Should you paint skirting boards?

The question whether you should paint your skirting boards often comes up in design discussions and there is no clear wining answer. It is, after all, down to personal taste and the look and feel that you want to achieve in your personal space. Advocates of skirting board painting like Farrow and Ball's Creative Director Joa Studholme and Interior Designer Abigail Ahern are adamant that your space will be transformed when you move away from white gloss.


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The Case for white skirting


If your home is newly built, you might be forgiven for hoping to add lots of character to it with moulding in most rooms and ornate skirting boards. In many instances, this work has beautiful results as shown in image 1.


On the other hand, why not embrace the fact that your home is contemporary and finish the rooms in minimalist square MDF skirting (Image 2) that is easy to clean and looks great when combined with an off white or light grey wall.


If you are still undecided, paint brand Dulux advices that you should choose a crisp, pure white colour although, as a rule of thumb, your skirting boards should follow the same colour tone as your walls.


Leave the skirting white if

  • you are undecided about colour

  • want skirting to blend in with a light coloured wall

  • deliberately want to create contrast with a darker painted wall (Image 3-4)

Image 1: Rue Mag | Photography: Gabe Border ​
Image 2: Agata Dimmich for Passionshake
Image 3: Designer Chloe Warner | Photography: Laure Joliet | Architectural Digest
Image 4: Delightful EU

Compare the different looks - a Victorian home entrance in similarly dark colours. One home has the skirting boards painted white, while the other has them painted dark.

Left: Photography by James Merrell | Right: the home of Laura Chambers, image credit: Philip Lauterbach 



The case for painted skirting boards


This is a trend that has been going strong for a few years now, mostly because more people than ever decorate their homes in an array of colours - especially dark colours - and share these on social.


Queen of dark interiors, Abigail Ahern has always advocated painted skirting boards, to draw attention away from them and make a wall feel taller by increasing the painted surface to beyond the space between skirting board and coving.


And there is compelling evidence that historically, one-colour rooms was the norm, especially with Victorian homes. Ahern insists that reducing the break-up lines on the wall (skirting-wall-dado rails-coving) is aesthetically more pleasing and can create a dramatic effect.


It is easier too - how many times have you tried to paint a wall and went a little on the coving, a little on the skirting and spent precious time trying to clean them up or putting up tape to cover both?


Another reason to paint your skirting boards is to allow beautiful details around the room to really take prime position in everyone's focus. Maybe you wish to show off a certain piece of furniture? To make it shine, you could adjust how the room is painted so that all that the eye sees is that specific piece (Image 5,6,7).


Maybe you wish for the whole room to have a softer effect; choosing a light share (like Slaked Lime by Little Greene) and painting both walls and skirting boards 'smooths the edges' and can be very pleasing to the eye.


Paint the skirting if

  • You want to make a space feel more spacious

  • You want to make a space feel uniform

  • You want to create a dramatic effect (using dark colours)

  • You want to smooth the edges (using lighter colours)

  • You want to let a particular piece of furniture or art really shine

  • You have a dado rail and want to paint one colour from the floor to the dado rail!

Image 5 - Farrow & Ball

Above: Worsted, an accent colour from the ever popular Easy Neutrals group of paints by Farrow & Ball, looks elegant and uncomplicated on the walls of this master bathroom.

Image 6: Designed by Godrich Interiors | Project: London Pied a terre
Image 7: Designed by Godrich Interiors | Project: London Pied a terre

For similar wall colour try: Dulux Twilight Cinders 4 50RB 48/051 or Dulux English Lavender 70BB 55/044

Image 8: Little Greene paint colours in a landing

Walls: Shallows 223 Trim: Jack Black 119 Door Inset: Smalt 255 Floor: Air Force Blue 260


Whether you choose to paint your skirting on not, one thing is certain: your skirting boards need to be in good condition to make your home look good. Damaged boards need to be replaced promptly and when choosing an alternative, the style of your home will help you decide on the design that you will need to install. If only part of your boards need replacing, you should look at vendors who provide a variety of styles to find one that is closest to your existing design.

Based in London,  United Kingdom,  Jenny Kakoudakis is the founder, 

creative director and writer behind Seasonsincolour.com

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