The Stained Wood Trim Stays-16 Colors To Make It Work!



Dear Laurel,

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

I am desperate. The contractors are coming Monday to repair all of the damage from many hellish winters in Massachusetts. The wood is largely a medium oak stain in a Victorian in Brooklyn, NY built in 1880.

My husband and I are getting a divorce, but I’m staying here and want to make the place my own. Finally!


And no, it isn’t because we fought over whether to paint the stained wood trim or leave it stained.


I read another post you wrote about stained wood and laughed so hard because this sounds like my husband, soon-to-be-ex; what do you call yours? Wasband? haha! Too much, Laurel!

Actually, I’ve come to like the wood trim in this old lady, and many people have told me that painting it would be a mistake. But, I want to make this place wow. And BTW, I feel so inspired by some of your recent posts, particularly the one from the other day about Laura, who painted her music room, Jack Pine.


The other thing is that when the contractor gave me the quote to paint all of the stained wood trim, I nearly passed out. It made the entire job more than double the price. No can do!


It’s just that the walls are this kind of weird yellow, and it’s not really me, and it’s not looking so great with all of that wood trim. But I want to feel uplifted here.

So I have my Benjamin Moore fan decks out, and if you could, maybe point out some of the best colors that will make my stained wood trim sing!

Thank you,

Jackie Hardwood


Hey Everyone,

The note is partly made up and partly not. But overall, it’s based on real situations.


In this post, we will go through a few things regarding stained wood trim and talk about a few colors. And then, I’ve made a chart for you of 16 of my favorite colors that look beautiful with wood trim.


And then, I put a tiny sample of wood next to the chip on the chart to see how they look together. More about that later on.

The first question many people have is:


How do you know if you should keep the stained wood trim or paint the stained wood trim?


That’s an excellent question, and here’s how I feel about it. Much of the time, it’s simply a matter of preference.

But, there are times when you shouldn’t paint the stained wood trim because the architect meant it to be stained. Plus, he’s a legend, like Frank Lloyd Wright, who’s famous and deceased. And if you paint his lovely oak, he will be forced to abandon his grave and give you a big whack across the knuckles with his architect’s scale!


If you live in a home built by Frank Lloyd Wright, painting over the stained wood trim would be like putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa. (Leonardo probably would’ve liked that.) ;]


The same goes for many architectural styles such as Arts and Crafts, AKA Craftsman Style, and sometimes Shingle Style. Although some Craftsman Style homes were painted and still are.

Here are some other reasons you might want or need to keep your stained wood trim



  • Like the stained wood trim.
  • Don’t like it but can’t be bothered to change it.
  • Hate it but don’t want to spend the money to fix it.
  • Your mother likes it.
  • Your husband likes it, and you enjoy making him happy.
  • Or, your ordinarily sweet husband turns into a raving lunatic at the mention of painting the stained wood trim!


Some things aren’t worth fighting over.


And, truth be told, I’ve softened my stance (a little) about stained wood trim vs. painted wood trim, and this is why.


Although I invariably prefer most things to be painted, stained wood trim CAN be beautiful.


Now, let’s look at some examples of stained wood trim vs. painted wood trim.


First of all, trim, if you don’t already know, is anything made out of wood, including window and door casings, crown moulding, baseboards, stair railings, panel mouldings, wainscoting, and cabinetry. Oh, and sometimes either coffers or beams in the ceiling.

Below is a New York City Brownstone. Lucky Dogs! I’ve seen these homes with stained wood trim and painted as it is below. I prefer it painted in this case, but I’ve seen some beautiful rooms like this with stained wood trim that look lovely.



via New York Times

The one below is very heavy, however. I mean, I wouldn’t refuse to live here, haha.



source unknown



Above is a painted Craftsman-style home. Sorry, the original source is unknown.


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

This is another Craftsman by an architectural firm that I’ve long admired. There is no stained wood trim except for a door. And, that is a legitimate design decision. Usually, in the 19th and 18th centuries, doors were stained a rich chestnut color and not painted.


