ASK KYLIE: Do all my surfaces need to be the SAME white paint color?
When it comes to paint and wine, whites are DEFINITELY the hardest to pick. Does this chardonnay go with my sofa? Which white paint color best suits a steak dinner? While I can’t answer these particular questions (and am personally not that fussy; I’ll drink wine with Kraft Dinner), I can answer almost ANY question regarding the best white paint colors for you and your home!
‘Do my walls, trim, & cabinets need to be the SAME WHITE paint color?’
The short answer is YES; the long answer is a bit more complicated. The thing is, not all whites are created equal – they have undertones. This means that one white can potentially make another look dirty, yellow, pink, blue, etc… in COMPARISON to another. However, you’ll have some flexibility depending on which TYPE of white you plan on using or currently have on one of your surfaces. But the question is, do you REEEEAAALLLY want flexibility, or do you just want to humor the crazy lil Ginger, make your paint-pickin’ life MUCH EASIER, and use the same white on everything?
Oh, you are a GLUTTON for punishment…I like that about you.
First, let’s make a list of what this general topic covers:
1. You already have WHITE CABINETS and want to paint your trim and/or walls white as well
2. You already have WHITE TRIM and want to paint your cabinets and/or walls white as well
3. If you already have WHITE CABINETS & TRIM (and I pray they match each other) and you want to paint your walls white as well
4. You’re starting from scratch and want to use TWO or more whites in your room
Long story short, if you plan on using white on MORE THAN ONE SURFACE in your room, this info applies.
Sherwin Williams Pure White walls, trims, doors, and ceiling.
But before we start (seriously, I don’t stop talking in real life either; this stuff LIGHTS ME UP LIKE A FIRECRACKER!), I have one more important point to make…
Regardless of what you read below, if you decide to mix and match whites, your BEST chance will be to use a TRUE WHITE on trim/cabinets and a white with a lower LRV on the walls – don’t do it the other way around unless you’re a hardcore pro, and even then…don’t do it.
You’ll also find a helpful blog post at the end of this one to check out.
First up, those of you who are starting from scratch creating your white palette…
CREATING A WHITE PALETTE FROM SCRATCH
As mentioned above, I’m a big fan of using the same white on all surfaces and letting the SHEEN do the work for you. If you want to learn more about paint finishes/sheen, I have a great blog post, but here’s what I usually recommend…
- CEILING: flat
- WALLS: matte or eggshell
- TRIMS & DOORS: satin
- CABINETS: satin
Of course, there are regional exceptions and those for rooms with moisture issues (you might need shinier paint). However, for the average home, those are the ideal finishes.
The way a paint color looks changes from sheen to sheen. FUN FACT: This isn’t just because the sheen reflects more LIGHT, but because the formulation can change slightly between the different paint lines.
And when choosing your best white, I have some fool-proof ones that work more often than not. All the same, do your research to discover white white best suits your interior finishes and exposure.
IF YOU STILL WANT TO USE TWO DIFFERENT WHITES
Keep reading; I have a great blog post link coming up shortly. But in the meantime, you’ll learn some helpful tips on managing the varying shades.
IF YOU CURRENTLY HAVE ‘TRUE WHITE’ TRIM OR CABINETS
If you have (or want) TRUE white trim or cabinets and want white walls, I suggest using the same white on your walls for EASE. However, if you’re not the easy type and want something warmer or cooler on your walls, a true white will make it easier to make a coordinating palette.
As mentioned earlier, white paint colors have undertones…except for TRUE WHITES. Because true whites don’t have undertones (or at least nothing obvious to reckon with), it’s easier to embrace bright or soft whites without worrying about clashing undertones.
Don’t assume the white you currently have on your cabinets, trims, or walls is actually WHITE.
Go to your local paint store, grab that brand’s WHITEST WHITE, and bring it home to compare to your white – you might be pleasantly (or NOT so pleasantly surprised) at what you see!
IF YOU REALLY WANT TWO DIFFERENT SHADES OF WHITE
If you DO have a TRUE white on an existing surface and want a different white on your walls, it needs to be a SOFT white or bright white (as explained in the five types of white).
