How to Give Your Baseboards a Designer’s Look

Designer Baseboards

Carolyn Woods Design

I remember many years ago I read in a magazine an interview with a well-known designer. The topic of baseboards and trim was brought-up, and she was appalled at the idea of having white baseboards throughout the entire house. She said that for her it felt like owning an entire wardrobe of dresses of various colours, all having a white band at the bottom. I wish I remembered who that designer was – my Internet search engines are burning at my trying to find her, but in the end I give up. Let her be the mysterious interior designer that changed my life from that moment, as I never stopped thinking about white bands on all of my dresses… Haha!

I like white trim, it has its place to achieve a nice crisp look or a powerful contrast. But when I say white baseboards and trim, I am not talking about stark white, which should only be used if it relates to white objects in the space. My advice is to stay away from pure white baseboards or trim. To achieve a sophisticated and distinctive “designer look” use an off-white instead – a creamy-white or grey-white.

Off White Molding


Recently, when I specified an off-white for a client, to use for the built-in bookcase and trim he just built in his daughter’s room, he was at first a bit uncomfortable. He laughed at his nervousness when he saw the paint store clerk mixing various drops of colours in his perfectly white can of paint. He was happy in the end with the result:

Off White Trim

Another thing I want to talk about in this blog is breaking the “flow rule” of painting the trim in the same colour throughout a house. An open space does need the same baseboard/ trim colour, to unify it, but venture to different colours to give distinct personality to closed, separate rooms.

In my research I found some examples of various rooms with coloured baseboards and trim. Each tell a different story:

… traditional look of a cottage in the Hamptons:

Soft Green Trim


… modern crisp contrast:

Black Trim

NFR Consulting

… relaxing ambiance anticipated from the entrance in a manor house:

Soft Grey Trim

Dresser Homes

… and what would this blog be without some yellow? – if you are used to me by now… notice how the yellow is repeated in the candles and art (a little goes a long way):

Yellow Trim

Rafe Churchill

One of my favourites, which is a classic but also a recent trend, is using the baseboard and trim the same colour as the wall. In small spaces, when using white, the room can look chopped, making it feel even smaller. If the walls and the trim are the same colour, the room feels grander.

Wall and Trim Same Colour

Rachel Reider Interiors

When you decide to go with this option (Congratulations, you have the guts to go against 99.99% of the population), make sure the trim paint is glossier than the wall paint – otherwise it will look like you had extra colour and just slapped it on the trim. And no, I will not add a picture showing this example, as I promised myself pretty pictures only.

I can’t believe how long this blog has turned out to be – who knew I would have so much to say about trim?…, and I didn’t even talk about what I really wanted to share with you. My favourite of all, that keeps me awake at night (… OK, sorry for the drama), is none of the above. It is a combination of all, a combination of the wall colour, a darker hue, and white (read off-white):

Brian Gluckstein Baseboard

Picture taken by me inside Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation
Oakville House 2013 (designed by Brian Gluckstein)

This was for me the AHA moment of baseboards. I felt like it answered my life long dilemma on white vs. coloured baseboards… Here are pictures from the dining room and the living room of that house where you can see the effect of such a unique baseboard. Genius!

Brian Gluckstein 1Brian Gluckstein 2

Brian Gluckstein

So please tell me… which of these baseboard/ trim ideas inspired you?

If you would like some help making your home tell your personal story with a sense of timeless elegance, please contact me.

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  • Jo Galbraith - Wonderful post and lovely inspirational pictures. I painted all my upstairs trim Wickham Gray with Cloud White walls a couple of years ago and love it. I was going to write a blog post so would love to link your article! Great job Livia!ReplyCancel

    • Livia Drennan - Thank you Joanne. I feel that using a colour on trim brings so much depth and interest to a room. Ohhh, Wickham Grey again… I love that colour! I am looking forward to your post on this, so please go ahead and link mine 🙂ReplyCancel

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