The Best Trim Colours – NOT Cloud White!

Thank you to Brett Walther at Style at Home for including this post, The Best Trim Colours – NOT Cloud White, in your blog on December 16, 2008!

I’m sorry if I have just killed your ‘go-to’ trim colour, but I truly think Cloud White oc-130 is the most overrated trim colour of all time. It’s been mentioned once too many times on HGTV, House & Home and Style at Home Magazines and I ask why?

It’s so big I wonder why blind companies don’t carry samples that match it perfectly? Seems like a smart idea to me?

white trim

Blinds by Hunter Douglas

Now that we are no longer as afraid of colour as we were in the 80’s (when we all had that one red, forest green or dramatic accent wall and the rest were white!) and it’s getting more common that people don’t even move in until the local Colour Consultant has made a house call, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the standard cloud white cc-40 trim colour. Why? I think most people are afraid of white as there are hundreds of shades.

The second guessing begins when you start comparing one white to another.

A little lesson in whites is all you need.

Whites come in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and gray tints but the only ones that you would really use over and over on trim are blue-whites, true-whites, off-whites or cream.

Not like you CAN’T use other whites, I’m just giving you some guidelines here because there’s as much of a science to choosing whites as any other colour in your home.

The reason why you want your trim colour to be light is for contrast.

The first colour consultation that I ever did, I took the strip of colour chips that went from light to dark from the fan deck, and picked the lightest shade of the goldy beige I had chosen for the living room walls. When I came back to see the finished room later, the moldings looked dirty. They just didn’t have that crisp contrast that you expect trim to have.

The exception to this is if you have a contemporary interior, you might paint your trim the same colour or darker than the wall. Certainly commercial interiors almost always have darker trim to hide the wear and tear.

The best white for you is the one that works with the fixed white in your home. If your kitchen cabinets are screaming white, then your trim colour could be oc-65 Chantilly Lace or Dulux White on White 30GY 88/014 or SW7006.

If your entry floors set the tone of the fixed white in your home with a creamy marble, then you find one that goes with that and it might be Sherwin Williams 6385 or oc-38 Acadia White or Dulux Fencepost 81YY 87/031 to mention a few.

the best trim colours


If you don’t have a fixed white surface such as cabinets or tiles to pick your white from, then the second thing to consider is how light or dark the colours are throughout your home.

One of my best friends, a very gifted and successful designer, has a design/build firm. Once she has chosen all the hard finishes and is ready to pick colours, she hires me. At the end (always pick the white last) of the first two times we worked together, I tried to introduce a creamier trim that I felt would be appropriate for all the rich colours we had chosen for the clients home.
She quickly dismissed my suggestions each time and said “No, Cloud White is the one I always use.” Then about a month later as the painting was nearing completion in the first house, she confessed that she walked in and saw for the first time, what I had tried to create with a softer, creamier colour and that leaving it Cloud White was too stark of a contrast with the rich colours throughout the home.
She now happily goes along with my trim recommendations.

I’m not saying you should NEVER use Cloud White, or that it’s a bad colour, not at all.

What I am saying is you should specify it because you have taken all of the above into consideration along with all the other possible trim colours available.

And it’s an off-white. There’s a million of them out there. Anyone of them works as long as it’s not stark or too creamy.

And what about Exterior trim? Well that’s a post to save for the Spring (updated, click here)! But I will leave you with a photo of a Beautiful Hyde Park Historic home from David Jiminez.

white trim with brick

Need help choosing the right white? My White is Complicated: A Decorators Guide to Choosing the Right White eBook will help you get your whites right for your cabinets, trim, ceilings, and walls. It also includes photos and examples so you can see which white is right for your house. This eBook also includes my Bonus book of Whites which will take the guesswork out of your decisions.

Related posts:

The best Exterior Trim Colours–NOT Cloud White

White Kitchen Cabinets

Can White be a Lonely Colour?

White Floors for Instant Happiness

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  1. I have a very open-plan home with a lot of sunlight. I’m going with the following Benjamin Moore colors and wonder what you would do for trim and six-panel doors…Main living areas: HC93 Carrington Beige, Family room and master bedroom HC44 Lenox Tan with HC146 Wedgewood Gray as an accent wall. Smaller bedroom/office HC45 Shaker Beige.

    • Cloud White sounds fine for this scenerio unless you have whiter or creamier kitchen cabinets then your trim should match your existing white. Maria

  2. wow, this post is super helpful. I am building a new house and picking my colors. We are doing a white kitchen (like Christopher Peacock copy) with dark brown walnut floors. House faces water north facing. I am trying to pick my trim color and cabinet color. I am trying to match the Scullery White of Peacock for my cabinets. Any suggestions on BM colors that match that white and what trim would you use against dark brown floors. House is very somethings gotta give like! Thanks!

