DIY Basics

My Favorite Decorative Moldings & Trims (And How I Use Them)

Happy Monday, y’all! This weekend I got two projects almost finished — my niece’s bedroom built-ins and my buffet makeover. I thought for sure I’d have one or the other to show you today, but try as I might, I came up short on both. On my niece’s built-ins, I still have a bit of caulking to do, and then it needs two coats of paint. On my buffet, I still need one coat of paint on the drawers and doors, and then I need to figure out what to do about replacement hardware. I couldn’t find anything at Home Depot that fit (or that I even remotely liked for that buffet), so today I’ll head to Lowe’s and some local places to see if they have better hardware. But I’ll definitely have both of those projects finished this week to show you.

So today I want to answer a question that I get fairly consistently, and that’s about the decorative moldings and trims that I use for my projects — how I select them and how I use them. I thought I’d just share my favorites (believe it or not, I only just a handful of go-to trims — maybe three or four at the very most) and show you how I’ve used them on past projects. I always buy my moldings from Home Depot, but I’m sure that Lowe’s and other home improvement stores have similar items. As long as you know generally what to look for, you should be able to find similar items at any big box home improvement store.

1. Small Cabinet Trim

One of my favorite go-to trims is this small pine cabinet trim.

my favorite decorative mouldings and trim - 1

It’s sold by the 8-foot piece (not by the linear foot), and it’s just over 1/2-inch wide. It has a flat back, so you can attach it to the face of drawers, cabinet doors, and anywhere else you need a narrow trim, and it also comes unprimed, so you can stain it or paint it. This trim is so small that it’s best to use a new, very sharp blade on your miter saw to cut it, or else you’ll end up splintering the pieces and wasting money.  Also, I always attach this trim with the smallest finishing nails possible (based on the tools available to me). Since my smallest nail gun is an 18-gauge gun, I generally use 18-gauge 1-inch finishing nails. And wood glue, of course. 🙂

Here are some examples of how I’ve used this trim:

After adding the decorative panels to the sides of the bathroom vanity using 1/4-inch plywood, I used the small cabinet trim on the front edge of the vanity to cover the raw edge of the plywood.

small cabinet trim on edge of bathroom vanity

I used it on my headboard, attached as a small “frame” for the vinyl and nailhead trim.

small cabinet trim on my headboard

I used it on my rolling doors to cover the area where the MDF fretwork piece was attached to the door. I had some small gaps between the fretwork and door, and neither of those things were cut perfectly straight, so it looked very unfinished. The trim covered it and gave it finished look.

small cabinet trim on my rolling doors

And most recently, I used this small trim to make a very simple and easy drawer front for my niece’s built-ins. I just used 1/2-inch plywood for the drawer front, and then used two pieces of the small cabinet trim on each of the four sides — one piece on the outer edge of the plywood to cover the raw plywood edge, and one piece on the face of the plywood to add more of a decorative look. These aren’t finished yet (still need caulk and paint), but you can see the two layers of trim on each side.

small cabinet trim on drawer front

I’m sure I have many more examples of this trim, but you get the idea.  If I need something small and decorative — often to cover the edge of raw plywood, or cover the area where two pieces of other materials meet (like on the rolling doors) — then this is my go-to trim.

2.  Panel Molding

This unfinished pine panel molding is, without a doubt, my #1 favorite go-to trim for just about all of my projects.  If I had to guess, I’d say it appears on at least 75% of the wood items I build.

my favorite decorative mouldings and trim - 2

It’s 1.25-inches wide, and 3/4-inch thick, so it’s a very substantial trim.  It comes unfinished, so you can paint it or stain it, which makes it very versatile.  And it’s sold by the linear foot, so you can purchase just what you need and have little to no waste at the end of your project.  You’ll notice that it’s called wainscot/paneling panel molding, but of course, I don’t pay any attention to labels when I peruse the trim aisle.  I don’t care what the trim is intended for.  I only care about whether or not it’ll work on my particular project.

I used this panel molding all throughout my bathroom remodel — around the bottom of the vanity, on the top and bottom of the accent mosaic tile, around the bottom of the wall in place of quarter round, and on the edges of the shelves that I made (which are simply two layers of MDF with this molding trimming out the edges).

panel moulding used throughout bathroom remodel

I used this trim on the pony walls and columns, not only around the edge of the ledges, but also around the base and top of the columns.

panel moulding used on pony walls and columns

And again, this trim comes unfinished, so it can be stained, which made it perfect for my headboard.

panel moulding used on headboard

If, for some strange reason, I could only select and use one molding on my projects, this would be it  It’s so versatile, and as you can see in my bathroom, you can use it throughout a room on various things, and nobody would ever know.  I guarantee you that nobody who enters my bathroom would ever notice (unless I point it out, of course 😉 ) that the exact same molding is used on the vanity, on the walls (in three different places), and around the edges of the shelves.

3.  Base Cap Molding

Base cap molding is intended to be used to dress up plain baseboards – like if you have a house where simple 1 x 3’s or 1 x 4’s were used as baseboards — but it can be used for so much more!

my favorite decorative mouldings and trim - 3

This trim is almost as versatile as the panel molding above that I love so much, and it’s also sold by the linear foot.  The one drawback to this base cap molding is that it comes pre-primed, so it can only be used on projects that will be painted.

