Should you paint your trim a colour other than white? Painting your trim a greige could be lovely, but there are a few details you need to consider first. I’m sharing more about greige paint colours and how to get the look right.
I have just completed your book How to Choose a Paint Color and am most of the way through White is Complicated. Thank you for these resources! My partner and I are closing on our first home in just a couple of days and I have been reading up on how to make our home timeless and classic.
I have a question about greige. In your White is Complicated book I think that you said not to use greige as trim because it would look dirty. Do you think this is always the case? I came across this photo of Farrow and Ball paint. The walls are called Shadow White and the trim is called Drop Cloth.
I think it looks beautiful and I wondered what your thoughts were on this combo with greige as the trim.
Can I paint my trim greige?
Congratulations on your first home! How exciting. And thank you, this is a great question.
Before anyone understands my System for Specifying Colour™, they see the world of grey as mostly ‘warm greys’ and ‘cool greys’. In other words, cool greys appear blue (which they are) and warm greys are generally considered to be ‘greige’.
In my system “greige” refers to only the palest warm greys.
So if you go back and look at the above photo, in my system the walls are ‘greige’ while the trim is green grey, which is several shades darker. This is why this colour scheme works.
If you were to reverse this scheme and paint the trim ‘greige’ instead, while the walls were the darker green grey, that’s when your trim would look dirty.
Warm Grey Trim Can Be Lovely
Warm grey trim can be beautiful. But before you paint your trim a greige, I suggest though that you have a good decorating plan in place that suits the look.
And the reason that it works so well in traditional architecture (like many homes in the UK where F&B is from) is that there is usually good separation between rooms. This means you can paint your mudroom millwork green grey (mudrooms are a great place for trim colours that hide mud!), and maybe the adjoining laundry. Then you can transition in the hall, for example, to a different look fairly easily.
Laundry room with grey millwork and trim by Andrew Howard Interior Design
Trim Colours for Open Layout Homes
By contrast, the majority of contemporary North American homes, have an “open plan” layout, which means that there is often no good place to transition your wall or trim colours smoothly. Most often, you need to commit to one versatile colour for each to carry throughout. And the best goal for those is fresh and versatile.
This is why some kind of white is by far the most common choice for trim. And preferably a white that looks crisp and not as dingy and greyed as a pale greige (similar to the colour on the walls shown in the Farrow and Ball image) would look with most pretty wall colours.
Only highlight your trim if it is a feature.
Another point to consider if this look appeals to you, is that it works best on millwork and trim that is truly beautiful and a feature in its own right. If you just slap a warm grey on standard, skinny builder moldings, it won’t give you quite the same effect. It may even backfire even and give you a distracting, racing stripe look.
You only want your trim to stand out and say “look at me” if it is really beautiful.
Grey highlights pretty trim and archways in this living room from Magnolia Home
The reason white trim is so popular is that it is versatile.
Another reason it may be wise to stick with conservative white trim is that the minute you paint your trim a neutral colour, it now has a specific undertone. Now your options for wall colours and decorating have been drastically narrowed.
Great, if you have an overall decorating and furnishing plan that relates. But, not so much if you are starting with paint colours trying to create a canvas for decorating your home.
Which brings me to my final point. It is much more expensive to paint your trim and millwork than it is to repaint only the walls. So when you want to refresh the look of your house, if your trim colour is very specific, it will boss you around unless you paint it.
How to Get the Look
All that said, if you have the right kind of traditional home, with beautiful moldings, and you’re sure that grey trim will suit your decor, then it can certainly be a lovely look.
Another idea if you love the look but you have mostly an open concept home, is to consider a warm grey for cabinetry in a bathroom, mudroom, pantry, laundry room or even in your kitchen.
Warm grey mudroom cabinetry by Humphreymunsen.co
Warm grey kitchen cabinetry by @heigicaillierdesign
A Greige By Any Other Name
So to be clear, in my system, I use the term ‘greige’ very specifically to mean only the palest colours in the warm green grey, violet grey and taupe categories. They are very useful colours that read almost white with a hint of warm grey to soften them.
And it is these warm, shadowed whites that I don’t recommend for trim.
The exceptions to this are:
With very deep wall colours.
For exteriors, where a softer trim colour is needed that is not too creamy.
If your walls are white or off white. then a greige trim would work.
For most interiors though, a greyed white will make a dingy-looking trim colour and limits your wall colour choices.
Become a True Colour Expert
Join me in one of my spring workshops to learn all you’ll ever need to know about how to choose the perfect white or greige, or complex cream in ANY situation in my new White Workshop on Day 2! I will share my insights and methods for selecting the perfect white for walls, trim, ceilings, cabinetry and hard finishes like countertops and tile.
If you’d like more information on how to choose white, greige or complex creams, download my White is Complicated ebook here.
White is what most of your clients are asking for so make sure you are an expert!