ASK KYLIE: Do all of my surfaces need to be the SAME white paint colour?
When it comes to paint and wine, whites are DEFINITELY the hardest to pick. Does this chardonnay go with my sofa, which white paint colour 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 colours for you and your home!
‘Do my walls, trim and cabinets need to be the SAME WHITE paint colour?’
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 a bit of 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 humour 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. If you have WHITE CABINETS and want to paint your trim and/or walls white as well
2. You have WHITE TRIM and want to paint your cabinets and/or walls white as well
3. You’re starting from scratch and want to use TWO or more whites in your room
4. If you have WHITE CABINETS & TRIM (and I pray they match each other) and you want to paint your walls white as well
Long story short, if you plan on using white on MORE THAN ONE SURFACE in your room, this info applies.
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.
BTW, you might expect to see some amazing photos of mix & match whites in this blog post – tough luck, Chuck. Because I ONLY refer to my Online Paint Colour Consulting client’s homes and RARELY recommend mixing and matching whites, you won’t be seeing any glorious combinations. Instead, you’ll see examples of each TYPE of white being used to its best advantage on a whole range of surfaces.
IF YOU HAVE ‘TRUE OR PURE WHITE’ TRIM OR CABINETS
If you have TRUE white trim or cabinets (ie. Sherwin Williams High Reflective White or Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace) it will be easy to paint your walls a different type of white if you’re so inclined (learn about the 5 TYPES OF WHITE).
As mentioned earlier, white paint colours 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. But don’t just assume the white you currently have on your cabinets, trims or walls is actually WHITE. Go to your local paint store and 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 it turns out you DO have a TRUE white on an existing surface, should you want to choose a different white for another surface in your room, it would need to be a SOFT white or bright white (as explained in the 5 types of 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. Just remember, in partnering bright or soft whites with a TRUE white, the true white will EXPOSE your other white’s undertones. Oftentimes, ‘white’ only LOOKS white until you compare it to a TRUE white.
SUMMARY OF TRUE WHITES
If you have a current surface that’s a TRUE WHITE, it’s best to paint your walls the same white for consistency and flow. HOWEVER, if you’re okay with seeing the undertones of a particular white, then you can choose a bright or soft white for your walls – just make sure its LRV is lower than your current white and the undertones suit your room and its finishes!
IF YOU HAVE COOL WHITE TRIM OR CABINETS
Benjamin Moore Super White
If you use a TRUE white, your trim or cabinets could look more icy cold and MAYBE even a wink blue or violet in comparison.
If you use a WARM white or BRIGHT white, your trim or cabinets are even more likely to look that bit more colourful and your warm white could look YELLOW in comparison. Opposites attract and make each other stronger.
SUMMARY OF COOL WHITES
If you have trim, cabinets or walls that are painted a cool white, choosing a different white is a risky business. I recommend painting the SAME white and letting the shift in sheen do the work for you, rather than messing around with undertones.
Want to learn how to pick paint colours for your own home or even OTHER PEOPLE’S homes? I’ve got just what you need…
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IF YOU HAVE WARM WHITE TRIM OR CABINETS
If you have cabinets or trim that are currently a WARM WHITE (ie. Sherwin Williams Pure White, Alabaster or Benjamin Moore White Dove, Cloud White) and you don’t plan on changing them and REALLY want white walls, GUESS what you’re choosing? WARM WHITE BABY!
Benjamin Moore Cloud White (north-facing light)
Well, 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. For all intents and purposes, you could say this kitchen is ‘white’ and quite lovely at that…
You’re looking at Benjamin Moore Cloud White, which is a soft warm white with an LRV of 87. To look at this photo you might see the casual warmth of Cloud White without being overwhelmed by the 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 as it can when there’s no obvious WHITER white to compare it to. However, adding a TRUE or COOL white (two back doors) to the picture can totally change your perception of Cloud White re: its visual temperature! Remember, the degree of yellow/warmth hasn’t changed from photo to photo, but it appears ENHANCED by the comparison with true white.
(My E-design client hired me to choose colours 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 wouldn’t partner WARM and COOL whites together, nor would I pair a TRUE white and WARM white unless the TRUE white were on cabinets/trim, there are a few warm white combinations that are doable AS LONG AS your trim/cabinets should be a lighter white than your walls. This means the cabinets and trim should have a higher LRV than the walls.
- Sherwin Williams Alabaster and Benjamin Moore Simply White
- Benjamin Moore Oxford White and Benjamin Moore White Dove
- Sherwin Williams Pure White and Sherwin Williams Alabaster are okay too, although I wish PW had a BIT more warmth
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)
SUMMARY OF WARM WHITES
If you partner COOL white walls with WARM white trim or cabinets, you’ll have yellow trim/cabinets and blue walls – CONGRATS! If you have warm white trim/cabinets and paint your walls a bright or true white, again, you’ll be ENHANCING the colour of your trim and cabinets, rather than complementing it.
IF YOU HAVE CREAM CABINETS OR TRIM & DESPERATELY WANT WHITE WALLS
This blog post can be heart-wrenching for those who have considerably warm white or cream cabinets/trim (ie. Sherwin Williams Dover White, Antique White, Creamy or Benjamin Moore Navajo White) and DESPERATELY want to add some REAL white to their room. Just because you WANT white, doesn’t mean your HOME does. 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, which means your cabinets have a yellow hue to them. And this yellow MIGHT look subdued right now, especially if your cabinets and trim are painted the same colour (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 as they’ll have a whiter white to be directly COMPARED to.
In the above photo, these cabinets COULD look more subtle if a) the trim were the same colour, and, b) the walls were painted a more suitable colour. HOWEVER, between the paint colour on the walls and the white trim, the warmth of the cabinets is much more obvious ‘IN COMPARISON’. And heck, the above cabinets aren’t even overly creamy!
Comparison shows the difference between colours, so if you WANT to exploit your cream cabinets, fill yer lil yellow-hued boots. But just 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 this next 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’ve actually created a hot creamy mess, which isn’t doing their home or our eyeballs ANY favours…
However, the above situation isn’t as clear as it seems. Sure, it’s easy to say ‘they should just paint the cabinets the same colour as the trim‘, but the thing is, the TRIM isn’t the best colour 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.
DECORATE FOR THE ROOM YOU HAVE, NOT THE ROOM YOU WISH YOU HAD
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 colours that suit your cabinets and trim. Depending on which cream you’re dealing with, this means you aren’t likely painting your walls gray – even greige or taupe will be a stretch. Realistically, you’re looking at the WARMER end of things – cream, beige or tan. If you can’t handle these, it might be time to paint those cabinets or accept that your cabinets/trim and walls might clash, but at least you’ll love your wall colour (gag me with a spoon, 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, well, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Remember that even though your new white trim will likely be quite friendly to a range of colours, your cream cabinets still run a very tight ship.
3. If you’re keeping your cream cabinets and want brighter white walls, we’re no longer friends, unless we both suddenly fall in love with yellow, potentially dingy-looking cabinets.
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