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When it comes to picking trim colors, if you’re not an interior designer, things can get confusing pretty quickly. There are a lot of things to consider when you try to put together a room. Not only do you have to pick colors for the walls, but you also have to think about baseboards and molding. Is there a rule for this? Will it break the design universe if the molding is white and the baseboards are stained woodgrain?
The general rule of thumb is that the baseboards and molding of a room, and of the house in general, should work together even if they don’t directly match. The molding can stand out on its own as it is generally more ornate, while the baseboards can contrast or complement the walls or floors.
Once there is that understanding of complements and contrasts, you can play with this formula to make rooms feel more personal. From classical styling with simple staples to fun colors that jump out at the eye and even interesting illusions, there are a lot of ways to make the corners of your room into more than just hard lines.
What Color Should Crown Molding Be?
It’s a little weird that people don’t notice how much the style is set for a room in the little details that are added to it. To most people, the walls are the biggest focus in a room, because they’re the biggest visible surfaces. This makes sense and is mostly true. The walls will be your backdrop for your furniture and hangings.
Practically, the molding and baseboards function as the finishing touches; they’re not something people go out of their way to notice. They really are just there to cover the gaps and imperfections where walls meet floors or ceilings.
That doesn’t mean they have to be afterthoughts, though! More often than not, a room’s trim is a key part of making a home come together. Elaborate molding with simple trimming can make a house look elegant and classical, while utilitarian molding and a popping baseboard can look sleek and modern. The two elements play off of each other to make the rest of the house look good, so they should go together like cheese and wine.
Setting that style in the little elements of the room makes it easier to pick out the big ones, or draw inspiration when you get stuck. This is why accent colors exist: to change the focal point from a big blank space to the room as a whole. Take the time to look into what you want out of the trimming.
Better Homes and Gardens recommends a white trim to complement bolder colors, matching the underlying tones (warm or cool) to the color it’s offsetting. White isn’t your only option, though it is the most classic. SFGate suggests picking a more vibrant color if you’re trying to give the room a lighter, more fun feeling.
As long as you’re following a single trend or idea through the whole house, you’ll end up with a good look with details that keep on giving.
Keeping it in the Color Family
Keeping up the trends from one room in the whole house sounds easy, doesn’t it? Doesn’t that mean you just use the same boards and molding all around, and you’re golden?
Well, it definitely can. If it’s your jam to have the same eggshell molding under every different colored wall, then go for it! That can look beautiful and bring the house together as a unit. But if you do feel like changing it up, or you get stuck between two particularly pretty shades, you do have some freedom here as well.
While you definitely can use the exact same trimming throughout, you can also have fun with blending trends from the same color or style family. You can use brighter accents in darker rooms, and switch to a less brilliant hue of the same color to match your lighter walls. You can keep the same molding design, but paint it differently in every room to really match that particular aesthetic. You can go wild with the similarities while still enjoying the unique aspects of each room.
This is where you can add your own flavor to your choices. Keeping things uniform is a good idea if you’re going for a simpler overall house trend, but if it feels too constricting, you don’t have to stick to it. Changing up the saturation and hue of your chosen color keeps things from looking too much like twins if you’re not into that, but more like siblings. They fit well together but are good in their own right too.
Painting Versus Staining
Unless you’re doing a lovely, elaborate carved wood (which is an amazing choice), painting is going to be your go-to for the molding portion of your room’s trimmings, but you have a bit more freedom when it comes to the baseboards. Sometimes, staining them gives just as much of a fun coloration as painting does. It can also give you more control over how vibrant it is and how natural it looks. Both are good options, and they can even be used together.
If you’re planning to paint, you can narrow down which exact shade is going to provide the mood you want and find your perfect color match. Pull swatches of the different shades you like, and hold them together in different lighting to see every aspect of it before you actually go through with painting the whole room. It makes sense that the best way to find your favorite combination is to actually see it in action, and it means a lot less hassle if the paint looks different dry than in the can.
If you’re staining, however, you can match your stain to the flooring you’ve chosen, or make it a darker color to offset your bright molding. A stain keeps the texture and beauty of the wood you’ve picked on display, which works wonders for a rustic vibe or gothic motif. Again, wooden molding is going to draw a lot of attention, so matching that stain in the baseboard will make the room look like one big picture, and again, you can vary the depth of the stain from room to room to match the rest of the colors without straying too far from the original shade. It’s a different kind of striking, but still a lot of fun.
You can do the same swatch testing with stains as you can with painting, but it’s important to make sure you’re staining the same kind of wood for your sample and using the exact method you’re going to use later on. Stain is a little trickier to get right because it soaks into the wood rather than just sitting on top of it.
The Rule is There Are No Rules
No matter how you choose to color your rooms and what you choose to color them with, it’s always good to remember that when it comes to design, the biggest rule is there are no rules. Every home is different, as it very well should be, and if having bright green baseboards and pure black molding is your brand of different, then have at it. Take risks with your colors or play it classic and paint everything white. As long as you’re having a good time and are coming home happy, then you’ve made the right choice.
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Giovanni Valle is an architect, designer, internet entrepreneur, and the managing editor of various digital publications including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place. He is the founder of BuilderSpace LLC.