Ask Maria: Can I Paint My Trim Greige?

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.

Ask Maria Killam True Colour Expert

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

Farrow & Ball

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.

Warm Grey Trim Colour

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.

Greige Trim Colour

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.

Paint Greige Trim

Warm grey mudroom cabinetry by Humphreymunsen.co

Paint Greige Cabinet Trim

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!

Related Posts

Trend Alert: Paint Your Walls and Trim White (or Cream)

Ask Maria: Now that ‘Beige is Back’ is Painting my House Greige a Mistake?

Ask Maria: Which Undertone Should I Use if I’m Starting from Scratch?

2K Shares

relatedPOSTS

[bws_google_captcha]

leave aREPLY

  1. Maria- thank you that was very helpful .
    I look at pictures of rooms with painted trim and doors in color …thinking how pretty .
    But after reading your blog it brings me to reality of down the road if you want to repaint your walls.
    now you have to deal with the trim and door color.
    That could be a lot of work if you have to change the color of trim and doors …
    Thanks !!

  2. Even with a separation of rooms it is hard to paint the trim different colors. At my last house I had different trim color in several rooms–it becomes an issue with door ways–how do the colors look next to each other on the frame or door. Never again!

  3. Great idea for a mudroom and laundry room.
    Thank you for this excellent explanation and photos. You made it all so clear!

  4. This is very good advice.
    My first home was a 200 year old federal style with beautiful millwork. I painted the millwork different colors in every room, but my wall color was the same in every room which created a flow. Homes since have all had white trim (White Dove) throughout, which makes changing room colors easier.

  5. I would be concerned about too much gray dating a space. I adore gray and wear it a lot, but I’ve used it only one place in my house, even though I remodeled during the gray trend. Homeowners in my area are still updating houses by covering them in gray—walls, cabinetry, millwork, even floors. The effect is drab and cold in the extreme. Conversely, I recently saw real estate photos of a house completely redone in white. I don’t recall the floors, but my impression was of completely unrelieved white in every photo. The effect there was stark in the extreme.

    The old adage “moderation in all things” might be profitably applied to decorating.

  6. I love reading your posts. Thank you for sharing your expertise and knowledge. This post has me thinking about interior doors. Do the same “rules” apply to choosing paint colors for the doors? Is timeless and classic keeping doors white? Same as trim color? Or can choosing a greige, Gray, black or other “neutrals” be classic as well?

    • I think it really depends on the decorating! Black can work in small doses and if it ties in with the decor. Same for the rest of the neutrals you’ve mentioned. Hope that helps, Maria

  7. Hi Maria, It’s hard to tell from photos but I think in your sisters house you used a half strength version of the wall colour for the trims? When would you do that rather than use a white-shade trim? Thanks.

  8. Perfect timing for this! We’ve just chosen a wall colour for a client that *had* to go with an existing dark light green gray door and trim colour. We ended up with an off-white and it’s going to look lovely. So glad to have become a TCE ☺️

  9. We just purchased a house with tons of beautiful woodwork all painted Accessible Beige. Groan. The walls are gray but have to be too dark to go with the woodwork. My husband doesn’t want me to tackle painting all the woodwork so I painted my dining room Shoji White to see how it would look. I ended up loving it! I do wish we had white woodwork but painting all of it in a 4000 square foot home is daunting.

  10. Hi Maria,

    I agree with you that greige trim may look dirty simply because these elements of the room get dirty quickly 😄 … And only when they are white, we feel the room is perfectly clean.. ✨ It’s like finger nails, ones they are not transparent, I personally suspect they are dirty 😆 And the win-win solution is really to place a decorative trim!! 🤩🕊

  11. I absolutely love earth tones, so it’s no surprise I like browns, greens, greys and sandy beiges paired with natural woods and crisp white, like clouds. In my avatar photo, looking through rose gold rimmed aviators with Savanna brown tint, I’m standing outside the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Depending on what section you are browsing, there is either an explosion of color from pop art or muted traditionalist paintings of the masters. When I look at the muted greys and soft browns of the photos above, I’m taken to an outdoor space of grey horizons meeting sun-bleached wood and Thule fog. These color combinations always evoke the feeling of being by the ocean on an overcast day, and it’s so moody! The brightness of the light walls is like the sun trying to shine through the fog, balancing and binding all the design elements. It’s a great effect. What I love about Maria’s blog is she is a true artist who knows how colors work together. Some of the wonderful examples of color combinations she posts border on quirky and unique without being tacky. In my mind, anyway, the definition of ‘tacky’ is ‘trendy’ gone wrong. There’s nothing wrong about Greige trim in the right setting!

    • I hope everyone is not left with that I think there’s something wrong with greige trim. Greige as a trim colour will look dirty if the walls aren’t white or if they are not really dark. That is NOT the point of this post. When trim colour is too close to the wall colour in value, that’s when it looks dirty. Thanks for your comment! Maria

  12. Maria- live in Florida, have gray-beige floor tiles, looks like country stone. House originally painted by builder, no choices. Trim throughout SW Aesthetic white. Walls – taupe beige. Am updating throughout – walls- BM White Dove. Looks Fab. Am keeping trim color – Aesthetic white. There is a slight contrast – not enough to call attention, have great moldings/trim. In this case that color works well with floor tiles and other colors in rooms, repeating creams, leopard fabric accents, gorgeous sisal rug and whites, and chinoiserie blues. Am I breaking rules? Yes- but the effect looks good to me – gives it all a French look. Your comments? thanks,