Q: We have an open plan on the first floor. Is it best to stick to a single paint color?
A: Continuity is important on the ground floor, but color can help "zone" a big open space, separating the dining area from the TV room, for instance. There's no need to stick to a single color or even a single color palette that is either all warm (reds, oranges, yellows) or all cool (blues, greens, bright whites). How­ever, "by using muted, dustier values, there's a better chance the colors you choose will flow into one another," says ­Tami Ridgeway, a color stylist for Valspar. She recommends leaning toward colors softened by a bit of gray; these are ­often found in historical palettes. Bright colors can be injected in small doses as accents—in furnishings, floor coverings, even flowers.

Q: I always get confused when pain­ting a door and its casing: Where do you stop one color and start the next?
A: It's not an open-and-shut case, but the rule of thumb goes something like this: Paint the face of the door the color of the trim in the room it faces when shut, and the edges of the door the same color as the trim in the room it swings ­into. This is a good example of why, if you're using different trim colors in adjoining rooms, they need to work well together. "Doors tend to stay open, so you'll have the trim color from an adjoining room in any given space on a regular basis," observes painter Susan English. So, let's say you have a barn-red door opening into a room with pale yellow walls. "This can be an effective accent color in the space where it ­doesn't 'belong'—if it's carefully considered."

Q: What about an archway with no door or a pocket door?
A: Keeping trim color consistent in adjoining rooms that have open entryways offers a sense of cohesiveness, providing an unbroken line that is pleasing to the eye. In an open plan, consider painting all the trim white, even where wall colors vary.

Q: Got any advice for painting a wall with a chair rail?
A: First, figure out what effect you're after. Keeping color consistent above and below the rail keeps the look clean and highlights the molding itself. Opting for a lighter shade over the rail avoids a top-heavy look; lighter colors pull the eye upward, and darker shades, downward. So, if the room has a ceiling that's more than 9 feet high, you may want to consider painting the area above the rail a darker color than the portion below, to introduce a sense of intimacy.

Q: Should the trim color always be lighter than the walls?
A: For contemporary settings, Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, co-founder and editor of the blog apartmenttherapy.com, suggests painting trim one shade lighter than walls—even if the walls are white—to bring out "complexity and detail." In most traditional interiors with colored walls, white trim creates a clean, classic look. That said, darker or stained wood trim may be historically appropriate in period house styles such as Craftsman and Queen Anne. Just keep in mind: "Dark trim creates visual interruption that can make a room look busier and smaller," points out Susan English.

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