Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
Baseboards are a fixture in most rooms nowadays. They hide the connection between the floor and the walls and create dimension within a room. While trendy, they’re not the only way to hide the unsightly corners or break up a space.
If you browse Pinterest, you can find many different alternatives to baseboards. People have come up with some very creative solutions, and below, you can find a condensed collection of some favorites. From “Why didn’t I think of that” to Totally out there, here are thirteen alternatives to wooden baseboards.
Before You Forego Baseboards
While it is hugely style or cost-conscious to consider doing without traditional wooden baseboards, it’s important to remember a few things. If you are not using baseboards, you must make sure the area where the floor and wall join needs to look good. Concise and clean edges are an illusion a baseboard aims to create. You also need to proceed cautiously; the bottom of walls is an area where feet can scuff, vacuums can ram into, etc.
You also have to consider the type of flooring you have. Some floors, wood, in particular, expand and shrink depending on changes in temperature and humidity, and having a baseboard makes this less noticeable, if not completely unnoticeable. This expansion gap is unsightly, no matter your aesthetic goal, but some of the alternatives below will also cover it.
If you are confident in your home’s craftsmanship and your ability to use precaution, then keep reading!
This is ideal for rooms like bathrooms and kitchens, where you already have tile flooring. All this requires is finding a tile that matches the color of the tile on the floor, which is usually relatively easy to do (unless you have decided on a relatively rare color of tile).
While this option could be more visually pleasing in certain rooms, it usually is more expensive than a traditional wooden baseboard. This option is something to pick strictly from a design standpoint, not a budgetary one.
If your budget allows for it, there are a few benefits to opting for tile “baseboards” in certain rooms. If you select this method for a bathroom, tile will be waterproof and not experience any damage from extended steam exposure. Long term, you will not have to repair any water-related damage.
Wooden baseboards are also somewhat of a nuisance when it comes to cleaning. They are another little ledge to dust (except they don’t feel little when they run through the entirety of your home) and could require paint or lacquer touch-ups over time. Tile is easy to clean with a mop and can withstand a lot of wear. This option is often not in high-traffic areas, so the risk of damaging them also runs smaller.
While quarter rounds can jazz up a baseboard, they can also be used in lieu of baseboards. These pieces of wood will still join the gap between the floor and the wall, and they are usually a bit more flexible, allowing for pleasing visuals at a fraction of the cost. They are narrower, so they do not break up the wall as much and create as much dimension, but they still make a difference.
There are tons of options in terms of materials. Wood, metal, and plastic are all available, and you can paint or stain them to compliment any color palette or accent décor. This is a perfect option if you are trying to be more budget-conscious.
Another cost-effective option is a sticker decal. They are much cheaper than buying a ton of wood, lacquer, and the required maintenance of both. It is also much easier to change the style when you can peel it right off and start fresh. There are a ton of different finishes and patterns.
These are usually used in photo staging situations to save money for production. Therefore, they are very realistic and look great when applied correctly. And they still protect the walls from scuffs and high-traffic mishaps.
However, you do lose out on covering any gapping when seasons or weather change. The application is much easier than installing wooden baseboards, but you do lose out on full protection and some aesthetic appeal depending on the time of the year.
The reglet trim is a modern take covering the connection between walls and floors. Essentially, it creates the illusion the wall is lifted from the floor, and the shadow that the lift creates hides the edge between the two. It’s a piece of the desired material- usually plastic or metal- that sits between the floor and the wall. It makes it look like about an inch of wall is missing, creating an upside-down L shape between the wall and the floor.
While this is not necessarily more cost-effective, it looks clean and modern and creates a fascinating point of interest in the room. You still risk scuffs and damage, as the gap is not so big that the bottom of the wall cannot be bumped or dirtied. But, aesthetically, it does look clean and contemporary.
This is also something that can look good throughout the whole house. While tile options or some materials do not necessarily look great in all rooms, this one can be a consistent look in every room.
Painting the underside of the wall a dark color can create a darker shadow that can better hide any inconsistencies. Other than that, there is no need for paint or lacquer upkeep, which is less of a headache than other options in the long run. Changing the paint color of the walls will not require any afterthought since you will not need to match it to any specific wash or accent color.
This option is a mixture between the reglet trim style and a regular baseboard. The inlet is a couple of inches up the wall, creating the illusion of a traditional baseboard without the additional installation or hassle.
In essence, there’s a “baseboard” which can be made from the same material as the floor, or the wall, depending on the look you want. That same one-inch gap from the reglet style is just above the extended floor portion. Or up a few inches from the base of the wall, depending on how you choose to do it.
This adds dimension and looks modern. You can keep the paint color consistent all the way down for a fresh look, or you can make them separate colors to make it look similar to a regular baseboard. There are different material options. The “baseboard” material can be consistent with the floor to limit discrepancies or the same color as the wall for a clean look.
Shiplap walls have become a very trendy design element in many different design realms. Country and modern styles have utilized the shiplap walls. They are diverse, a point of interest, and can be painted or finished in various ways.
