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How to Work with Simply White Walls

By 08/25/2015February 21st, 201744 Comments

Today’s guest post is from Jil Sonia McDonald, a True Colour Expert from Chilliwack B.C.

Abbotsford, BC interior design
Jil Sonia Interior designs – Ina van Tonder Photography

Hi, I’m Jil Sonia McDonald of Jil Sonia Interior Designs, I am thrilled to guest post for Maria while she is vacationing in the land of the Tuscan sun. I have been a professional interior designer for the past eight years, and I live in beautiful Chilliwack, British Columbia. My aesthetic is clean and streamlined, which I love to mix up a bit with pops of colour and lots of texture.

I am absolutely passionate about interior design, and it gives me great joy to create dream homes for my clients.

I love what I do!

Please read along with me and see my answers to Maria’s insightful questions.

Jil Sonia Interior designs Abbotsford, BC
Jil Sonia Interior Designs –Ina Van Tonder Photography

1. What’s your favourite colour? Why?

I have to say my favourite colour is Simply White OC-117 by Benjamin Moore.
It is THE perfect white for walls.

Not too creamy, not too gray, not too pinky. Using it allows me to change up my accessories with clients, and even at home, whenever the mood hits me. (As other designers will tell you, we love updating our own home and work spaces.)

When using white walls, we have to add texture to the room, such as this lovely distressed wood coffee table or this rattan end table. When we use all flat, smooth, finishes, white paint can look like primer – definitely not what we want.

Interior designer chilliwack, BC
Simply White walls, Jil Sonia Interior Designs –Ina Van Tonder Photography

2. What was your biggest colour/design mistake?

I work with a 15 Step Design System that doesn’t leave room for mistakes, but sometimes it’s the little things that really make a room. I once decorated a client’s home, and it turned out beautifully. The client was thrilled, but the home didn’t have anything with ‘meaning’ in it.

Now, I always try to add something that is personal to a client, such as a great, great grandmother’s silver cutlery (below). Our client had these beautiful heritage pieces, and now they are a wonderful conversation point – brilliant idea!

interior design chilliwack, bc Jil Sonia Interiors
Simply White walls, Jil Sonia Interior Designs –Ina Van Tonder Photography

3. What is the most important colour lesson you’ve learned?

When I started out as a designer, I had no idea about undertones in colour selection. I thought a beige was a beige.

Maria’s Specify Colour with Confidence Course taught me that there are many undertones of beige – pink, yellow, and green, to name just a few! She taught me to compare colours so that we, as designers, know exactly how to give our clients, or ourselves, the PERFECT colour. I cannot recommend this course highly enough. Such a great professional development experience that you can add to your role as an interior designer.

Abbotsford, BC interior designer
Grey Owl cabinets, Simply White walls, Marble counters
Jil Sonia Interior Designs –Ina Van Tonder Photography

4. When it comes to colour, what’s hot?

Gray is still hot – but I see white taking over more and more! Clients are all asking me for light and bright. White walls with pops of coloured pillows, throws, and accent trays, as pictured below.

Jil Sonia Interior Designs Chilliwack, BC
Simply white walls and trim. Jil Sonia Interior Designs – Ina Van Tonder Photography

5. Which colour do you think is timeless?

I think a grayed blue is timeless. I strongly recommend you use a very grayed blue — so grey looking that on the paint sample chip itself, it looks gray, not blue! Colour appears twice as bright on your walls as on the chip, so we always need to select muted gray blues unless we want in-your-face baby boy blue.

One of my favourite grays with a slight blue undertone is Stonington Gray HC-170.

interior designer Chilliwack, BC
Stonington Gray walls – Painting by

6. Which colour trend would you love to see disappear?

If I had a magic wand, I’d banish pinky beige carpet from the world. I’ve discussed this with carpet manufacturers – they were blissfully unaware! Pink beige can clash with so many other colours, especially yellow!

It’s one of those non-descript, all-pervasive colours that doesn’t give us the fresh, bright effect we’re all yearning for today. Often, builders who don’t hire professional designers think it’s a neutral colour, but it’s far from that!

Here, a client’s dog, Bella, shows off her timeless medium brown flooring – isn’t that much lovelier than pinky beige carpet?

Jil Sonia Interior designs Chilliwack, BC
Jil Sonia Interior Designs – Ina Van Tonder Photography


5. What do you think is one of the biggest mistakes homeowners make with colour?

The biggest mistake homeowners make on their own is trying to select a paint colour first. Really, we should be first selecting our hard finishes, and in the following order: countertops and tiles, flooring, furniture, draperies, pillows. Paint comes last.

