We really love the dark wood trim in our house, and it's a major factor when selecting paint colors. We're in the process of painting the main portion of the house white (or some variation of white) and here's how we're picking one that looks good with our color of wood, and doesn't create too much contrast.
I'm about to make major progress on my plan of painting all the rooms (!!) in 2022. I'm planning to do a single shade for the living room, entryway, stairwell, and upstairs hallway. Just pick one color and knock a bunch of the house out. Easy, right?
The defining feature of these rooms is the dark oak trim. It's in almost all of our house (except for the 60's kitchen addition). But the best parts are here! Entryway pillars, the stair railing, the huge front windows, the pocket door. We want something that will feel light and slightly modern against all that dark woodwork, but not so much contrast it makes your eyeballs hurt.
So while white paint was my aim, I was open to all variations, including ivories, off whites, and light grays. As long as it looked good with the trim.
I should also tell you that my color standards have been forever changed after my experience painting our dining room. I put that deep teal on the wall and the trim sang. I've been chasing that high ever since.
I made a very calculated move after we bought our house to buy sample pots of Benjamin Moore's most popular white paints. I bought them for our front porch, with the thought of being able to swatch them out and choose whites for other rooms. (Which is what I did in the office.)
But then I did an unwise thing and stored them in our detached garage, where they froze and even after being thawed inside, refused to reconstitute as paint. Oh, detached garage, I am still learning your secrets!
So, I decided to branch out and try some Behr and Sherwin Williams color selections. Rather than buying a bunch at once, I decided to try just one at a time, decide what I did and/or didn't like about it, and then choose another one from there.
This method worked far better than just throwing a bunch of samples on the wall at once!
First, I tried Behr's Silver Drop, which I loved as a soft grey option, but didn't love against the red oak trim. The brown/grey combo wasn't doing it for me, which eliminated all colors with grey in them. Big progress because so many whites have grey in them!
Next, I had the radical idea that if I wanted to have white walls, I should just buy white paint. So I tried out Behr's Ultra Pure White - which is often called the whitest paint on the market - and WOWZA. I felt like I needed sunglasses. Was there white out on my wall? I didn't think a white could be too bright, but this proved me wrong. I wanted a white that was *white* and not WHITE. Definitely the color in here needed to be toned down.
Sherwin Williams has lots of white options that aren't as bright. I was particularly interested in Marshmallow, so I trekked off to the store to grab a chip. While I was there, I picked up 11 others. Then, I held them up one by one to the woodwork in our house to see what did and didn't look good. (Sadly, Marshmallow didn't make the cut. It looked pink!) This process actually worked really well. I know paint can look different when it's on a whole wall versus just the chip, but for deciding what undertones would work, this was a great method!
Colors got eliminated quickly until all that was left was Greek Villa. I swatched some on our walls and it was the clear winner - light, soft, and playing nicely with the trim. It's much whiter than the paint currently on our wills, but since it's so soft, it's hard to see the swatches.
I feel like the hardest part of this job (aka, color selection) is done. Now we just need to paint!
If you're choosing a light paint color to go with your wood trim, here is my advice:
- Don't create too much contrast - Light walls with dark trim will inherently have a lot of contrast, so be careful not to overdo it. A really, really bright white with really dark trim can look jarring (see above!).
- Choose a paint with an undertone that looks good with your wood trim - There's no formula for this, just hold up paint chips and see what looks good!
- Keep trying until you get it right - One reason I think picking out white paint is so hard is that there are so many shades of white! If you don't find something that works right away, you have lots of other options to choose from!