Paint trim colors and other extremely important issues

If there were such a thing as a paint celebrity (ridiculous notion, I realize), Benjamin Moore White Dove would be it.

Benjamin Moore White Dove, found on #RoomLust
Photo by Karyn Millet

White Dove is a cool, modern white with a very faint taupe cast. Everyone totally loves it.

And if your paint obsession is anything like mine, doubtless you know that Benjamin Moore’s White Dove is the industry’s best-selling color for trim. (If not, this whole post is going to be a crashing bore, so please go read something important, like how cantaloupe can kill people.)

But if you’re still with me —  hi! — you know that White Dove is one big kahuna. It’s the Linen White of molding: the can’t-miss, call-it-in color.

Here’s what Doty Horn, Benjamin Moore’s director of color and design, says about White Dove:

The one color that people consistently pick for moldings and windows is White Dove. It has the softness of alabaster, with a little gray and a little yellow. For long-term livability, what helps is that yellow cast. Put it up against other colors and you’ll see how well it works. It’s practically universal.

Credit: Pieter Estersohn, Elle Decor, July 2007

Above, in this bathroom designed by Jeffrey Bilhuber, the wainscoting is painted White Dove.

Kitchen painted White Dove, via Roomlust

Above, total kitchen porno. The cabinets are painted White Dove and the island is Arctic Shadows, also by Benjamin Moore.

Eames shells and rustic table, via Roomlust

Above, a dining area painted White Dove with Eames shell chairs.

Now, a little gem from Domino:

Credit: Annie Schlechter, Domino

The floors of this tiny apartment, above, are painted White Dove. Farrow & Ball “Five over Stripe” wallpaper.

Credit: Annie Schlechter, Domino

The Dino sofa above is from Classic Sofa and is covered in Slubby Linen by Calico Corners. Corinth convex mirror from Distant Origin.

But back to White Dove:

Painted kitchen floors: Pratt & Lambert gray + white cabinets + green interiors
Don Freeman

Above, an awesome riff on the all-white kitchen. Walls and cabinets are painted White Dove; the floors are Gunnel by Pratt & Lambert. Elkay stainless-steel Farmhouse sink.

Classic white living room: Benjamin Moore neutral shades + soft fabrics + pelment

This living room, above, is perfect inspiration if you’re considering using a bunch of different whites in one room. The inner wall molding is painted Spanish White, the outer wall molding is White Dove, the molding and crown trim is White Opulence (very similar to White Dove), and the ceiling is Sand Dollar, all by Benjamin Moore.

Credit: William Waldron, Elle Decor, Dec. 2009

Above, designer Philip Gorrivan lacquered the ceiling of his Upper East Side apartment in White Dove. Love the use of color here, and how Gorrivan uses symmetry to reign in a busy space. Thetis sofa by Andrew Martin International upholstered in a linen Gorrivan designed for Highland Court. The ikat pillow fabric is by Donghia.

Credit: House Beautiful

Above, White Dove paired with sunny yellow — Showtime, also by Benjamin Moore.

Credit: Tom Stringer Design Partners

Above, the ceiling is painted White Dove, the walls are Benjamin Moore Mushroom Cap, and the hutch is Benjamin Moore Harlequin Blue. Fretwork chairs by Hickory Chair; Denville chandeliers from Dessin Fournir.

Credit: Kflaim, Flickr

Above, a mantle painted White Dove with Silver Fox on the walls.

Terrific contrast in this living room, above, with dark wide-planked floors, White Dove on the trim and Benjamin Moore’s Titanium on the walls.

Below, an awesome before-and-after in designer T. Keller Donovan’s hallway.

First, the before:

Michael Price
Michael Price

And below, the after:

Michael Price
Michael Price

What a difference. Donovan stained the floors and painted the walls Summer Shower by Benjamin Moore and the trim and doors White Dove.

Credit: Victoria Pearson, House Beautiful

Above, mega-drama with black vinyl wallpaper (which looks like lacquer) and shield-back English hall chairs painted Benjamin Moore White Dove.

Speaking of lacquer, if you’re lacquering anything, from your front door to your front teeth, check out Hollandlac Brilliant from Fine Paints of the Europe.

