How to Pick the Perfect Trim Colors for Your Walls
Choose a trim color that will not only showcase your wall color, but serve as the finishing touch to the room.
You may have found the ideal wall color, but unfortunately your work doesn’t end there. Trim elements like baseboards, doors, ceiling molding and other details also need a color — one that coordinates with your wall color and the room’s overall color scheme. Why is trim or molding so important? It serves as a defining feature for a room’s style, bringing dimension and architectural interest, but also has a practical purpose— hiding any gaps from construction.
While it may seem like choosing all these colors is a hassle, think of them more as an opportunity to highlight special features or to create a finished, cohesive look. Use these tips to come up with a look you love.
General Trim Color Tips
For the main spaces of your home, it’s generally best to plan on painting all the trim the same color to present a unified look as you go room to room. It’s the personal areas — bathrooms and bedrooms — where you can experiment with more interesting color combinations.
Keep in mind that when working within a single room, all of the trim should be painted the same hue unless you want to emphasize certain elements. For instance, painting the crown molding, baseboard, and door and window frames the same color while choosing to strip down an unusual vintage mantel and leaving it unstained so that it stands out. Another option, to highlight attractive wall treatments like wainscoting, is to paint the baseboards a compatible color but choosing a crisp white for the door and window frames.
Before purchasing all the paint needed for a job, it’s a good idea to get a quart and test it beforehand. Simply paint a piece of poster board and hold it against the wall to see if the colors work well together before painting the actual trim.
As far as window frames, doors and door frames, pick a gloss or semigloss sheen rather than flat-finish paint, as glossier paints not only are more hardwearing, but have a reflective quality that accentuates shadows and light.
Choosing the Best White
White is always a good color choice to make just about any wall color pop, whether a subdued or bold shade. In spaces with dark or rich walls, white trim serves as a balancing element that lightens and brightens. For pastel or lighter colored walls, white trim creates a clean look while offering just a touch of contrast.
What many don’t realize is that there are a lot of variations to choose from within the color white — stark white is not the only option. In fact, most manufacturers of paint offer a variety of whites that run the full range, from warm to cool. In addition, the lightest shade on a given paint card can also serve as a white when coupled with your wall color.
To ensure you choose the right white trim hue, begin by holding up a paint sample of your wall color against a range of white or light neutral paint chips to see which you prefer. Generally, warm or vibrant colors and deep neutrals work well with creamy whites while cool colors in both muted and saturated tones pair well with crisp, bright whites.
Wall & Trim Color Combos
Look past your basic white trim and colored wall combos and go the other way — darker trim. When using a darker shade on the trim and woodwork than that used on the walls, you’re choosing to emphasize door and window frames. For those that can’t seem to get enough color, you also have the option of pairing two contrasting colors of equal intensity for your walls and trim.
When in doubt about color choices, look to things like fabric, furniture, window treatments, area rugs and accessories for inspiration. For example, pick the lightest or boldest color for the walls, a darker hue for the door and window frames, and a third color that is somewhere in between the two for window skirting boards and sashes.
Light-colored walls allow you to highlight doors, windows and any architectural elements in a room simply by using a soft, contrasting color. Darker window trim, on the other hand, acts like a mat to a picture by framing the outdoor view. Cream or off-white walls coupled with contrasting trim work in colors like subdued green, gray-blue or mustard yellow, are reminiscent of colonial-style homes.
Wood Trim Ideas
If warmth or a classic feel is something you desire, natural wood trim might be a good choice. Just be careful when trying to use darker trim with lighter walls, as all of the attention will go to the woodwork. Your woodwork should be something special for this treatment.
Older homes from the late 1800s and early 1900s (think Victorian or Arts and Crafts styles) frequently featured gorgeous oak woodwork in a rich honey gold or medium brown tone. Homes from the 1950s and 1960s went with more basic moldings — simpler and narrower, but still unpainted. By embracing natural hues for trim and doors, the wood textures emerge and become a feature, bringing warmth to the home.
Natural wood can either be stained or varnished. What’s the difference? Varnish does not change the natural color of the wood significantly, while stain has pigments or dyes that change the color without hiding the wood grain. Stains are available in a wide range of colors: ebony, dark brown, reddish-brown, golden yellow, bleached gray-white, and everything in between.
All you have to do is pick a stain color to create the look you desire. For a heavy visual heavy effect, go with a medium- to dark-brown stain. Lighter stains, such as golden or honey-toned varieties, have the ability to bring a sunny look, much like a yellow wall. When trying to decide between stain and paint on trim, keep in mind that stain allows the wood grain to come through, which adds natural texture to a room, while paint does not.
Unsure whether you like a certain wood trim color? No problem. Simply test a spot on the edge of a door or the back of a piece of molding before deciding.