White Paint Colors And What Most People Don’t Realize



Dear Laurel,

Oh, I hope that you can help, oh paint guru.

Because, in my quest for the best white paint color, I feel like I’m sorely missing the mark. However, you need to know that I followed to the letter everything you’ve said to do on your blog and in your Laurel Home Essential paint Collection.

Here’s what’s happening. I live alone and am doing some minor renovations, mostly painting.

The painter left for the day, and instead of this beautiful, soft, creamy white, I was expecting, it was a pale yellow-gold with a very slight green tinge to it. The next day, the same color was peachy-pink.

In the morning, it is a lovely, but slightly cool cream.


It varies so much, it’s making me batshitcrazy. I guess what I’m wondering is what is this thing with paint undertones and if a paint goes from being gold-ish, to peach-ish, to green-ish and your guide says that maybe there’s a very slightly yellow undertone, but not always.

What gives?

I’ve lost my mind, apparently. Please make it stop! Just tell me to chill!

Love and kisses,



Dear Laurel. CHILL!

And yes, it’s a “Dear Laurel” note written by me, to me. The one who has all of the answers.

Well… no. not really. Not for me, I don’t. But we’ve been through that.

So, what’s going on Laurel?


Well, they’ve been working on my bedroom all week. Very nice, the guys are.

My bedroom the morning the renovations began - best white paint color

My bedroom, the morning of Monday April 30th.

The first day they fixed, patched and primed the areas that needed it.

They moved over a panel moulding to where it should’ve been and now the boxes are more even on both sides of the window.

I needed to give them the paint color.

The best white paint color.

For my particular space, that is.


Well, that’s an easy one, Laurel. Cotton Balls. You said so, right here.

Yes, I know but that is because someone was holding a gun to my head and I had to spit out a white paint color out or else we were going to have a big bloody mess.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Cotton Balls IS a fine color.

So my top 20 white paint colors are here.

And certainly the only six white paint colors I’ve ever used.


Here’s the wallpaper– again that Mural Sources has so generously donated for my bedroom refresh.

The best white paint color for my new wallpaper panels

In my mind, I was thinking about the room being “blush-y” because the paper is “blush-y.”

Not pink, exactly, but just warm and blushy. However, there is some pink in the paper. And there is actually orange and that beautiful blue. Most of the big birds will be covered up by furniture however. You can see a close up of the paper here.

I thought it would be a good idea to check out the wallpaper to make sure that the color matches my sample. So, I had one of the guys help me take out the wallpaper which came in a box in one giant roll.

This is a piece of the wallpaper that I cropped and it is laying on the floor, not the wall.

And what does Laurel say about looking at something that’s going to live vertically on a horizontal plane?

Oh, that’s not a good thing to do.

Right. It’s very bad.

But did I have a choice? Yes, I could use my wallpaper sample, taped to the wall and I did that too.

Well, didn’t you make your BIG samples, Laurel?

No, because I’m an arrogant pig and I also have the larger paint samples. True, they’re not as big as they should be, but I’ve also been doing this a long time.

Mostly, for other people. ;]

The samples above, from left to right are: Chantilly Lace, Sand Dollar, Distant Gray, Alabaster.

I chose Alabaster. To me, it looks like a dead ringer for Atrium White. Now, Atrium White has an undertone of pink. Why didn’t I pick Atrium White.

Who knows?


What did you dooooo Lauuuureeeeeeellll?


Well, they painted the Alabaster on the ceiling and one coat on the walls not being papered and at 4:30 in the afternoon, I had bubble gum pink on my bedroom walls.

Not exaggerating and definitely not what I had in mind.

By 6:00, the pink had calmed down considerably, but it really wasn’t what I wanted.


I’m phenomenally flawed, after all.

Now what?

Chantilly Lace. Maybe? But no. What if it’s too bright white? I’m going with my old standby Benjamin Moore White Dove oc-17.

And the reason is, I still wanted SOME color on the walls. Cotton balls is really verrrry close. Just a touch brighter. Really either would be fine and it is very unlikely that one would know which one was up.

Please keep that in mind.