A shiplap wall does not require a baseboard as the wood goes all the way down to the floor, and since it already lays on top of the wall, it will protect the bottom of the wall just like a traditional baseboard would.
Typically, you will not have more than one (maybe two) shiplap walls in a home, so this will not be a solution for every wall. But it can be a solution for walls in high-traffic zones and can become a design focal point in said high-traffic rooms (i.e., living rooms, entertainment rooms, dining rooms).
Reclaimed wood is an ideal alternative for a lot of reasons. For one, it is recycled, an environmentally friendly option that uses wood that has already been cut down. It is also saving said wood from being thrown out after one use.
Beyond the environmental aspect, it can also be much cheaper than new slabs of wood or another material you might get in a hardware or home improvement store. It is just as easy to stain or paint and can be DIY-ed and cut into straight slabs or left in more organic shapes.
A lot of reclaimed wood will offer a more eccentric, bohemian look. With the natural shapes and colors, it can create a fun level of dimension and look extremely unconventional. If the goal is lower costs upfront and a fun style element, this is the way to go.
Crown molding is a style that does not veer far from the look or concept of normal baseboards. But, these pieces of wood are often cut in an ornate fashion, including more grooves and curves. This can appear a bit more old-school, classy, or fancy.
While it still has the same protection and coverage value, something one might want to consider is the cleaning and maintenance of this molding. You already have to dust the top of a baseboard, which is something that draws people away from it. Crown molding has many more grooves and little nooks and surfaces for dust to rest. This style will require the same dusting and cleaning, if not more, as a regular baseboard.
Again, the same appeal of the ability for crown molding to create dimension and stunning detail. But, it is not any more cost-effective or easier to clean. It is essentially just a more elevated look than your traditional baseboard.
This option coincides with the reglet trim option. Installing lights underneath the groove created in the wall by this style can be an exciting design aspect, and it also has some multifunctionality with its ability to serve as a dim light for mood-setting or a nightlight in hallways.
This option is not a low-cost one, but again, it can be a very interesting feature in any room or home. It is seemingly more appropriate for a walkway or hallway, but you could have a lot of fun with this option if your budget allows for it.
If you want to do without any molding or addition to the bottom of your wall, you could always do a fun wallpaper. Any texture or pattern will give you the dimension you are looking for and can hide any imperfections along the bottom of the wall.
This can be a very cost-effective option depending on what wallpaper you choose, and it is also something you can change up however frequently you desire. It can be something changed seasonally and can be an easy but huge design component.
These days, it is easier than ever to obtain and install a cool wallpaper between stick-on versions from places like Urban Outfitters and really big design names bringing in cost-effective options to big box stores like Home Depot. You do not have to search far and wide or even hire a professional to add a pop to a room and skip baseboards.
Other Ways to Create Dimension in a Room
There are many ways to play up a baseboard and replace it with different, non-traditional materials or alternatives. The other option would be no baseboard at all. Assuming the drywall is finished well, and the seams between the floors and walls are clean and satisfactory, doing without isn’t totally out of the question.
Besides guarding the walls, the purpose is to create dimension in the room. Breaking up colors and textures is the goal, and there are ways to do that with what is in the room rather than just focusing on what is on the walls.
Texture is an excellent way to add dimension to a room. While you can play with patterns and colors on rugs, the idea here is to add another element to break up the room.
In this case, you can get a long shag rug on top of a clean, flat wood floor. Or you can include something like a faux fur rug. There are many different options to allow for plenty of varying depth and levels of interest when it comes to rug lengths and materials.
Another way to add dimension to a large open space would be breaking the room into designated areas with multiple textured rugs. A shag rug and fur rug can break an open floor plan into defined living and dining spaces. The options are endless, but this element works from the floor up to break up the room differently.
As mentioned in the previous section, dimension can be created when you change up the texture. So, mixing different textiles among different pieces of furniture can really create a multi-faceted room with a lot of depth and varying design features.
Something easy to apply: a leather couch and different woven fabric throw pillows. It does not have to be complicated, but little pieces can make a huge difference when breaking a room up. It is easy to break up a room with plain, flat walls.
Baseboards can sometimes break up the color of the wall should you choose to make it a different color. You can mix up many colors to give a room depth. Or, you can use multiple shades and tones of one color palette to provide the room with various layers.
Painting your walls can also play into this. Different colored walls within the same room, or ombre or textured paint, can play up a plain wall and make it a significant focus of a room. Just because you do not have a baseboard doesn’t mean that the room only has to have a monochromatic scheme. Even a trendy ombre wall could create the same dimensional effect and give you a more extensive color palette to build off of throughout the room.
Baseboards are a prevalent fixture in most rooms. But they are also something more and more people are looking to phase out for convenience and design purposes. With the options at our fingertips for both home improvement and interior design inspiration, it is understandable that homeowners and interior designers alike would try to phase them out.
The good news is that it does not necessarily take drywall or multiple trips to a home improvement store to create the dimension you want for your rooms. Aside from some menial trim adjustments, you can make different design decisions to achieve the same results, which is a great excuse to experiment with personal style and develop a new look on any budget.
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