The trim of the room may be thought of as part of the wall or as a frame for an opening. If the room is small or the openings many and not well placed, the trim should be subordinated to the wall treatment. But if the room is of good size and the windows and doors are well proportioned and well placed, the trim will bear more emphasis.
Except in fireproof houses, a certain amount of woodwork is needed to cover the bony joints of construction and to complete the finish of the room. The same kind of wood and the same finish should be used throughout the room, with the possible exception of the floor. Since the woodwork furnishes both a structural and a decorative element in the room, its choice should be considered from both standpoints. The trim covering the joints and framing doors and windows, should be wide enough to look adequate for this service, but not so heavy nor so ornate as to be obtrusive in the part it plays in the background of the room. A good width for the trim for the openings in average rooms is between 3 1/2 and 5 inches. Hard woods finished to show their character are excellent if the grain is not too conspicuous. Quartered oak with its modest grain and possibilities of finish is very fitting for the woodwork of a room in which oak furniture is to be used.
Other woods, such as hard pine and cypress, are susceptible to treatment that makes them very effective. Woods of an inconspicuous grain, or cut so that the grain does not obtrude itself, should be chosen for trim. A wood with a bold swirling grain or with strong contrasts of light and dark is a poor choice for interior work, for it is too restless and insistent to take its place quietly in any decorative scheme. Fortunately, the item of expense is a protection against the use of woods so aggressive in color as mahogany, curly birch, and the like. Such woods should be reserved for furniture.
The woodwork should play a definite part in the decorative scheme of the room, harmonizing with the walls both in character and color. If the harmony cannot be secured by transparent stains, the woodwork should be painted. In fact, in many old or ready-made houses, paint for woodwork is the only means of securing a harmonious interior.
Filler, stain, thin shellac, and wax are commonly used to secure the transparent finish desirable for hard woods. Woods with large or open grain, such as oak, chestnut, cypress, and pine, require a filler to make a smooth even surface. This filler may be kept the same color as the wood, or it may be stained darker, or a very light whitish filler may be used. The effect of this filler is to tone, to modify, or to emphasize the natural markings of the wood. Woods with a close inconspicuous grain, such as maple and birch, do not require a filler, but can be toned by staining. Wax is a more pleasing finish for hardwoods than is varnish, which should be used only on bathroom floors or other places where durability is perhaps more important than appearance. The soft dull finish of a waxed surface is more appropriate to wood than the glaring shiny finish of varnish.
Paint is an opaque finish used to cover woods having an unpleasant or no visible grain. Such woods as soft pine, white wood, and cypress are good foundations for painted woodwork. By means of paint, any woodwork can be adjusted in color to its surroundings. This flexibility of paint in relation to color schemes is a strong recommendation in its favor for both old and new work and for all types of rooms.