Color Blog


My blog offers a fresh voice on the design scene, with ideas, inspiration and color advice focused on color for the built world. Updated regularly, discover current trends and tried and true proven approaches to color design for your home, your business or your brand. It's all about the human response to color. Learn how to choose and apply color in a way that supports well being and adds beauty and function to any environment. Whether interior or exterior, residential or commercial, smart color design makes the difference between a space that's hardly noticeable and one that makes you feel alive! Thanks for stopping by........Amy      

How to Choose Paint Color for Rooms with Wood Trim

How to choose Paint color with wood trim

Amy Krane Color

Many homes, especially in the country, have wood trim that is stained not painted. The trim can include moldings; baseboard or crown, window jambs and casings, overhead beams or millwork like the fireplace wall in the photo above. Wood trim in a wood stain color adds complexity to the overall palette as the room usually has hardwood floors as well.

What to consider when choosing paint color for rooms with wood trim

Rarely are the floors and trim the same color stain. This may make the task of choosing wall colors confusing. Instead of stressing out about how to choose paint colors to work with wood trim just imagine the wood as if it's painted a solid color. Consider it a major visual force in the room. Forget about asking what goes with pine or oak. Just look at its color.

Is the wood trim a neutral, cool or warm color?

By this I mean ask yourself what tone is dominant in the wood stain? Like above, many wood stains ( and natural wood colors as well) are very warm and red based like the room above. Whether it's cherry ( wood or stain), mahogany or red oak there is plenty of red apparent in the wood. Other woods ( and stains) like fir, pine, maple, hickory and white oak have predominantly honey tones - that being a combination of yellow and orange or pink.

How to choose paint color with wood trim


No matter what your wood tone is, warm or cool, you are going to have to choose which works better for the wall color.

Whether you choose the opposite tonality or not will make a huge difference in the look and feel of the room ( cool wall for warm wood or warm wall for cool wood).

Choosing its opposite will counter the wood's tone and balance the room's palette. Choosing the same will magnify its effect.

Utilizing a neutral wall color like a neutral white or an achromatic gray will create a calmer room.

Warm wood tones with a warm wall color ( red, orange or yellow) will create a very cozy, exciting atmosphere which might go too far for the taste of some. People may find this color combination overwhelming and yearn for a less intense color scheme. The room in the top photo with the fireplace has neutral white walls to balance the hot tones of the wood.

How to choose paint color for rooms with wood trim

Amy Krane Color

Alternatively, in this room above we chose a cool blue green to counter the warmth of the honey colored wood. Notice the markedly different atmosphere compared with the tomato red room above.

How to choose paint color for wood trim

Cam Slemp Modern Design

Neutral colored wood trim

Today, some modern homes and decor utilize black or gray stained trim or they bleach the wood very light. You've got tons of leeway in these situations.

Light wood trim

When the wood trim is light or neutral it contributes less to the overall palette of the room and allows more freedom to choose the paint color for the walls.

Wood stained dark brown like walnut is also more neutral then red or honey wood and allows you more latitude when choosing wall colors.


Create a Great Accent Wall with Paint

Accent wall with TV

Accent wall                                                                                           Amy Krane Color 

While painting all four walls of a room creates cohesion and unity sometimes we want to kick it up a notch. Hopefully you adore the color chosen for your walls but if your heart is set on something more - an accent wall can help. It adds the wow factor. In the photo above, not only does the navy blue accent wall add a note of fun and whimsy, it helps integrate one of the key accent colors used throughout the room and has the added bonus of "hiding" the TV in plain site. That's a neat trick when landing on a dark accent wall color.

What makes a great accent wall?

The two main components of a successful accent wall are location and color choice.

Location of an accent wall.

The choice of where to place an accent wall is key and it's the number one mistake people make. The most successful accent wall is one which is already the focal point of the room. You are merely reinforcing that fact by adding the different color. It shouldn't be arbitrarily chosen. The types of walls which work well are those that are architecturally unique in the room like the freestanding wall above. It might have a fireplace on it, a gabled or cathedral shape, hold the main piece of art work or is the headboard wall in bedroom.

Entryway accent wall

Entryway Accent Wall               Amy Krane Color

In the photo below the bright yellow wall holds the fireplace and is also the focus of the room due to its "A"shape. It's the natural place to use an accent color.

A Frame accent wall

Yellow A- Frame Accent wall                  Amy Krane Color

Choosing color for an accent wall.

There are so many different color directions you can choose to go. It's hard to go wrong with a darker or brighter version of the color you are using on your other walls. It won't create a room that's too busy. Going lighter or more muted, on the other hand, will not maintain that wall as the room's main focus so it's not the best choice.

