What Color Do I Paint The Molding?

Fireplace in Den

Sanding In Den

Second Floor Den

Second Floor Den Looking Out At Windows

Two Doorways in Den

We are almost done stripping and sanding the den. I should probably get a handle on what color I want to paint the room. I know I lot of you have commented that I should leave the molding as is. I’m not a huge fan of all wood rooms, it’s way too masculine for my taste. The floors will get stripped eventually so we can all get our shiny wood fix.

We have found areas of green stain on the wood which looks like it could have been the original color. I have come across photos green molding in a number of historic homes. Part of me would like to honor the tradition but at the same time I am leaning towards something more modern. Paint the wood green or paint the walls green and paint the molding cream or a combo of both? Below a few photos I am using for inspiration.

I could paint parts of the molding green like the images below from Michael Smith and Farrow & Ball. Oh gosh, I just don’t know. In this case I wish someone would tell me what to do. At least I know I want the room to be green.

p.s. I added more photos of the room and a video (click over for the video, it made my server crash) so everyone could get a better idea of the space. The video was taken at 11 am when the room gets the most morning light. I imagine the room being airy and cozy with a rolled armed sofa, floral accents and stripes.




Related Posts:
Green Paint Inspiration
House Renovation: Fixing Doorway & Ceiling Conversation
Choosing Paint Colors for Den


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71 Comments

  1. It’s really a nice and helpful piece of info. I am satisfied that you shared this helpful information with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. oop – if you do go with a whitish color trim – BM Alabaster 876 might be worth looking at.. although I am not sure if it would be distinct enough to flow well with the crisp white trim elsewhere.. have fun!!!

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  3. You’ve expended so much energy stripping the paint! is the wood in nice enough condition to stain or Cetol?

    For green – yes – as above, having recently painted through several iterations of green in a powder room, HC116 Guilford Green is by far the keeper! On our walls, it is cheerful yet classic and significantly less “khahki” than the online and sample papers. The color consultant at our paint store insisted I try it. She was right. We used an anti mildew, scrubbable formula.

    With the blue hallway behind, a creamy Triscuity yellow wall – Sherwin Williams ‘Napery’ — or even yellower, might be nice, bright.

    Also – if you have not already, check out Portola Paints for wall treatments/ideas — Venetian Plasters, Roman Clays – I am eager to test them out on the old walls in our home..
    Good luck

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  4. Ok, I love the idea of the green trim but I am thinking play it safe with white or cream trim and green on the walls. I think it will make the space feel more open and in the end give you the freedom to play around with what is in the space.

    Good Luck!

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  5. White or cream. Classic, easy to change wall colors, and the detail in the molding will be more visible. Whatever you do, just don’t paint it bright pink or bright blue paired with gold metallic vinyl walpaper. My first house had that in all of the rooms, NOT a good look for anyone!

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  6. The green & cream scheme is lovely. I tried some of the paler, more modern greens from Benjamin Moore & loved them. Really lift your spirits in winter!

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  7. Lots of opinions – here’s another!

    I have a 100 year old house in Braintree (moved to Isarel last year, but still own it, my brother lives there now). Before we moved in 6 years ago, we spent 4 months stripping, sanding, skim-coating, varnishing, painting, blah….every wall and floor and ceiling in the house.

    I love painted mouldings and wanted to do that in my dining room. But after walking in and out of the room repeatedly and visualizing it, I knew it wasn’t meant to be. It didn’t “go” with the house. The rest of the house has an off-white color for the mouldings (I think ‘Birch’ from California paint). We ended up painting the walls a red pepper color and putting in a chair rail and it looks “right”.

    If I had painted the moulding instead, I would have loved the room, but if I looked into the room from any other room – gah! My eyes! It would have looked all wrong.

    Totally up to you, or course, but I love the green (my living room is that same soft sage color from one of the photos). I’m not sure how painted mouldings are going to look with an exposed beam – maybe like the floors and the ceiling come from one time period and the walls and mouldings from another. I’d really take advantage of the bottom wainscotting. Maybe put up “picture frames” around it and do something creative with the painting (or even wallpaper in the frames), kind of like the “boxes” on the bottom wainscotting wall in the second photo, but instead of all one color, use a different color or texture in the boxes- happy painting!

