Paint Trim: 6 Things to Know Before You Start | Architectural Summary

A house with scuffed trim is like an outfit with scuffed shoes – you can deal with it, but it looks sloppy. Painting your home’s woodwork, whether it’s wainscoting, chair rail or moldings, is one way to revamp a room without a major overhaul. “Trim is almost like jewelry in a space,” says designer Kate Lester of Kate Lester Interiors in Hermosa Beach, California. To add real flair, step out of the classic white palette and explore how color plays with depth, elevating any space.

Painting the trim is a simple process, although the difference between a facelift and a wow factor is in the details. We’ve consulted with design pros who share the best tips on how to paint trim, from the best paint finishes to the helpful supplies that are sure to make this DIY project a breeze.

Prepare the filling

When it comes to painting trim, proper preparation of the material is essential. « Caulk the edges that come off [from the wall] and lightly sand any flaking spots to ensure you have a great finish,” says Washington, D.C. designer Mary Jo Major of Rise interiors. Details matter: filling in nail holes and smoothing out jagged corners and divots will also make the paint job look “clean and clean”. When the trim is ready to paint, Major suggests investing in a 2 1/2 inch paintbrush For the job.

Adopt the color

Picking a shade for her trim is a personal decision, but a vibrant palette is a trend du jour. “The traditional ideal of having a white wall with a brighter white border is sometimes appropriate but not really where modern homes are going,” says designer Shaolin Low of Studio Shaolin in Honolulu. Lester predicts the colorful trimmings will have a big moment this summer. “Choosing a color for your windows and door trim will add interest and contrast, especially if you keep the walls white,” she says. You can also pair a neutral trim color, such as gray, with an energetic turquoise wall color, such as Richmond, Virginia, designer Janie Molster done in a recent condo project. “Paint is one of the most amazing design tools we have – it can really transform a room,” Molster says of taking the plunge with non-white trim.

Think about shine

When selecting trim paint, Low suggests choosing a chandelier that’s “one level above the wall.” For example, she says, a wall covered in matte paint should feature a satin border, while eggshell walls go best with a semi-gloss border. Lester is a major proponent of coating trim in semi-gloss paint. “It’s great for frequently cleaned, high-traffic rooms that deal with excess humidity,” she explains. While the glossy finish adds a touch of glamour, it can highlight imperfections, notes Lester.

Paint first, install later

For a new project, paint the trim before sticking it to the wall – you’ll save yourself the headache of worrying about getting trim paint on the wall. Low recommends priming the bare wood first, then adding two coats of paint before installing. Once installed, touch up if necessary. For a painting project over existing trim, place painter’s tape on the wall directly above the trim to make sure the paint doesn’t transfer, and you can create a straight edge, Major says.

Premium quality stained wood

If you are painting stained woodwork, rather than painting over previously painted woodwork, Major encourages the use an anti-stain primer to prevent knots in the wood from showing through the paint.

Paint with patience

A molding redesign is no easy task, especially if it involves intricate details that can benefit from using small paintbrushes to get into the crevices of the woodwork properly. “My biggest piece of advice with physical trim painting is to be patient and not rush,” says Lester. “It’s one of those areas where you have to be very specific, which can take time.”

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