Brighter accent wall

Accent wall is the same color as the others but darker and brighter          Amy Krane Color

Black is a major trend in interior and exterior residential design these days and black makes a great color for a wall. An entirely black room can be overpowering for most people but it's very dynamic as an accent in an otherwise light colored room.

Black accent wall                                                                         Amy Krane Color

When the accent wall is just a few shades darker than the wall color it changes the overall effect. It creates a more soothing atmosphere as there is less contrast with the soft blend of colors.

Soft blend accent wall                                                            Amy Krane Color

Having the accent wall color come from a completely different hue family (color) than the rest of the walls is trickier to pull off. The first room above has accomplished this to great affect. In these scenarios it is most successful when the two colors are very different in terms of value (lightness/darkness) or saturation ( purity of color versus "grayed down"). In the room above, the yellow walls are much lighter than the navy blue. If they were both equally light, like pastels, it would be much less successful.

Accent walls which serve a function.  

Accents walls in spaces like hospitals and offices are very common. In a waiting room they offer stimulation to keep a waiting patient visually occupied. In a hospital they do the same and also aid in "way finding" by accentuating areas of different function with different colors.

hospital color

Hospital accent walls help with way finding

In homes, accent walls are more about decorating than about functionality. There are many options besides paint to create an accent wall. Millwork like paneling or shiplap and wallpaper come to mind. But all in all, a painted accent wall is an inexpensive way to create a design element in a room which adds to its uniqueness and beauty.

Decorating with Variations of the Same Color

Use Color Theory to mix colors

Amy Krane Color Using Complementary Colors

As an Architectural Color Consultant I'm often asked how I know which colors "go" together. One particular design direction, decorating with variations of the same color stumps many people. There is the science and art of working with color. The science is established. Colors can be quantified and measured in many ways. The art has more to do with one's taste and sensibility. It's personal. ( I don't mean private). In the end it's about who you are and what you like. How adventurous are you in your color tastes? When it comes to being liberal or conservative in one's color proclivities, either goes, and unlike in politics, people who are one or the other have no trouble sharing the Thanksgiving table!


Color Theory and Decorating

When you mix colors in a space, using color theory helps you choose colors whose relationships are established and minimizes the chance of messing up. Relationships like using analogous hues ( next to each other on the color wheel) or complementary colors (across from one another on the wheel) are tried and true.


Monochromatic Colors

Monochromatic color schemes use colors from the same hue family together - an all blue room or an all yellow room, for instance. Such a space would likely be perceived as monotonous and overwhelming for most people. Mixing variations of the same color with neutrals like white, gray or beige helps the eye rest in such scenarios. Incorporating the same exact blue many times over in an otherwise white room will be sedate and fairly unexciting while mixing different blues with white amps up the wow factor. Contrast is so important.

mixing variations of the same color

Monochromatic color combinations

Mixing variations of the same color in a room works but you may not like it. On the personal side, I like mixing oranges, greens and blues with themselves, yellow a little less so, reds and purples, not at all. But that's my personal taste. To some people's eye these combinations clash. To others, they are interesting and compelling. Be careful when combining neutrals from different parts of the color wheel. Brown grays and blue grays don't mix well nor do yellow and pink beiges. You need to be mixing colors which have enough saturation (purity) to be perceived as distinct and different hues (colors) if you're going to attempt mixing variations of the same color and ignore their components.

Universally accepted is mixing different greens. Why? Because we are accustomed to seeing this all around us in nature. It's completely familiar and natural and this makes the world of difference.

Mixing Different Greens

To me, mixing greens is as natural as a walk in the park. You just don't question its authenticity. The mind's eye accepts the wide variation of greens as harmoniously co-existing in the environment.

In the photo above we see many kinds of green, both yellow green and blue green. It feels right. No thoughts of "clashing colors" here. And as long as there is another color ( red above) in the setting there is nothing monotonous about the combination.


In the room below, the window frames are almost black and recede from consciousness, sending the viewer's eyes outdoors and bringing the greens of nature into the room. The ambiance is simply captivating.

Bringing the outside in

Attribution Unknown

But if your home is not graced with large picture  windows you can achieve this look anyway.

Below, Hawthorne, the Hudson Valley country home of Ted Sive and style writer and design doyen Ted Kennedy Watson, founder and creator of the eponymously named Kennedy Watson lifestyle stores, mixes greens to great effect. Using white as the counterpoint to the bold greens the owners' achieve both excitement and balance at once.

The mix of greens is very stimulating. As none are muted it makes this choice even more bold. These are highly invigorating, saturated tones of green which would overpower without all of the white. The atmosphere is upbeat and sophisticated. The color combination is so unique the experience of visiting is unforgettable.

You may not have the confidence or inclination to decorate your whole house this way but rest assured if you do, mixing greens will create an environment of beauty.