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  • Writer's pictureSusan Wilson

What colour should you paint your trim?

Usually, when people reach out to me for a consult to help them select paint colours for their walls, they're also planning to refresh all their trim, and I always make sure to give them a colour that will work well with their new walls.

Clients often tell me they're unsure about the 'rules' for trim. Well, there are no 'rules' exactly, but it can be a bit overwhelming because there are so many routes you could take, depending on the look you want.

So... with that in mind I thought it would be helpful to give some guidelines to help out any readers who are unsure what to do with their trim in their home:

The main thing is to think about the idea of contrast.

Low-Contrast Trim

Low contrast choices (the walls and trim painted in the same colour, or very similar colours) can create a larger-feeling, less chopped-up space, and lends an elevated and luxe look to a room. This low contrast/no contrast palette also ups the serenity factor in your home.

White Trim

Traditionally, (and most of my clients assume this) trim is painted some version of white, and remains consistent throughout the home. This is definitely a safe route to take, but please keep a couple things in mind:

Often I see trim that is a very stark white. Most of the time, our wall colours tend to be muted or 'muddy' neutrals, but a stark white looks best with clearer, cleaner colours, and with blue or violet under-toned greys. Now that grey walls are not as prevalent as they were a few years ago, we're seeing more homes painted all in white, and one easy mistake to make is to end up with a white that is too bright, clean and stark for the white of your walls. This can make your white walls appear slightly dirty and dingy in comparison. Or, if your walls are a warm greige (another popular choice right now), that stark white just looks jarring. So, if you're pairing white or greige walls with white trim, keep that caveat in mind. Often an off-white or even a cream is the best choice.

Slightly Darker Trim

This is a look that has been emerging recently--it isn't actually a new look, as it's very historical in nature, but it is definitely a departure from the white trim that has been a go-to for the last half a century. This is a great way to emphasize a historical feel in a home, but it can work in modern spaces too.

So if you'd like to try a new and on-trend look, something a little different, but not too different, this combination of light walls with slightly darker trim is a great option to consider.

Next up, (and my personal favourite):

NO-Contrast Trim

What I frequently recommend, because it is a)- pretty much foolproof, b)- very current looking, and c)- a beautiful look, is to paint out your trim--baseboards, crown moulding, window and door casings--in the same colour as the walls. Here are a couple of examples of rooms that I've treated in this way:

I used walls and trim in the same mossy green colour to make the bedroom below feel larger and more restful to the eye. The ceiling and drop are painted a light blue--you can read about great alternative colours for ceilings in this post.

Clients sometimes initially worry that their trim won't be highlighted enough if it's painted in the same colour as the walls, but I actually find that the opposite is true. I especially like to use the same colour when the home has beautiful moulding; painting it in the wall colour--but with a different sheen--really highlights the beautiful profile and the subtle shadows created. If this same trim were painted in a contrasting colour, the eye would register it as a stripe of colour, instead of seeing the lovely 3D relief.

This wall is a perfect example:

In the kitchen below I used the same creamy white for the walls, cabinetry, casings and baseboards. The different finishes add enough definition between them, and it creates a serene shell that lets the texture of the backsplash and floor and the warmth of the wood really shine.

Just a quick dive down the Pinterest rabbit-hole (not that there's such a thing as a quick dive on Pinterest) finds plenty of beautiful rooms with walls and matching trim-- light, dark and in-between. Here are just a few, for your viewing pleasure ;-)

A serene greige on greige:

Striking and moody in dark green:

Lovely mid-toned blue to bring out the details in the moulding:

High Contrast Trim

A bold, high-contrast look is great if you're looking for a more energized feel to your space, and are okay with some visual 'noise', if you get what I mean. The higher contrast can be striking, and is definitely gutsier, but harder to pull off without a designer's eye on the project. This hallway is a great interpretation of the always popular black and white look, here looking historical but hip:

Another beautiful example, above, that looks contemporary and classic at the same time. If you're drawn to this look, keep in mind that going bold with your trim means you may not be able to continue the same trim colour throughout the home, unless you're totally committed to the look for every single room. That being said, even though trim can often be a unifying feature running throughout the home, it doesn't have to be. You can use a different trim colour in some rooms, and nobody's going to die. Just know that you'll need to think about where there's a natural place to transition to a new colour. This can sometimes be difficult in more open-concept homes.

Cheat Sheet/Short Version:

So to recap:

  • If you want to create a calm feeling and make a space look larger, low-contrast or no- contrast trim is a good choice. Painting in the same colour for walls and trim is a great way to get an updated and current look without stepping too far out of the box. If you're feeling in the mood to be just a tiny bit of a risk taker, then a slightly darker trim might be the perfect choice for you.

  • If you want a higher energy feel to your space, you love colour and you're looking for a way to go bold, then a high-contrast dark-coloured trim is a place to take that leap, if you feel you have a pretty developed design sense to guide you along this trickier path. If you like this look, but would like to take a slightly more cautious path, check out my blog post on painted interior doors--it could be just the striking middle ground you're looking for!

Think about the feel you want to create with your painting project, apply these guidelines and you will have good idea of the direction you need to go.

If you'd like help selecting wall and trim colours whose undertones will work best for your home and furnishings, you know where to find me! Reach out-- I'm currently doing both online consultations and in-home consults, observing Covid-19 precautions, of course.

Let's finish off with this gorgeous and serene space, completely painted out in a beautiful creamy white, trim and all:

My heart rate slows just looking at this room ;)

Until next time, friends,


Check out more helpful paint colour tips at these posts:

1 Comment

Sue Chanko Actual Cell
Jul 10, 2020

Love these great tips - my favourite is the tone on tone like you... but boy! That high contrast is striking - would love to have the courage to try that one day!! Maybe with your help I will 😊

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