What color should you paint woodwork? Expert ways to factor this small yet impactful detail into color schemes

The color of a room's woodwork can either make or break a color scheme

(Image credit: Blakely Interior Design/photography Greg Premru, Bethany Adams Interiors/J.L Jordan Photography, Alex Yeske Interiors/photography Jen Trahan)

If you've ever embarked on designing a color scheme for a room, you'll have quickly faced the common question: What color should woodwork be painted?

From windowsills to door frames; baseboards to millwork, woodwork can account for a significant portion of a room, so getting their colors right is an important step in mastering room color ideas.

We spoke to interior designers to get their tips on the best colors to paint woodwork to ensure a tied-together color scheme. Whether you're working with a neutral room or are looking to inject a splash of color with your woodwork, these paint ideas have you covered.

7 designer-approved ways to paint woodwork

'Adding color to woodwork can highlight intricate details or unique architectural features,' says interior designer Swati Goorha. 'This can draw attention to these elements and add character to the space.'

Read on to see how designers paint woodwork in interior projects – from keeping it subtle to making a bold statement.

1. Paint woodwork a dark color

side cabinet with patterned wallpaper in muted colors with skirting boards painted dark blue

(Image credit: Swati Goorha, photography Mike Van Tassel)

Painting woodwork with dark paints can create a cohesive look in schemes where the decor already reflects similar hues, much like this living space designed by Swati Goorha. A dark blue-gray hue is used across the baseboards and doorframe, complementing the room's muted color palette.

'I like accenting the space with contrasting colors that add visual interest and depth to the room,' explains Swati. 'It could be a complementary shade that harmonizes with the wall color or a bold contrast for a more dramatic effect.'

It's also worth considering paint finishes which will impact how subtle or dramatic your wood accents are. 'I also like to play with matte versus glossy finishes,' adds Swati. 'Matte is a little more subdued and glossy finishes can reflect light and add a touch of elegance.'

2. Maintain natural wood window frames but paint baseboards

dining room with dark wooden accent, blue walls and wooden table and chairs with vase of red flowers

(Image credit: Bethany Adams Interiors, J.L Jordan Photography)

According to interior designer Bethany Adams, you don't necessarily need to stick to one color for a room's wooden accents. Letting natural wood remain across window frames can add character and warmth to a room, so think twice before painting them.

Baseboards, on the other hand, are not always something you want to draw so much attention to, so it can be worth keeping these the same paint color as your walls, according to Bethany.

'I like to use natural wood to highlight the special architectural elements of a home – such as spectacular leaded glass windows or intricately carved details – and paint the more utilitarian trim such as baseboards to match the room color,' says Bethany. 'There is very seldom an occasion when I want to draw a line around the border of a room and that is precisely what a contrasting trim detail does.'

3. Color drench for a cohesive look

bathroom with white panelled walls, white cabinets and gold wall scones and mirror

(Image credit: Vernich Interiors)

If you're not sure what to do with woodwork, color-drenching ideas can usually be relied on as a failsafe option. This will see one color used across the walls, ceiling ideas, wooden trim details, and baseboards, a technique designers often use to create a tied-together look that avoids competing colors or harsh contrasts.

Interior designer Connie Vernich of Vernich Interiors explains why she favors a single-color approach, which she followed in this bathroom. 'I like to paint the walls, trim, and cabinetry the same color. It makes the room so much more cohesive when you have a lot of woodwork.'

4. Use woodwork to create an analogous scheme

office nook with green and white floral wallpaper and light blue woodwork, trim and cupboard doors

(Image credit: Blakely Interior Design, photography Greg Premru)

If you want to lean into a colorful look, use woodwork to create an analogous color scheme. This is where you incorporate colors that sit next to one another on the color wheel, such as blue and green, as seen in this home office designed by Blakely Interior Design.

'Paint the wood elements as an accent in a complementing color pulled from an adjacent design element, such as wallpaper ideas,' suggests designer Janelle B. Photopoulos, Principal and Owner of the design studio.

5. Paint woodwork a tonal variation of a room's dominant color

living room with gray walls, blue velvet armchairs and gray curtains

(Image credit: Blakely Interior Design, photography Greg Premru)

If you want to keep your room's color scheme cohesive but don't want to color drench everything in one shade, painting woodwork the same color as the rest of the room but in a slightly lighter or darker tone is an expert-approved idea.

This approach is followed in this living room designed by Blakely Interior Design. 'The walls are dark gray, but the trim, fireplace millwork, and ceiling medallion are painted a lighter shade of gray,' explains designer Janelle B. Photopoulos.

6. Opt for colorful wood accents in neutral schemes

bathroom with cream walls and light blue trim detailing, marble vanity and wooden mirror

(Image credit: Alex Yeske Interiors, photography Jen Trahan)

If you favor decorating with neutrals, reaching for a slightly more colorful hue for woodwork can add interest to the scheme and ensure neutrals don't look bland. This is a go-to choice for Los Angeles-based designer Alex Yeske of Alex Yeske Interiors, who painted the trim a light blue color for this neutral bathroom.

'I love painting trim with a different tone or color in a room,' says Alex. 'I especially like doing color on the trim or the door paired with neutral walls. I use a satin finish on the trim for durability.'

7. Refresh warm-toned woodwork with stained finishes

A blue and wood modern rustic kitchen designed by deVOL

(Image credit: deVOL)

Original woodwork can hugely enhance a room, adding plenty of historic appeal and character. That said, natural wood can often portray overly warm tones which can offset a color scheme. Using wood stains is a simple way to alter the tone of the wood, without completely changing the color as a solid paint color would.

'We live in a mountain community with lots of wood features and structures that aren't always the most pleasing to the eye so we often hire painters to update wood with painted finishes to look "stained" to hide the outdated pink or orange hues that are inherent in fur or red oak,' says designer Sarah Latham of Latham Interiors.

'Professional painters will know the perfect way to blend paint or dry brush to make the wood feel more complimentary throughout.'

The color you decide to paint woodwork depends on whether you want to make a statement with darker or colorful paint colors, or alternatively create a cohesive color scheme by matching hues across a room. Either way, stick to colors that align with your interior design style and you'll soon see how these small accents can tie together a color scheme.

Paint & Color Editor

Emily is H&G's Paint & Color Editor, covering all things color across interior design and home decor. She joined the team in the summer of 2023, having studied Fashion Communication at university before working in various creative roles ahead of making the leap into interiors. She lives in Glasgow where she loves admiring the city's architecture, frequenting her favorite coffee spots, and sourcing vintage furniture for her tenement apartment. Emily's interior style is inspired by the simplicity of midcentury design, mixed with more playful modern pieces that inject small (but bold) doses of color.