Baseboards are the hallmark of how a home’s details all come together–how they are joined, how they intersect, and what unifying components they feature.
Stylistically, your home may be multi-faceted, but an updated baseboard brings all your home’s structural elements together in an understated but sophisticated way.
Simple and streamlined to uniquely ornate, the modern baseboard accommodates all individual design aesthetics and budgets–namely, yours.
Modern baseboard detail work may seem inconsequential, if not downright frivolous, but it is truly indispensable when it comes to the well-trafficked home. Not only providing protection against furniture bumps and scrapes but foot scuffing as well, the baseboard’s purpose has changed very little over the centuries. In terms of eye-appeal, however, the modern baseboard couldn’t be more of an upgrade. Functional but unimposing, leaving just the right signature on your home’s overall impression, the modern baseboard exemplifies the equally modern man’s sensibilities.
Baseboard materials can consist of almost anything, from solid wood to medium density fiberboard, provided the appropriate paint and sealing work is applied to prevent cracking over time. Tongue and groove baseboarding achieves the look of a flush base, while purposefully larger baseboards increase an interior’s height and proportion, making for a stand-out presence. Whichever style you ultimately choose, these modern baseboard ideas are the final say in the language of your home.
If you’re a DIY whiz you’ll be able to implement these baseboard ideas yourself. If not, I’d recommend finding a specialist baseboard installer on HomeAdvisor.com. They have over a hundred thousand contractors on their site, so you should be able to find a qualified professional in your local area. Have a look for yourself at HomeAdvisor.com here.
1. Traditional Modern Baseboard Ideas for Ornate Walls
When your walls are embellished with wainscoting, wallpaper, or another ornate design, you might not want to compete with them by installing a complex baseboard. Keeping your baseboards simple helps the room feel pulled together and clean. The tidy, crisp lines of a simple baseboard are often the anchor that an elaborately decorated space needs.
This doesn’t mean, however, that you are stuck with keeping your basic builders’ grade baseboard, or just nailing on a flat wooden plank. Add interest by choosing a slightly curved baseboard beam that is wider at the bottom than at the top. Or, soften the corners on your basic flat baseboard by finishing them with a length of quarter-round trim. You can also mimic the lines and angles found in coffered walls and wainscoting with a routed baseboard featuring horizontal grooves or ridges. These subtly textured baseboards coordinate well with ornate walls without being too fancy in their own right.
2. Simple Modern Baseboard Ideas
The simplest of modern baseboards may make it appear that they were not given any thought at all, but that’s usually far from the case. Never underestimate the power of simplicity in design. If you have a modern or minimalist home, you already understand this concept. Completely flat baseboards are just the accent needed between the wall and floor in an industrial, warehouse, or other simply-designed home. They enhance a space without taking anything away from the other elements of design.
These modern baseboards become more noticeable when you increase their height. Instead of a standard size, add a few inches to make your baseboards eight inches or taller. A room with high ceilings can carry the weight of a tall baseboard, making it a nice place to add a subtle accent color or show off a beautifully stained wood finish.
Simple design decisions can make the difference between a harsh, angular modern living space and one that feels welcoming. You can make your baseboard corners more interesting by cutting off the standard mitered corners, creating a flat edge. If a single plank is too boring for your room, bump out the bottom of your baseboards with a one-inch thick strip of molding.
3. Painted Modern Baseboard Ideas
Unless you buy a baseboard made from metal, vinyl, PVC, or another ready-to-install material, you will need to paint your baseboards. While white is the classic color for baseboards, there is no reason that you have to use it. In fact, this often-forgotten zone can be a place to inject a bit of color into your rooms.
One way to do this is to choose a neutral color that complements the rest of your décor. Consider a soft grey or a warmer “greige” that falls somewhere between grey and beige. It doesn’t have to be drastically darker or lighter than the shade used on your walls. Sometimes just one or two squares up or down on the paint color swatch is enough to visually please without overwhelming the eye.
Another design option is to paint your baseboards the exact same color used on your walls. While this may feel counterintuitive, having walls and trim the same color provides a sense of continuity and can actually make a bright color less garish than it might seem beside a white or neutral baseboard.
Is it best to paint baseboards before or after installing them? This is a common question when it comes to refreshing this important design element. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method. Check out this video for tips on doing it either way:
4. Wood Modern Baseboard Ideas
The warmth and classic feel of natural wood never gets old, and this is true for baseboards as well. There’s no reason that they have to be painted if they are made from beautiful real wood. In fact, tearing out a tired, plain painted baseboard and replacing it with a richly stained wooden one can be just what’s needed to bring a touch of nature indoors.
