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Ask Maria: Which Whites go Together?

By 05/01/2013February 20th, 201728 Comments

Ask Maria

First of all I’d like to thank you  and congratulate you on writing such an interesting ebook with lots of information and  advise about undertones. I have a question about whites, does off white belong to the white family of colors? What color is cream? And which color family is it from? I’m guessing yellow?

Ask Maria: Which Whites go Together?

Via Pinterest

So to answer this question, yes off-white belongs in the white family. Cream technically has a yellow undertone, like Vanilla Ice Cream, but if you want the appearance of cream without it looking too yellow, then you should chose one with a slight green undertone like OC-35 Spanish White which will only look green on the paint chip.

Someone in my Specify Colour with Confidence™ Training last week, asked if cream could have a pink undertone. The answer to this question is no. If you think you are looking at a pinky/cream, it’s not cream, rather pink beige.

In a consultation yesterday, my client had 2″ white faux wood blinds with oak windows. We were choosing a white to paint it all out but her medium toned, maple kitchen was staying. In this case I would chose a creamier trim colour, however if her white blinds were staying and we chose cream, that would look bad.

I suggested an off-white like OC-117 Simply White after I determined that her white blinds were very close to OC-65 Chantilly Lace. However, if we chose OC-38 Acadia white for her trim, it would definitely look like she had ordered the wrong blinds.

If you have glazed cabinets you basically have a beige cabinet, not a cream or white one. It’s why this look was all the rage during the Tuscan brown trend when we decorated our homes with rich earth tones. Your trim colour should then be in the cream family so that it doesn’t look stark and wrong.

White & Cream

Via Pinterest

Can you combine white, off-white and cream together?

Yes, as long as you repeat the whites and the creams like you would any other colour combination.

White & Creams

Here the black and white pillow jumps out because it’s the whiter than any of the other off-whites and creams in this room.

White & Cream

via pinterest

Notice I am only showing soft furnishings that combine white, off-white and cream. Combining whites and creams with your hard finishes like floor tile, countertops, backsplash and cabinetry will generally not work unless the entire kitchen is a combination of whites and creams.

Just like the post I wrote about the right white with Carrara Marble, creamy whites are too yellow to coordinate.

And if you have a kitchen with countertops and/or flooring that is patterned, (not solid in other words–one colour) and there is no white or cream to be found anywhere? Well white or cream might not be the right colour for your kitchen.

Here’s the guideline: You can combine white and off-white, cream and off-white, but going to the extreme and combining white and cream will mostly end up looking like you tried to coordinate the whites but failed.

If you have a question for an Ask Maria post, email me here.

Hey, my final exterior webinar of the season is happening Thursday, May 2 at 11:00 am PDT time. Here you’ll get the skinny on which whites are best for exterior.

Sign up here.

Related posts:

The Best White for Carrara Marble

Should you Add a Glaze to your Painted Cabinets? Yay or Nay

Ask Maria: Will Cream look Dingy in my Dark Kitchen?

If you would like help choosing the right white for your house, become a client on-line or in-person.

Download my eBook, How to Choose Paint Colours – It’s All in the Undertones to get my complete step-by-step system on how to get colour to do what you want.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

If you would like to learn how to choose colour with confidence, become a True Colour Expert. Fall dates now open for registration.

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  • Wendy says:

    YEP! You nailed it, Maria.

    Can’t emphasize enough that the colors MUST be compared on site…no guessing allowed at the paint store!

    Rather than buy five sample cans of paint, invest in a fan deck and carry it around with you!

  • Angela N says:

    So helpful!! In our new home we had cashmere white cabinets installed and all the trim is builder white. I have lots of white furnishings as well and am trying to make them all “go” together. Glad that it’s ok to mix whites. Now to decide if I should paint the pantry doors a different color since it is a bifold door painted the builder white, but is smack in the middle of my cashmere kitchen. Maybe black? To coordinate with the gray countertops and relate to the black in the appliances?

  • Sharon says:

    Love your answer re: the guideline! So many of us trying to get away from the constant dark earth colors we have seen for the last 10+ years are going to shades of white, but often do not realize they have their own subtleties when combining them, let alone taking into consideration the undertones and how they play out against each other! Thanks for answering this question today.

  • Beth C. says:

    Hi Maria! One question: in the project with the wooden blinds where they were close to Chantilly Lace, why did you go with Simply white rather than go with the color (Chantilly Lace) that was closest to the blinds? Thanks! Best, Beth C.

  • Franki says:

    “This” is truly helpful and you are a saint for saying. franki

  • Paula Van Hoogen says:

    OK, Maria, you’re not scaring me! Haha.
    I LOVE white + cream. I think it’s the most 5 star combo anywhere. So elegant. I was just in a new home with white walls and rich dark brown wood floors. Refreshing. The people living there were happy to be done with their tan walls in the last house. Only thing…(it had been a model) everything was great ’til you reached the kitchen–blehh–mid tone wood cabinets +earth tones again.
    They forgot to call Maria!

  • Patty Bruni says:

    Love the whites used in the photo with the cowhide rug. Do you know which whites were used there?

  • Cherie says:

    Maria, have you any experience with Andersen storm doors and windows in the color almond? I believe, when compared with other creamy trims, it has a pinky beige undertone. It was a total surprise to me, as the Andersen storm door looked very creamy until installed as part of our porch renovation. Thanks!

