How to Pick the Right White for Trim, Cabinets, Ceilings or Walls
It’s time to get your tighty-whities on because TODAY you’re going to learn how to pick the BEST white for your trim, cabinets, ceilings or walls!
But, before we get into the nitty-gritty, let me save you a LOT of time, energy and sanity by saying this…
If you already have something painted white in your room, ie: trim or cabinets and are NOT repainting it, I would HIGHLY SUGGEST that you paint, whatever it is you want to paint, the exact same colour.
It can be risky to mix and match whites as one can EASILY make another look dirty/warm/cool/etc… If this concerns you, then stick with the white you already have in the room. If you don’t know the name of the white you have, take a cabinet door/piece of trim to the paint store and have them colour match it for you.
Now, moving along to the guts n’ glory of this blog post…
Find your MAIN white
What does this mean? Well, whether you’re building from scratch or updating a space, you should have a white that is ALREADY living in your room and there are three main places to find it…
1. Find the white or off-white in your countertop. Many countertops have a white or off-white in them. This is YOUR guiding light – and guiding white. So whether you’re building from scratch or using what you already have, look at your countertop selection to see which type of white you’re dealing with. If your choice doesn’t have ANY white or off-white in it (whether warm or cool), then you’ll want to move along to Step 2.
In this example, you can see how the original warm white of the cabinets is TOO warm for the cool tones of the marble backsplash and countertop. The taped up sample shows a MUCH better partnership.
In this next example, the countertop would call for a clean or slightly cool white. If you put a white with too much yellow in it next to this, it would clash with the cool tones.
The creamy tone in this next countertop definitely prefers a soft, warm off-white. If you put a cool white with this, it wouldn’t make sense
2. Find the white on existing cabinets, trim or doors that are NOT being re-painted. As mentioned earlier, if you already have an existing white surface that you DON’T want to paint, I would suggest using this SAME white on your newly painted surface. If you are building and have chosen white cabinets, I recommend painting trim, ceiling and doors the SAME white.
If this white doesn’t SUIT what you want to paint, then you may need to take a closer look at the white that’s currently in your room, as it probably doesn’t work either.
3. Find the white on other surfaces: If you don’t have a countertop with white/off-white in it OR existing trim/doors that are painted white, then look to tile, vinyl flooring or another surface that is not being changed any time soon. This can also be your guiding white.
The colour in this tile would be a warm off-white/creamy beige. If you put a stark white or cool white with this, it wouldn’t work
The fireplace stone above calls for a soft white, not cold, but not too creamy warm either
Figure out what TYPE of white you have
Now that you’ve found the main white in your room, you’ll want to figure out what TYPE of white you’re dealing with.
Benjamin Moore Cloud White
Similar to Benjamin Moore Super White
These ones aren’t as common, but they’re still out there. These ones lean to the cool side and often look fresh and a bit ‘icy’
Similar to Benjamin Moore Decorators White
Off-whites might fool you, trying to LOOK like white, but they have more softness and depth to them and are usually on the warm side, but can also be a super light gray/cool colour.
Sherwin Williams Alabaster
Now you might be like, ‘hey crazy pants, it all looks white to me!’ Fair enough, sometimes you don’t know which type of white you have until you compare it to something different, so let’s do that!
Compare YOUR white to something that IS white
Comparison is one of the BEST ways to see the undertones in a colour. By placing real white against your white, it should be easier to see which type of white you’re working with.
The best way to do this without losing your mind is to take 2-3 stacked pieces of paper (or a piece of poster board) and compare them to your existing white. I say 2-3 pieces because 1 piece can be kind of transparent and we want a solid look (an envelope works well for a more solid white look). Now, there are the anal few (bless your lil’ hearts) who will say, ‘but what type of white is the paper?‘ OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, we’re not trying to save lives here people, we’re just picking paint colours, so let’s all just agree that paper is generally pretty…darned…white.
So now that you have figured out whether you have a warm, cool, clean or off-white, you can head to the paint store with ‘your white’ in mind.
If you were to compare this countertop to a real white (such as the hanging towel), you’d see that it’s slightly soft and warm
Pick your White
You should now be able to go to the paint store knowing which type of white you’re dealing with. Personally, I’m a pinot gris fan myself, but I’ll settle for a nice chardonnay. Oh wait, we’re talking about the PAINT store…right.
If you don’t have an existing white in your home, then you’ll want to look at the colours in your home and your general style to figure out which white is best for you.
Tips for picking white when you don’t already have one
If you don’t have anything white in your room that you have to work with, you’ll want to look at the neutral colours in your room for guidance. Whether its countertop, tile or carpet, the colour of your hard surfaces will help to guide you towards the right white. The exception to this is wood flooring which is far more flexible with regard to whites.
If your hard surfaces are charcoal, lighter gray, blue, green or purple
While you can create an interesting and dynamic look with soft, slightly warm whites, to keep it simple you’ll want to check out clean whites or slightly cool whites.
Get a look similar to this with SW Network Gray and SW Pure White
If your hard surfaces are in the greige, tan or earth-toned range
You’ll want to check out warm or soft off-whites.
Get a look similar to this with Edgecomb Gray and BM White Dove
If your hard surfaces are in the warmer range of beige, cream, yellow, orange and red
You’ll want to look at warm whites.
Get a look similar to this with BM Navajo White and BM Simply White
Now, if you’ve spent any time on Pinterest looking for the right white, you’ve probably realized that there are TONS of whites, but only a few right ones. So, to keep things simple we’re going to focus in on a few of my fave white paint colours. You want a different white? Fill ‘yer boots, but we’re staying meat n’ potatoes here folks and looking at my TOP choice from both SW and BM for each grouping.
If you’re still not sure which white you’re dealing with, narrow it down to the 2 white groupings that seem the closest and bring those samples home.
My Top 2 Warm Whites
SW Pure White
Pure White is one of my faves. It’s pretty darned white with only a weee fraction of warmth in it. If all else fails and I can’t figure out what the heck white I’m dealing with, this is usually my go-to.
BM Simply White
Simply White is a popular choice for a fresh, but warm white
My Top 2 Clean Whites
SW High Reflective White
High Reflective White is pretty darned white, not warm, not cold – just white
BM Super White
Super White is also pretty damn white. It can stretch itself JUST slightly cool…but barely
(I also like BM Oxford White for a simple, but not overly bright white look)
My Top 2 Cool Whites
SW Extra White
Extra White will absolutely act like white, but a more ‘fresh and cool’ version of it – without being an actual colour
BM Decorators White
Decorators White is another nice pretty darned white colour that nods toward cool undertones
My Top 2 Almost Off-Whites
Alabaster is a warm, almost off-white. Soft and hinting at creamy, but grounded by a nice neutral base to calm it down
BM White Dove
Definitely my 2nd fave white. White Dove is a warm white like Alabaster but is slightly more neutralized. It tends to flex well toward both slightly warm and cool colours
That should cover it!
Not sure which white is best for YOU and YOUR home?
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