To Paint or Not to Paint Your Trim

Real Estate

This is a question that can make even the most self-assured homeowner’s head spin. Before you make the commitment one way or the other, here are some things to consider.


History. When you’re lucky enough to own a classic Victorian or Craftsman home, lean toward preserving its vintage flair. The wood trim in such homes is often intricate and architecturally important. Few would argue against painting builders-grade baseboards or cheap crown molding, but painting over original mahogany wainscoting or stately oak beams can actually damage the value of a historic home.


Color. If wood trim makes you see red (or orange or brown), fight color with color. Changing your walls can change the focus of your room and minimize the noticeability of the wood. So can new furniture or a modern décor palette in today’s most popular shades.


White vs. light. Painted trim can help keep your home from feeling dark and dated, but it can also feel sterile and commonplace. Make your house homier with light, not just white. Add a new window or fun mirror accent. Bright recessed lights, trendy pendants, or new lamps can make a world of difference.


Contrast. Is everything in your house “middle of the road” in terms of tone? Add some distinctions with combinations of light and dark, bright and grayed, warm and cool. Pair a darker wood stained door with a lighter-hued wall for some “pop.”


Compromise. Home fashion is cyclical, and wood trim could make a comeback. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Split the difference and keep a few wood accents. White painted baseboards can show off oak or cherry floors. Clean or re stain solid wood door, but recolor the surrounding doorjambs. Or maybe paint the spindles of a wooden staircase, but not the treads or railing for a classic, contemporary look.


Workload. Stripping, filling, priming, and painting a whole house full of trim is a big, sometimes confusing project, so be realistic about the job. Many decorators and painting contractors offer low-cost consultations or free estimates.