The #1 Paint Trick We Learned From Pro Designers

Less paint, bigger impact.

Real Simple Home 2022 Painting Tricks, dining room with blue staircase
Photo: Photography by Laurey Glenn / Styling by Zoë Gowen

For the 2022 Real Simple Home, we collaborated with design pros to make over a three-story beach house in the Rosemary Beach community in Walton County, Fla. Throughout the revamped house (take the full tour here), paint plays a major role, lending personality and style to almost every single room. Besides serving as a treasure trove of paint color inspo, the house holds the key to a brilliant paint job: high-contrast trim. Several of the designers put this paint trick to use in their spaces, drawing the eye to architectural details and adding interest with just one gallon of paint. By keeping many of the walls bright white and letting high-contrast window frames, staircases, and interior doors make a statement, the designers delivered the drama while keeping the overall look of the house clean, calm, and modern. Check out the inspiration below, then go ahead and paint the stairs or moldings in your own home.

Christopher Testani

Paint the Stair Railings

Too often, transitional spaces such as staircases are overlooked as opportunities for bold design moves. But design pro Gina Gutierrez of Gina Rachelle Design didn't miss a chance to make a statement. By painting the stair railings Pitch Cobalt, Gina draws your eye up the stairs, inviting you to explore the second floor. To balance the space, she painted an interior door the same hue but left the rest of the room fairly neutral so these splashes of color can shine.

Christopher Testani

Highlight Architectural Interest

"I have always been a fan of contrasting trim," Gina says. "I actually encourage a lot of our clients to do this as it is a great way to have a traditional look with a modern twist." It's also an opportunity to call attention to features of note in the home, whether that's a high ceiling, cool archways, or in this case, fantastic windows. "The windows in this space are truly beautiful and I knew that showcasing them in a strong color was going to make them stand out even more and create a beautiful focal point," the designer explains. Consider the points of architectural interest in your own home, then let a gallon of paint bring them extra attention.

Christopher Testani

Choose Contrasting Interior Doors

The walls of the guest suite were painted a frothy shade of peach, while the interior doors got a deeper coral color. Closet and bathroom doors generally aren't high on the home design to-do list, but when coated with either a high-contrast color or even a paint that's just a few shades darker than the wall, it makes the space feel fresh.

Real Simple Home 2022 with fridge and high-contrast blue paint
Photography by Laurey Glenn / Styling by Zoë Gowen

Create an Eye-Catching Island

Long gone are the days when your kitchen island had to match the cabinets. Embrace a two-tone kitchen with the island and cabinets painted two coordinated colors. Or, for a subtle burst of color, leave the rest of the room neutral and brush a contrasting hue on just the island. In Gina's design, the Pitch Cobalt island joins a palette of blues, including watery tiles from Fireclay Tile and blue glassware.

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