We have thousands of paint colours to select from. It is absolutely vital that homeowners choose wisely, with the help of a great interior designer. Paint colours should be a beautiful backdrop for the other items we have selected, unless the paint finish is a beautiful metallic or lacquered finish.

Here, we’ve added a darker, grayed blue table, which just pops against the Simply White walls.

Jil Sonia Interior design Abbotsford, BC
Simply White walls and cabinetry, marble counters. Jil Sonia Interior Designs – Ina Van Tonder Photography

6. Which part of participating in Specify Colour with Confidence™ created the biggest breakthrough for your business, and how did it help you move forward?

I realized just how important it is to compare colours. It is almost impossible to determine the undertones unless you compare samples side by side, with a pure white background behind them. A simple piece of white poster board is such a great tool to have on hand when choosing colour.

Now, I meet all my clients with absolute confidence. I know that I will help them choose the most amazing paint colours, fabrics, tiling, and more, making their home perfect!

Abbotsford, BC Jil Sonia Interiors.
Jil Sonia Interior Designs – Ina van Tonder Photography.

For more great tips, interior design insight, or to see more photos of my work, please head over to my blog.I’d love to see you there!

Maria, thank you for this exciting and amazing opportunity to guest blog. I’m eternally grateful for all the colour instruction that I’ve received from you. I’ve just not found this instruction anywhere else!

Which white is your favourite right now?

Thanks, Jil! What a beautiful home.

If you’d like to become the next True Colour Expert™ in your area register here.

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact us! We would love to help you choose colours, select the right combination of hard finishes or create a plan to pull your room together. You can find our fabulous e-design consultation packages here.

Related posts:

White is a Snob

Ask Maria: When is White Dirty?

Should Your Trim Colour Match your White Vinyl Windows?

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  • Susan @Susan Silverman Designs says:

    Great post Jil. I really enjoyed reading that!!!

  • Jil, I love your discussion of heritage pieces—family heirlooms– they really can make the room and what a lovely way to display your client’s antique spoon collection!

    I also love Simply White and am always excited when it turns out to be the “right” white for a project because it is just so gorgeous.

  • Sarah says:

    We recently repainted our house (every inch of it! Ourselves! Ah!) and we ended up using Simply White in about half of it! It feels so fresh and warm at the same time. It’s definitely my favorite out of all the colors we used.

  • Great post Jil! That clients home is LOVELY! I especially love the bench seat and blue pedestal table with black chairs, just fabulous. My favourite white is Simply White and Snowfall White. 🙂

  • Mary says:

    Jil, thank you so much for this gorgeous post. The photos are beautiful, especially the Stonington Gray walls with the wood floors. I am wondering whether you specified the floor material and can share any information about them? It looks like it might be red oak with a natural finish, and the stair treads stained to match the railing in a darker tone – is that right? It looks so lovely with the white stair runner.

    • Hi Mary, so glad you loved the post. I’m sorry I didn’t spec the flooring for that Stonington Gray photo. But, yes, it does look like the flooring from my other client’s photos which was White Oak with a gray wash over top. 🙂 Natural oil finishes are the best in my opinion as they don’t appear too shiny!

  • Sarah Hepburn-Smith says:

    I love Simply White and Stongington is a fav too! Great post Jil!

  • Wonderful post Jil! I love all of the warm wood textures and hits of color with the whites. Very Beautiful.

  • Cathy says:

    Great post, beautiful rooms and amazing photography! Love that Stonington Gray also! Great work.

  • Thank you for a nice post. All white can be so beautiful – I love the lanterns in the dining room – they are gorgeous.

    My favorite white right now is BM White Dove.

  • Brigette says:

    After an afternoon in a paint shop with my husband yesterday, wondering why it’s so hard to choose and attemping to convince him that we probably should wait until more fixed elements are installed your advice has come at a PERFECT time for me. So I will wait and let my ideas mature…. (and let the tiles, kitchen & bathroom be installed!!!) Thanks

  • Jil, fantastic post. Loved it. White is where it is at when you know how to do it. You nailed it.

  • Sheri says:

    Great post Jill! Your images are stunning and so beautiful.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  • Fantastic post Jil, and I love the pictures! I love Simply White as well!! It has been my fave for about 3 years now 🙂

  • b. Mcmanus says:

    Hi thank you for the fantastic white.
    Where did you purchase the 2 ceiling lamps over the dining table? Love the look

  • Phyllis E says:

    Thanks for the helpful tips and sharing your beautiful photos!

  • Nil, I loved that your favorite colour is a paint colour!!!!! Only a designer would say that!!!! Fabulous post and stunning images. Great job!!!

