cheap, crappy brown trim white. The same guys also would advise wife or daughter, *gotta use that semi-gloss”, (on every wall!). No,no,no,please no! I would bring my stacks of Traditional Home, House Beautiful, etc. to work – to try and convince…Now retired, but sold and mixed Ben Moore, Sherwin Williams and Ace. Will always love my Simply White walls, white painted woodwork and my painted furniture. Only 68 years old, and not ready for
    the “home” yet, but if still playing with a full deck, I will
    just have to insist on white walls, so I can hang my blue and white transfer ware platters. No pinky mauve/beige walls in my room – aka Grandma beige. yuk

    • Laurel Bern - July 22, 2015 - 10:51 AM

      Oh Dear Joan, It’s men. Men are what has wrecked our world. lol They are still living in caves with a loin cloth and like their wood. Or they think they do. ;]

      The semi-gloss on the walls. Yes, I know. It’s vile and so unnecessary. ReplyCancel

  • Pamela - July 19, 2015 - 1:46 PM

    I just discovered your blog. I’ve been reading some of your older posts and find your advise brilliant and your delivery delightful and witty. Am wondering if one has many pieces of furniture in dark woods of mahagony and cherry that they want to leave stained if some of the same suggestions could be considered that you layer out here?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 22, 2015 - 10:43 AM

      Hi Pamela,

      I think that rooms are all about balance and that every room needs elements of dark, medium and light. Rooms where everything is kind of mid-tone are generally very blah.ReplyCancel

  • Angela Kessel - July 19, 2015 - 3:54 AM

    Dear Laurel,

    You know how much I adore your blog. As a realtor in Westchester, I applaud your helpful (and often hilarious) insights to design and decorating ideas. I can categorically state that presentation and decorating have a direct impact on one’s ultimate selling price. The easiest and least expensive way to impact buyer perception is to update paint color. A fresh coat of paint will go a long way in a buyer’s eyes. The kiss of death is anything dated or poorly presented. I spend most of my days counseling my clients on how to maximize the return on their homes. 95% of buyers have no vision and simply cannot tolerate an outdated look. If I can leave sellers with one bit of valuable advice it would be to PAINT THE WOOD TRIM! Yes, I know that it is a pain and expensive but I can promise it’s less expensive than having a house sit in the market with a ultimate whittling
    away of net selling price because most of the buyers who cannot tolerate the dated nature of the wood trim look.
    Full disclosure- Laurel was my client and achieved a full price offer on her previous home I’m one of the most challenging real estate markets in history because she made her home look so great.

    • Laurel Bern - July 19, 2015 - 10:07 AM

      Hi Angela,

      If it was a challenging market, I wasn’t aware. You made it all so easy.

      I wrote this post because I’ve had some people telling me that they can’t/won’t paint the trim. Prewar, they can make a case. Post war, unless it’s a beautiful cherry clad library or something of that ilk, then they really should paint and I would get rid of those flat horrid doors too.

      People don’t want to spend $ when they are trying to make $. But as you said, you have to spend $ to make $.ReplyCancel