Credit: Tria Giovan, Elle Decor

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Above, an entry with White Dove on the trim.

Credit: James Merrell, House Beautiful, Oct. 2009

Above, designer Meg Braff painted the walls and trim White Dove in an East Hampton house.

Credit: Laura Moss, House Beautiful, March 2007

Above, a kitchen designed by Christopher Peacock with high-gloss White Dove cabinets. Carrot valance, anyone?

White Dove’s Competition

Of course, White Dove isn’t the only game in town. Competing for the trim title (sorry) is Cloud White, another favorite from Benjamin Moore. Macleans has a great article on Cloud White, detailing its back story and cultish appeal:

(Interior designer) Dana Smithers… finds (Cloud White) so handy that she uses it as the accent colour in every house she’s staging. ‘There’s no discussion,’ the North Vancouver designer states. She doesn’t even show other shades of white to new clients.

Green bedroom with Benjamin Moore Cloud White, via Roomlust
Credit: House Beautiful

Above, a bedroom painted the palest celery green, Porter Paints’ Parsley Tint, with Cloud White on the trim.

Living room painted Benjamin Moore Golden Straw and Cloud White, via Roomlust
Credit: House Beautiful

Above, the trim is Cloud White and the walls are Golden Straw, also by Benjamin Moore.

White kitchen painted Benjamin Moore Cloud White, via Roomlust
Credit: House Beautiful

This entire kitchen, above, is painted Cloud White.

Other Trim Options

Below, for your consideration, are 15 designer favorites for trim. (All colors are by Benjamin Moore.) Comparing the colors in a grid helps us see their different casts:

Designers' favorite Benjamin Moore paint trim colors, via Roomlust

Top row (L to R): White Dove, Monterey White, China White, Barely Beige, Acadia White.
Middle row: Bone White, Atrium White, Rich Cream, Linen White, Super White.
Bottom row: Mayonnaise, Cloud White, Decorator’s White, Ivory White, Seashell.

Choosing a Finish — and a Color

Some designers have specific opinions about trim colors and finishes. Take Steven Gambrel:

The door should be the darkest color, the trim slightly less dark, the wall toward the lighter end, and the ceiling the lightest of the four. But all four should have a palette relationship.

Designer Phoebe Howard also weighs in:

I do the walls eggshell (finish), the ceiling flat, and the trim slightly shinier.

But how to choose a color? First, consider the color of your walls. If you’re working with a green room, a neutral trim color with pink undertones might not look so hot.

Also decide whether you want high or subtle contrast. If it’s the latter and white trim doesn’t appeal to you, try painting your trim the same color as the walls, in a semi- or high-gloss formula. Doing so can modernize a space and create the illusion of higher ceilings.

Green library painted Benjamin Moore Pine Brook, via Roomlust
Credit: Metropolitan Home

In the library above, walls and trim are painted Pine Brook by Benjamin Moore. The paint color wasn’t mentioned in the magazine, so I emailed the editors to ask! (For some reason this makes me immensely proud.)

You can also create your own trim color: ask the folks at the paint store to mix a quart of your wall color to 25 percent or 50 percent strength. And you can go darker, too: brown, gray and black look great on trim, and can create unexpected, interesting color combinations.

Below, walls are painted Benjamin Moore Sea Haze and trim is Benjamin Moore Silver Dollar (which looks much bluer in this photo than on the paint chip).

Gray-blue living room painted Benjamin Moore Sea Haze and Silver Dollar, via Roomlust
Credit: Elle Decor

Below, Jay Jeffers painted this San Francisco living room Benjamin Moore Persimmon and used Benjamin Moore Bear Creek on the trim:

Benjamin Moore Persimmon + Bear Creek, via #RoomLust
Photo by Joe Fletcher

Lastly, glossy black trim is always classic:

Glossy black trim, via Roomlust
Glossy black trim, via Roomlust
Credit: Design Sponge

Now, go trim!

Love forever,


2 thoughts on “Paint trim colors and other extremely important issues

  1. White dove is not foolproof. Loved it in my first house. My second house it came out totally different – pale gold – the yellow really stood out which didn’t go with the cooler tone of the rest of the rooms so had to change it. It all depends on the light.

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