  • mrsben says:

    Gorgeous spaces!!!! Since I’m currently upgrading my home, I am definitely going to do a sample board in ‘Simply White’ and try it in different locations. That said, I think one of my favourite all time whites was ‘Navajo White’ that was manufactured by a small company called St. Clair Paints who are no longer in business. Though a warm white, I considered it a Chameleon of whites as it even worked well outside. In summary, it was extremely versatile in every sense of the word unlike that of Behr’s (present) Navajo White. As for ‘painting comes last’; just explained that a second time yesterday to my GC I only wish him to ‘prime’…. ☺. -Brenda-

  • Vashtine Hardy says:

    I, especially, love the pop of blue! It’s my favorite shade of blue. Can you tell me the source for the sofa cover, I have been trying to find one just like that.

  • Nancy of Lake Stevens says:

    Thanks for this insightful post Jill. As we are about to redo our bathroom your recommendations of how to pick a soft blue truly helps. On another note I have the silver dresser set from my husbands grandmother:hair brush, comb and clothes brush. I too want to mount them in a shadowbox frame. I am curious to know how you attached the spoons in the shadowbox you featured. Thanks.

    • I trust the professionals, and have professional framers make the shadow boxes and mount the items. Most art shops can help you! I bet your Grandmother’s items will look beautiful framed.

    • mrsben says:

      @Nancy: Re framing; IF you live in Canada or the U.S.A., Michael often have discount coupons on line that you can either print off or download on your phone which you can apply towards their framing services. -Brenda-
      P.S.: My dtr. has had them do several shadow boxes.

  • Lucy Haines says:

    Nice post Jill, You are so right about “compare, compare, compare. It really is hard to see an undertone without comparison. Grey’s can be tricky. I once painted a clients feature wall in what I thought was taupe and it turned out an ugly purple. If only I would have known then what I know now!

    Your rooms are so well done and I love the Simply White as a backdrop color. Good work!

  • Kristin says:

    Where can one find the coffee table in the first picture?

  • Jean says:

    I have a question, Jill. Is there a reason the shelf behind the couch is hung high? It seems like the items would not be able to be viewed when seated in this beautiful room. How do you decide how high to hang items in a room where people are seated? I have difficulty knowing this.

    The room is gorgeous!

    • Thanks for your question and supportive comments. This shelf was hung at the same height as the mantel, so that line carries around the room. Also, people wouldn’t bump their heads when sitting on the low sofas. As the ceiling is so high and it’s a large room – larger than shown on the photos, the items are well seen from most areas of the room.

  • Jean says:

    Does Simply White paint work well with golden oak cabinets and trim that I can’t paint? If not, what paint options do you suggest?

  • Robin says:

    Well this post came at the perfect moment! I’ve been on the hunt for a new laundryroom paint color…have a hint of blue in my counter. I don’t want my walls to scream BLUE (lol) but a very grayed blue like Stonington gray might just be my saving grace! Running out first thing tomorrow morning to pick up a sample. Thank you. Oh…my fav white by the way, is bm white dove. Has a bit of gray in it? Love it. May try simply white someday. Enjoyed your post. Have a sparkling day!

  • Kelly says:

    Beautiful rooms Jil! I laughed at how true it is that we designers like to update our own homes all the time. Bathroom is just gorgeous. I love Simply White also and have used often because I trust it. Great article!

  • sharon says:

    I live in the Fraser Valley in a townhouse. There are many throughout the Fraser Valley as it is affordable housing and good use of land. Have you done a consult for a townhouse in the the Valley – the kind with small kitchens and are they on your website? I would love to see what you would do by your work as I enjoyed this post and pictures very much

    • Hi Sharon, I’ve worked on several townhomes in the Valley. I don’t have so many photos of them on my website as I’m so busy and hire professional photographers, it would get too pricey to have photos of every townhome.
      Feel free to email Maria, or myself at [email protected] I know either of us could help you.

  • Very happy to see Simply white is The Benjamin Moore color of the year!

  • Sandra says:

    I was shocked to see that BM had chosen Simply White as their color of the year. It made me laugh to think I am AHEAD of a trend! My painter fnished 2 weeks ago painting BM Winds Breath in the open concept living/dining area & BM Simply White in the bathroom & hallway. The trim & doors will be painted in the Simply White once the hardwood (a medium brown by the way, lol) was been installed. I can see it all done in my mind. Just can wait for it to be reality! Thanks for the great post about Simply White, Jil.

  • Patrice O'Dea says:

    Loved reading your blog. I am really new at all this. I am really drawn to the simply white. Our rooms are dark BUT I want to keep the darkwood trim and the cabinets. The fireplace is also dark but we want the natural brick to remain. I’m going for a crisp and clean look. Can you combine dark and white like that.

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