Remodelaholic · Apr 11, 2016

Choosing Paint Colors that Work with Wood Trim and Floors

Hi Remodelaholics! Cyndy here from The Creativity Exchange back with another paint color palette. If you happened to miss my post last month about how to use Sherwin Williams SnapIt for finding paint colors, you can find that post here.

Vapor Trails Benjamin Moore via Molly Quinn Designs

My post today is really long overdue. In fact, today’s topic is probably the number one question that I have received over all my years working with paint colors. The question; What are the best paint colors out there for wood trim and flooring?

Sandy Hook Gray Benjamin Moore via Linda McDougald Designs

I haven’t really delved much in the past into colors that work with wood tones for multiple reasons but the primary reason is that it’s complicated. It’s also a very subjective topic and if you asked another color expert, designer, architect, etc.., their opinion, you would get a completely different answer from each one of us. Also, I have a very different approach/opinion than most people that takes some explaining.

Dewdrop Benjamin Moore via Sarah Gallop Design

Today, I didn’t want to just give you a list of paint colors that work best with wood trim/floors, I also want to explain and make my case for why I recommend and completely avoid certain colors in these spaces. If I can (hopefully) explain it well, it can help you down the line to know what to look for in a color and what colors you should be avoiding.

I have researched and pulled together a palette today of the most versatile and complimentary colors to use with wood floors/trims, etc.. These are about as safe as I can give you but again, it’s really important to test a sample color on poster board just to be sure it’s the color you’re looking for:

I’m breaking down today’s post into three of the biggest problems that I see when it comes to paint colors for spaces with wood trim/floors and cabinetry.

How to Choose Paint Color That Work With Wood Trim and Flooring

Wall color unknown via Mosiac Interiors SF

Problem #1 Choosing Too Warm of a Paint Color

One of the biggest problems that I always see when it comes to paint colors used in spaces with wood trim and flooring is that people always tend to want to use some shade of yellow on the walls. If you search “wood trim and floors” on Houzz, 75% of the thousands of spaces you will see will be painted yellow or very warm tan.

The reason people gravitate to yellow/tan is they tend to want to choose a color that they feel will showcase all the warm beautiful wood tones in the space, so they choose the warmest color out there. The truth is, painting these spaces in a warm color (especially yellow), has the complete opposite effect. If you paint your walls yellow or in a warmer color, your wood trim and flooring will simply blend together because of the strong warmth in the wood and in the color. Plus, it’s way too much warmth.

Every room (in my opinion) should have a near perfect balance of warm and cool tones. It’s pleasing on the eye and our brain needs that color balance harmony. Have you ever felt that something is bothering you in a space but you can’t put your finger on it? Chances are, it’s a lack of undertone balance and harmony.


The best thing a home owner can do to showcase the beautiful wood features is to choose a color that is 65-75% cool and 25-35% warm in the undertone. This contrast is pleasing on the eye, the cool balances all that warmth from the wood and the very slight hint of warmth in the 25-35%, blends and connects the wood to the wall color. The best place too find paint colors that are close to 65-75% cool are the colors right next to the shades of gray paint cards at the paint store. Colors that border the grays are better colors for complimenting wood tones.

This wall color in the image below is about 85% cool in the undertone and just look how the wood floors and stairs just jump out and stand out:

Quiet Rain Glidden via The Inspired Room

This space below, is more like 75% cool and 25% warm (ideal) and again, the beautiful wood floors and table are the star of the show:

Rainwashed Sherwin Williams via Simplify

via Annette English

Read more: Balancing Warm and Cool Tones with Transitional Paint Colors

Problem #2 Choosing the Wrong Shade of a Paint Color

Another big problem that I see is that people do not think of their wood trim and flooring as a shade of color. I think people tend to think of wood as a neutral. If you have dark wood floors and trim and you paint your walls a dark brown or a dark green, you have the same dark shade of color from floor to ceiling. Your wood color and shade blends in and there is no balance. Even lighter pine is a shade of color and it’s not as light as many people think, but rather a mid-tone shade.


Think of your wood trim and floors as a shade of color. My rule of thumb is to go at least three shades lighter in wall paint color (yes three). This is the sweet spot where you will get both contrast and balance that will so beautifully compliment the wood tones. If you only go up one shade, something will not look right because it’s too close to the shade of the wood.

Notice in the image below how the much lighter shade of wall color to the shade of the floors really showcases the flooring and the ceilings look taller:

Agreeable Gray Sherwin Williams via Honey We’re Home

See also: The Easy Trick to Choosing a Whole Home Paint Color Scheme

Problem #3 Not Realizing that Wood is a Color

Lastly, another problem is that people do not realize that their wood features are in fact a color. Again, wood is not a neutral. If you have pine trim and floors, then you have yellow in your space. Adding a color like light lavender to the walls will create a color conflict. If you have cherry trim, floors or cabinets, that means that you have red in your space and a color like green on the wall may conflict. This is something that you may not realize when walking into a space but something will feel “off” in the color combination if there is a conflicting color on the wall and wood tones.


Go to the paint store and match a paint color card to your wood features in the space. You will not get exact but get as close as you can to color and shade, and use it when choosing a paint color for the space. This will help to remind you of the need to think of your wood tones as a color and to identify the shade of your wood.

Comfort Gray by Sherwin Williams via Sand and Sisal

80% of the time, when recommending paint colors to people with both trim and flooring, I suggest white. If people also have wood wainscoting, 100% of the time I will suggest white. I know it’s not glamorous and it may “sound” boring but in my opinion, nothing showcases, calms and balances strong wood features and undertones better than white. White also instantly neutralizes strong warm wood tones and it allows for almost any color to be safely used in the space in accents, fabrics and art.

Atrium White Benjamin Moore via Clawson Architects

Another trick is to only choose from the top two lightest colors on a paint card. Again, it’s important to work in the cool undertones but if you stay around the lightest shades of colors, that will also help.

Read more: Choosing the Perfect White Paint Color

I’m sorry this post is so long and if you’ve stuck with me here until the end, you now know why it’s taken me so long to delve into a post with this topic. If you have more questions and want to see more of my color palettes and advice, you can find all of that on my blog The Creativity Exchange. I would love for you to stop by!

Also, if you’re looking for more versatile and dependable paint colors, my top 15 colors can be found here.

Thanks for stopping by today!



More great paint picks from Cyndy:

click each photo to see more details

The post Choosing Paint Colors that Work with Wood Trim and Floors appeared first on Remodelaholic.

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