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Shades of white...finding the perfect paint color

The other day I was talking to my daughter about needing to choose a color for 
a room makeover I am working on.
And she said 
'Another shade of white?
Our house is nothing but shades of white.'

I frowned a bit and said
 'No it's definitely not only shades of white...
I have color in the

 I have a green bench in the living room for example.
 That is colorful.

And the red checked sofa in the bedroom- and even  yellow check curtains.
Pretty darn colorful, right?

And then there is the bathroom- I mean- red toile wallpaper... come on.
THAT is definitely colorful.

And on top of that...
 I have a ton or okay maybe a few...
 accessories that I bring in that are definitely colorful...
So yeah, our house is definitely NOT only shades of white..."

I finished talking and she nodded with one of those 'Sure, whatevah you say' looks
 and off I went to Lowe's.
And while my husband gathered supplies-
I gathered paint chips. In various colors.

And I brought them home and laid them on the coffee table
and I noticed something about them...

More shades of white.

So it would appear that my favorite color to paint the walls at least
is most definitely white.

But not just white. 
It is white with a warm undertone in one room.
Or white with a slight pink tone in another.
In my bedroom- it is one that had yellow coming through.
And in the kitchen- all about clean white.

And you want to know the secret for choosing the perfect white?

Well so do I.

I don't know about any secret formula that is guarded carefully
 and shared only to few.

I don't think there is any simple rule.

Whites and neutrals are of course the most popular color on walls.
They are easy to live with.
 You can add pops of color with artwork, curtains  or furniture
and you don't have to change everything in the room to get a new look.

But you choose the wrong white and your room can feel stark and cold.
Or dreary and depressing.
Or even like you live in the foggy rain clouds all the time.
If thats the look you like- go for it.
But for most- dreary is not what they had in mind for their home.
Did you know that choosing a white paint
is one of the hardest  to choose?
Because there are so many complex layers of drops of color
 in each shade to consider.

#1. Undertone

See this color in the bedroom? 
It is a shade of white. 
And during the day- sometimes it looks more like a whiter-white.
But when the sun is just coming up or setting- the color leans more creamy almost yellow 
because of the yellow undertone that it has.

Pay attention to is the undertone for the paint that you choose.
Whites come with gray, yellow, cream, pink, blue, you name it 
One of the reasons it makes choosing the right one so hard.
I almost often choose a warm white - with either a slight yellow or taupe undertone.
And I avoid whites with a blue undertone every.single.time.
Those are too stark and cold for me.

Even in the kitchen- where it is white white - that white has a warmer undertone
but you can't really tell as much- because of the lighting.

#2. The lighting

This is another key thing.
If you have an abundance of strong light- from windows and french doors for example-
take that into consideration.
You can probably get away with darker or more heavy undertones
and keep the white looking white.
And if you are relying on an interior room that lacks natural light
you probably need a brighter white to add some oomph.

One of our interior rooms with no natural lighting got a bright white on the walls.
and it leans creamy in person- not really bright white at all.
But it is actually one that I would not put in a room with a ton of windows.

#3. Those names? Forget about it.

Summer Lily. 
Pale Bloom.
 Intricate Ivory. 
Nice White. 
Simple White.
Perfect white.

They evoke a feeling- you fall in love...  but you can't choose your white based on a name.
That is like choosing a significant other based on their last name.
Sure okay, it is maybe a consideration- 
but you can't just go with that.

The problem with the paint color names is that 
 they all sound fantastic.
Who wouldn't want Summer Lily or Pale Bloom walls?
And when people ask what color that is in your bedroom
you smile and say ' oh, it is Summer Lily.'
not ' It is White.'

And maybe Summer Lily is THE one.  Honestly, I am considering it.
But I'm not swayed by the
 rosy thoughts of me standing in a garden filled with gorgeous fragrant lilies 
with my dress and hair flowing in the warm summer breeze 
making me look like a super model.

maybe I am a little bit swayed by that... 
but not 100%.

