Dark Wood Trim: The Top 7 Neutral Paint Colors to Update & Coordinate
While this blog post refers to the wood trims of the ’70s & ’80s, the color ideas are also FAB for older homes with dark trim work.
With a focus on updating the oaks and maples of the ’90s, it’s easy to bypass the dark wood trims and doors of the ’70s and ’80s. Oh, those were the days…shag carpets, avocado-colored fridges and macramé plant hangers. Wait, isn’t some of this back in style again?
Do you think it’s the color of your trim that is the problem? Think again…
- With its two-inch width, the SIZE is 1970s, not the stain color. 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 color, curse the size. Once you get three+ inches, things start looking better
- Painting your dark wood trim from the ’70s would help modernize your home, just keep in mind it would STILL be narrower than the modern style of white trim work
- And if you’re reading this blog post, I’m assuming that painting your trim is out of the question for financial, labor-intensive and marital reasons (oh those hubby’s…)
The above two photos are great examples of trim that is wider than the ’70s and ’80s versions
So, while there isn’t much we can do about the size of your wood (wink wink), there’s A LOT we can do with what’s around it (I’d say we could enhance your wood, but that might be crossing a line…)
As shown above, BM Revere Pewter
Before we begin, stop thinking of your trim as a ‘wood/stain’ and start thinking of it as a COLOR (brown). That’s right. If you blur your eyes to block out the grain, it’s easier to see the COLOR of your wood and you can then decorate accordingly around that.
BTW, I rely 99.9% on photos from my E-Design clients, so you’re seeing REAL homes with REALISTIC budgets.
1. BENJAMIN MOORE BALLET WHITE OC-9
Ballet White is a soft, warm, subtle way to complement your dark wood trim or cabinets. While Ballet White has a cream base, it nods lightly at greige, meaning the traditional yellow hue found in most creams is GREATLY reduced.
PAINT COLORS THAT ARE SIMILAR TO BALLET WHITE FOR COMPARISON
One of the most IMPORTANT parts of choosing the best paint colors is to COMPARE them to other similar colors…
- Benjamin Moore Navajo White, which has a bit more creamy warmth to it
- Sherwin Williams Shoji White, which is very similar to White Duck but has a wee wink o’ green in it
- Benjamin Moore White Sand has a similar look with a bit more body
2. BENJAMIN MOORE GRAYSTONE 1475
As shown in this next photo, while the trim is a soft white, it’s easy to see how STUNNING Graystone looks with the warmth of the wood doors. Its slightly warm gray/greige approach adds some balance to the warmth of the wood without making the room look cold and uninviting…
COLORS THAT ARE SIMILAR TO GRAYSTONE FOR COMPARISON
- Sherwin Williams Dorian Gray can be stunning, especially with darker woods
- If you want a bit more depth and drama, Dovetail is a great choice
3. SHERWIN WILLIAMS BALANCED BEIGE 7037
Balanced Beige is one of my favorite light-medium beiges. Its popularity comes from the fact that rather than having a typical beige-golden look, it actually leans just slightly into gray-taupe. It’s quite similar to Accessible Beige, another personal fave.
As shown below, Pavilion Beige is similar to Balanced Beige but has a touch less taupe in it…
SIMILAR PAINT COLORS TO COMPARE BALANCED BEIGE WITH
- Sherwin Williams Accessible Beige has similar intentions but a lighter approach
- Sherwin Williams Loggia is QUITE similar, just a small shift in undertones
- Benjamin Moore Stone Hearth is a beige-gray with a bit of a taupe backdrop
Things to consider when you have dark wood trim…
- A room with a medium-dark paint color 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’s contrast, reflective value and visual interest. If you ignore these topics, things may fall flat and heavy.
- While warm beiges and 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.
4. BENJAMIN MOORE REVERE PEWTER HC-172
When it comes to POPULAR neutral paint colors, it’s hard to beat Revere Pewter. So it’s no surprise that it not only looks great with white trim but with wood trim as well!
And a HUGE thank you to all of my E-Design clients who send their photos in, you make my colorful lil world go round!
PAINT COLORS THAT ARE SIMILAR TO REVERE PEWTER FOR COMPARISON
5. SHERWIN WILLIAMS WHITE DUCK 7010
When using light and bright paint colors like creams and off-whites, make sure your home décor can visually support a high contrast look. Without getting into too much detail, you need other high-contrast items in your room that mimic the contrasting combo of your trim/walls.