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  8. I vote for white trim. You have so many beams and windows and doors- if you paint them a strong color = visual confusion. White or off-white will unify and bring out the classic lines of your great old house. Depending on what you choose for wall color, you could have some fun on the ceiling.

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  9. I would keep the trim and the wall paints quite close in colour if not the same maybe one flat one gloss, because two colours with a big tonal change can make the room smaller and chopped up looking, though I have to say there is something yummy about the look of the stripped wood as it is,

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  10. after commenting earlier today, we ended up walking around town and stopped into the hooper mansion. the downstairs gallery, right when you walk in, is painted in white and light green trim. i’m sure you’ve been there before, but it really does look so classic and bright…

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  11. Katy — this may sound silly, but in the 1994 film version of Little Women the moldings were painted this beautiful earthy green color. May be worth checking it out. The sets were beautiful

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  12. Love the green in the 1st pic. Just wondering if it would get hard to change the room if you decided to go with it. I also think a grayed off tan would be nice. So much is dependent on what your other thoughts/furniture/rugs are for the room. I think if you’ve got an itch for green you should go for it. We painted our LR in chalkboard paint and EVERYONE tried to talk us out of it but we did it and love it!

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  13. i love all four of those photos and the work you’ve done looks amazing! the beams and woodwork are so lovely. i know it can get overwhelming with all of the possibilities, but i hope both of you are patting yourselves on the back at the same time.

    i really like the 1st picture, but personally i would enjoy something along the lines of pictures 2 & 3 every day.

    i would vote for staining the ceiling and leaving the beams exposed, but i gather you’d like to cover them and have the wood flooring exposed instead. so, i would paint the ceiling in white (BM simply white or something like that) with oil-based stain kill and do the walls, trim, mantle in a creamy, off-white like BM vapor or mascarpone. nothing too yellowy though. then i would paint the lower half and maybe even the doors in a green. i like BM kittery point green. it feels earthy.

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  14. I love the photo of the green trim, but I think in reality you might be happier with cream. For one, it’s so much easier to re-paint a wall if you feel like changing the color scheme. I have also gotten the impression from the photos you’ve posted so far that your house gets nice but perhaps indirect light? I feel like the dark trim would only work in a BRIGHT room with high ceilings.

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  15. Hi Katie!
    I’m new to your blog (big fan already – yeah! ) but I’m a huge fan of moulding and I have to chime in on this one…. Pure white wood and then color on the walls. It will look classic and timeless, I promise. Also it will really frame out the green you choose for the wall. Good luck! sooo much fun. xoxo

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  16. I love painted wood. We just purchased a cabin with wood walls every where (including the ceiling).

    I think you will LOVE the Farrow & Ball green (satin). However, do not paint your wood ceiling this color. It will feel like a box. Since your walls might be cream, your ceiling should be 2-3 shades darker in cream. It will give it an elegant feel.

    OR

    If you paint your trim cream (high gloss), paint your walls a very pale green(flat). You can use a paint stain on your ceiling. Use a deep mocha. This dark ceiling will become infinite. It will make the ceiling appear taller. I did this with my family room and its my favorite… and other friends/clients have used this combo too (0nly with a wood ceiling).

    Your room has tons of character! What ever choice you make will be breathtaking.

    P.S. Do not use period colors unless your entire home will reflect period. Best advice: choose the colors you love most.

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  17. Restoration Hardware Silver Sage on the walls and cream for the moldings.If you tire of the green, it’s easier to repaint flat walls than intricate moldings. Good luck!

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  18. I PAINTED MY BEDROOMS A VERY SIMILAR SHADE OF GREEN AND WAS VERY SURPRISED TO FIND HOW TIRED I BECAME OF THE COLOR AFTER ABOUT 2 YEARS.

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  19. Katie,
    I love the molding’s beautifully aged patina that you have uncovered! Makes me think of how long it has been since it has seen the light of day/how long it’s been since it’s been seen. Have you considered not painting it? Maybe just painting the plaster? It’s not easy to get the feel of antiquity that you have achieved here!

