Everyone wants to know how to choose the right white. I invented a colour system that gives you a better question. The most popular whites are usually NOT the best choice for your walls.
I get so many questions about splitting hairs between whites. Most often, it’s when someone has chosen off white for their walls and then they’re stuck wondering, “what is the magical trim colour that will look crisp with my off white walls?”
So first, I RARELY if EVER specify an Off White for any client’s walls. I know that homeowners, designers and builders are going around choosing Alabaster or Simply White for every project. But I’ve been standing firm through this trend saying:
WAIT! There are better options.
Read this before you paint your walls white
Not least of all because only options you have to create contrast with trim and cabinets if you have Off White walls is with a brighter True White, which I find mostly looks underwhelming and kind of blah because the contrast is pretty meek. It ends up looking like a warm and a cool white. A mismatch even.
Or – and this is a big trend that I get asked about in my SCWC workshops – to add some colour and contrast, you reach for a mushroom colour (a Taupe, Green Grey or Violet Grey typically) for the trim and/or cabinets. Warm neutral cabinets, I can get behind , it’s a nice way to cozy up a kitchen with timeless finishes, or in a darker tone, distract the eye from dated countertops (below)!
Wildflower Home (see the dated before here)
But running that same mushroom trim colour throughout your house will limit your wall colour options dramatically. And you might faint when you get the quotes for repainting it when you’re over it.
White walls are not as versatile as you think
When I’m consulting on paint colours, whether in person or online in my eDesign consultations, when a client has True White or Off White trim, it’s a joy because there are endless options for pretty wall colours when the trim is versatile and crisp throughout.
Besides, and I’ve said this many times before, Off White walls seem like the safe and versatile choice, but I’m hauling up my 25 (plus!) years of experience here to convince you they are anything but.
Because stark white walls need plenty of white furnishings to look right. Otherwise the room will just look unintentional, unpainted or builder boring. And white walls often don’t get along well with pale “white” upholstery. If you know how to compare colours effectively, you’ll notice “white” fabrics are usually in the realm of cream, barely there beige and greige.
What you want is a wall colour that feels fresh and bright without making your furnishings and decor look dirty or dingy. And that means you want that perfect colour that sits back and feels perfect with everything in the room.
And speaking of barely there beige.
My favourite whites for walls, you may have guessed, are not technically white at all!
Meet the Complex Creams
But if you’re looking for the perfect warm look for your walls that is fresh without being too stark, you need to get to know the Complex Creams. They are the palest beiges categorized by undertone in my system.
See what they look like in some of my rooms below.
Orange Beige Complex Cream – BM Indian White
In my previous primary bath, I painted the walls an orange beige complex cream to perfectly match the ground colour of my framed botanicals.
Orange Beige Complex Cream – SW Casablanca
And I used it again in my living room to pick up the warm marigold leaning yellow of my sofa. Notice that the room looks like a warm white. And the Complex Cream walls are perfectly fresh for decorating with colour.
Cloverdale Rice Paper – Green Beige Complex Cream
My kitchen in the last house was painted a Green Beige Complex Cream which gave just enough colour to the walls for the low light conditions through much of the day.
And my new kitchen cabinets are a Green Beige Complex Cream. which I have no plans to change because they look great with the Calacatta Gold marble backsplash. And I’ve run more of this colour throughout the house for flow because it’s such a versatile backdrop for decorating.
Custom Cabinet Colour – Similar to SW Neutral Ground – Green Beige Complex Cream
Here are some of the Complex Creams in my System (below). Learn more about how to get the right neutral undertone for your space by reading my eBooks here.
Once you identify the undertones of the neutrals in your space with my Neutral Colour Wheel, you can consider which Complex Cream will be best.
And if you’ve been following me and learning all about colour, you know it’s time to become a True Colour Expert. Get on the list to be the first to know when I release the dates of my Fall sessions. I can’t wait to meet you! We just finished our last event of the season last week!
Follow me on Instagram here to watch my questions of the day and see the trendy and timeless pics of the day!
And if you need help hiding your dated countertops with a dramatic colour, I can help with my Create a Classic Kitchen package here.