The Best Off-Whites for Walls, Trim, Furniture and More…
Everything you need to know…
(I have 2 videos on whites at the end of this blog post – check them out!)
More than any other colour, off-white is tricky because the undertones can be subtle and hard to see with the bare eye. In fact, when looked at independent of other colours, many off-whites just look like plain old white!
THIS BLOG POST IS BEING UPDATED, PLEASE EXCUSE ANY ERRORS OR BLOOPERS – and lack of images!
So how do you pick the white that is right for your home? Compare, Compare, Compare. Comparison is one of the best ways to see the undertones in any colour without losing your mind.
It’s also important to do your research and that’s where I come on the scene (darn I’m handy sometimes). But before we get into the actual colours, we need to talk about HOW to pick the right paint colour…
BTW – this is an INFO HEAVY blog post, so better get yer’ game-face on! However, the tips and ideas below can save you a LOT of angst in the long-run!
How to choose the best white or off-white for any surface in your home
If you are building a new home, choosing any of these whites for your ceilings, trims and doors is a great way to start off on the right foot. You’ll want to choose the white that best suits your hard surfaces (countertop/tiles/flooring), personal tastes and exposures. I would recommend keeping all of your whites the same from surface to surface as the sheen difference will set things off slightly, without having to worry about competing undertones. Of course, you CAN shift from room-to-room to accommodate the exposure and furnishings, but it can get pretty complicated.
If you are NOT building a new home and are updating your current home, it’s likely that you are transitioning out of your old white trim and ceilings and into a new and fresh paint colour – and that’s where it gets tricky.
Choosing a white for trims and doors
Homeowners rarely know ‘which white’ their trims or doors were painted as they were a) painted years ago or b) painted by the previous owner. So usually what we’re dealing with is a white that seems white (but often isn’t) or a white that has clearly aged and is impossible to colour match. And while ‘ideally’, you’d paint ALL of the trims/doors/ceilings the same colour, reality is that most of us do a bit here and a bit there and most often, want to update ONE white surface without having to do the other.
So here’s the deal…
- If you are needing to touch up the trims in a room, you will need to do all of the trims and doors in that room. You likely don’t HAVE to do the ceiling, unless the ceiling is an aged dingy white and you are doing a cleaner white trim/door colour.
- You can’t do the trims and not the doors unless you get a PERFECT white colour match. If they aren’t matched perfectly, one white will probably make the other one look dingy, yellow or cool toned in comparison
- If you only want to do the doors, you’ll want to do the trims too. Unless you decide to do the doors a different ‘colour’ entirely
Choosing a white for your ceiling
When it comes to ceilings, it’s easy, if you are painting ONLY THE CEILING, choose the white/off-white colour you want and paint it. Realistically, there’s usually enough separation between ceilings and trims that a shift in undertone won’t be very noticeable (unless you’re really anal like me and then you may as well paint bomb your whole house).
However, there are exceptions (oh, there’s ALWAYS exceptions!)
- If your trims/doors are a soft, warm white and you want to do a crisp, clean white on the ceiling, the difference WILL be noticeable. The key is to get a white that is at least similar to your trims/doors
- If your trims are a pretty clean/clear white and you want to do a softer warmer or cool white on the ceiling – the difference WILL be noticeable
- If you are painting your trims/doors AND ceiling, it is easiest to paint the ceiling the same colour as the trims and doors.
Choosing a white for your walls
If you are choosing a white for your walls and are NOT repainting your existing trims or door – I don’t recommend it. Without knowing what that existing white colour is, there’s a good chance that you’ll get mix n’ match undertones. If you DO know the white that is on the trims then I HIGHLY recommend using that same white on the walls – or hiring someone to help you choose a white that will coordinate well.
When picking a white for the walls it is IMPORTANT to note that white is the MOST REFLECTIVE colour. This means that it WILL pick up colours from the environment and toss ’em back in your face. That green grass outside your window? Yup. That northern exposure with its gray/blue light? Uh huh. The red brick wall directly outside your window? You bet! So keep this in mind when looking at whites. This effect is reduced on the trim/doors but is MUCH easier to see on walls.
When choosing a white for the walls, exposure is the BIGGEST consideration. If you want to read more about exposures, I have blog posts re: north, south, east and west and what you can expect from the light they provide.
Now, let’s get into the guts n’ the glory and look at the 3 Best White Paint Colours!
The Best White Paint Colour #1
Benjamin Moore Cloud White CC 40/967
Cloud White is popular because it sits right in the middle of things with its warm, but still relatively neutral undertones. Not too stark or icy and not too yellow.
Does it look like white? Kind of, yes, if you don’t compare it to anything else and just eyeball it on its own then yes, it looks like white – without being as stark. However, compared to some of the more clean and fresh whites it is a bit softer.
