by Annie from
I recently posted about a bedroom in progress that presented a trim challenge. In response, a Gentle Reader left this comment:
I have started to hate thinking about trim colour. If you paint the trim a creamier colour, will you need to paint the door? If so, will you need to paint BOTH sides of the door? Will you then need to paint the trim in the hallway (and thus presumably the rest of the house, and the rest of the doors) to match? Argh!
Basically I just don’t understand the rules for trim.
Ok, my friends. Let’s see if we can nail down some rules. It would be so delightful and easy if every single room in our home could have the same trim color. Alas, this is never the case.
Rule #1: Trim color does not have to be exactly the same in every room
If your floor plan is REALLY open, then yes, using the same trim color makes sense – but in that case, you might be using the same wall color everywhere anyway.
Rule #2: But don’t be schizophrenic about it
Sticking with various off-whites in most of your rooms is a safe bet.
That way, when you’re standing in a particular room, the trim color you’ve chosen for that room looks perfect.
But when you’re standing in the front hall and can see several rooms at once, your eye won’t discern the subtle differences between the varying shades of white. Make sense?
Rule #3: Paint only the room side of doors
This is in response to, “…will you need to paint BOTH sides of the door?”
No. If your house has many, many doors that open into other rooms, then painting all of the trims off-white – not necessarily the same off-white, mind you – makes sense.
But if this is an occasional situation for you, stand in the room you’re painting, close the door, and paint everything that shows.
Rule #4: Think twice before using non-white trim in public rooms
It’s dramatic. And with great drama comes great responsibility. If you’re going to get fancy and paint the trim in a room black or light blue, then limit it to that room just to be safe. If you start getting fancy with trim in your LR and DR and family room, the effect can be crazy or hokey. Neither look is for you.
(Go crazy in your kids’ rooms if you like, though. Colorful trim there can be super cute.)
Rule #5: Lighter color wins
If you have an open doorway / door frame between rooms, and an off-white trim color in the first and a much creamier taupe in the second, paint the inside of the door frame the LIGHTER color.
Rule #6: Bathroom trim doesn’t have to be white
But what if you had to replace the toilet – so now it’s blinding white – but your sink and tub are, well, aged?
Use a non-white trim color and the conflicting whites in the room will settle down. For example, use one of my favorite blues, Benjamin Moore’s 2136-70 Whispering Spring, on the walls, but then do the trim 2 shades darker, 2136-50 Colorado Gray, or even a different color that’s not much darker, such as 2028-40 Pear Green. You and your guests will be so taken with how attractive the room is that you won’t notice the mismatched fixtures.
What do you do if your fixtures are a color other than white, you ask? Replace them immediately.
Rule #7: Deepen the trim if the wall color is dark.
This isn’t a rule so much as a preference, but I think bright white trim with deep walls can look cheap.
This is where this post started, remember? Because I painted a bedroom deep blue and hoped we could get away with leaving some of the trim bright white.
Look at Benjamin Moore’s OC series for excellent, versatile off-whites for darker wall colors. Some of my favorites are OC-9 Ballet White, OC-12 Muslin, and OC-18 Dove Wing.
I hope this is helpful, Gentle Readers. It makes me so sad to think of you losing sleep over trim colors. There are many more important things to lose sleep over.
Like wall colors.
Annie Elliott – aka bossy color – is an interior decorator and design blogger in Washington, D.C. She has been quoted in publications from The Washington Post to Real Simple and is considered an expert on color, residential space planning, and telling people what to do in the nicest way possible.