Advice on choosing interior trim colors
September 4, 2011 8:55 AM   Subscribe

I want to paint my house interior trim a neutral/white color that will complement a wide range of wall colors in different rooms. How do I select from the gazillion whites out there?

The exterior trim will be black. Are there any issues with having black exterior trim and white interior trim?

Should the interior of the front door be the same color as the interior trim? Our door has three panels of inset frosted glass. Would any kind of white look good with that kind of door? Should we go with a different color entirely?

The back of the house also has a set of single-pane french doors with big sidelights, so there's a lot of white trim on that wall that we want to avoid making too stark and harsh. The exterior of these will also be black.

The other main feature in the living room is a fireplace fronted in pale bluish grey glass tile, so we want to harmonize with that as well.

And we'd like to paint the bedrooms a variety of colors while using the same trim color throughout the house, so we need something neutral. The kinds of colors we're thinking of painting the rooms are lemongrass green, grey leaning towards blue, yellow, white, but none of this is set. We need to decide on the trim first, though, because the doors will be painted soon.

Is it even a good idea to use the same trim color throughout? Do we want to switch to a pure white trim in the bathrooms where it's up against pure white porcelain?
posted by mr_roboto to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Painting all the trim in your house the same colour is very common, but not obligatory.

I've been satisfied repeaedly with one of decorator's favorite colours: Ben Moore's "Cloud White" or "simply white". If you choose a slightly shiny sheen, the slight difference between the trim & bathroom porcelain will be undetectable.

The interiors of you doors can be trim colored or wall-colored or anything else. Kinda depends on the rest of the room. In my small bathrooms & hallways, the doors are the same colour as the surrounding walls to make the spaces less disjointed. But my front door is stained wood, inside and outside.

I've seen some nice contrasting door colours too - like slate grey. Look at pictures; or experiment by taking pictures of the doors in their environs and uploading to Ben Moore's site or another where you can "test" colours.

White would certainly work with your doors, BTW - same sheen as the trim.
Sorry not to offer unequivocal assertions.

I recommend experimenting
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 9:18 AM on September 4, 2011

Benjamin Moore has a website app where you can upload a room photo and then insert paint colours into spaces to test them. Try that with your front hall and kitchen.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 9:20 AM on September 4, 2011

I know there are a gazillion whites, all with purported magical properties, but, I would suggest just white-white, untinted cans of your preferred brand of paint. Otherwise any touch-up is a nightmare -- in theory you will save bits of each colour for touch-up; in reality, it is a storage hassle, and the paint won't be so nice to use in a few years, and may well change colour a bit. I would definitely keep it the same colour throughout the house, trim-wise.
posted by kmennie at 9:20 AM on September 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

The other main feature in the living room is a fireplace fronted in pale bluish grey glass tile, so we want to harmonize with that as well.

Is there visible grout? If it's whitish grout, I'd match to that.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:22 AM on September 4, 2011

All the trim in my home is painted the same neutral color. I wanted a white that wasn't too harsh so I looked at my local paint store's chip book. I isolated all of the 'neutral whites' and decided to have them mix a 50% Olive White. It looks like a soft white unless you put a true white up to it. I say go to a paint store - Porter Paints, Sherwin Williams, etc., and ask for their help. I never realized that I could mix at 50% (or less even) until I spoke with the professionals.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 9:28 AM on September 4, 2011

This is probably something where a number of options would work out okay, so don't feel like you have to find THE ONE WHITE SOULMATE for your trim.

I think it's normal to use the same trim color throughout.

To pick a color, I'd just do it the old-fashioned way - go to your paint store, get a bunch of samples of likely shades (some kinda soft white or off white would be my choice), and bring them home to stick on your wall and ponder in various light conditions.
posted by thirteenkiller at 10:04 AM on September 4, 2011

From an amusing post at the Breda Fallacy.