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  20. The important thing to remember is that you are going to be living in the room, meaning to dramatic or to harsh a color scheme will be tiring after awhile. Keeping the choice based on historic tradition is fine, I mean viewing the room in mid-centry terms would not be appropriate, but put your own personality into the choice of color. Soft gray green, blue etc. would probably meet your temptation to be historically correct but would give the room some personality and calm.

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  21. go for white or offwhite trim – i have a great color to suggest, I am a decorative painter and visual artist, and when working on a large house recently, the interior designer picked the Benjamin Moore color “powder sand OC-113” in satin impervo which is just gorgeous!
    It’s not stark and its not cream – really elegant.
    I say to do a light color trim because it looks like the ceiling height is low and this will make the rooms look large and airy.
    Good luck whatever you pick

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  22. Wow! When I looked at your ‘before’ pictures I cringed. I can’t believe the difference! I love the traditional look – painted moldings with cream walls. I love # 1 and # 2. (the green from # 2) With that in mind, I have the same struggle.. my downstairs trim is creamy white, and my upstairs is the traditional painted trim (tan) – it bothers me there is no continuity in the house, yet I can’t bring myself to paint the downstairs tan, or the upstairs trim white… LOL Good luck with your decision and for your renovations. Just amazing!

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  23. I like the green trim. I would darken it up a-bit, Like a forest green. I would go with a November rain for the walls though, Not really feeling the creamy color. Hope this helps.

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  24. Definitely a sage or gray green molding with white or cream walls. Check out Historic New England’s Historic Paint Colors palette. What you want is a Colonial Williamsburg-type soft gray green.

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  25. I have to tell you, I have been reading your blog for awhile now and I just love it. Your home projects are getting me so excited for the expected work that will come when we buy our house. Also, I think that the green walls with cream molding would be beautiful. Have a great weekend!

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  26. I vote for white/off-white molding. I have been a fan of your celery green walls with white molding inspiration since I first read about it. I think it will look much more clean and balanced. But if you are smitten then just do the bottom molding green and leave the top molding white it will expand the room.

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  27. Fyi if you like the look of F&B colors but they don’t fit your budget. Get the color matched at your local paint store.

    Waters & Browns in Salem, Ma converted my paint chips to Benjamin Moore.

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  28. Hi…we have a very long wall that is the same green of the bottom pic…and we love it.
    The green of the top pic, and a cream would have that old fashioned enamel cake tin look…fun!

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  29. I am just putting my two cents in as well! I completely agree that you should paint the molding. I do love the green.

    I grew up in a house about the same age as yours in Western Mass that my parents lovingly restored and I also think there is something nice about blue molding like the blue on these doors. http://www.exploretessera.com/images/collection/antique-doors/doors-peru1.jpg

    –Devon

    PS that raisin bread looks so delicious i am going to make some tomorrow!

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  30. I know there are already a lot of opinions on here, but I just wanted to say that I’ve always been impressed with your ability to take risks and be unapologetic about it. Painting the molding a color is that weird risky thing that you seem like just the person to pull off.

    Just to put in my two cents, I find the second picture to be the more modern looking of the painted trim pics. I think both the green and cream looks are gorgeous, and it just comes down to how daring you want to be.

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  31. the second photo (with two figures)is my favorite, given that you really love the green. What I like about that room is that the articulated details still show lots of shadows (light interplay) so you get the best of the color and the best of the molding.
    I can also see adding an olive piece like the table in the last photo.

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  32. Oh my gosh, your house is going to be amazing! I see the appeal of the green moldings, but I would do cream or white instead. That way, if you decide at some point that you’ve had enough of your wall color, the trim doesn’t have to be redone to coordinate with it. Also, I just like the idea of continuity – – using the same color for trim (as a few other readers have mentioned) throughout.

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  33. oooh this decision would drive me CRAZY!!!

    there’s something really really appealing to me about leaving the moldings in their raw wood state. but i can understand wanting a more finished, polished look than that. in that case, even though i do love the LOOK of the green moldings, i’d say do them white. i find that when they’re super elaborate like yours are, painting them white allows the texture and detailing to really shine through, as opposed to making it about the color…does that make sense?

    on the topic of green paint, if you haven’t already chosen an exact shade, check out benjamin moore’s ‘Gray Lake, Gray Cashmere, Misted Green’ family. They’re a gray/green color set that seems pistachio in some light, heathery in others, and could really work for the refined/ethereal/earthy balance it seems like you’re trying to achieve. (and much more budget friendly than f&b!)

