Monochromatic vs. Contrasting Trim? Trend? (pics)

creekylisOctober 20, 2010

I seem to be seeing a trend in painting trim to match walls, as opposed to standard white/off-white/stained. I'm seeing this in catalogs, magazines, etc. Is this a new trend or am I just now noticing it? I'm about to paint my trim white--am I already behind the times before I even start?


(Note: I plan to leave my window trim stained too, although it is lighter than what is pictured above.)

(I borrowed this pic from another post here.)
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I don't think white trim is ever out, it's classic, like stained trim (although darker vs lighter stains seem to ebb and flow fashion-wise). Just depends on the look one is going for...with trim "painted out" the look is more...streamlined? The focus becomes more on what's in the house and less on the architecture.

I myself have always painted out my homes' trim simply because to my eye it appears less choppy (I have never moved into a place with amazing or unpainted woodwork, and now all my windows and doors are trimless (by choice), so it's only the baseboards I have to contend with).

As to it being suddenly in style...The fabulously wealthy Big's wonderful apartment in "Sex and the City" in the late 90's had the baseboard and window trim painted the same color as the walls.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2010 at 11:01PM
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I've been seeing it in all the decorating magazines for awhile now; though most houses I go in, still have either white/wood trim. I think it is an architectural detail that depends on other elements you have in your house--particularly the windowd. If the muntins in your second pic where white, then I think the trim would look odd not painted white. Just my two cents, though.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 12:21AM
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We replaced all the windows, doors, their trim, and the base molding in our house. We had the windows, doors, and their trim stained--no chipping (like paint does) and scratches and nicks are easily touched-up w/ a stain marker. Also, we like the look. :-)

Our base molding is painted to match the walls in each room, using satin finish rather than the matte finish (which is on the walls). We thought a contrasting color (stained molding) might visually "cut-off" the room height, we didn't necessarily love that look, and solid oak molding would have cost a lot more than finger-jointed/paint grade molding.

Our home is a hi-ranch/bi-level, and contemporary in style (decor).


    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 8:01AM
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Great points all. Cat mom and tradewind, do you have any pics you wouldn't mind sharing?

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 1:09PM
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I personally think it mainly looks appropriate in contemporary/modern homes.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 1:48PM
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I think it is a more contemporary "look" but that it's not necessarily confined to contemporary/modern architecture. The photos above are of traditional spaces -- the first looks like a new build and the second a vintage building. The monochromatic look is nice in those spaces. In a room like the one in the second photo, I think it definitely gives it a feeling of having been "done" by someone with an overall plan for the room.

It is a look, and a feeling. It's different than what we're used to. We are comfortable changing wall color, window treatments and furniture arrangements. But painting trim is a big investment in time, money or both. It's not something that is easy to "undo" for most folks. So it is a bigger step than the usual freshening that we undertake.

That being said, I do live in an MCM house and do have my trim painted the same color as the walls (all is an off-white). But even if our architecture were a more traditional ranch, if it had the same cheapo thin mid-century trim, I would paint it to match the walls in a heartbeat. In our previous 1920s homes, with nice thick moldings, I kept it all white and traditional.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 4:04PM
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I just did this in our dining room, and I love it, but I can tell from others' reaction that it's not a universal thumb's up. The more traditional the person, the less they like it. I see it a lot on - I think it's often used to try to make traditional homes a bit more modern.

I did it mainly because we live in a ranch that the PO's added crown molding to - it's not appropriate to the house and I'd take it down, but I calculated it was easier to paint it out than take it down and patch and paint the ceiling! What can I say, I'm lazy.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 4:45PM
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We painted our living room baseboards to match the wall b/c they were ugly brown and I think 2" need to draw attention to that detail ;-)

Regardless of trends, I say that if you want to show off your trim, don't go for monochromatic. If you have pretty trim, let it stand out :-)

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 5:36PM
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It can look nice.

I just shudder to think what happens when the millions of people out there that have beautiful old houses with gorgeous 6" trim decide to paint it the same color as the wall...some future owner will be cursing them!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 6:22PM
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As others have said it depends upon the trim. It can be a more modern look but it is also very early American traditional.Some of the 18th and very early 19th century (Colonial to Federal) house museums in my city have walls and trim painted the same color top to bottom.