I have actually used this product for its intended purpose.  I did use it as a cap for the baseboards that I used around the pony walls.  But I also used it in two other places — around the base and top of the columns, and around the inside of the recessed panels.

base cap moulding used on pony walls and columns

This trim is my go-to trim for the recessed panel (judge’s panel) style wainscoting.  I create the “frame” using MDF boards, and then place this trim right inside the frame.

base cap moulding used on bathroom wainscoting

Oh, hey!  And look there under the ledge on the bathtub.  More panel molding!  🙂  I’m tellin’ ya, it’s my favorite.

I did the doors on the built-in closets in the condo bedroom in a similar style, and they also have the base cap molding inside the “frames.”

base cap moulding used on closet doors

Oh, look there!  More panel molding around the edges of those bedside shelves.  It’s everywhere.  Everywhere, I tell you.

And when I gave my fireplace a facelift, I did so by adding base cap molding inside the “frames” on it as well.

base cap moulding used on fireplace update

And of course, I couldn’t leave out my favorite panel molding.

Believe it or not, that’s it.  Those really are my three main go-to trims.  I use them over and over and over again because I find these to be the most versatile, and of course, the prettiest, in my humble opinion.  🙂 I know I’ve just shattered the illusion that I’m some kind of artist when it comes to using all kinds of trims, and mixing and matching them to come up with unique combos.  But I guess that just goes to show that you really don’t need to spend a great deal of time on the trim aisle.  Just find a handful of your favorites, and use those as your go-to trims for your projects.  No one but you will ever know, unless you decide to share that info with them.  🙂

There are a couple of other decorative trims that I use, like this larger cabinet molding, which I use in the same way as the small cabinet molding, but I select this one when I need something more substantial.  I find myself using the small cabinet trim much more often, though.  I used this to make the cabinet doors and drawer fronts in the condo bathroom.  And then on occasion, I also use the panel molding that has the rabbet on the back.  I used this in my kitchen remodel, but that’s pretty much the only place I’ve used it.

And of course, there are the basics — quarter round and shoe molding.  I don’t think I need to go over those in great detail since almost every single DIYer would be familiar with those trims, and I really don’t use those for anything unique.

Have any questions about trim?  Just let me know!  🙂



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12 Comments

  • ← Reply To This Person
    Paige
    August 3, 2015 at 10:55 am

    Thank you so much for the info! This is perfect timing, I am wanting to trim out my plain flat bathroom cabinets but was a little intimidated. I love the amazing results from simple trim- time to get to Home Depot!!

  • ← Reply To This Person
    Lisa E
    August 3, 2015 at 11:16 am

    Thanx for sharing. I, too, have used trim for other than it’s intended purpose. I’ve used door casing for other than door casing! I used it to trim out my builder grade mirror. The flat portion of it was perfect to add mosaic tile and it came out fabulous. Then we put it to separate the different colors on a wall about 2/3 up. We also did the same in the bathroom, however with this one I plan to eventually add the board and batten look. I like the more finished look so I’ll probably be taking one of your suggestions to add inside of the battens. Trim makes all of the difference!

  • ← Reply To This Person
    Merralyn
    August 3, 2015 at 11:25 am

    Thanks so much! This is exactly what I needed, a tiny tutorial with that info all in one place. Getting ready to add decorative wainscoting at my son’s and this is what I needed to know. You go girl!

  • ← Reply To This Person
    Marie roxanne
    August 3, 2015 at 11:27 am

    Thanks for the pictures of where you used the moldings and trims, it gives me an idea of how and where to use certain types.
    I have a problem with my ceilings – they are crooked or warped (rounded) whatever word you want to use here. Big problem because I want to cover the corner where the ceiling and wall meet. I don’t like the look of the paint where it goes on the ceiling… yes the free laborers were not careful. LOL
    And I have a very small budget to live on so can’t spend on molding. I have decided not to use store-bought moldings, I found these thick bamboo sticks at the “dollar” store for $3.00 per piece (a little thicker/bigger than a bathroom curtain rod) and I plan to use those. I buy one piece at a time so it may take a while. Hope they don’t run out until I have enough!

  • ← Reply To This Person
    sj
    August 3, 2015 at 11:43 am

    Having all these trim tips with real-life examples, all in one place, puts this post over-the-top useful! Great post, thanks.

  • ← Reply To This Person
    Brette
    August 3, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    Your information is so helpful, well illustrated and clearly presented.

  • ← Reply To This Person
    debbie
    August 3, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    I wish there was a thumbs up option on posts. Sometimes I jsut want to agree to a pervious post rather than posting *I agree!*

    Love this info!! You are a genius!

  • ← Reply To This Person
    Janis
    August 3, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    i don’t always comment but I follow you every time you post. So many people do. Love what you do.

  • ← Reply To This Person
    Em
    August 3, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    Super helpful post!
    I think folks (i.e., me) will be revisiting this one frequently.

  • ← Reply To This Person
    Ellen
    August 13, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    I am getting ready to paint bathroom cabinets. what finish did you use on yours? I like the color and the shine level. Is it satin? Also, did you sand the cabinet
    s before painting?

  • ← Reply To This Person
    lois black
    August 25, 2015 at 11:12 am

    You are a very clever lady. So resourceful. creative and frugal!!! I love that! Thal you fo
    r sharing!!!!

  • ← Reply To This Person
    Nancy
    December 27, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    Great job! Do you know where to get the decorative mullions on your rolling doors? Thanks

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