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  34. I live in a historic colonial and the first project on our to do list after buying was to paint all the grey moldings, windows, built-ins off white. But fixing mechanics took priority and after living with the grey for a few months I started to love it. It’s traditional and we ended up painting the walls Bone White (Ben Moore). All our main living areas have the same trim and wall color. The bedrooms, office, etc. have different colors on the trim.
    So for what it’s worth, I vote for the green.

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  35. Jane, “Cooking Apple Green” from Farrow & Ball is a good one. I just ordered their update color cards. They have some new paints colors I am dying to see.

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  36. I would paint the trim white and the walls the green (Farrow and Ball have a lovely chalky texture – I love Cooking Apple Green!)

    I think in part I would choose this for longevity… it’s easier to change up the walls than the trim if you tire of the green. And crisp white trim is never short of spectacular.

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  37. Katy – I love the F&B “Card Room Green” as shown in the 2nd picture. Grey/Green trim with off white walls seems just about perfect to me. I know after all the hard work of stripping old paints (on all that beautiful woodwork) it will be hard to paint but think of a topiary against the white/cream with the grey/green below – luscious!!! Besides, color on the walls puts big limits on the room. Whatever you choose – green is the way to go (even if you “kick it up” as in the Michael Smith photo). Do you want the room to be calm or a little lively? I can also see wonderful natural linen fabrics – love the room!

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  38. Funny enough, I have to agree with Amy in #23 (and not just because we share a name!)

    When it came to painting the trim in my 1850’s Philadelphia row home, I went with a white, even though I am a total color addict. After week’s of using a heat gun to remove layers of mustard trim paint from the previous home owners, I couldn’t bare the thought of painting the trim a color and not liking it. So my color is on the walls…but I must admit the idea to treat some of that lower molding with a darker tonal green to compliment the walls sounds amazing, and a little have your cake and eat it too.

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  39. Hi Katy,
    I’m interested in surface texture of your walls and thought you might use a wash of the peach colored Structolite as a final plaster coat. For a more rustic effect, you could add finely chopped straw and hard trowel/polish the surface. You would have to seal the finish with a water-based polymer to reduce the usual staining and marring that occurs in ever-day use.

    The green stained trim really appeals to me too! Maybe a milk paint?
    Thanks for sharing your efforts!
    Robyn

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  40. Farrow & Ball paints are very nice and there is a wide enough selection that you could use green on the mouldings and skirting boards, cream above the moulding (we’d call it a dado rain over here) and then a lighter shade on the central section of the wood between skirting and dado.

    Your room is just gorgeous and if I were selecting paints, I’d go for a combination like Farrow & Ball’s Saxon green for the dado and skirting, Green Ground for the rest of the wood panel and whichever cream pleases you above the dado.

    Do you get Craig & Rose (craigandrose.com) paints over there? They are just as nice as F&B but less watery, which is helpful if you’re not painting on to thirsty old lime plaster. You still get the lovely chalky finish and they’re not as madly expensive as F&B.

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  41. I personally always feel that a house should always have either white or cream trim and carry the color throughout all the woodwork in the house.

    I also love the idea of using mostly cream trim, but maybe treat the bottom panel as a wainscotting with the darker green, and the rest of the wall above the trim in the lighter green similar to the bedroom in the last photo.

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  42. Katy, the color should be a function of what is on the floor & where the light in the room comes from because the color will change as rh e sun moves. I say keep the top light & use green on bottom because room will look larger & brighter

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  43. I’m with Ben, above, on the institutional look of both the rooms with the green trim, and much prefer the green walls and cream trim. It gives a much more modern look.

    Have you seen Benjamin Moore’s “Pale Straw”? I’ve used it on the trim in many rooms — including my library with its pale green walls, similar to library photo in your blog.

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  44. Hi Katy,

    I love the concept of the first pic, but I agree with you that the shade of green may be a little off.

    Other than that, like Monica above I also think that grey would work well, even if green is hands down my favourite color.

    Keep up with the good work,

    Renata

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  45. I was told once that as a rule of thumb you should do skirting boards/mouldings etc. a shade or two darker than the walls.

