How Many Shades Darker Do I Paint Trim?

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Trim is used to define windows, doorways and other architectural elements both indoors and out. Trim ranges in style from basic strips of wood called casings to more elaborate, carved pieces of wood used as ceiling moulding or chair rails. No hard-and-fast rules exist for choosing paint colors for trim -- it's all a matter of personal preference -- but there are some guidelines that can make the task easier.

Interior Trim Considerations

  • Choosing interior trim paint color has a lot to do with the style of your home. Open-concept homes that have rooms flowing into each other should feature trim that is all the same color. Rather than choosing a hue that is several shades darker than the walls, however, go with something lighter. Lighter shades rather than darker paint colors is the name of the game in homes with wide open spaces, according to the This Old House website. This allows you to paint each room a different color -- yellow in the kitchen, and light blue in the family room, for example -- but still visually connect the rooms with clean, white trim. Small, enclosed rooms, on the other hand, can be painted with darker trim. In fact, many older, craftsman or Victorian-style homes have elaborate trims that are highly decorative when painted or stained in a hue two or three shades darker than the walls.

Interior Trim Ideas

  • Choose a fun, playful color for a child's room. Pink, for example, against white walls is cheerful in a little girl's room, but can be easily repainted when she outgrows her love of pink. Many people lean toward white trim in a bathroom, but if you have an older, faded white toilet or bathtub, it is going to look dingy against the white trim. Instead, choose a color two or three shades lighter -- not darker, as that may make the room look and feel smaller -- than the walls.

Exterior Trim Considerations

  • Before selecting color, it's even more important to choose paint made specifically for exterior trim use. This paint is formulated to withstand the elements. Unlike interior trim, it is common for exterior paint trim to be a few shades darker than the siding. This is because the trim color is frequently painted to match the front door, shutters and roof, which are usually darker in color than the siding. It takes more than one or two shades darker to make a visual impact -- three or four shades is more the norm.

Exterior Trim Ideas

  • Consider choosing a different hue entirely rather than going a few shades darker on your external trim. Cream and white work well with any house color, from brick houses to those painted gray, green or brown. Try painting the front door a bright, contrasting color to highlight it as the focal point of your house. A burgundy door, for example, against blue-painted siding with white trim is neat and nautical.

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