  3. I agree with you that it pays to be daring sometimes and think outside the box when it comes to trim!
    My parents built a beautiful custom home 8 or so years ago and hired a designer to help them pick colours, countertops, cabinets, etc. They went with warm hues throughout the home like dijon CC-210, sundried tomato CC-62, and valley forge brown HC-74. They have lots of “trim” everywhere, big crown mouldings, pillars and arch work….and its all
    honey harbour CC-170! For a trim it’s pretty creamy/yellow, but it looks fantastic (very elegant) and fits the scheme of the whole house.

  4. I have Sherwin Williams interactive cream for exterior stucco wall and the biscuit trim color from the chip sheet looks like a stark contrast. Any suggestions for a subtler trim? What do you think of the idea of a lighter shade of interactive, but just not as light as biscuit?

  5. I have BM Swiss Coffee trim throughout my house and will be painting my kitchen cabinets white with a soft med brown antique glaze. (Granite counter tops are beige/ivory/light brown/black, backsplash is beige tumbled marble, floor is honey-colored oak.) The wisdom seems to be that the cabinets should be Swiss Coffee to match the trim, but I really would like a creamier and deeper look for the cabinets and am considering Cameo White or Linen White. Can I get away with a different color on the cabinets than the trim?

    • Adding a glaze to the cabinets will change the colour from Swiss Coffee anyway, best to get a sample done up first and then compare to your existing trim. Once you have a glaze though your cabinets will go to some version of beige so then it should be fine. Maria

  6. We are in the process of building so I do not have a defining “white” as a focus to start. With this blank canvas I am very overwhelmed with color selection…of the whole house. I have been considering White Dove for whole house trim…White Dove for kitchen cabinets…with a glaze to offset from trim?? and possible Revere Pewter HC 172 for the walls for the rest of house. Is there a better color combination to consider? Granite colors I am leaning toward are ones with white/grays/black. Also I would like to have the island painted a contrasting color…i was thinking Black…do you have a recommendation for which black? Thank you so much for your time It is greatly appreciated….as I am confused and overwhelmed by colors. Thanks Heather

  7. I have been agonizing over the paint colors for my house. I found your blog on Pinterest. I am planning on painting my walls BM Shaker Beige. I have a small house but an open floor plan with the kitchen dining area as the main area open entering the house. I want to paint my oak cabinets white and repaint all the trim and doors as well as adding beadboard 5′ up the wall to hallway and the small little entry way as well as backsplash and wanted to paint it all the same white as the cabinets. I really didn’t want anything too stark white but I’m not sure. I have bought a sample of Dove White and Chantilly Lace and painted large samples on poster board. The Dove looks too gray. I also have white vinyl windows and white appliances which I plan to keep. I was leaning towards the BM Chantilly Lace but now I don’t know. Could you suggest a white possibly. Also I have dark wood floors. I hope you can help me, I’m driving my husband nuts and myself as well. 🙂 thanks again and great great blog!!

      • Thanks for your quick response! Is Chantilly Lace and Simply White the colors you suggest for those with white appliances? Would you say Cloud White is not a good option? I’m afraid of having everything too white but not sure if any other white looks good with white appliances and who knows how long I will have them. I have changed the wall color to Manchester Tan as it seems to go better with either white.

  8. Hi! I am having a house built and the budget is for 2 paint colors for the whole house; one for walls & ceiling and 1 for trim & doors. I am considering Benjamin Moore Mt. Rushmore Rock for the walls & ceilings. Do you have a white that you feel would go well with this color? Thanks!!

  9. I wish I had seen this blog earlier! I’m renovating my small apartment and have santos mahogany floor and a carrara marble window countertop. Just decided to use cloud white as all other whites seem to have blue, green or pink undertone or are too yellow. However, just saw your another post saying cloud white should not be paired with carrara marble (it’s not throughout the apartment in this case, though). And I have fixed white cabinets in kitchen (looks like a “true” white”)…… What should I do? Please help!

  10. Hi Maria, I love your blogs and all I learn from them! Just two questions about whites:
    I know creamy whites have a yellow undertone, but does that mean all whites with a warm color undertone are creamy whites?
    And, is ivory a white with gray or cool undertones?

  11. Hi maria,

    I am going to a have white cabinets and Carrera marble throughout my kitchen/ a couple of baths. I have read that chantilly lace or decorators white are good choices for trim. If I use this on the trim would I then paint my doors and built in bookshelves this color as well (if I am wanting to paint them white)? Thanks so much!

