So You’ve Got Dark Walls, But Want to Replace All That White Trim

Why Do I Have All This White Trim, and What Can I Do About It?

Thank you so much for writing to me. First of all, let me congratulate you on the purchase of your house! So exciting! According to your letter, this is an older home with darker-colored walls that you really like … and white trim that you really don’t. If it’s any consolation to you, white (or some shade of off-white) is probably the most common color of trim paint and other trim features in older homes, regardless of wall color. In fact, it was not so long ago that you really only had three main choices for outlet and switch covers – white, ivory, or dark brown. Thankfully, there are now many more colors from which to choose (including almond, gray, black, metallic finishes and more) for these trim accessories, and they’re also available in a number of styles. So, if you’re serious about repainting and/or replacing the trim in your new, older house with a color that’s less bright than white, you’ve definitely got options.

Start by Replacing Those Switch Plates and Outlet Covers

It might make sense to start by simply replacing your existing switch plates and outlet covers with some darker-colored plates and covers that look nice with your wall paint. Why start here, and not with your wood trim? Even though you do have color options for your replacement plates and covers, you’ll have MANY more color options for your trim paint. For that reason, I recommend starting by choosing a color of plates and covers that you like, and then you can go about choosing a color of trim paint that will work well with both your existing wall color and your new plates and covers.

It’s also worth noting that when you replace your covers and plates, the outlets and switches themselves will still be white. If that’s an issue for you, the good news is that outlets and switches are now available in non-white colors, too. Replacing those will require a little more effort on your part, and will also include having to unhook and re-hook the electrical wiring. But if you’re OK working with wiring, this is something that can be done as a DIY project; just BE SURE to flip off the proper breakers before you get started! If, on the other hand, you’re really not comfortable dealing with breakers and wiring, the safe bet is just to hire an electrician for the job.

Can I Just Repaint My Existing Plates and Covers?

If you’re a DIYer who’s up for the challenge, then painting the switch plate and outlet covers is also a possibility. However, I will tell you that it’s really not a good idea to try and paint the light switches or outlets themselves. The paint is likely to wear off these items quickly, and then it just ends up looking bad. But if you’re game to repaint the plates and covers, start by removing them from the wall. You’ll want to clean them thoroughly, sand lightly with ultrafine sandpaper or steel wool, clean again, prime, and then paint. Or for a custom look that doesn’t involve painting at all, you could just wrap your plates and covers with some wallpaper or other self-adhesive adornment of your choosing.

Now, On to Your Wall Trim, Doors, and Windows

Many trim pieces, doors and windows come pre-finished in white, which makes many builders and contractors happy since they don’t have to spend time painting them. That doesn’t really help you in your present circumstance, but it does help to explain why so much trim still comes in white. There is some good news that should save you some time and effort, though. If the coat of white on your existing trim is in good shape, you can paint right over it with a darker color, and not need to worry about applying a separate coat of primer first. On the other hand, if your trim paint isn’t in great condition, it will need to be sanded and primed before you can apply any new paint.

Generally speaking, you can paint over any wood trim. If you have plastic or vinyl trim, that may be printable too – just check with a painter about what your options are. If you’re looking to do the paint work yourself, carefully remove a piece of your trim and take it to your local paint store for their recommendations. And once you’re ready to start painting, it’s always a good idea to test in a hidden area first and see how it looks once it’s dry. 

Check Out JenniferAdams.com for More Helpful Tips & Ideas!

I hope these suggestions have been helpful, and I certainly wish you all the best in giving your white trim a face-lift! If you’d like to see more of my home décor tips, or would like to learn some strategies about maximizing your sleep environment, check out my Home Journal blog page. While you’re there, I invite you to take a minute and click over to peruse our Luxury Bedding Collections, as well as our other signature items that are designed to help you Love Coming Home!

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