To further muddy the waters, one of the houses in particular is painted all one color top to bottom except for a six inch band of dark brown paint that encircles the entire room at the floor level, intersecting all the trim and the doors straight across. The floors were often swept with sand and may have been occasionally mopped and I was told that the brown band at the bottom disguised scuffs and splashes and was probably repainted more often than the entire room itself. I have also seen a faux marbled band. I am not recommending these treatments unless you live in a period house, I just thought it was interesting.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 6:41PM
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You know, I think it does depend on the person and how traditional their style is.

My Mom is always trying new things and I bet she'd like to try this. She lives in a 1928 tudor revival but she loves trying new things. Her style is not traditional at all.

We live in a 1910 late period Victorian and that's fine because I have very traditional styles and tastes. If we ever build a house, we will carry that through, with wide, dark stained trim, hardwood floors, traditional furniture, and a formal parlor/library, etc.

Interesting thread.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 10:13PM
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A couple of pictures from Remodelista today reminded me of this's a really good example of what I was talking about in terms of making traditional a little more modern:

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 8:54AM
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As soon as I can get motivated again, I'm going to do this in our study. It is paneled with that icky orange-ish wood, and I think it would look 100 times better painted out. It isn't as pretty as that first pic above, but the idea is somewhat the same.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 9:07AM
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Too me all one color looks like the painter was too lazy to paint contrasting trim. In contemporary homes without contrasting trim, there is usually no trim around the windows, so less to notice.

Landlords are famous for painting all one color (usually off white or white) and not bothering to paint the trim anything different than the wall.

I love contrasting trim whether dark or light, or even just a shade or 2 different than the wall.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 9:32AM
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creekylis--I don't know if I have pics on the computer but will check later--you can email through GW if I forget! :-)

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 1:43PM
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creekylist, I don't have any pics at the moment but when I had my current walls resheetrocked (to get rid of 70's textured), I specified "no trim". My house is kind of small with a zillion doors so the no trim look gives my space some breathing room :-) My previous house looked similar to youngdeb's photo of the green walls except that I painted out the door trim, also. Last night I was looking through some vintage decorating books from the 50's and 60's and there are several examples of painted out trim. I guess my "rule" is that if I want to call attention to it, I highlight it, otherwise, I blend (same way I do my makeup and clothes, haha)

    Bookmark   October 26, 2010 at 1:32AM
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Lol krycek....careful now, you are starting to sound like an old house snob like me heh heh.

Ok that said, I think the look in the above pics is lovely. And I don't think the paneled room above looks terribly contemporary. I may actually do this up in the servants quarters where the wood is already painted. I'm actually not a fan of white paint myself and prefer something more in keeping with the rooms design.

I do have trim in my entry hall though that was painted exactly the same flat paint as the ceiling and in my space I hate it. The trim in a victorian hall was meant to make a statement and mine screams....blah!

In my house in alaska I have high contrast trim and I Ike how it frames the wall colors. Given my walls have treatments verses actual straight color I think that was a logical choice.

But there is one other option for the op....go with a trim color that compliments the decor verses all white throughout. It's a great look.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2010 at 10:35AM
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Late to the party, but I just did this with our baseboard. Why? Our apartment is from 1934 and the baseboard has been repaired a few times and where it meets the walls is often uneven, so I figured why highlight imperfections? (I'm not going to get new baseboard while we live here. I'm told it's VERY messy and dusty because ours would have to really be ripped out and it's not worth it to me.)

    Bookmark   December 18, 2010 at 12:03PM
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youngdeb, I love what you did, it's so soothing and easy
on your eye, very pretty...did you use eggshell on the walls and semi-gloss on the trim, or all eggshell?

We are going to paint our LR, DR, and foyer this winter
and I want to paint the ceiling molding the same color.
We just have to work up the energy to do so... :)

    Bookmark   December 18, 2010 at 1:05PM
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Deb, I love the way you painted your room, and the green is in the shade of greens I like.

I don't see your room or the other picture as being modern, except for the furniture in the 2nd one.

They look more traditional to me and the painted trim would look good in any home.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2010 at 3:09PM
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