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Quick Guide To Baseboards

April 8, 2019

Wide baseboards (at least 5 inches tall) are my jam. But depending on the size of the room, my love affair for tall baseboards may or may not work. Let’s delve into the world of trim so you can level up!

Image Credit: Room for Tuesday

I am sure a lot of you are contemplating home renovations, so let’s do a quick guide on baseboards! Often times I ask my clients their preferences on baseboards and get confused looks and answers, this will help everyone clear things up.

Wide baseboards (at least 5 inches tall) are my jam. In this case size does matter! But depending on the size of the room, my love affair for tall baseboards may or may not work. If you are wondering what it would take to replace yours, let’s delve into the world of trim so you can level up!

Quick Guide to Baseboards: How high should they be again?

This is a often asked question my clients quizzically ask me. They know it should be higher than the skinny ones, but how high is too high?

white baseboards navy wall drapery

Image Credit: Thinkstock

Here is a great rule of thumb: A standard 8-foot wall typically has a baseboard 3 to 5 inches tall, while a 10-foot ceiling calls for 5 to 7 inches.

As a designer, I love adding height for drama. And the taller baseboards create a  modern yet elegant finished look.

free standing tub navy bathroom cabinets grey paint sconce

Image Credit: Rafter House

What kind of paint finish?

The standard finish has consistently been semi gloss for trim since time began. Semi gloss is easy to clean and low key.

With the modern trend of shaker style doors and cabinets, even the paint finish has transitioned to much simpler look. Many paint companies have a matte finish but guaranteed durability and that is still easy to clean. You pay for what you get for, so I believe that the brand matters. For me I really enjoy using Sherwin Williams.

Sherwin Williams has many easily accessible locations everywhere, which comes in handy when you realize you miscalculated how much paint you needed. They have an amazing variety of colors and price point is just as reasonable.

I used a matte finish for the baseboards in my girls bathroom. And honestly I have been pleasantly surprised. No scuffs or touch ups needed so far! If you know your high traffic space will not withstand flat white paint, then I would recommend using no higher finish than semi-gloss. The last thing you want to do is ruin your modern look with a shiny 80s look. Well, unless you’re into that sort of look.

There is also the lengthy debate of real wood versus MDF. I will not go into it today however I will say I have MDF crown moulding downstairs and the modern baseboards and window trim are also not real wood. I cannot really tell the difference and the have been pleased with them for several years now.

I think it comes down to how much you truly want to invest in. You can never go wrong with real wood. However if your budget only allows for MDF or something similar, and it looks authentic, then I say go for it!

What shade of white?

This is the question I get every day for walls and trim. For walls, go ahead and read this post I wrote. For baseboards, here are some suggestions:

  1. Sherwin Williams Pure White – what I love about Pure White is the tried and true white it gives. This is perfect if you want that bright light contrast to a moody dark navy room. Or even with a subtle gray, this white will let the contrast really pop!
  2. Sherwin Williams Alabaster – if you want a creamy white without yellow overtones, then this shade is a good choice. It’s warmer and blends transitional spaces more effectively. Often times transitional rooms have more brown and beige. So this color complements that warmer undertone.
  3. Sherwin Williams Extra White – if you think Pure White made you look, this Extra White is a color you certainly can’t ignore! It has very little tint and is on the icy side. However, it’s great for cabinets and trim. Again, the purpose is to accent the wall or cabinets so don’t be afraid of the brightness.

What kind of style?

This is an interesting question because unless you have gutted your whole house, you may have at least 2 different trims going on. Or you have never updated your baseboards.

For myself, I updated my master bedroom trim to a very high and flat, modern look. The rest of the upstairs is the 3 inch builder grade look. Then when you go downstairs, it is a more traditional baseboard with some flair to match the crown moulding.

All in all, I’ve got what you would call an eclectic look happening.

If this is the same case for you, try to go with as modern as you can. Or if you are willing to live with different styles in different rooms, then that’s ok too! It is not ideal, but as with anything, there are phases of the design process. We all have to be patient with the journey of making a house our home. 

 If you do decide to change it all at once, it could end up being a pretty large project with a lot of measuring before cutting so definitely budget for extra time and money. For the upstairs I intend to go all modern once my budgets allows. To clarify, modern meaning it is a very straight and undecorated finish. No fancy indentations or frills. 

For the downstairs since I don’t plan on taking down the crown moulding anytime soon, I’m going to live with the fancier baseboards for now. Thankfully it’s more of a midway design so it doesn’t feel too forced in an otherwise modern home.

You can see more detailed baseboard style with a decorate cap (the top of the board) and the middle being beveled as well. Here is a quick overview of a variety of styles:

Image Credit: Vintage Woodworks

Lastly, I wanted to share my biggest regret about getting modern baseboards in my master bedroom. Because my walls are also white, I barely notice the architectural detail and intent of the trim.

I invested hard earned money into framing the window and baseboards, yet I feel the return was less than desirable simply due to the fact that there is no contrast! You barely notice it all!  So my suggestion is to paint your wall a contrasting color even if it is a light dusty grey, add contrast.

As shown below, Emily Henderson designed the Portland House with the perfect Pacific Northwest blues with high baseboards that look like they are at least 7 inches high. The contrast between the painted walls and white baseboards add a very finished and smart look.

media room Emily Henderson living room blue white baseboards

Image Credit: Emily Henderson Blog

Of course I am still completely happy I went through with adding architectural feature to my master bedroom. Someday I will paint the walls another color just for fun!

I am committed to sharing my mistakes and regrets, so you won’t have to!. The only place where I see white on white working is in a bathroom. There the intent is to stay fresh and clean, so it works out well there.

What kind of baseboards do you currently have in your home? Does this blog post give you any ideas on ways to change it up for your haven? I sure hope so. So happy we are on this design journey together!

Happy day!



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  1. Karen says:

    I enjoyed this post. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Mitzi says:

    Thank you for the helpful baseboard trim comments.

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