Dark Wood Trim: The Best Neutral Paint Colours to Coordinate
While this blog post refers to the wood trims of the 70’s & 80’s, the colour ideas are also FAB for older homes with dark trimwork
With a focus on updating the oaks and maples of the 90’s, it’s easy to bypass the dark wood trims and doors of the 70’s and 80’s. Oh those were the days…shag carpets, avocado coloured fridges and macramé plant hangers (wait, isn’t some of this back in style again?).
Do you think it’s the colour of your trim that is the problem? Think again…
- With its 2″ width, the SIZE is 1970’s, not the stain colour. In fact, some of the most amazing homes have dark wood trim – but it’s thicker, more substantial looking and often a finer quality wood. In other words, don’t curse the colour, curse the size
- There is nothing we can do about the size, however there is A LOT we can do with what is going on around your trim
- Painting your dark wood trim would help modernize your home, just keep in mind it would STILL be narrower than modern styles
- And if you’re reading this blog post I’m assuming that painting your trim is out of the question for financial, labour-intensive and marital reasons (oh those hubby’s…)
So, while there isn’t much we can do about the size of your wood (wink wink), there is A LOT we can do with what is around it (I’d say we could enhance your wood, but that might be crossing a line…)
Source – Young House Love (who can work wonders with ANY home)
So let’s update that old wood trim WITHOUT painting it!
Before we begin, stop thinking of your trim as a ‘wood/stain’ and start thinking of it as a COLOUR. That’s right, if you blurred your eyes to block out the grain you’d be dealing with a dark brown colour.
And what goes with brown? A LOT! However, just because it ‘goes’ with it doesn’t mean it will UPDATE it, so we want to make sure our paint colour choices don’t date us.
And here is where I’m brutally honest…better get the darts sharpened…I couldn’t find any beautiful photos showing the glorious old 1970’s trimwork in well-decorated rooms. That’s not to say they aren’t out there, however I had to find photos of similar woods/looks so I could effectively show you what you could do.
Medium Toned Gray and Brown Paint Colours with Dark Wood Trim
Click on underlined colour names to view
For a modern look, gray is undoubtedly one of the best choices (along with off-white). Grays are popular because they are versatile and accommodate a wide variety of wood tones, styles and accent colours.
Source – Henhouse
A gray colour like this (in a room with enough natural light) is a STUNNING complement to dark wood trim. The brown of the trim and the gray paint colour play well together, creating a neutral, organic and modern look.
These are medium toned gray paint colours. Chelsea Gray is a bit heavier feeling than Dorian Gray and has a slightly more neutral, charcoal base. Dorian Gray is a bit softer feeling as it has a subtle brown/taupe base.
When it comes to warm tones/browns, you need to be careful that you don’t just blend things right in. You want to keep the contrast up and can do so either with a) a lighter brown colour like tan/beige or warm things up considerably and get out of the ‘chocolate’ range.
Source – Bayer Built
Peanut Shell is an orange based tan colour. Morrel is similar, but has more brown, less orange. Latte is still warm feeling but doesn’t have the same dominant orange undertone of the other 2.
Keep in mind…
- A room with a medium/dark paint colour and dark trim needs adequate lighting to bring things to life. It also needs to be lightened and brightened via accents and decor so that there is some contrast and interest, otherwise things may fall a bit flat and heavy
- While warm browns like the ones shown above can look awesome with dark trim, heavier chocolate browns can blend in and leave your room without much definition or contrast
Light and Neutral Paint Colours with Dark Wood Trim
When using light and bright paint colours, you have to be careful that your home décor can visually support a high contrast look. Without getting into too much detail (as there will be another blog post about this in the future), you need other high contrast items in your room that mimic the look of your trim/walls.
Kylie M Interiors E-Design
Source – Jane Lockhart
While this isn’t the traditional 1970’s look, the dark wood flooring and door help to show you how a soft, light gray paint colour can look beautiful with darker wood tones.