1. If you ever say the words, "Pure white is just too white." go ahead and slap yourself for me. (Or pinch yourself, because in truth I'm a pincher. Pinch hard.) White is always going to be white. It will always exist, unlike the un-fucking-matchable eggshell ecru that you chose because you're too much of a wimp to go all the way white.
posted by Bruce H. at 10:40 AM on September 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

There are advantages to using the same color throughout, but you don't need to make this into some kind of interior design suicide pact where everything must be the same shade of white or woe unto Delphi!

Also, one of the functions of trim (besides to hide the joinery) is to give some definition to the edges of things. I'm not sure what the bathroom floor looks like, but if the walls are white and the floor is also light colored, I'd go with decidedly not white.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:43 AM on September 4, 2011

The undertones of the wall colors you choose (and the quality of light throughout the day) will make a difference - for trim, try Benjamin Moore Decorator's White for cool tones or Benjamin Moore Linen White (or Mayonnaise) for warm tones. If you have a mix of wall colors, a good bet for a consistent trim color throughout is Benjamin Moore White Dove, which often reads neutral.
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:47 AM on September 4, 2011

Every room in my house is a different color but the trim is all Behr ultra white. It keeps rooms tied together and it's simple to have the same color since my soft pine trim dents and chips easily. Whenever I get annoyed with dings, I can just walk around the house and touch everything up at once. The white trim plus crisp edging plus greyish colors on the walls means that as long as there isn't junk everywhere, my house always looks clean even when it isn't.

The only problem with white trim is that I have a black cat and her fur is very visible and hard to clean. On the other hand, my white cat leaves hair all over the black shelving and frames. I might recommend you get two tan cats to go with your house.

Benjamin Moore might be better paint than Behr, but it's too far to travel where I live. We've been happy enough with Behr. Previous owners used Glidden and it was awful. I don't know what white they used, but it never looked clean.
posted by arabelladragon at 10:55 AM on September 4, 2011

John and Sherry from Young House Love recommend Olympic No-VOC off-the-shelf white paint in semi-gloss. Here are all of their paint colors. The site has some good inspiration photos/posts as well.
posted by echo0720 at 11:15 AM on September 4, 2011

The style of a home may influence the trim color as well - we have a century-old Craftsman home with trim throughout in an off-white cream which really lends to the feel of the home being an "antique," but we painted each room a different color which keeps it contemporary at the same time.

When we bought our house, the off-white cream trim looked dingy and terrible against the white walls (it's very close to this Gold Coast White, see how it looks kind of blah against a true white?). I initially wanted to paint all the trim a more neutral white, but I decided to paint the walls first to see how the trim looked against various colors, and I was so pleased to find that the trim ended up looking great in every room, against warm colors and cool colors alike. Here's a pic of the corner of our living room, for example.
posted by illenion at 11:33 AM on September 4, 2011

echoing kmennie: using plain "white" makes touchup/refresh so much, much easier. I find Benjamin Moore's white best for price, coverage, usability and general great quality.
posted by anadem at 11:33 AM on September 4, 2011

Another thing you can do to keep it all looking coherent is to paint your ceilings in the trim white color but cut with white white in, say, a 50/50 mixture. This way the ceilings will relate to the trim everywhere and you won't have to worry that the trim looks off next to the ceiling white. Flat matte, of course.
posted by carmicha at 11:38 AM on September 4, 2011

I painted all trim/casings etc with the best brand I could get in high-gloss off the shelf (sans tint) white. As long as you stay with the same brand your paint will always match. It looks fabulous with my different wall colors and next to wood flooring/granite tile & carpet. The high gloss really makes it look rich and clean!
posted by PixieS at 2:34 PM on September 4, 2011

Benjamin Moore cloud white (warm) or ultra white (neutral - cool) is what you want for all your trim. Full stop. Pick a satin or semi gloss and you will be happy with the result. Easy to match down the road too!
posted by saradarlin at 6:58 PM on September 4, 2011

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