Why are there so many different shades of white paint? It is a question I get asked frequently as a designer. Yes, it is true, there are a lot of different shades of white paint. The difference between all of them boils down to one thing…. The undertone.
The undertone typically dictates what other colors look good alongside it and how it may look in different lighting conditions. That is why it is very important to sample your paints before you purchase gallons of it. And sample it in different places so you can see how it looks room by room, at different times of the day.
Let’s start with some pure whites. These are the ones that don’t seem to have much of an undertone to them. They are neither warm nor cool, pink nor yellow. My two favorites are Sherwin Williams Extra White and Benjamin Moore Simply White. I love these two whites for trim, ceilings and walls if we want the colors in the furnishings to stand out.
Warm whites will have a hint of yellow or red in them which will make them appear more creamy or pinkish. My absolute favorite warm white is Sherwin Williams Alabaster. It is my “go to” for trim and cabinetry for any space. Coming in a very close second in Benjamin Moore Swiss Coffee for exactly the same reason. It is a subtle warm white and it looks great on walls too. Sherwin Williams Snowbound has a slightly pink undertone that gives a space a warm cozy feel.
Benjamin Moore Decorators White and Sherwin Williams Ice Cube are cooler white colors. They have a bluish undertone to them. They play well with blues, greens, purples and grays and look great on walls as well as trim.
A word of caution…. Using a warm white and a cool white in the same space can cause disastrous outcomes. I have seen walls appear purple because there is a cool white on the walls and a warm white on the trim. And walls appear yellow because the opposite was done. Once you choose an undertone, it is best to stick with it within the same space.
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Brenna Morgan Interiors is an interior design firm in Lake Norman, NC. Also servicing Charlotte, Davidson, and Mooresville.