Source – Home Story Doors
This cream paint colour looks great with the dark wood trim as it’s high contrast and makes the wood ‘pop’ (I also have that effect sometimes…) This is as dark as I would go (in the cream world) in order to create a warm, welcoming and updated look.
As Benjamin Moore’s 2016 Colour of the Year, Simply White is a stunning choice. It is a subtle and warm off-white, but keep in mind that in a room with northern exposure or heavy landscaping outside the window it might pick up a grayish/green tone. Mountain Peak White is similar to Simply White but with a weee bit more yellow in it. Westhighland White, again a nice warm off-white but it has just a tiny smidge more oomph to it (technical term).
Things to think about
- The lighter your paint colour is, the more high contrast your room will look. High contrast can make a room look slightly smaller and more cluttered, particularly if you have a LOT of doorways and windows. While you can remedy this with many other elements, it is something to be aware of.
Being Careful with Light, Neutral and WARM Colours
Light, neutral and warm usually means ‘cream’. Now cream and off-white are BEAUTIFUL complements to dark wood, however HEAVY creams are not. Let me rephrase that, they ARE beautiful complements if you like a more traditional look. However, it can be a heavy and almost murky look if a) your room doesn’t have enough natural light b) if you don’t have modern enough décor and c) if you are going for an ‘overall’ modern style.
Don’t believe me? You should, I’m always right – ask my hubby or look at this photo…
This photo shows how a room with poor natural light can look murky and dingy with heavy cream coloured walls and dark trim.
‘Colours’ with Dark Wood Trim
You can also dive into the slightly colourful range by choosing neutrals with undertones such as blue, green and purple. This means that you will be working with a gray or greige paint colour that has obvious colours in it.
- Green: Is an earthy, more organic feeling
- Blue: Tends to accent the trim, so they bring out the colour in each other
- Purple: Is more soft, subtle and ‘pretty’ with wood trim. It’s also the most modern choice when mixed with gray
This is my fave photo on this whole page. I love how the neutral in the hallway plays with the neutral in the office area. The subtle green/blue undertone is a beautiful accent to the dark wood and the neutral in the hallway simplifies things again.
Source – Henhouse
Okay, so maybe this one isn’t SO subtle, but it was so darn pretty I just had to share it! The blue paint colour brings out the beauty in the wood trim as well as the flooring.
Blue paint colours: Sherwin Williams Drizzle is a wicked colour.
Like the above photo, Drizzle has blue and green in it while still holding onto a slightly earth-toned feeling.
A few more subtle beauties to consider…
Sherwin Williams Comfort Gray – A gray with a strong green/blue undertone
Sherwin Williams Chatroom – A gray with a good green/greige undertone
Benjamin Moore Abalone. A lighter gray/brown/purple blend (not as nice with the dark woods with a stronger orange tone though)
Things to think about…
- Generally speaking, the more ‘colour’ you add, the less modern your room may look. Now this isn’t a bad thing as it can also look more vintage and have more personality than a neutral colour
- The more colour you add, the more you may complement your dark wood, meaning your wood could stand out and ‘pop’ more than you want it to
- Medium tones can be FABULOUS with dark trim, but you will need to add white/off-white elsewhere to add some contrast to the space, otherwise things can feel too dull and heavy. Without the white shown in this photo, the dark wood flooring and doors would just feel heavy and bland with that paint colour.
If you’re still thinking about painting your trim, I want you to check out Virginia at Live Love DIY. She has tons of before and after photos of her home that had 1970/80’s trim and she bravely painted it ALL white and it looks FAAAABULOUS. If she doesn’t convince you, then nothing will.
Source – Live Love DIY
So there you are my friends! I hope I’ve helped to enhance your wood (a girl can dream!) and lower your stress level!
Want some colour ideas custom-tailored to YOU and your home? Check out my affordable Online Colour Consulting Services!
Kylie M Interiors Virtual Decorating and Design Services (E-Design) Colour Consulting featuring Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams Based in Nanaimo BC Canada
Here's some other ideas for you!