Dark trim and light walls are a design combination that can bring depth to your interiors, add contrast to a room, and create a touch of drama. While it might be the norm to paint your trim a bright white, going dark might be a more interesting way to give your interiors a revamp.
'Interior trim is one of the great unsung heroes of interior design,' says designer Max Rollit. 'When done correctly, crown molding, door and window trim, chair rail, and baseboards all work together to form a cohesive look that becomes part of the architecture of the room.
'Though interior trim serves the practical purpose of bridging small gaps between the walls, ceiling, floors, and openings, it’s also an important way to lay the baseline for whatever decorating style you prefer in your home.' With this in mind, painting trim is the best way to add interest to an otherwise functional and practical design feature. Read on for our favorite paint ideas and color combinations for trim and walls.
Oonagh is a homes writer and editor with a wealth of contacts in the interiors industry. For this story, she spoke to the paint experts and interior designers to find out how to paint trim in the home.
How to pick the perfect shades for dark trim and light walls
Color is a great way to get creative with your trim and create some contrast, and going dark on the trim and keeping the walls bright and light is a smart way of making a room really pop. Bear in mind that you've got to make sure the colors complement each other, so the first rule is to look to the color wheel to test whether they will sit well together. Another key color consideration is to make sure any warmth is balanced out by coolness and vis versa. So if you have a cool-colored light wall, you might want to warm up the space using your trim.
You've also got to carefully think about what you are painting - too much trim paint might overwhelm a small room with too many lines along the walls. Furthermore, think about how light bounces around the room. 'If your walls are painted in a strongly colored shade, contrast with a light-reflecting colored trim. The juxtaposition will make everything look very crisp and clean,' says paint expert Annie Sloan.
1. Dark grey and light pink
Grey is a great color that goes with pink and this applies to your trim. Grey is typically quite cool, so needs the warmth of the pink shade to help it feel a bit more cheery. Any combination of the two shades works, but dark grey specifically works well with a light blush. In this example, the pink almost works like a neutral against the grey. When choosing a grey, consider its base tone carefully, Different pigments in greys will affect the overall undertones and how the colors sit together in the scheme. If it’s continuity and consistency that you are aiming for, consider greys with similar undertones for a harmonious palette that ties together seamlessly. Select greys with similar undertones to build a harmonious scheme.
'Dark greys, that are almost black in nature work fantastically on woodwork and baseboard to create definition and contrast, either paired with neutral walls for a high contrast scheme, or to frame wallpaper,' says Ruth Mottershead, creative director of Little Greene (opens in new tab).
'Always test your choice of grey in situ so you can see how it will behave in your home, view it at different times of day, and particularly at the times you use the room the most. A north-facing room will have colder light, so opt for warmer hues. An east-facing room will get strong morning sunlight, so here you can use a more intense grey for impact, whilst west-facing rooms receive a warmer orange light at the end of the day so a softer grey would work well here.'
2. Grey-blue and white
When you have white walls to work with and want to add some interest and color to a room without a total redesign, painting the trim a dark shade is a viable option. This design from Janie Molster (opens in new tab) uses a dark grey blue against the crisp, white paint of the bedroom walls. 'Dark grey works fantastically well on woodwork, skirting, or as a highlight stripe in place of a dado rail,' says Ruth. 'It adds definition and contrast to a design scheme.' This bedroom paint idea works well, using the tone of the inky grey taken from the map mural behind the headboard.
'We use painted dark trim as an exclamation point of sorts,' explains Janie. 'By painting door frames, window frames, and baseboards in a contrasting darker color, the footprint of a room can be emphasized for added drama. There is also the perk that dark windows and sashes add of drawing the eye outward, past the window's structure to the outside. We often describe it as "picture framing" the view beyond.'
Scotch Blue from Farrow & Ball (opens in new tab)
A grey-blue shade that will add some depth and drama to your trim.
3. Black and white
Another favorite for a white-walled room is a dramatic jet black against a stark white. This adds real contrast and creates an outline effect in a room, helping to emphasize the height of the space or make it feel clean and neat. 'Embracing a monochrome paint scheme is a fantastic way of creating a chic, minimalist base to a room that can act as a versatile foundation for eclectic, colorful accessories and furniture,' says Helen Shaw, director at Benjamin Moore (opens in new tab).