  • Fran says:

    Reading today’s post and clicking on ‘glazed cabinets’ reminded me of what a great time I had at your workshop two years ago, Maria! And I’m so glad you were able to come to the house and help with my paint selections. I continue to enjoy your blog and learn so much from your posts! Tell Terreeia ‘hello’.

  • Stacy says:

    My head spins when discussing white paint colors. 🙂 I bought your ebook and I love it and it has helped me in so many ways. So, thank you. 🙂 But I am confused about how to choose a 2nd paint color. In your example with the medium toned maple cabinets, Chantilly White blinds and Simply White paint for the trim…if your client also wanted white walls, how would you choose a white? Meaning, would you go with Simply White in a different sheen (like flat for the walls and semi-gloss for the trim)? If not, what kind of white color would provide enough contrast to still go well with the medium maple cabinets? I hope that makes sense. 🙂

    • Maria Killam says:

      HI Stacy,
      I just wouldn’t specify plain white walls with medium toned maple cabinets. It’s earthy combined with modern. I would instead choose a white with some colour in it like Fossil, or Ballet White or Clay Beige. Maria

      • Laura says:

        If I have a fixed white cabinet color in my kitchen (its pretty darn white), what would you suggest doing with the trim and walls? The cabinet manufacturer has them painted their own white so i dont know the exact color. We will be putting Carrera marble in the kitchen so I know chantilly lace or decorators white is a good choice for trim. Is this still a good choice? I also would like to do a white for the walls. Any suggestions? Your help would be greatly appreciated.

  • elaine says:

    i am glad someone knows what they are doing Maria! I find it all quite confusing!!! thanks for the info. love white and off white together.

  • Stacy says:

    Your post is very timely, I have Restoration Hardware Paint in Linen on my walls. I am puchasing the RH Belgium Track Arm Sofa in Perrenials Fabric. I keep debating the White or the Natural. I think the Natural is right, but I really wanted the White, would love your opinion?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Stacy, Unfortunately I don’t have any samples of their colours. . . I should get right on that. As long as you are repeating the white in the room I don’t see why not? Maria

  • Joan says:

    Sometimes I think you can read my mind! I’ve been wondering how to freshen up my bedroom; nothing I’ve been looking and buying. And returning. Nothing I’ve brought home has worked. Now I’ve got it! Cream and white. Serene. Spacious. Peaceful.


    Thanks, Maria 🙂

  • Kim says:

    Hi Maria, I’m trying to finish up my bedroom. I have white crown molding and baseboards, door, and window trim. The walls are a beautiful, medium shade of green and my dresser and lingerie chest are…yikes… Cream! Oh, also white bedding.
    I don’t want to change the white trim, etc. because that runs through the entire house. I also don’t want to change the green walls because they’re such a beautiful green. I plan on adding more green with pillows, accessories, and maybe some blue.
    So does this mean I should re- paint the furniture, or is there another way to make it right?

  • Sonya says:

    I love white and cream – so clean and refreshing! I would also like to know the paint colors, especially the wall, in the photo with the cowhide rug. Love your talent and your joy in spreading knowledge. Many thanks!

  • Anila says:

    Hello Maria,
    Greetings, I was going to use a belling cream stove with white kitchen, floor tiles and Caesar stone in white, I so wanted to use red splash back, so I got rid of the cream stove idea, but can I use a black belling stove? Also will red splash back be ok in a white kitchen? Also what color free standing stove would be better?
    Many Thanks

    • Maria Killam says:

      As long as you repeat the red in the room it will work. Yes a black stove would look good with white and red. Maria

  • Dee Douzanis says:

    so is Vanillia Bean cream or off-white in classification?

  • Carina says:

    Thanks Maria! What is the difference between white and off-white? I understand that cream ‘white’ has a yellow undertone.
    “Here’s the guideline: You can combine white and off-white, cream and off-white, but going to the extreme and combining white and cream will mostly end up looking like you tried to coordinate the whites but failed.”

  • Anne says:

    I’ve read your book “whites are complicated” but still feel confused about how to deal with blue-white. As long as it is repeated, is it ok to pair it with off-whites or creams, or is it better to only use true whites with blue white?

    • Maria Killam says:

      This is a hard question to answer without a photo. In general I would keep blue whites with true whites yes unless you repeat it so it looks intentional. For example, if your bathroom floor tile is carrara marble which is a blue white and your vanity is cream, your countertop is a creamy quartz and your tile is cream, it will not look correct if it’s not repeated elsewhere in the bathroom. Hope that helps, Maria

  • meb says:

    In our first house, we painted all of the main floor trim Chantilly Lace, and the living/dining rooms White Dove. That was in the late 90’s. It worked well for our floor plan. The main floor bath had white tiles with pink rose vines, with pink & white floor tiles. We painted that room Atrium White. The rest of the main floor rooms were butter, spring green, sage green, and a soft light greenish-blue like one would see on old globes to make the oceans’ colors. White is not my first choice for interior painting colors, but sometimes a room whispers in your ear, and you listen.

  • Traci says:

    Maria, for a creamy trim color what white would you suggest for the walls? Specifically sw1943 Moonglow on the trim.

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