Dark Wood Trim: The Top 7 Neutral Paint Colours to Update and Coordinate
While this blog post refers to the wood trims of the ’70s & ’80s, the colour 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 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 two inch 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. 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, labour-intensive and marital reasons (oh those hubby’s…)
The above two photos are great examples of trim that is wider than the ’70s and 80’s 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…)
Shown above, BM Revere Pewter
Before we begin, stop thinking of your trim as a ‘wood/stain’ and start thinking of it as a COLOUR (brown). That’s right. If you blur your eyes to block out the grain, it’s easier to see the COLOUR 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. Sherwin Williams Tin Lizzie
Grays are popular because they’re versatile and accommodate a wide variety of wood tones, styles and accent colours. The key to picking any gray is to figure out which gray undertones you’re dealing with, and what you AND your home can live with.
Tin Lizzie is a soft, medium-toned gray with a beautiful blue-green undertone that isn’t very passive!
Sherwin Williams Tin Lizzie
A light-medium to medium toned gray paint colour like Tin Lizzie can be a STUNNING complement to dark wood trim – as long as the room is bright enough. The brown of the trim and the gray paint colour play well together, creating a neutral, organic and modern look. However, if the room isn’t very bright, it could weigh things down a bit too much and you may want to look at a softer, lighter version.
Read more: The 8 Best Blue-Green Blend Paint Colours
A few more colours to check out:
- SW Argos is like a slightly lighter Tin Lizzie and is wicked stunning
- You can also look at slightly warmer grays like Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray and Sherwin Williams Dorian Gray
2. Sherwin Williams Balanced Beige
Balanced Beige is one of my favourite 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 Loggia, another personal fave.
A few more beige/browns to check out…
- Benjamin Moore Cabot Trail is a pretty, soft brown with a subtle grayish base so it isn’t overly golden-toned like some browns
- Sherwin Williams Latte is a rich golden brown – kind of in-between beige and brown in depth, but keep in mind LIGHTER and cooler colours tend to look more modern
- Benjamin Moore Stone Hearth is a beige-gray with a bit of a taupe backdrop
- Sherwin Williams Accessible Beige, a light beige that has a slightly more taupe-gray slant to it (Accessible Beige Colour Review)
Sherwin Williams Latte
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’s contrast, reflective value and visual interest, otherwise, things may fall 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
3. Sherwin Williams White Duck
When using light and bright paint colours like creams and off-whites, you have to be careful that 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.
A few more muted creams that are similar to SW White Duck…
Keep on reading and you’ll see…
4. Benjamin Moore Ballet White
Much like Sherwin Williams White Duck, Ballet White is a soft, warm, subtle way to complement your dark wood trim or cabinets.
A few more muted creams that are similar to BM Ballet White and SW White Duck…
- 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
5. Benjamin Moore Collingwood
Collingwood is one of my FAAAAVE warm gray paint colours with its soft, subtle purple undertone.
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 purple undertone, more so than blue or green undertones (learn all about gray undertones HERE).
A few more soft grays to check out…
- 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
- At $6.99, they’re more affordable than the samples pots/rollers/foam boards that are needing 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
6. Sherwin Williams Natural Tan
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.
A few more light, subtle colours to check out…
- Sherwin Williams Neutral Ground is a pretty tan inspired colour with a soft creamy backdrop
- Sherwin Williams Creamy is a cream paint colour with a neutral base to slightly calm the yellow down
REMEMBER, the depth of an off-white or light colour would be more noticeable with clean white trim. Dark trim tends to make light colours look LIGHTER than they would with white trim.
In the above photo, compared to the white crown moulding, you can ‘see’ the colour a bit more, whereas, against the dark trim, it’s a bit more difficult to figure out what the undertones are.
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 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.
7. Sherwin Williams Sea Salt
You can also dive into the slightly colourful range by choosing grays with decent undertones such as blue, green and purple.
A few other slightly more COLOURFUL colours to check out…
- 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)
- Benjamin Moore Silver Fox. Love this warm gray with its slightly stronger brown/purple undertones
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. Read more: The 15 Best Paint Colours 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 colour is best for you and YOUR home?
Check out my affordable Online Colour Consulting Services!
KYLIE M INTERIORS E-DESIGN, E-DECOR AND ONLINE PAINT COLOUR CONSULTING SERVICES SPECIALIZING IN BENJAMIN MOORE AND SHERWIN WILLIAMS PAINT COLORS
Originally written in 2018, awesome updated in 2020