  12. Hi Maria,
    I have a dark Long Beach, NY co-op apartment with an open floor plan (living room, dining room, kitchen) we are putting in a light caramel colored wood floor throughout and am thinking about painting the walls white dove, with a regular ceiling white. I am not sure which color to paint the crown and floor mouldings. Can you make a suggestion and also let me know what you think about the white dove for the walls and ceiling white for the ceilings.
    Thank you so much!
    Laura

  13. Reading through your advice on paint has been a real eye opener for me – so many things should be taken into consideration when making selections. Thank you! We are building a house that is almost to the paint stage. The trim throughout is going to be BM’s “Linen White” and the wall choice has come down to BM’s “Chocolate Mousse” or SW’s “Whole Wheat”. What I’m not sure about is the ceiling color. The bulider’s painter is encouraging me to paint the ceilings the same color as the wall but I have never done that before (as we’ve always had a shade of white/creamy white for ceilings). He also said that he thinks painting the ceiling the same color as the trim would look good. But, if I go that route, I don’t think the trim will pop like I want it to. Your advice on a ceiling color would be greatly appreciated.

  14. Hi Maria
    If BM White Dove, Cloud White, Simply White or Mascarpone all look fine with a greige wall colour as the trim, what works best to tone down orange hardwood floors? More cream, less or with more gray in it? Does trim colour undertones even help in doing that? Thanks.

  15. So funny that you decided to re-post this now Maria – I swear its like you read my mind! I am in the middle of a major addition/renovation project and have been struggling to figure out what to do about ceiling & trim color. I have an open-concept split and I renovated my kitchen about 4 years ago. My cabinets are cream with a brown glaze and at the time I chose ‘Feather Down” for ceiling and trim because it matches the cabinets really well. This color will have to go up the stairs to my bedroom level since it is all connected, but I don’t want to use this color in the bedrooms because I am now leaning toward cooler tones and it is too creamy. So what did I pick for the bedrooms?? Cloud White! I’ve done one room so far – walls are Athena and ceiling and trim are Cloud White and I have to say I love the look. My husband is not too happy that he will have to paint the bedroom doors a different color on each side – but that is the only way to do it, right??? Choosing colors for trim & ceiling is the most challenging, to me.

  16. Hi Maria!

    I have purchase and read all of your online books, but I am still a bit hazy on what the undertones are on some things.

    I am re-doing my home, all of the paint and trim, and putting in Sandy Ridge Flooring (A vinyl – wood-look product from Torly’s Everwood Line). My new kitchen will be Shaker style with BM Mascarpone AF-20.

    My old color is a lovely golden yellow but since yellow is no longer in style, I have tried very hard to go lighter and into the neutrals (for the sake of modernizing and resale). But it’s tough to go from lots of color to the grays.

    So, after sampling 27 paints, I have narrowed it down to BM Jute AF-80 (which I see as a green-grey neutral), or maybe BM Carrington Beige… however I don’t like the Carrington Beige much with Mascarpone. It should work, but it almost makes Mascarpone look a bit dull.

    Can you tell me why Carrington Beige would make Mascarpone a bit dull but Jute makes it stand out? I am sure it’s in the undertones, but I would have thought a warm yellow-beige would work better with cream? Is it because they both have Red in them so the contrast is not enough?

    The formula for both Jute and Carrington Beige is the same amount of yellow, however the Jute has less black and adds O1, which I think is orange. The Carrington adds R1, which I think is red. I thought the codes would help me identify the undertones, but I figured Yellow would go with Mascarpone as it has yellow too. As you can see, I am color challenged 😉

    Also, If I stick with Jute, how do I figure out what colors go with that for décor or complimentary? The problem with Affinity paints is that they don’t come with a graduated paint chip.. they are singles.

    Do you give paid advice? I could use some, I only have a few days before the renovator starts.

    Kind regards,

    Corinne

  17. I am painting my walls with BM mascarpone af-20 what color white should I use on my trim? My home is county with pine furniture! Thank you! Bon

  18. Maria, I’m in the process of picking out my white for my cabniets. I have alder trim with a darker stain and hickory wood floors stained grayish brown. the dove white seemed a little to grayish for me what color or direction would you recommend I go?

  19. If all trim in a house is a stark white (decorators white, chosen to go with very white kitchen cabinets; coordinates well with bluey-grey rooms), can we paint other rooms in green-grey or pinkey-gray colours? If it’s all about context–choosing colours based on undertones in other colours that will live in same space–how do we mix it up? Is stark white trim and pink-grey walls a no-no? (Or, conversely, creamy trim and blue-gray walls). I don’t get it.

  20. We are in the process of remodeling and I am stressing out over trim color. Most of my walls are yellow/ gold tones. We are painting our trim & ceilings and have crown molding. Should the ceiling, crown molding, baseboards & door frames all be the same color? The interior doors will be black.

  21. Maria we are building and the windows we are using are Andersen 200 series. My problem is that the interior of the windows is white. I really did not want to use white trim but I don’t see another option. Any ideas?

    • There’s way more mouldings and doors in your house than just trim around your windows so you’ll just have to ignore them if white trim will not work with your decorating plans. Maria