Wood finishes are not only popular with rustic décor; they also add a nice warmth to modern home designs. These baseboards don’t need to have a fussy profile, boasting lots of curves and ridges. A flat, wide plank of stained natural wood can be found in many modern homes and businesses. This is especially true in spaces with hardwood floors, where the baseboard and floorboards share a common stain and finish. When paired with neutral walls and other minimalist elements of design, these rooms provide a clean, calming vibe.
Even though simple baseboards are a hallmark of modern design, there’s no reason that you can’t incorporate a more traditional baseboard style into your modern home. Tall, thick baseboards with a stacked edge provide more flair than a simpler style, and can work very well in homes that lean toward a more eclectic modernity. Look to repeat or at least complement shapes found elsewhere in the room. For example, your baseboard molding can match the curved silhouettes found on a patterned tile floor or printed furniture fabric.
5. Recessed Modern Baseboard Ideas
Much like the gap or toe kick area beneath your lower kitchen cabinets, a recessed baseboard is one that tucks into the wall instead of standing out from it. Not only are recessed baseboards unique, they also serve a practical purpose. Unlike traditional molding nailed on top of drywall, recessed baseboards can’t collect dust. They also don’t get bumped and battered by active kids, pets, and furniture movers like traditional baseboards seem to do.
The height of your recessed baseboard can vary. Your breakfast nook or another room adjoining your kitchen can be a good place for a four-inch-tall recessed baseboard that flows seamlessly from your kitchen cabinet toe kick. While this look is more common in industrial or minimalist homes, it also looks quite at home beneath beadboard or paneling in a beachy cottage or cabin.
If you’re building a home, consider asking your builder to install flush baseboards. These baseboards sit flush with the wall instead of being attached to the drywall like most typical baseboards. They are designated by a narrow recessed gap between the drywall and trim. This perfectly linear gap may be called a shadow bead or reveal bead. Flush baseboards are even more understated than a typical flat or recessed baseboard, but must be installed at the time of construction.
While you can DIY a recessed or flush baseboard, it’s best done by someone who already has some experience with drywall. If you already have strong drywall skills, here is a video to help walk you through the process. Note the high level of expertise used in applying and finishing the joint compound.
6. Custom Touches and Other Modern Baseboard Ideas
Despite their ability to finish a room, baseboards aren’t often thought of as a place to get overly creative. However, you can add custom touches that go beyond the basic builder plank. This is true even if you live in a modern home where simplicity is key.
As an alternative to one solid plank, stack two or more strips of molding to create a taller baseboard with interesting grooves and textures. Instead of cutting an opening in your baseboard to accommodate a bathroom pipe or heating vent, extend your baseboard material up the wall and frame it. If you decide to go with a recessed baseboard, you can create a dramatic effect by installing lighting in the recessed area. You can even choose lights that change colors, which can be a particularly festive look during the holidays.
Metal baseboards are relatively uncommon, but can look stunning in modern spaces—particularly industrial lofts with exposed ductwork and other metal accents. Stainless steel or other types of metal sheeting create a virtually indestructible baseboard. Metal baseboards add a modern sleekness when installed next to the rough textures of exposed brick walls or concrete floors.
Asian-inspired modern spaces often have the smallest baseboards of all—sometimes barely noticeable. Use this effect if you want to ensure the focus remains on your carefully selected furniture or an exquisite piece of art. Nearly-invisible moldings and frames work well in a space with white walls and pale floors. These elements come together into a clean background that highlights what matters most to you.
Modern Baseboard FAQs
What’s better for baseboard trim: real wood or MDF (medium density fiberboard)?
If you’re planning to paint your baseboard, you can choose from a variety of styles made from wood or MDF. Both materials provide even paint results. Consider the following when deciding between real wood or primed MDF.
Wood Baseboard Molding
- Harder than MDF
- More durable over time
- More detailed custom shapes due to deeper cut profiles
- Nails hold tighter and holes are easier to fill and finish smoothly
Primed MDF Molding
- No knots or other natural wood defects
- Primed and ready to paint
- More flexible than wood, but doesn’t warp
- Usually more affordable
How should my ceiling height factor into the size of my baseboards?
To save money, most builders install a basic three-to-four inch baseboard in new homes, with no regard for ceiling height. However, interior designers tend to prefer at least a five to eight inch baseboard in rooms with an eight foot ceiling height (common in most American homes). When restoring or renovating an original Victorian or Craftsman home, you will likely have higher ceilings and larger baseboards, perhaps even up to 12 or 14 inches in height. In most cases, if your ceiling height is 10 feet or higher, your baseboard shouldn’t be less than 7 ½ inches in height.