Why does it have to be a soft or bright white?
Well, you don’t want to paint your finishes two different TRUE whites; it doesn’t make sense (you may as well use the same white, silly). Instead, you’ll choose a bright or soft white that suits the finishes in your room.
IF YOU CURRENTLY HAVE COOL WHITE TRIM OR CABINETS
If you have COOL white trim or cabinets, I HIGHLY SUGGEST using the same cool white on your soon-to-be-painted surface and don’t recommend any other shade of white…ever.
Benjamin Moore Super White walls, trims, drawers, and ceiling.
If you use a TRUE white on your walls, your trim or cabinets could look icier and cold and MAYBE even a wink of blue or violet in comparison.
If you use a WARM white or BRIGHT white, your trim or cabinets are even more likely to look a bit more colorful, and your warm white could look YELLOW in comparison. Opposites attract and make each other stronger.
This means you have three choices…
- paint your walls the same color as your trim/cabinets
- paint your walls a NON-white – a cool paint color
- repaint your trim/cabinets a more flexible shade of white
Want to learn how to pick paint colors?
I’ve got just what you need…
CLICK HERE TO VIEW AVAILABLE ONLINE PAINT COLOR COURSES
IF YOU CURRENTLY HAVE WARM WHITE TRIM OR CABINETS
If you have cabinets or trim that are a WARM WHITE and you don’t plan on changing them, and REEEEEALLY want white walls, GUESS what you’re choosing…WARM WHITE, BABY (with exceptions!)
Benjamin Moore Cloud White (north-facing light)
Just as with cool whites, if you partner BRIGHT, COOL, OR TRUE white walls with warm white trim or cabinets, the new white will make your warm white look that bit…more…creamy. I’ve found that MOST people with warm white trim or cabinets don’t want to enhance them and would rather calm ’em down and blend ’em in.
Hands down, the best way to blend them in is to literally…blend them in.
For example, take a look at this lovely kitchen below. You could say this kitchen and dining area is ‘white’ and quite lovely at that…
You’re looking at Benjamin Moore Cloud White, a soft, warm white with an LRV of 85. You might notice and appreciate the casual warmth of Cloud White without being overwhelmed by its yellow undertone. HOWEVER, take a look at this same room with one wee adjustment…
How does it look NOW?
Cloud White doesn’t look as warm when there’s no WHITER white to compare it to—adding that TRUE or COOL white (two back doors) changed your perception of Cloud White and its visual temperature! Remember, the degree of yellow/warmth hasn’t changed from photo to photo, but it appears ENHANCED by the comparison.
(My E-design client hired me to choose colors for her two back doors. I just filled in the doors via computer in the first example and am eagerly awaiting her REAL after photos!)
While I usually don’t suggest mixing and matching whites, a few warm white combinations are doable AS LONG AS your trim/cabinetry is a lighter white than your walls. This means the cabinets and trim should have a higher LRV than the walls.
But remember, just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD…
(which is my passive-aggressive way of saying I STILL recommend doing the same white on ALL surfaces)
FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO USE TWO WHITES…
Just because I prefer one white on all surfaces for the previously said reasons doesn’t mean you’re on board – I forgive you (wink wink). If you want two shades of white, it’s DOABLE, but only with specific colors and a few guidelines…
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IF YOU HAVE CREAM CABINETS OR TRIM & WANT WHITE WALLS
This blog post can be heart-wrenching for those who have considerably warm white or cream cabinets/trim (i.e., Sherwin Williams Dover White, Antique White, Creamy, or Benjamin Moore Navajo White) and DESPERATELY want to add a natural white, or even a SOFT white to their room.
Choose colors for the home you have, not the home you wish you had.
If this is you, insert wine and funnel ‘here’ or at least read the info below first.
You can’t get ‘cream’ or a creamy white without yellow, meaning your cabinets have a yellow hue. And this yellow MIGHT look subdued right now, especially if your cabinets and trim are painted the same color (they help to blend each other). However, what happens if you partner your warm-toned cabinets and trim with cleaner, brighter white walls?
