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The right white: Picking neutrals

November 6, 2017

White has always been a common wall color, but it’s having a major resurgence as the new neutral on both Pinterest and as requested by clients. Gray walls were the pick a few years back and while I will always love gray – our cabinets and dining room are gray- white walls are having a moment. When it comes to picking a wall color, one of the most common questions I get is… How does one go about choosing the correct color?

Picking a white can be a daunting task because they often look so similar! Coordinating a trim color to go with it can be even more difficult. The key is to choose a white with the right level of pigment. Choosing a white is hard because of the undertones that pop up in different lighting situations. For this reason its often a good choice to opt for a white with a touch of gray or kahki. This softens the room while achieving that coveted neutral look. Given the amount of natural light in your room, the time of day, and features such as woodwork or even the period of home can influence which white you should choose.

One thing we should get out of the way though is that there is one misconception floating around that painting every room white will make them feel brighter, more spacious and more beautiful. This is absolutely true for some rooms, but if your room have very little natural light it will look flat. For example the boring, dead looking rental you lived in after college -if you were me. If not, good for you! Photographers can make any room look bright, airy and full of light. Sometimes its true that the room gets lots of natural light, but more often than not they don’t. White is IDEAL in bright rooms because there is lots of light bouncing around.

Inside Out | Australia

Picking white as a neutral isn’t boring

Don’t let others tell you that using a white is boring. Using a white when the goal is neutrality when designing a great space is so different than the blue white we’re all so used to in the typical rental house. Using a neutral paint color on walls allows for art and furnishings to make the statements in a room.

My Scandinavian Home

SF Girl by the Bay

Tips for picking the right color

  • Paint swatches on large piece of cardstock -the bigger the better!
  • Consider the natural light and lighting solutions in the room – keep your eye on your cardstock swatch as the light changes in your room throughout the day.
  • Use a white color palette – refer back to the palette to see how the white compare to each other. Often you will find that one white is more gray, blue or yellow! Online is the easiest place to find white paint colors because you can immediately spot the undertone. Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams have their websites set up so you can explore different whites together and see how they compare. In my experience it is much harder to zone in on the undertone in a paint store using a swatch.
  • if you want to play it safe use a white that is devoid of any undertones. Pure white by Sherwin Williams is one, and Decorators white by Benjamin Moore is another.

Hege in France

My favorite whites

Simply White – Benjamin Moore

This is a transitional white with warm and cool tones

Pure White – Sherwin William

We used this on the exterior of our house and it has no undertones

Are you still feeling stumped? I offer design consulting on paint colors too!

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