Cloud White on Doors and Trims
Via Benjamin Moore
- Cloud White is the top choice for trims and doors because it acts a lot like white – without looking cold and in fact almost looks ‘cream’ compared to stark whites
- If you choose Cloud White and are transitioning with old trim/doors you will need to paint both doors and trims. If you don’t, you will likely see the difference in undertone between your old white paint colour and Cloud White wherever they meet
- Cool colours such as blue and green may bring out the subtle warm undertone in Cloud White
Cloud White on Cabinets and Furniture
Cloud White. Cloud White works well on cabinets and furniture. However, we come across an issue when the cabinets get painted, but the white trim work in the room doesn’t. Because trim is most often ‘white’ you WILL see the difference between your cabinets and your trims (particularly around windows and door casings that are close to the cabinets)
Things to Consider
- You might want to consider freshening up any trims/doors in that room.
- If you have white appliances you will notice the difference between your cabinets and your appliances as the yellowish undertone in Cloud White will be brighter and warmer looking than the cooler tone of the white appliances. While this isn’t a deal-breaker or particularly obvious to most people, ideally you would have stainless steel appliances to avoid this altogether.
Cloud White on Walls
Cloud White can be gorgeous on walls as long as you are comfortable with the warmth of it. When I have clients who are looking for white or off-white walls and don’t mind a bit of warmth, but DON’T like yellow (a common request), I’m more likely to direct them toward White Dove.
You also have to consider the exposure when choosing a white. A white that comes up JUST PERFECT in a north facing room, might become too warm in a south facing room. A white that is the perfect warmth in a south facing space, might fall flat in a north facing room.
The Best White Paint Colour #2
Benjamin Moore Simply White OC 117 / 2143-70
Simply White is one of my favourite off-whites because it is a) close to white, without being as stark and b) is fresh and bright without committing to any definite undertone other than a subtle yellow/warmth. Simply White will look like white until it’s compared with stark white (like solid white paper.)
Simply White is brighter and slightly more clean and fresh looking than Cloud White and significantly brighter than White Dove (shown below).
Simply White on Doors and Trims
Simply White. Simply White often comes close to matching ‘old trim/door colours’ so if there’s any colour you can get away with not painting one or the other it’s this one (ie: you want to freshen up your trims but would rather not have to do the doors). However, check carefully. Paint ages over time (particularly oil which is common on older trims/doors) and you want to make sure that the colour connection is pretty bang-on.
Simply White on Cabinets and Furniture
Simply White. Simply White looks great on cabinets as it’s fresh and bright and ‘looks white’.
Things to Consider
- Because Simply White usually transitions ‘well-enough’ with older painted trims/doors you don’t usually need to worry about them clashing.
- If you have white appliances you will still notice the difference between the whites, but it won’t be terribly noticeable.
- Simply White will be a brighter white than Cloud White
Read more: The Full Colour Review of Simply White
The Best White Paint Colour #3
Benjamin Moore White Dove OC 17
White Dove is more of a calming off-white and almost has a more creamy/greige feeling in comparison to the white/off-white sensibilities of Cloud White and Simply White.
White Dove does not look like white, even without comparison you can see how it’s just a bit softer than white and a wee smidge darker than Simply White and Cloud White – while still staying in the off-white/warm range.
White Dove is a warm off-white but has a lot more of a gray/greige base to it.
White Dove on Doors and Trims
White Dove is usually a bit heavier looking than the old/existing trim colours. If you choose White Dove you’ll want to paint the trims and the doors.
White Dove on Cabinets and Furniture
White Dove looks LOVELY on cabinets and furniture, however, when it comes to kitchens it presents the same challenges as Cloud White in that it rarely blends well with ‘other whites’ (trims/appliances)
Things to Consider
- If you choose White Dove you will want to paint the trims/doors in that same room in White Dove
- If you have white appliances White Dove will look quite different. You may want to look at stainless steel appliances.
- If you have exposed hinges, White Dove looks the best of the 3 as it’s slightly lower contrast than the other 2, making the hinges feel more at home (unless you’re going for a certain type of country look – which most people aren’t)
White Dove on Walls
White Dove is a fabulous white for walls. With its passive warmth, it can settle nicely in a south facing room, which will enhance the warmth and become more subdued in a north facing room as the gray light coming in the windows calms it right down. If you are looking for predictable WARMTH though, this might not be warm enough for you.
A few more points to ponder
(because clearly there isn’t enough info above…)
- If you are painting your trims the same colour as your walls, pay attention to the sheen. Not many people want ulti-matte, flat or eggshell finish on their trim work as traditionally it’s not as wipeable as a nice satin or semi-gloss finish
- If you have white windows, of the 3, Simply White would be your best bet if you’re going for a ‘seamless’ look
- The warmth of Cloud White will help to neutralize a north facing room and won’t overwhelm a south facing room
- Simply White will present a more bright and fresh look than Cloud White. This does not mean that Cloud White will look murky or dull – it’s still bright and fresh – Simply White is just that next level up
- White Dove is great for any room – north, south, east or west as long as you understand how it can shift from space to space
- If you place Cloud White with blue, green or purple paint it may bring out the yellow undertones, same with Simply White. White Dove is a bit more subtle about it
Related Videos Starring ME!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and learning about these great colours~!
Not sure which white is best for you and your home? Check out my affordable Online Color Consulting – starting at $45!
I have a TON of related articles if you’d like to learn more!