Neutral Shades for Every Room in Your WHOLE HOUSE!
You’d be surprised at HOW MANY of my E-design clients say, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t like greige or gray – I only like warm colors.’ To which I say, ‘Don’t be SORRY; it’s your home, and YOU have to be comfortable in it! And besides, TONS of rooms don’t like gray or greige either, preferring warm neutral colors to suit their specific finishings, furnishings, and exposures.
They’re not alone in loving warmth either, and in fact, they might even be ahead of the curve as homeowners begin migrating from gray to the warmer end of things – oh, it’s started (read more on that HERE).
The waiting room at Eddins Counselling – I could wait here all day (and lord knows I need the counseling…)
Now, if you’re looking for a warm paint color suitable for your ENTIRE HOME, you will need a DARN VERSATILE color that can flex with the different needs of your spaces. Along with paying attention to undertones and exposures, you’ll also want to focus on the off-white to light-medium depths.
When it comes to warm paint colors like cream, tan, and beige, once these colors get to a certain depth, they aren’t their original color anymore; they’re closer to brown, and nobody wants their whole home painted brown. There’s also the OTHER end of the warm spectrum – warm whites, but I’ve already written great articles about the best white paint colors for your home. And even though I LOVE to hear myself talk (or type), I don’t want to be too long-winded.
THE 4 UNDERTONES OF WARM, NEUTRAL PAINT COLORS
One thing that always makes me giggle (other than people tripping and impromptu gas) is when my warm-lovin’ clients say, ‘I want a warm paint color, but I don’t like yellow or orange or red undertones’... insert awkward whistling here.
EVERY warm neutral will have a yellow, orange, or red (pink) undertone and sometimes even a wink o’ green—# TRUTHBOMB. I can certainly offer warm neutrals with REDUCED undertones, but you do have to pick your poison, which is usually the one that best suits the finishings in your home rather than your personal tastes.
I see you eyeing up the above colors.
Remember, you must sample colors carefully to see how they look in your home. Exposures, furnishings, and finishes can drastically change a color’s appearance, and you might be surprised at how things shift from one room to another! (BTW, never lean samples – ALWAYS place them 100% vertical).
And just like with ‘The Best WHOLE HOME Gray and Greige Paint Colors,’ I have a few points for you to ponder…
THE FLEXIBILITY OF WARM, NEUTRAL COLORS
Beige, tan, and cream can be flexible, which means that while they might FAVOUR a particular warm undertone (yellow, red, orange), they’ll have a secondary undertone or, given the right circumstances (exposure/reflection/interior lighting), can pick up the other undertones. This blend of colors can make for a more flexible shade, especially if you have finishes that are tricky to coordinate with.
THE REALITY OF WARM NEUTRAL SHADES
You might not be able to satisfy EVERY room, EVERY countertop, and EVERY flooring in your home with one magical paint color. Sometimes, you need a two or three-color palette to suit various finishes.
Do you expect one type of wine to suit your steak dinner, chicken, and Frosted Flakes?
No, you need to branch out a bit, and the same goes for paint colors. So, even with the best, flexible intentions, these ‘whole home’ paint color suggestions WILL shift on a room-to-room basis, for example:
WARM PAINT COLORS IN NORTH-FACING ROOMS
If you have northern exposure, you can expect a warm paint color to look less warm. Because north-facing light is a cool gray-blue light, more passive warm colors can lean just slightly into gray without going full greige (which happens more commonly with tans) or taupe (more common with beiges). Super warm colors can look slightly toned down while still holding some decent warmth.
WARM PAINT COLORS IN SOUTH-FACING ROOMS
In a room with southern exposure, warm colors will look EVEN WARMER as they start playing with that yellow-toned southern sunshine – things could get a bit toasty. This is why you must be CAREFUL to choose the right warm paint color for your south-facing room so things don’t visually overheat.
WARM PAINT COLORS IN EAST-FACING ROOMS
In the eastern morning light, warm colors can look more or less as expected, nothing shockingly different. In the afternoon, the right warm paint color can help to balance out the flat light, adding a bit of warmth and life.
WARM PAINT COLORS IN WEST-FACING ROOMS
Warm colors can sit nicely, albeit more muted, in the flat morning light of a west-facing room but will look considerably warmer in the afternoon, particularly later on. If you pick a color CONSIDERABLY warmer than its peers, it could become overwhelming in the afternoon sun.
Enough chitter-chatter, let’s get at ‘er!