 So what is the perfect white paint color and how in the world do you find it?

I have done some research. 
I have scoured the internet for suggestions.
I have tons of paint chips and paint decks
and have plastered them all over the walls and watched the color
change from morning to night...
and I have heard from others what their favorite shade of white is...
but you know what?

I have not found THE perfect shade yet.

Most recently- the one I have gone with is 
a right off the shelf white at Lowe's.
Nothing fancy.
 Nothing too blue. 
Nothing too yellow. 
Just mostly white.
And it has not let me down.
It is the white we used in our recent bathroom renovation.

And I love how it looks in there.

But I am looking for something a little on the warmer side for a whole house refresh
and surely, among all those paint chips
 there has to be one that has an enchanting name and an enchanting undertone and that works right?

So here is what I thought I would do.
I am going to buy samples of the top 3 - 5 rated white paint colors
 in the next couple of weeks and try each of them.

And I will share them in my rooms - against the shades of white already in my house
and will share with you know and let you know what I choose and why.

Just maybe we will find the elusive PERFECT white for once and for all.

And I would love your input.
Do you have insider knowledge of the perfect no fail white paint?
If you have a favorite never lets you down white paint and color
that you love- please share in the comments.

I used SIMPLY WHITE by Benjamin Moore 
in nearly every room when refreshing the paint this summer and it is pretty close to the perfect shade of white in my opinion.
It is clean and crisp and yet welcoming in the undertone.
Which means it doesn't read yellow or too blue. 

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  1. I don't think there is one perfect white for everyone, or even for every room in your house. It all depends on the light, and also the colors already in the room because the walls will reflect those colors back at you, no matter how subtly. I have found (with any wall color) that even the reflection of the outdoor foliage can affect a room's color. I once wanted to paint my livingroom a "tan" color. Every sample I put up had a green undertone that I did not see on the samples. I finally put up a sample with a pinkish undertone, figuring it would fight the green reflected off of all the trees outside. It worked perfectly. And by the way, no matter how hard I fight it, I am ALWAYS swayed by the name!

  2. I love white in every nuance. Your post is full of wonderful impressions

  3. Anxious to see what your top choices will be. I had this dilemma when choosing a grey for my living room. It ended up looking way different than I thought it would, too cool and I wanted a warmer gray. But I'm living with it.

    1. Hi Syl- same thing happened to me in my office; and just living with it - a shame, as I am here 16 hours a day and absolutely loathe how cool it is. I am sorry it happened to you, too. If you ever find a good fix please let me know!

  4. Whites are my favourite color for walls, as well. Some may think my rooms are all painted the same white, but not so. I pick up on the fringe of decorator cushions, the linen of a side chair, etc. I carefully label each can for the times I need to touch up.

  5. Thank you for this! I've been wondering about your paint colors and hoping for some direction! I have no fewer than 6 different white samples on my walls at the moment--yeah, my daughter gives me a hard time too! She has her friends play, "guess the white". Sigh.....

  6. A few years ago I was searching for the perfect white. I had a bunch of paint chips taped up on the bedroom wall.My son came in and said...they are all white and just shook his head. Two pretty ones are Delicate White...think it's from Lowes...and Powdered Snow... from Home Depot. It's just a little warmer.What white is on your kitchen cabinets?

  7. I have been using BM Chantilly Lace. I have it on my ceilings, and have used it to paint my board and batten trim. I have also used it on window & door trim. In rooms with lots of light, it is a nice, clean white. In my rooms with north facing windows, it is softer, not as bright. I love that it has not shown any undertones - it stays white pretty much all of the time.

  8. I just finished painting my bedroom white. Thats a first for me. I have never painted ANY room white before. I had no idea how to choose from the millions of whites. Except, I just chose 4 and put them on the wall and lived with them for weeks. But even then, when I actually painted the first wall, I was afraid I had made a mistake. It seemed SO white. So so white. But now that I've got my curtains up and am rehanging pictures, I think it is going to be perfect. :) I look forward to your trials.


