The Best Wall Paint Colors to Pair With Dark Wood Trim

If you live in an older home that has the original dark wood trim throughout, you may be resistant to painting it white like every other house on the block. And kudos for your decision to preserve the classic look. While dark wood trim may have garnered a reputation for being a bit dated, many designers disagree with that assumption. If you’d like to keep your dark wood trim intact, you do have options and we’re here to help you discover what color walls go best with dark wood trim.

Is dark wood trim making a comeback?

The white trim craze was a byproduct of influencers leaning toward “minimalism and brightness,” says Andre Kazimierski, CEO of Improovy, a nationwide provider of on-demand interior and exterior home painting services. However, he believes that people have now begun to gravitate back toward darker wood accents to give their homes more personality.

This sentiment is echoed by Matt Kunz, president of Five Star Painting, a Neighborly company, who says he’s seen an emerging trend where customers are opting for dark-stained wood trim and lighter walls. In the below example, the homeowner updated the trim and interior doors to a high-shine black, and it really pops against the cream-colored wall paint:

An example of wall colors for dark wood trim
Source: (Five Star Painting)

Wood trim has a timeless, classic appeal and can create a cozy space. The key is to choose the right wall color. Rather than tackle the time-consuming and tedious task of repainting all of your trim white (or paying a professional an average $500 to $1,500 to complete the task), you can instead DIY paint the walls to complement the existing dark wood and create an eye-pleasing contrast.

“The beauty of dark wood trim is that it pretty much goes with any paint color,” says Kazimierski. “On the one hand, it looks great in a living room painted white, but it looks just as great in a library painted dark green.”

Color considerations for dark wood trim

Not all wood trim is the same shade of brown; it can range from light blonde tones to dark espresso. Paint colors that work well with honey or medium-brown trim might not look as good with the darker trim. And you’ll find variance even among color groups.

“For example, if the wood trim has a warm undertone, then shades of yellow, warm beige, tan, and even red can make a beautiful, rich addition to the trim color and will produce a soft look in the room,” advises Sarabeth Asaff South, a former kitchen and bath designer and current home design expert for Fixr.com. “And if the undertone is cooler, then taupe, gray, blue, or green will make a nice complement, with a little more contrast to the trim.”

You’ll also want to consider what kind of atmosphere you want the room to have. “If you want the room to feel cozier, try to find warmer colors that pair well with the trim,” South suggests. “If you want the room to feel more formal, then cooler tones tend to look best.”

A room with dark trim, which you might want to pair with certain wall colors.
Source: (Point3D Commercial Imaging Ltd. / Unsplash)

Popular paint colors to pair with dark wood trim

We asked the design experts to share some of their go-to wall colors for homes with dark wood trim.

White/off-white paint colors

Sticking with white is a good choice in homes where you have large amounts of dark wood trim, such as thick molding, columns, built-ins, mantels, chair rails, or other millwork. A white or off-white shade will help brighten the rooms and strike a nice contrast.

Try these popular white paints to pair with dark wood trim:

Cream paint colors

A cream wall paint will be a little softer than pure white, but will still create a fresh, neutral look with a subtly nautical flair, accentuating the natural warmth of the wood.

Paige NeJame, a franchise owner of CertaPro Painters, notes that creams should not have a yellow or orange undertone to them, as that could make the room look dingy.  “Also remember that the lighting or lack of lighting in a room can change the color dramatically, so always choose a few colors for test patches,” she says.

These versatile cream paints make a good match for dark wood trim:

Taupe/gray paint colors

You can also use taupes with dark trim to create a cozy “pub-like” or “library” feel to a room, but again, you need to pick the right shade. “It’s important to match the taupe’s undertone with that of the wood trim,” says Kazimierski. “I would also opt for a lighter shade of taupe to maximize the contrast.”

Take a look at these versatile taupe paints as potential pairings with dark wood trim:

Nature-inspired paint colors

Kazimierski also likes to pair colors found in nature — greens, blues, and browns — with dark brown trim. Although these are often chosen as exterior colors, when pulled inside, they can create a tranquil environment. “None of these colors should be in a bright shade, but rather a more calm and neutral shade,” he says.

These popular paint colors can bring the warmth of the great outdoors into your space, while accentuating the natural beauty of dark wood trim:

Colors to avoid with dark wood trim

Now that you’ve seen some of the paint color choices that play well with dark wood trim, let’s take a look at some shades to avoid.

Kunz from Five Star Painting says it’s best to steer clear of dark colors, as they won’t strike enough of a contrast with the trim and will make the room feel smaller, closed-in, or even a little gloomy, especially if there’s not an abundance of natural light.

In the below example, the deep red blended too closely with the wood trim. Kunz lightened the wall color to an off-white for a more natural, minimalist feel. “This color transition allowed the space to open up and for the wood tones to become the focus,” he says.

A sample of wall colors for dark wood trim
Source: (Five Star Painting)

NeJame reminds us that any colors with yellow or orange undertones could also make the room look dingy. The same goes for “muddy colors,” which have been “muddied” with gray or brown tones.

With white trim seemingly everywhere these days, it can be tempting to paint dark wood trim to match the masses. But dark wood accents can create a warm, rich, and classic appeal. The key is to choose the right paint color to complement and accentuate the wood. When it’s done right, dark wood trim can give a home a unique flair and make it stand out to buyers who are seeking something different in a sea of white.

Header Image Source: (Christina Winter / Unsplash)