However, below is a more typical Craftsman-style home that we often associate with stained wood trim.



And this.

Two above images via

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

If you have any one of these and you’d like to paint it, I don’t have a problem with that. If you need to keep the stained wood trim, that’s cool too.

But, What If Your home looks like this?




Or This?


This is true. If you live in a home built post War and have wood trim, you can probably paint it unless it’s an ultra-modern house. And you’ll probably need to add more mouldings for interest unless the home is strictly in the modern style.


Getting the bones of the home right is crucial.

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


home-talk-painting-wood-trimvia Hometalk

The first one feels sad to me. But, it’s also important to remember that any relatively plain, painted room won’t fully come alive until the furnishings are back in.


Below is a great example of an old home with beautiful stained wood trim and a becoming paint color.


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

A gorgeous kitchen with a combination of stained wood trim and painted cabinetry.


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

This home with fine custom millwork would be one that I would not paint. Alterations

Interesting, above one room has stained wood, and the one across is painted trim.


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

The beautiful colors and furnishings look great with this stained wood trim.


David Giral Photography - stained wood trim - Benjamin Moore Racing Orange red

A color you may not have considered but looks great with stained wood trim is a warm, rich red, like Benjamin Moore RACING ORANGE – 2169-10

In fact, many colors in the orange family look fantastic with wood trim. Here’s a post full of great orange colors.


Can you paint walls white with stained wood trim?



Kitchen Lab Design


Yes, I think so. Although, I prefer a more classic moulding as Gil Schafer has in his exquisite brownstone.

Or, the amazing Greek Revival home of Gerald Bland in Dutchess County, NY.


Well, Laurel, what if my trim color is yucky, and I don’t want to paint it.


You should probably consult with a professional, but they may be able to go over the trim to deepen it. You can’t lighten stained wood trim, but it is sometimes possible to make it a deeper, richer color.

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. However, if you can’t afford a pro, I would experiment first.


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 total refinishing. You can read more about that in the link under the first image.


Let’s look at more colors that look great with stained wood trim.


Actually, most colors are acceptable. Cool colors with gray in them always look good. Most of the Laurel Home Paint Collection colors are terrific, with stained wood trim.



This is a lousy photo, but this could be a very pretty room with the right wall color.


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 – which is a warm, very muted green.


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 beautiful 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

It is slightly bluer than JACK PINE that Laura did in her music room.


Another excellent color with wood trim is a warm deepish brownish purplish color. But not PURPLE! One of my favorites is ELEPHANT GRAY 2109-50. This is 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 sure that if I only had one home, 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 refreshingly.

This color looks like Benjamin Moore SHORELINE 1471 that I have in my old bathroom.


Below are five favorite and/or common wood stains from Minwax.


Please note that these are approximations of the color as it’s stain, and depending on the color of the individual pieces, it may change the color a fair amount.


Minwax Gold OakGolden Oak


Special WalnutSpecial Walnut


Minwax Cherry Stain



Minwax English Chestnut StainEnglish Chestnut (my favorite)


Jacobean or dark walnut wood stainJacobean or dark walnut.


Below is a graphic to save to your Pinterest boards for reference. These are 16 of the 144 beautiful colors in the curated Laurel Home Paint/Palette Collection that comes together in two volumes sold together.


16 Gorgeous Benjamin Moore Colors that will make you fall in love with your stained wood trim


Some of these wood colors, of course, are interchangeable. But, some of the combinations, I think, are particularly nice.


As for how this all translates into one’s home?


Ahhh… there’s the rub. And I say this because it’s not just wall and trim color that one must consider.

This is why one needs to create a plan, and there needs to be a jumping-off point.

For Laura, her jumping-off point was wood trim and a pipe organ. She instinctively knew that to make it all work together, she needed a hunky color.

If you can’t work with a design professional and don’t already have my two-part paint guide of 144 paint colors and 40 paint palette boards, and a lot more, you might find it helpful.



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