7 Colorful Millwork Ideas to Highlight Your Home's Architecture

Colorful millwork is one of this year's top paint trends. Learn how to pull off this bold look and accent the architecture in any room.

When deciding on paint colors, walls are typically the main focus, while the trim and other millwork are often an afterthought or overlooked completely. In many homes, the baseboards, window trim, door frames, stair rails, and other woodwork are simply painted white or stained with a wood finish to recede into the room's design. But now, these elements are stepping into the spotlight as colorful millwork emerges as one of this year's biggest paint trends. We've been spotting millwork painted in bold shades like green, blue, and red, and as it turns out, this popular paint idea isn't new at all.

rustic wood antique cabinet
Jay Wilde

The tradition of painting millwork dates back to Colonial times when baseboards and trim were, by necessity, crafted from locally sourced, often low-quality wood. Coating this cheap wood with dark oil-based paint provided a stronger, more attractive finish that helped disguise dirt and contrasted with the whitewashed walls in many Colonial homes.

Later, the trend shifted toward decorative painting techniques, such as faux marbleizing and wood graining, in which mantlepieces, stair risers, baseboards, and more were carefully painted to mimic the natural lines and variations of more expensive wood or marble. However, as the Victorian era yielded to the Arts and Crafts movement around the turn of the 20th century, stains and varnishes that highlight the natural wood grain replaced paint as the treatment of choice.

In today's homes, colorfully painted millwork (try using Better Homes & Gardens Interior Paint, $24, Walmart) can highlight architectural details as an unexpected accent or add personalized style to basic builder-grade features. Here are seven ways to try this traditional yet trending look.

living room soft simple
Panichgul Studios Inc

1. Select a darker shade of your wall color.

Paint millwork in a darker version of the room's wall color for contrast that still coordinates. In this living room, the window trim is painted in a deep teal color that's several shades darker than the pale grasscloth wallpaper. The same blue-green color is repeated throughout the room on furniture, throw pillows, and other accessories for a cohesive look.

colorful dining room with deep blue ceiling and yellow accents
Annie Schlechter

2. Accent the ceiling with colorful millwork.

Use color to highlight impressive architectural details, such as coffered ceilings or exposed beams. Rich royal blue paint highlights the impressive ceiling millwork in this dining room. Subtly patterned pastel wallpaper and crisp white millwork throughout the rest of the room keep the focus on the ceiling. Install an eye-catching light fixture (like this budget-friendly Better Homes & Gardens 3-Light Pendant Ceiling Light, $78, Walmart) to draw attention to the ceiling millwork.

heart bedroom simple modern
Edmund Barr

3. Add subtle color to a neutral room.

For an understated look, paint millwork in an earthy color that reads as neutral. This soft green trim, for example, introduces color to the bedroom without disrupting the subdued color scheme. Paired with creamy white walls, the warm olive molding and trim help reinforce the room's antique look. Furniture with rustic wood finishes complements the neutral walls and millwork.

den with blue painted ceilings, blue walls, and blue painted fireplace
Annie Schlechter

4. Go all in with a monochromatic look.

Coat walls and millwork in the same color for a bold, monochromatic look. Here, the same brilliant blue is splashed across the ceiling molding, window trim, doors, baseboards, and even the fireplace mantel. Select a deep, saturated shade to establish a cozy atmosphere, or opt for a lighter tint for a brightening effect.

charcoal gray built-ins hallway office farmhouse
John Granen

5. Define built-ins with a dark paint color.

Draw attention to built-in features with a deep, dramatic color. Cover the entire shelving or cabinetry with a shade like charcoal gray, hunter green, or navy blue. Dark painted millwork won't feel gloomy in rooms that receive plenty of natural light.

modern living room with teal-blue walls and black window trim
Jay Wilde

6. Try two-tone molding.

Get creative with colorful millwork ideas that highlight the unique details of your home. A trio of blue, black, and white paint colors emphasizes the ornate molding, tall windows, and built-in shelves in this living room. The white crown molding is accented with a bold line of black that draws the eye and ties in with the black-framed windows. Balance traditional millwork designs with more modern furniture (Better Homes & Gardens Mid Century Solid Wood Reclining Accent Chair, $198, Walmart).

Dining room with house artwork on wall
Carson Downing

7. Paint paneling in a moody shade.

Features like chair rails and wainscoting often lend a traditional look, but moody paint colors can quickly give millwork a modern twist. Combine two saturated colors for an edgy update that makes the millwork really pop. Here, an inky black wall color and teal-painted wainscoting add drama to this dining room.

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