As the expression goes, I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard a client say the words "It's ok, I'm just painting it white." Many people do not realize just how many variations of "white" their actually are! The white that you choose, whether it be for the trim or for all the walls, will make a profound impact on the overall appearance of your room.
Take a look at the page upon page of whites that just Benjamin Moore alone has to offer: Benjamin Moore Whites
Staggering isn't it? Whites can range from creamy whites with a yellow undertone or pinky whites. Both are considered warm whites and add a cozy comforting feel to the room. There are also whites with a blue undertone and whites with a green undertone. These are considered cool whites, are "crisper" in appearance and provide a fresher feel to the room. There a whites that also have neutral undertones such as grey, taupe, mushroom; again some will have more of a cool feel and others a warmer undertone.
It is important to understand the quality of light you have in a room and to use a white that will work well with the light in that room. For example: North facing rooms are generally "cool" light whereas south facing rooms are "warm" light. You can visually warm up the appearance of that north facing room by using a white with a warm undertone. Alternatively, a warm south facing room can be visually cooled by using "cool" tones whites.
If you have other whites in the room DO use a white with a matching undertone. If your kitchen cabinets are a cool white and you use a warm white on the trim, your trim will appear yellowed and aged in comparison to your cabinets. Probably not the look you are going for....
Below is a photo of a living room and kitchen area where a variety of different whites have been used together quite successfully.
The walls: have a soft yellow undertone to them
The sofa: has an almost grey tone
The pillows: a crisp white
The rug: a white with a warm "mushroom" undertone
The chairs: a linen white
The cabinet: a crisp white
The trim: a crisp white
Etc. etc. etc.
The key to using all of these whites together is that each white has been used a number of times in the room. If this room were to use all yellow undertone whites and then just one instance of crisp white then it would look like a mistake. Make sure that you balance and use the whites intentionally throughout the area.
When selecting a white for trim, look to the undertone of your wall colour as a guide. For example, if you are using a blue or green wall colour then a trim colour with a cool undertone would work best. Red and orange tones of walls are warm so a warm undertone white will work well.
If you are going to be going for the look of an all white room keep in mind to use a variety of surface textures to prevent the room from appearing bland and boring. As in the photo above, they have used shag, linen, smooth, wood, metal, all of which make for a very interesting and visually appealing room.
In the Benjamin Moore line of paint there are two go to whites that I will recommend to clients if they are not at a point yet where they can select their trim colours. The first is the well know and well loved Decorator's White CC-20. This is a good all round white that seems to get along with everybody! The other popular white is Cloud White OC-130 which is a creamier white with a slight yellow undertone in comparison to the Decorator's White. This is a nice white to use in a room with a lot of warm undertones and warm woods.
If you need a few more whites to choose from below are six of their top selling whites:
Decorator's White CC-20
Cloud White OC-130
White Dove OC-17
Simply White OC-117
Super White OC-152
Chantilly Lace OC-65
I hope you have found this information enlightening (pardon the pun) as to why "just painting it white" makes us poor decorators heads spin. These hints and tips will help to guide you in your journey in selecting just the right white to put the finishing touch on that perfect room in your home!
In a world full of beauty….
Gail K Allen
Interior Design Consultant