Dark Wood Trim: The Best Neutral Paint Colours to 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 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. Once you get 3″ plus things start looking a bit better
- 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…)
The above 2 photos are great examples of trim that is wider than the 70’s and 80’s versions
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…)
Shown above, BM Revere Pewter
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.
Medium Toned Gray and Brown Paint Colours with Dark Wood Trim
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. 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).
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.
A few colours to check out:
- Sherwin Williams Tin Lizzie (shown above), is a gorgeous medium toned charcoal that has a blue/green undertone, which complements the warm wood tones.
- You can also look at slightly softer and warmer grays like Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray and Sherwin Williams Dorian Gray.
Now I’m not going to tell you that any of these colours will look good with your carpet, countertop, exposure or furnishings, but they are CERTAINLY a great place to start!
Read more: Benjamin Moores Best Gray Paint Colours
As for the brown range, you need to be careful that you don’t just blend things right in. Because you have ‘brown’ trim, if you partner it with a comparable brown paint colour, everything will blend right in and you’ll lose the glory of your wood.
SW Balanced Beige via Kylie M Edesign
A few beige/browns to check out…
- Sherwin Williams Balanced Beige (shown in both photos above) is a beautiful light/medium beige with a subtle gray cast to it
- Benjamin Moore Cabot Trail is a pretty, soft brown with a subtle grayish base so that 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
- Benjamin Moore Stone Hearth – a beige/gray with a bit of a taupe backdrop
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.
BM Collingwood via Kylie M Interiors E-Design
SW Agreeable Gray via Kylie M Edesign
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.
A few neutrals to check out…
- SW Natural Tan (shown in the above stairwell). Natural Tan is a soft tan with a subtle grayish cast to it, so it isn’t a golden/yellow type of tan
- SW Accessible Beige. Accessible Beige is a light beige that has a slightly more taupe/gray slant to it
- BM Collingwood. This is a warm gray, so there is a bit of beige in it and a very faint purple undertone
Keep in mind that 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, you can see that 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 many 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 are going for an ‘overall’ modern style.
‘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.
SW Sea Salt via Kylie M Edesign
A few colours to check out…
- Sherwin Williams Sea Salt – a gray/green that can pick up a blue cast as well (read more here)
- 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.
So there you are my friends! 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?
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Kylie M Interiors Virtual Decorating and Design Services (E-Design) Colour Consulting featuring Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams Based in Nanaimo BC Canada