  9. I do think it all depends on the space. Most of my trim is Benjamin Moore Decorator's White. It seems to work well in my rooms. My kitchen cabinets are White Dove and every time I look at them I am so happy I chose that color!

  10. Wow! Wonderful post, Courtney! You should call this post "White Paints 101." A great reference article to save and share. Thank you!

  11. We are building our house, on our own...we are building it. Not having it built. It's crazy and we are now too old for this nonsense, but it's almost done. The decisions are insurmountable (I've never used that word in my life!) I went with "creamy" by Sherwin Williams. Creamy on the walls, creamy on the ceiling. When I paint another room I go through and touch up all the walls where they've gotten nicked and scratched. Here a creamy, there a creamy, everywhere a creamy creamy. I could not make one more decision when it came time to paint, so I decided on creamy, and then I can add color in other places, just like you said. I don't ever want to paint again. EVAH! You hear me!!!

    Cindy Bee

  12. White Dove by Benjamin Moore works best in my home!

  13. Can't wait to hear what you choose..I am trying to pick whites for our home and really struggling!

  14. I have a two-inch thick book of paint samples from our painter and many choices to make. Two 17th century apartments in the south of France that we're renovating. Paint not just for walls but for moldings, carvings, doors, etc. I am overwhelmed. (Lucky for me, they have numbers, not names!) But I know what you mean about the white. In our home, I wanted the rooms to have that warm glow like the light at dawn. I prefer the warm undertones, but had started to think that all the Gustavian trends were going toward cooler, grayer shades. Your post really gave me something to think about. Thank you!

  15. This came at a perfect time. I have a 2-inch thick block of paint samples (with numbers, not colors) and have to choose for many rooms in a pair of 17th-century apartments we're renovating in the south of France. Not just walls, but moldings, doors, carved decorations. It is mind-boggling. In our home, I went for off-whites that were on the warm side, to give that feeling of light at dawn. Then I had second thoughts in light of the Gustavian trend toward cooler gray shades. You've given me lots to think about!
    Taste of France at

  16. Some of my favorite whites are Simply White from Benjamin Moore, Right White from Restoration Hardware, and All White and Wimborne White from Farrow and Ball.

  17. I'm trying to pick a white to cover our yellowy knotty pine panels... I don't want a bluey, chalky feel to the room, but thinking that the background from the pine will kind of give a plain white (whatever that is) a warmer tone. Does that sound about right? haha So confusing! I'm leaning towards a white/taupe paint, but maybe will just try Lowe's off the shelf white. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  18. My house is all white too - like your daughter said - nothing but shades of whites, but I love white and enjoy it`s neutral, clean look. There is no magic formula, but the best way is to have a few shades on the wall, before you decide. Recently I find this article on Elle Decor - 20 BEST WHITE PAINTS ACCORDING TO TOP INTERIOR DESIGNERS-, maybe this can help... I`m going to paint my living room soon, so I know I need a very bright shade because of the lighting, but not cold white.... Which one..I don`t know... What a struggle, hahaha...

  19. It's amazing to me how white on the walls has made such a come-back. We used to think it was too much like the generic white walls you always had to live with in an apartment. (I think it was called "Apartment White". Just teasing. No one would pick that by the name, would they?) I haven't had white walls in years but I'm getting close to trying it in my LR and DR which are adjacent to each other. Right now I have a barely, barely pink in the LR and a shade darker of the same color family in the DR. But somehow I am wanting something a little crisper and cleaner. I haven't started to seriously look for one but I think it's harder to choose now days because there are more choices of white than there used to be. More subtle differences, I think. Makes it more complicated to choose.

    Thanks for your post on the subject. I'll be interested to see what you choose for your rooms.

  20. In my home Simply white showed as a creamy almost pale yellow white. I tried so many, but BM Chantilly Lace was the only white to stay pure white in all lighting conditions.

  21. Okay, sisterhood of searching for the right white! Make it simple for this 70 year old newly wed, s'il vous plait.
    C'est dicficile pour moi.