    Are you familiar with Farrow & Ball colours (they’re an English brand of wall paint that takes inspiration/copies old historical colours)? They’re gorgeous, check them out.

    (I’d go for grey… or taupe… like the blankets you bought)

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  46. My living room is similar and I have green walls and white wainscoting, trim, and ceiling. The room is light, soft, and inviting. I get the most compliments on the green paint, it is a custom mixed color. The floors are bleached pine. I definitely recommend test large areas when you have it primed under various light conditions. I’m not sure how you define a den? I think the role of the room has a relationship to the color selection. We have a room where we watch TV which might be considered a den and it is more of a cozy room. Also, your house is lovely and has so much potential. I know it can be so frustrating, but it will be well worth it!

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  47. I am an absolute fan of crisp white molding. It adds a certain amount of polish to the room. I would suggest that, and then perhaps a green on the walls. I even think a medium grey with white molding looks fab.

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  48. I wish you would take uglier pictures because that top photo makes me vote for not touching it at all. Do you remember that house from MS magazine that had the same patina look? Where they didn’t touch the woodwork or old walls? Hate to say it, but that’s one of my favorite spreads and it reminds me of your walls above. So, my vote…don’t change a thing!!

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  49. The second image works best. I have painted rooms in both the colorways you suggest, and white walls with green trim does not work. It looks accidental, like a rental where you painted only the trim and left the walls as is.

    Whatever you do, test first.

    Also, Farrow and Ball will work especially well in your house, as the colors are from exactly the same era. If you know someone with a wholesale license, the price is pretty close to Benjamin Moore.

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  50. LOVE the green trim with cream in both that temple of bathing and the big reception hall/room. The greyer green trim in the second photo is my preference, but I am a cool color person. It’s really coming along, I am in awe of your progress. Congrats.

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  51. The ceiling is getting covered. But we have a beam that goes across the middle of the space that will stay exposed.
    I was thinking about doing a little video of the room tomorrow so everyone could a better idea of the space.

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  52. 1. the more i read about your renovation, the more impressed i am. you guys are such troopers!
    2. that third photo (and the one below it in your other green/cream inspiration post) is what i dream of–it really has been stuck in my head. i might be in the minority here, but i really dig the green walls (yes, celery/earthy!) with the cream trim. so maybe hearing different voices will help you figure out what your own inner voice is saying? i can’t wait to see the result!

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  53. I find green on the moldings looks institutional as in the third photo you’ve given. (In the second photo, the green is perhaps unusually effective because of the molding strip further up the wall and the elaborate windows.) Cream makes a great molding colour but can be boring all over. (We have Farrow&Ball Dimity walls and Wimborne White modlings.) Did you see this on using olive paint?

    http://www.pointclickhome.com/blogs/stylemonger/revive_forgotten_color

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  54. I definitely love the first inspiration shot the best — dramatic but classic. And I love when trim is painted a color. The den will be so pretty with some green. So exciting that you’re getting close to painting!

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  55. ben moore HC 117 is a nice green, not as creamy as the one in the photo but maybe a place to start.
    really amazing job katy
    you should be so proud of what you guys have accomplished in such a short amount of time.

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  56. Hi Liane,

    I don’t know the name of the color from the top photo. I am sure we could e-mail the designer and ask.

    I prefer the green more in the second photo. Something more celery and earthy.

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  57. i vote for the green trim with cream walls, too. it looks very chic. especially in the second photo. and i love the nod toward the traditional.

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  58. I like the green woodwork in the first pic. I’m not a fan of cream molding with green or other color wall. But that’s just me. Do you know the color/brand of the grren in that top image?
    Liane

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  59. I love the green trim. I just painted my lower kitchen cupboards the same green and I love it(I would love a bathroom like that, too). I will say though, that all the trim in my house is white and keeping it looking good and free from nicks is a pain. One time I just walked around the house with a can of white paint and a brush in my hand touching up whatever I saw! lol.

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  60. hmm, definitely with you on painting the molding. and i think i might go with green on the molding itself…but it all depends on the shade…hmm…

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  61. Keep it historic, grren molding, cream walls. Besides, I think the cream color on the walls will hide the walls imperfections.

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