A monochrome scheme can be used to create an impactful style and as a smart living room paint idea, and black and white used in tandem is the most straightforward, eye-catching effect. 'Black paint used in excess can dwarf a small space but is a fantastic choice for tying together a large open space and creating a cozy look. If working in a small room, embrace a clean white color scheme to open up the space, then use accents of black on wall paneling, skirting boards or as a linear divide to the room to make a real statement.'
4. Green and mustard yellow
For a unique bathroom paint idea, what about a warm carnaby yellow coupled with dark, earthy olive green. This is a tried-and-true mid-century color combination. 'When these two shades are used together, the two emphasise the earthiness in each shade whilst also contrasting deliciously,' says Annie Sloan (opens in new tab). Here, the brightness of yellow is dulled with the green, making it moody and cozy and bringing real warmth to this bathroom.
5. Turquoise and off-white
Blue and white are a classic combination, evocative of calming seaside destinations and bringing a real peaceful feel to a scheme. Use an off-white as your base, which will stop the blue from feeling too cold, and build up with the sea blue on the trim to create a beach feel without committing to the blue color painted all over the walls.
When it comes to picking the perfect color for you, think about any accessories in the room you can take inspiration from. Here, the blue of the coffee table is perfectly paired with the door trim and helps the blue come to the fore as one of the more dominant colors in the room.
6. Green and white
The warmth of this particular shade of green works in this room to add to its pre-existing rustic aesthetic. With the log fire and wooden floorboards, it helps to give the room ample countryside charm. These white walls don't leave much space for wall art, so using the painting trim paint technique for walls helps to give it a bit more character and stop the white walls from looking too sparse.
In this example by Elizabeth Baird (opens in new tab), it is clear that the wall paint has been painted on before the trim. According to Mylands, this is the ultimate method when it comes to wall paint. 'We always recommend starting with the walls, as mistakes made when painting these are easy to fix, but once you’ve painted the woodwork you want to avoid paint splatters on them,' says Dominic Myland, CEO at Mylands. 'Trim requires more precise application, and is, therefore, more tricky to fix.'
7. Go tonal
Sometimes, you can take the color of the wall and go for one or two tones darker, but within the same color family. 'This achieves a more subtle look on the wall, and blends well with the trim. Use the lighter tone on the walls and ceilings, and darker tone on the woodwork or vice a versa,' says Helen.
'For this San Francisco study we went with a monochrome treatment, using Benjamin Moore (opens in new tab)’s Verdigris 685 for the trim and Philip Jeffries' Fine Arrowroot in Key West as the wallpaper,' explains Heather Hilliard of Heather Hilliard Design (opens in new tab).
'We like tone on tone colors because they can be sophisticated and create subtle and beautiful nuances. Contrast colors on trims and details work well with more transitional or traditional spaces or where interior architectural details want to be highlighted, which was the case here.'
8. Dark teal and brown
In this example from Brooklyn-based studio, Le Whit (opens in new tab), a dark teal has been used on the window trim which works nicely against the light brown of the wall. Orange and green sit on opposite sides of the color wheel, and so the orange tint to the brown wall warms up the dark teal on the window, and the brown is cooled down by the clever use of dark teal window paint. If you're looking for paint color inspiration, take account of the natural warmth and coolness of colors. 'If one color is warm, the other should be cool,' says Annie.
This nature-inspired hue works nicely as a window treatment too, encouraging you to soak up the views of nature beyond the window pane.
Teal 03 76 Dean Street Matt by Lick x Soho House (opens in new tab)
Teal 03 76 Dean Street is a tasteful blend of blue and green, denoting calming feelings of nature, and with its smooth, matt finish, it's perfect for your trim.
Should trim be darker or lighter than the walls/.
There is no real correct answer to whether trim should be darker or lighter than walls, but typically, walls are painted lighter and very often, in a shade of bright white. This is seen as the go-to choice for trim and if you have a colored wall, going lighter and bright on the trim helps make the space feel lighter and airier. However, if you want to create a bit of impact, try going darker, just make sure your paint choice for your trim complements the wall choice.
Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.
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