1. SHERWIN WILLIAMS CANVAS TAN SW 7567
Canvas Tan is a beauty. In the world of tans, it’s one of my faves because it doesn’t go overly golden but ALSO doesn’t flatten out. It’s soft, warm, and simple with VERY little undertone. It also has an almost creamy-looking backdrop (that won’t flash pink – a common worry). Once in a BLUE moon (or a green one might be more the point), it can pick up a wink of green, but MORE often when it’s up against finishes with a pink undertone.
Canvas Tan has an LRV 65, so it has more meat on its bones than some of the lighter colors we’ll look at. However, it still sits higher than my MAGICAL LRV number.
Not sure what LRV is? It could save your paint-lovin’ life – read all about it HERE.
Looking at the photos above and below, you’d think they were different tans. Remember, lighting, exposure, and interior finishes make ALL the difference!
WHY IS CANVAS TAN A POPULAR PAINT COLOR?
- Canvas Tan is a great happy medium between the yellow warmth of typical cream paint colors and many tans’ more subdued, subtle approach.
- Canvas Tan doesn’t have the strong golden (orange-yellow or orange-pink) warmth you’ll find in many popular beige colors.
2. BENJAMIN MOORE BALLET WHITE OC-9
I’ve had mad love for Ballet White for many moons (don’t worry, Mom, these are ‘pants-up’ moons, unlike the alternative, a favorite pastime of mine). Ballet White is a magical blend of cream, beige, and greige. There’s warmth there, but it’s cut back by a neutral base that slows things down.
In this next photo, Ballet White is just a wink warmer than its kissin’ cousin, Sherwin Williams White Duck…
This next photo makes me ALL kinds of happy (but so does a nap, so I am relatively easy to please)…
Ballet White has an LRV of 73, so it’s right on the cusp of off-white, which you can see in the photo above. Generally, it acts like a ‘light’ depth color, as shown below. Again, I’m keeping the undertones as passive as humanly possible for you while trying to show how a color can look DRASTICALLY different depending on its environment.
Now, if you’re someone who likes cream but doesn’t like yellow undertones, well, that’s tough tamales.
Cream IS yellow (with a neutral base added).
However, Ballet White is a great way to get a creamy LOOK without going overkill on the yellow.
WHY IS BALLET WHITE A POPULAR PAINT COLOR?
- Ballet White is a great way to get a nod towards a cream paint color without committing to too much yellow.
- Ballet White is one of the more popular warm, passive neutrals and, generally, will have more mass appeal for resale than a standard, more yellow-based cream.
- If you want to see similar shades, check out Sherwin Williams White Duck and Shoji White.
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3. SHERWIN WILLIAMS CREAMY SW 7012
Creamy is the lightest of the bunch, coming in with an LRV of 81, meaning it’s tucked nicely in the off-white range.
Notice how the color washes out on the well-lit UPPER walls in the above photo (nature of the beast). However, you can see the proper contrast of it down by the baseboard (Benjamin Moore Cloud White). This wall has northern light on it, so you’ll see how the yellow base of Creamy looks more muted.
In this kitchen (below), Creamy is a soft, subtle partner to the granite countertop and off-white subway tile backsplash…
BTW, I rely 100% on my E-design clients after photos, so thank you to everyone who sends them in – you make my colorful lil world go round!
WHY IS CREAMY A POPULAR PAINT COLOR?
- If your rooms are VERY well-lit, you may want to look at a paint color with more depth, as off-whites will wash out. Or, in your most well-lit rooms, do a different color and keep this one to the more moderately lit spaces.
- If you have a strong south-facing space and DESPISE yellow, I don’t think you and Creamy will be BFFs; you may want to find a more muted option.
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4. SHERWIN WILLIAMS NATURAL LINEN SW 9109
If you’re looking for a muted but still noticeable warmth, Natural Linen has a lot to offer. Natural Linen is a light-depth shade of beige. With its LRV of 66, it sits in the middle of the best LRV range for the average room. While its primary undertone is orange, it’s reasonably flexible towards finishes with orange-yellow or orange-pink hues (the latter being SUPER COMMON in homes from the early 2000s).
WHY WILL NATURAL LINEN BE A POPULAR NEUTRAL?
- While trends are leaning warmer, not everyone is ready for the full-bodied beiges of previous decades. Natural Linen is a more modern, updated shade of beige.
- Natural Linen’s flexible undertones suit various interior finishes, including tricky carpets, tiles, and countertops.
- Natural Linen is one of the best neutral paint colors (on the warm side) for the ‘average home with average finishes.’ On the other hand, warm neutrals like Accessible Beige and Balanced Beige are GORGEOUS but not always as versatile.
5. BENJAMIN MOORE NAVAJO WHITE OC-95
Navajo White has been kickin’ some serious butt in the color world for a loooong time – for a good reason!
