Color Month

Should You Paint That Trim or Leave It Natural? Here’s What 4 Real Estate Agents Say

published Jul 3, 2022
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There was a time when wood trim was pretty passé. Stately Victorians and original Arts and Crafts bungalows saw their rich wood details painted over in lieu of the white-and-gray minimalist look that dominated real estate listings for the better part of the early aughts.

Now we’re in the heyday of trim. Timeless wood! Neon! A whole rainbow of colors is fair game. So what’s a renovator to do?

Four real estate agents weighed in with their thoughts on wood trim, paint, and whether or not to jump on the black trim train. But whatever you decide, heed this warning from Tom Postilio of the Tom Postilio & Mickey Conlon Team at Douglas Elliman, “Paint is an easy, quick fix. But remember, easy on, very hard to remove.”

Let the Wood Showcase Original Grandeur

“If the words grand, dazzling, or historic belong in the listing description, then don’t you dare touch those original details,” says Mickey Conlon of the Tom Postilio & Mickey Conlon Team at Douglas Elliman. He’s had buyers walk away from multi-million dollar brownstones because the character’s been stripped away by a seller with an over-eager paint brush dipped in white.

However, he realizes there are buyers that want that all-white minimalist look and, in those cases, he recommends a seller create a virtual rendering rather than whitewash the original wood trim. Remember, once you’ve painted, it’s tough to go back. 

Postilio adds, “We have clients who love classic and want all of the details that scream classic — coffered ceilings, crown moldings, substantial base moldings.” And they want those in their rich, warm original wood finish.

Pick Up a Paint Brush

Not all trim is created equal, however, and sometimes a fresh coat of paint is exactly what a property needs. “It’s typically the properties that fall in between prewar and contemporary that have the problematic trim,” says Conlon. “Just think about all that dingy wood paneling in “Stranger Things” — it wouldn’t be a horror story if someone applied a coat of paint.”

In a room without abundant natural light, like a row house hallway bedroom or a subgrade living room, then dark wood trim isn’t necessarily a character add. Instead, it can make the room feel small and heavy. Postilio says, “This is the perfect situation for a can of white paint, especially if the trim isn’t architecturally significant.” Plus, he notes most buyers respond better to bright, open and airy spaces.

Credit: Andrew Bui

And while colored trim is having a moment, white trim fan Marie Bromberg, with Compass in New York, explains that it can be incredibly hard to walk a color back once you’ve gone all in — particularly if you choose dark trim, like the glossy black look that’s so chic right now. However, Bromberg says, “It can liven the space. I recommend staying in the same family as the wall colors. If your walls are a shade of blue, trim painted a darker or lighter shade of blue that works. Picking up on the undertones of the wall color makes for a successful trim color.”

Which Color White Is Best for Trim?

White is classic but, if you’ve ever used white paint, you know it’s not as simple as choosing “white” off a paint card. Haley Cutter of Cutter Luxe Living by Compass has a crowd-pleasing answer. She says her go-to for trim is Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace in satin sheen. She explains, “To me, white trim is timeless, and I have never seen anyone regret it. I especially love it paired with my favorite shade for walls, Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White.”