I tell my clients that choosing trim can be like choosing a pair of shoes to go with an outfit. For instance, an evening gown with strappy little sandals is right. A gown with jogging shoes is not. They’re both shoes so what’s the problem? LOL~
All colors, even whites have an undertone or predominant leaning toward one color or another, i.e., yellowish, bluish, etc.. When trim colors are placed next to your body colors, they can make the main body color look warm and inviting or dull and ashy. One very well known and respected paint manufacturer has 140 whites in their palette. Who needs so many whites? You do! All whites and trim paints are not the same. OK, so how do you choose? One very large issue is whether or not you have vinyl or vinyl clad windows. These windows generally have a cool or bluish undertone to their whiteness. Put a creamy white next to them and watch them turn gray…not pretty at all!
If you’re lucky (or unlucky depending on your point of view) to have paintable windows, you have more choices for window trim. “Oh great!”, I can hear you saying, “more choices, just what I need!”. Don’t worry, here’s how to figure this out. Think about how crisp or how soft you want your home to appear. Generally creamy (yellow undertone) whites will always exaggerate cooler colors of paint. Opposites (or compliments as they’re called in the color world) always exaggerate each other. It’s the law, I didn’t make it up, it’s a law of optics. Contrast creates outlines and shapes which can be very powerful. Use caution with extremes of contrast. Dark or strong body colors with crisp white trim will create a sea of rectangular boxes (otherwise known as windows) which will march across the face of your house in a distracting way. Corner boards and gutters too contrast-y can make your home look like a gingerbread house.
Just as the right shoes can make an outfit, so can the right trim put the finishing touch on your home. While the large number of whites to choose from can seem daunting, in reality there will only be a handful that are right for you. Generally if your body color is warm with yellow undertones, you will be best to choose a creamy white. If your house is a cool beige or taupe, then a bone or putty tone is correct.
How do I read undertones? Reading undertones is a skill developed by careful observation. A short cut to reading undertones for the layperson is to assemble an assortment of 6 or more different swatches of whites. Cut all the white borders off of the chips so that only the paint remains. Get a piece of gray cardboard and assemble all the white paint chips on it. As you place these chips next to each other, you will more readily see that some are greenish, some rosy, some ash-y, and some are more yellow. Now you are on to something. Once you have decided what the undertone is, you are ready to choose the white which will best compliment your body color.