Which White is Right for You?

So you have finally made the decision to paint your walls white! You've seen it on HGTV, in all your favourite design mags and blogs. It looks so fresh, clean and inviting. Seems simple right, like one and done? Well...not so fast! I happen to know first hand that choosing the perfect white is a real struggle for a lot of people and often times it can go horribly wrong if the selection is not made with careful consideration. What some of you may or may not know, I have a few years of experience under my belt working at a well known paint retailer during which time I helped countless people select their perfect paint colours. I have the inside track on exactly what goes down when it comes to finding the right white and trust me, it is not a pretty process.

But don't fret, there is "white" at the end of the tunnel, haha. I have some tips and advice to help simplify this process for you. Not only have I spent countless hours educating customers about undertones, using paint swatches, I have also used white in many of my client projects and in my own homes. I have narrowed it down to my four favourites from Benjamin Moore. You see, not one white is right for every room or everybody. There are a lot of factors to consider such as personal preference, existing lighting in the room, the mood ones wants to create, the other colours that it will pair with in the space as well as the way it may reflect surrounding colours. Yes, white is a very reflective colour and more often than not it will take on the undertone of dominant items in the space such as flooring or the outside environment. I have seen white walls shade pink due to the reflection of cherry hardwood floors and green due to the abundance of lush vegetation outside of a large picture window. I do have a simple solution to help mitigate this reflection though, which I will touch on later.

My four favourite whites (all from Benjamin Moore but not sponsored) are Decorators White, Oxford White, Cloud White and Chantilly Lace, in clock wise order from top left as seen below. I love them all for different reasons and which particular one I recommend depends on a lot of factors as I have mentioned. I have found that these four options are all I need to be able to satisfy the requirements for the perfect white in pretty much any scenario. They are different enough from each other that I know at least one of them will fit the bill in most cases.

Let's start with Decorators white (CC- 20). As its name suggests this colour has been popular with interior decorators and painters for a long time. It is a true white that doesn't lean too far to the cool or warm side but has a slight amount of cool gray to soften it. I like to use this white when designing spaces with a more modern aesthetic that have colourful art and furniture in them. This colour is a great backdrop for spaces in which you want colourful pieces to pop, picture art gallery walls. It's a clean, modern white but the hint of gray keeps it from being too stark and overly bright. It's a beautiful colour to use for white walls if you want a more contemporary look. It pairs well with black accents, light wood and bright colours.

Oxford white (CC-30) is my go to white and own personal favourite. Almost like a true white with the slightest whisper of warm gray. I have used this white on walls, trim, ceilings and kitchen cabinets many times with great success. It pairs well with warm and cool paint colours so I find that it's a great choice for trim in most cases. When on the walls it reads as fresh white but not cold or stark.

Cloud white (CC-40) is a designer classic for sure and I bet most of you have heard of it. It is warm and soft with a slight hint of cream, but not overly yellow. It is perfect for an all over wall colour if you crave a hint of creaminess on your walls but as a trim or cabinet colour it works best with warmer paint colours like brown, beige, red and yellow. Personally, I don't like how it pairs with cooler paint colours like blue, green and the ever popular gray due to its warmth. So if you have cloud white trim already and you are considering changing your wall colour to gray...think long and hard 'cause you may end up having to refresh that trim colour as well. For those who crave warmth and lean a little more traditional in terms of style, cloud white is the classic choice for you.

Chantilly lace (OC-65) is a the newer, hipper white on the scene in terms of consumer popularity. It is hot with the younger crowd and with those that have a more modern, clean aesthetic. It is a cool and bright white just bordering on stark. While I do really like this colour and have recommended it many times, I have yet to use it in my own interiors. If you want a true, bright white that is clean and crisp then this is the white for you.

Here are all four paint swatches together, can you tell the difference? I strongly suggest sampling your white on the wall in your space if you struggle or consult with a design professional for a colour consultation.

One final point to mention is the importance of the sheen level of your paint and how to use it to help mitigate reflection on your new white walls. Paint comes in a variety of sheen levels from shiny to dull such as semi-gloss, satin, pearl, eggshell, etc., and this will make a big difference in the final look. My personal favorite for walls is the washable matte finish. Matte finish has little to no shine so it will help to prevent the surface from reflecting other dominant colours in the space and therefore reads more true in terms of the colour. However, as it is true with any decision, you must educate yourself and then weight the pro's and the con's in order to select the product that works best for your lifestyle. Hope this info helps you find your way to selecting the perfect white that's right for you. Enjoy your happy place!

Photo: Oxford White (CC-30) in Benjamin Moore, Aura matte finish.


Laurie Sprague Designs, St. Catharines, ON