Navajo White is a beautiful warm cream paint color. It has just enough depth to contrast with white trim without weighing down darker hallways or basement rooms.
Navajo White will wash out on WELL-lit walls, as shown in this next photo, but this will happen with any light color. To avoid this, you need MORE depth; even a shift to the slightly darker Gentle Cream could help a bit.
If you LIKE cream and are cool with a BIT of yellow – this could be your color.
WHY IS NAVAJO WHITE A POPULAR CREAM PAINT COLOR?
- Navajo White has an LRV of ALMOST 80, so it’s right up there with Sherwin Williams Creamy!
- Navajo White has a soft yellow backdrop with a touch of orange to balance it but isn’t remotely pinkish or green.
6. SHERWIN WILLIAMS ACCESSIBLE BEIGE SW 7036
Shifting gears a bit, let’s look at Accessible Beige. Unlike the above colors with a creamier vibe, Accessible Beige is a bit moodier (especially at its time of the month – HOLA!). It’s a light-depth beige but is VERY abnormal as it leans slightly into gray. And while it could be encouraged OHHH so slightly green, it’s so vague that I’m just being anal – ignore me.
With an LRV of 58, Accessible Beige carries a bit more visual weight than the average ‘light’ depth paint color, but HOT DAMN does it suit many homes and finishes!
WHY IS ACCESSIBLE BEIGE A POPULAR PAINT COLOR?
- Accessible Beige offers the passive warmth of beige without any overly golden hues.
- Accessible Beige is often more flexible toward non-beige finishes than some traditional shades of beige.
- For those who like the IDEA of beige but are nervous of the traditional orange undertones, Accessible Beige can be a great mediator.
7. SHERWIN WILLIAMS BALANCED BEIGE SW 7037
Balanced Beige is just one tone down on the same color strip as Accessible Beige. And just like Accessible, it leans a touch into gray and can look ALMOST greige in a north-facing room. It can also pick up a tiny wink o’ green (with encouragement) – a touch being an overstatement.
Balanced Beige has an LRV of 46, making it a solid light-medium depth paint color. If you have a home with great natural light, you might like that it has a bit more body and can stand up to intense natural light – better than an off-white or light-depth paint color. However, make sure you still find it appealing in darker rooms or hallways.
If you love more traditional golden beiges, you may find Balanced Beige a bit too greige-taupe looking as it doesn’t cast that typical golden glow.
LOOK at how it warms up with beautiful interior lighting in this next photo!
Again, I know the photo quality isn’t GREAT, but I do appreciate these after photos, as they give you a REAL-life (unedited) look at things!
WHY IS BALANCED BEIGE A POPULAR PAINT COLOR
- like Accessible Beige, Balanced Beige offers a more SUBTLE take on warmth
- it doesn’t have overwhelming undertones
- Balanced Beige offers a bit more contrast with white trim without weighing the average room down
8. SHERWIN WILLIAMS AESTHETIC WHITE 7035
Aesthetic White is one of my NEW favorite warm neutral paint colors – so much so that I used it in our new lake home!
Aesthetic White is an off-white beige but is FAR more muted than many of today’s typical light shades of beige.
WHY IS AESTHETIC WHITE A POPULAR PAINT COLOR?
- To be honest, I won’t say Aesthetic White is popular YET, but with trends leaning warmer, I bet we’ll see a lot of this fab color popping up!
- Aesthetic White can be a great choice for walls, cabinets, and exteriors – not every color can satisfy all three!
9. BENJAMIN MOORE WINDS BREATH OC 24
I couldn’t end this article without talking about Winds Breath, a real HYBRID, touching on beige and cream while having a soft gray base to calm it down.
Winds Breath is a subtle, warm neutral with flexibility that suits various interior finishes, including some trickier tiles and carpets.
10. SHERWIN WILLIAMS NATURAL TAN
Natural Tan runs in the same world as Canvas Tan; however, they have different approaches to the warm world. Whereas Canvas Tan has a slightly yellow-green base (slightly being an overstatement), Natural Tan has a bit more gray in it. Not only is Natural Tan less warm than Canvas Tan, but this gray cuts back the undertones.
In this next photo, notice the difference between Accessible Beige (left) and Natural Tan (right). Natural Tan has less gray and more warmth than Accessible Beige…
The WILD thing about Natural Tan is that while it can cater to a very vague green undertone, some people see it leaning slightly pink (more situational than actual, meaning it SHOULDN’T in the average home). This makes it a bit of a ninja and unpredictable – more reason to sample it carefully in your home with a large-scale peel-and-stick paint sample.
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ORIGINALLY WRITTEN IN 2020, AWESOMELY UPDATED IN 2023