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Learning To Decorate With Wood Trim + Picking Paint Colours

When we first decided to purchase Spruce Lawn one of the things I was dreading most was dealing with, what at the time, I considered the BS or “baseboard situation”. The house features mostly the original wood trim and I didn’t care for all that wood.  Now I’ve done a complete 180° on the subject and I want to talk to you a little bit about why that’s happened, because I think there’s a myth perpetuated in contemporary interior design, which I long-subscribed to, that suggests wood trim is bad and dated, and white trim is good and modern. 


via Design Sponge

The reality is not so nearly black and white. I now recognize that the real problem is cheap trim looks bad and expensive trim looks fantastic, regardless of whether or not it’s wood or white. Thick, high, and detailed solid wood trim will cost you, but let me tell you right now that the thin, small, cheap wood trim is actually what looks dated and tacky. You can’t cheap out with wood trim, if you do it will cost you in aesthetic impact a thousand times over.

Love For White Trim: White trim and white baseboard pair well with any colour wall. White trim is simple and neutral and is easy to decorate with, which is not intimidating. White trim always looks fresh, clean and bright. White is in style, there’s no denying, so any white trim will look contemporary and updated. White trim complements easily and it also fades into the background. Cheap white trim doesn’t stand out as badly as cheap wood trim, which I think is one of the reasons it fools us into thinking that white always trumps wood.

So, if wood trim is actually, dare we say good, then how do we make it work for us? Obviously the home owners featured here made wood trim work for them, so it can be done!

via Garden & GunDomino

The Wood Trim Problem

We can’t get the benefits of white with wood trim, it simply doesn’t have the clean impact of white, and it’s the furthest thing from neutral. Wood trim is very difficult to pair with paint colours because wood trim is a colour itself and it often has varying tones and shades in a single piece. The tonal variation of wood makes it a complicating factor in your home’s décor, and people don’t like complicating factors. Most people aren’t very good at dissecting their own style or translating what they like into reality, so the simplicity of white seems better than the intricacies of wood because we don’t know how to work with wood trim.

Paint Colours That Work With Wood Trim

There are lots of blog posts and websites available that deal with picking paint colours that will pair with wood trim. I disagree with most all of them. Many suggest various creams, greens, plums, blues, and greys or greiges. Don’t buy into these suggestions without first taking a good hard look at the colours in your own wood trim. People think of wood as neutral, but it is NOT neutral. Wood is a colour, as I already said. White trim is a neutral so coloured walls work well with it, but wood is a colour so neutral painted walls will work best with it.

I recommend white, with a higher percentage of the undertone cool than warm. I also recommend rich navy blues, as navy is one of only a few bold choices that is a true neutral. Finally, blacks and deep graphites will work well with wood trim. I encourage you to use these three “colours” as a framework for thinking differently about wood trim.


Charcoal via Apartment Therapy

Is that boring to you? It shouldn’t be. Let me explain. Your wood trim is bold, beautiful and rich. It should do the walking and the talking, and your walls are more like the shoe laces in this scenario. White walls will pair excellent with wood trim. Meanwhile, interspersing some darks like navy or black into the space will add oomph and make your space more contemporary and edgy. Having fewer options makes life easier, and if your walls are neutral pulling furniture and décor into the mix won’t be as tricky or scary.

If you insist on using colour, remember that first and foremost no wood trim is going to be the same as other wood trim. You have to consider the colours in your specific wood in the context of the colours you are looking to paint your room. Reddish wood will dictate different undertones than yellow wood. Also look to avoid warm colours or colours with warm undertones, as your wood is likely already packed with warm tones and that will be far too much warmth in a room. If you love colour you will find a way to make it happen with your wood trim, but perhaps colour can be best infused into a space with décor accents instead of paint.


Navy Blue via MyDomaine

Paint The Crown Moulding

I am a firm believer that wood tone crown moulding does more harm then good in a home’s interior design. We view crown moulding as a high-end product that notches up a home’s value. Truthfully, white crown moulding does in fact add visual grandness to a home by making the ceiling look more expansive. However, wood crown moulding combined with wood trim and baseboard works to frame in each and every wall. This picture frame illusion boxes in a room and creates too much visual clutter and too many conflicting sightliness. If you feel that the wood trim in your home is overwhelming consider addressing the situation by painting only the crown moulding white, it will open and brighten the space significantly.


Painted Crown Moulding via MyDomaine

Wood Furniture

While wood furniture is wonderful, and should always have a place in any home, try to avoid overfilling your home with wood furniture if you have a lot of wood trim, baseboard, crown moulding or millwork. It will just be way too much wood. Embrace painted furniture and fabrics to add dimension and variation to a space that already features a lot of wood, and consider light tones to keep things bright and airy. Also, don’t try to be matchy-matchy with your wood. If your wood trim is cherry that doesn’t mean your wood furniture needs to be cherry, and certainly don’t go overboard with yellow oak.


via Domino

Bottom Line

I am really looking forward to bringing white into Spruce Lawn with the walls, and letting the wood trim shine. I’m really happy I’ve come to see wood trim in a different context. It’s always good to knock your world view off keel.  The first time we viewed the home I was very alarmed and the baseboard quickly topped my pro-con list as being a major problem in a house that large (the bedroom with a dull and nauseating shade of blue trim didn’t help). I thought it would be a headache beyond all headaches. Having painted wood trim before I was in no hurry to tackle such a project again on so grand a scale. I’m glad I decided not to, because I now realize that wood trim has value even in the context of my own personal style and love of all things white.


via Dot&Bo

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    January 1, 2017 at 9:34 am
  • Reply Katie

    I think you are spot on. I really love and agree with all of your points. I have a 1906 craftsman and I have been “fighting” the wood since I moved in. Time to embrace. Thank you.

    Can you tell me where you got the pendant above the dining table (the one above the table with white chairs and magenta rug). While you are at it — can you also tell me where you got the rug?

    Thank you so much for your help and inspiration.


    September 28, 2017 at 11:34 pm
    • Reply Jenn Schleich

      That’s a beautiful shot isn’t it? Unfortunately that’s not my house! I wish. It was a styled photo from Dot & Bo’s design district pages, which are no longer available – not sure why. So no… I’m sorry I don’t know 🙁 Wayfair is a great resource for that style of rug though!

      October 31, 2017 at 2:42 pm

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