Your previously subtle (or not) creamy cabinets/trim will look MORE YELLOW in comparison.
In the above photo, these cabinets COULD look more subtle if the walls and trim were the same. Instead, because a lighter white was used on the walls, the warmth of the cabinets is much more apparent. And heck, the above cabinets aren’t even overly creamy! Sure, a warmer white would’ve been a ‘bit better,’ but no screamin’ glory.
If you WANT to exploit your cream cabinets, fill yer lil yellow-hued boots. But remember, depending on which warm white/cream you currently have, a brighter white won’t just make it look more yellow; it could also make it look dirtier in comparison – wooooof.
In the following example, while I can appreciate why the homeowner wants to avoid painting their trim the same cream as the cabinets (Sherwin Williams Antique White), by avoiding the cream, they create a creamy hot mess, which isn’t doing their home or our eyeballs ANY favors…
However, the above situation isn’t as straightforward as it seems. Sure, it’s easy to say, ‘They should just paint the cabinets the same color as the trim,’ but the thing is, the TRIM isn’t the best color for the granite countertop and travertine tile backsplash. Sometimes, the foundation of a room just isn’t solid enough to make the right move forward, or at least not in the direction a homeowner wants to go. Sometimes, saving your money is best until you can make larger-scale changes.
SO, WHAT DO YOU DO?
I know these might not be the answers you want, but the answers you want could have you ending up with a butt-ugly room. You came here for my honest advice, wit, and charming personality…riiiight? Sometimes, the answers you don’t want to hear are the best solutions for your HOME until you’re ready to make larger-scale changes OR adjust your preferences/expectations.
1. If you’re keeping your cream cabinets, I highly advise having cream trim. From there, choose paint colors that suit your cabinets and trim. Depending on which cream you’re dealing with, you aren’t likely to paint your walls gray or taupe. Realistically, you’re looking at the WARMER end of things – cream, beige, tan, or maybe a darker shade of greige.
If you can’t handle these colors and crave lighter, brighter walls, it might be time to paint those cabinets. The alternative is choosing a color you love that clashes with your cabinets/trim, but at least you’ll love your wall color (you won’t catch ME doing it, but I forgive you).
In this next photo, because the trim and mantel are a soft white/light cream, the owners were best off choosing a NON-WHITE for their walls; it looks beautiful! Even if they’d WANTED white walls, it wouldn’t have looked good.
2. If you’re keeping your cream cabinets and, come heck or high water, are painting your trim white, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Remember that even though your new white trim will likely be quite friendly to various colors, your cream cabinets still run a very tight ship and call many shots on the wall color – white trim won’t save the day.
3. If you’re keeping your cream cabinets and want brighter white walls, we’re no longer friends unless we suddenly fall in love with yellow, potentially dingy-looking cabinets.
PEOPLE ALSO ASK…
IS IT OKAY TO PAINT MY TRIM THE SAME COLOR AS MY NON-WHITE WALLS?
If you have an off-white or light-depth paint color on your walls, YES, it’s totally okay to do the trim and walls the same color, with a few exceptions (i.e., white kitchen cabinets). This creates a low-key look and can make a room look bigger.
HOW DO I FIND THE WHITE THAT MATCHES MY EXISTING TRIM OR CABINETS?
Take off a piece of your trim and take it to several paint stores to have them professionally color-match it. Go with the brand that gets it the closest. Remember, there can be a shift in how a white looks based on the SHEEN (as trim is often satin or semi-gloss and walls are often matte/eggshell).
WHAT COLOR SHOULD THE TRIM BE IF THE WALLS ARE WHITE?
If your walls are white, the trim should be the SAME white in a different sheen. While it can be trendy to paint your trim a non-white, like greige, taupe, or gray, it’s a trend. It will have a longer life in OLDER homes, but for a more modern home, it will eventually be dated.
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ORIGINALLY WRITTEN IN 2021, AWESOMELY UPDATED FOR YOU IN 2023