David Crosson’s Interior Design Blog

I’m All About The Base… And Case

Or When It Comes to Paint, It’s Not Always the White Answer

Base and case (baseboards and window casings as they are called in the biz) are the kind of architectural elements that can really trip up a space. Oftentimes they are treated as afterthoughts as opposed to details in which the devil lurks. I frequently equate them to the cuffs and collar of a shirt because they really make the rest of the garment (read: room) make sense. (Note: crown molding is a whole other matter and one I prefer to deal with on a case by case basis.).

All too often, people think they are somehow duty-bound to paint base and case white—or at least a very close cousin. This could not be further from the truth: these elements must be considered as part of the overall colour scheme and dealt with accordingly. There is a misconception that white trim (I loathe the word ‘trim’ but there you have it) is somehow the most traditional option, but if you look at actual historical properties they embrace a clever interplay that makes the rooms within all the more charming.

Consider the depth and richness of a pale mouse-brown molding against chalky Dijon-coloured walls. Or the drama of barely-there blue against a background of elegant sage. The combinations, possibilities and attendant joy are endless and so worthy of exploration. Those playing card-sized paint chips are great for this as you can try layering one over the other, creating small borders to effect the look of molding and the appropriate proportion.

One thing people don’t seem to grasp is that base and case need not be a contrasting colour at all. Painting out trim (ugh) instantly modernizes a space, taking the emphasis off the details and allowing the eye to travel around the room. The generally accepted rule of thumb is that base and case three inches wide or less should be painted out the wall colour (at that proportion it’s a function, not a feature) and anything wider can be.

Notice I said “can be”—it’s your home and you can do with it as you like. For the most part, however, contrasting trim does evoke a more traditional vibe while tone-on-tone appears more contemporary. (And heavy, deep, detailed base and case painted out is simply devastating, a word I never use to describe anything even remotely negative.)

If drama is what you’re after in a space, high-contrast base, case and moulding is sometimes the best way to achieve that in abundance.

If drama is what you’re after in a space, high-contrast base, case and moulding is sometimes the best way to achieve that in abundance.

I would be remiss if I didn’t use this opportunity to mention one of my favourite finishing tricks of all time. Whenever I need a really durable and attractive baseboard solution I turn to Johnsonite. Their Millwork series is offered in a variety of profiles, from sleek and modern to deeply channeled and traditional. A great thing about these all-rubber baseboards (they’re actually thick but pliable strips) is that they take a punch and never look less than brand-new.

Better still, they come in more than 120 colours, from subtle to spectacular and it’s always fun to mix the latter with the most classic of profiles. In my bathroom I have their Diplomat design (5” deep and decidedly curvaceous) rendered in a lustrous, slightly metallic taupe and the effect is at once attractive, durable and easy to clean. You can check out more of Johnsonite’s Millwork line here:  http://wallbase.johnsonite.com/

I suppose I may have gotten off track a bit by waxing amorous about rubber baseboards but I think it does underscore my assertion that having your base and case contribute to the success of a room should always be a priority and not an afterthought. Give it a shot the next time you repaint a room. And If all else fails, contact me…

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