PAINT COLORS THAT ARE SIMILAR TO WHITE DUCK FOR COMPARISON
- Sherwin Williams Shoji White is its kissin’ cousin
- Sherwin Williams Aesthetic White (shifts out of yellow)
- Benjamin Moore Ballet White
6. BENJAMIN MOORE COLLINGWOOD OC-28
Collingwood is one of my FAAAAVE warm gray paint colors with its soft, subtle violet undertone. This particular undertone can be a beautiful complement to many dark wood finishes.
And while there is NO shortage of grays in this range, when it comes to DARK wood trim, I usually prefer light grays that lean into a violet undertone, more so than blue or green undertones (learn all about gray undertones HERE).
GRAY PAINT COLORS THAT ARE SIMILAR TO COLLINGWOOD (FOR COMPARISON)
- Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist is similar to Collingwood but lighter
- Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray can be pretty with some darker wood stains
Click HERE or on the above image to see the available packages!
Let’s take a quick break to talk about paint samples…
Undoubtedly, you’ll be heading out in the near future to grab paint samples – stop right there! I want you to check out SAMPLIZE. Samplize offers peel and stick paint samples that are more AFFORDABLE, EASIER and more ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY than traditional paint pots. Here are just a FEW reasons why I recommend Samplize to my clients…
- samples arrive ON YOUR DOORSTEP in 1-3 business days, depending on location
- they’re more affordable than the samples pots/rollers/foam boards that are needed for traditional paint sampling
- if you keep the samples on their white paper, you can move them around the room
Visit the SAMPLIZE website HERE
7. SHERWIN WILLIAMS NATURAL TAN 7567
With its subdued, grounded look, Natural Tan is a nice way to get a warm look, without committing to stronger yellow, orange or red undertones.
TAN PAINT COLORS THAT ARE SIMILAR TO NATURAL TAN
- Sherwin Williams Neutral Ground is a pretty tan inspired color with a soft creamy backdrop
- Sherwin Williams Canvas Tan is quite comparable
- For a wink more depth, check out Sherwin Williams Accessible Beige
REMEMBER, the depth of an off-white or light color would be more noticeable with clean white trim. Dark trim tends to make light colors look LIGHTER than they would with white trim.
In the above photo, compared to the white crown molding, you can ‘see’ the color a bit more, whereas, against the dark trim, it’s a bit more difficult to figure out what the undertones are.
A FEW MORE POINTS TO PONDER
- The lighter your paint color 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 other elements, it is something to be aware of
- Light, neutral and warm can also mean ‘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’re going for an ‘overall’ modern style.
8. SHERWIN WILLIAMS SEA SALT 6204
You can also dive into the slightly colorful range by choosing grays with decent undertones such as blue, green and violet.
PAINT COLORS THAT ARE SIMILAR TO SEA SALT FOR COMPARISON
9. BENJAMIN MOORE COVENTRY GRAY HC-169
While a lot of people lean into lighter grays with dark wood trim, choosing a gray with a bit more meat on its bones can be a stunning complement to warm wood tones.
Coventry Gray is a soft, stormy gray with VERY passive blue (slightly blue-green) undertones. As shown in this photo below, it offers a nice balance to the warmth of wood tones…
PAINT COLORS THAT ARE SIMILAR TO COVENTRY GRAY FOR COMPARISON
- Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray (for a lighter approach)
- Sherwin Williams Silverplate
- Sherwin Williams Tinsmith
Things to think about…
- Generally speaking, the more ‘color’ 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 color
- The more color you add, the more you may complement your dark wood, meaning your wood could stand out and ‘pop’ more. Read more: The 15 Best Paint Colors to Coordinate with Wood
- Medium tones can be FABULOUS with dark trim, but you will need to add white/off-white elsewhere to add some contrast to your space, otherwise, things can feel too dull and heavy.
I hope I’ve helped to enhance your wood (a girl can dream!) and lower your stress level!
Not sure which color is best for you and YOUR home?
Check out my affordable Online Color Consulting Services!
KYLIE M INTERIORS E-DESIGN, E-DECOR AND ONLINE PAINT COLOR CONSULTING SERVICES SPECIALIZING IN BENJAMIN MOORE AND SHERWIN WILLIAMS PAINT COLORS
Originally written in 2018, awesome updated in 2020