Benjamin-Moore-Alabaster.-Benjamin-Moore-OC-129-Alabaster Amy Studebaker Design - via Homebunch - Best White Paint ColorInterestingly, I found this image on Homebunch that says this is Benjamin Moore Alabaster.

The designer is Amy Studebaker

Benjamin Moore Alabaster is NOT the best white paint color
This is Benjamin Moore Alabaster above. Yes, it could be the same color as the mudroom. Who knows with photos? OR, it is also possible that this is Sherwin William’s Alabaster which was the color of the year in 2016, I believe.


No, that looks even more different.

But the point is that colors in photos almost always look different in real life.


Amy Studebaker stunning bedroom with white painted shiplap - best white paint color

Just had to post this stunning bedroom from Amy Studebaker’s website. Please check out her work as she’s very talented!

Next day, they painted the white dove in my bedroom and it’s a huge improvement.


However, as soon as the guys left for the day, I began to get a very weird feeling.

It’s the feeling you get when you’re in a room full of strangers and they’re all looking at you like you have a huge bugger hanging out of your nose.


It wasn’t only the white paint color. It was like someone had switched children on me.

Like, who the hell are YOU and what did you do with my baby boy?

It’s just that my room which has been a source of comfort for me for so many years now, was no longer and it made me feel very strange.

Out of control.

And then, I realized that I had come down with a very bad case of—

Paint Focusitis Nervosa.

The symptoms are as follows:

  • Slight queasiness fearing that one has made a huge mistake
  • Longing for the old color even though a change was in order.
  • Sadness
  • Feelings of self-loathing because there is absolutely nothing to be sad about!
  • Obsessive looking at wall color to see if it does something unexpected.

Oh, it did. We’ve been blessed with incredibly warm, bright sunny afternoons recently. And my room faces south, southwest and west. The light is cool in the morning– like a north facing room and burning-hot in the late afternoon.

In one corner, at times it looks slightly goldish-greenish and on the opposite corner still slightly pinkish. But not all the time. Some of this is the orange-y wood tone in the floor, too. That will calm down when the rug goes in. And the window treatments too.

Sometimes, the color is a beautiful creamy white.

Actually, it’s quite gorgeous.

Below is an area in progress. The gray is where the wallpaper is going.

During the day, this is always the darkest corner of the room. It was with the purple too. That’s Benjamin Moore Advance on the door. Not bad! If this had been new wood, I would not have been able to tell the difference between Advance and oil.

Here’s a little sample of the wallpaper on the wall opposite the closet door. In this shot, I was able to capture the subtle nuances of the paper. I love that bronze-y greenish tone.

There are a lot of images of white dove in this volume of over 500 blog posts. If you click here, most of them will pop up.

But here are a few favorites.


We recently enjoyed this lovely renovation featuring walls and cabinetry painted in white dove.

You can see the rest of it here.

The next four images are mine. All feature Benjamin Moore White Dove oc-17


Laurel Bern Interiors Bronxville bathroom painted Benjamin Moore White Dove - Best White Paint Color

For more of this bathroom click here.

bronxville-kitchen-canopy-designs-custom-sconce Benjamin Moore White Dove - Best White Paint Color

For more of this kitchen above and below click here. And here.

Laurel Bern Interiors Bronxville Kitchen painted Benjamin Moore White Dove - Best White Paint Color


I also found a few gorgeous examples to share of this beautiful white dove paint color.


Connie Riik via instagram. Her beautiful painted brick home painted the best white paint color - Benjamin Moore White Dove

Beautiful exterior brick painted in White Dove by Connie Riik via her instagram.

(and please. a few of you. It’s fine if you don’t like painted brick, but I would prefer if you not spoil it for the rest of us who do. thank you.)

CZ Woodworking on Instagram. Best White Paint Color - Benjamin Moore White Dove

Gorgeous mill work painted Benjamin Moore White Dove by CZ_woodworking on instagram


riovista_living on instagram - best white paint color - Benjamin Moore White DoveLove this renovated farmhouse. Floor-to-ceiling windows do it to me every time. Riovista_living on instagram


Some closing thoughts about the best white paint color.


I believe that paint focusitis nervosa is more common than people let on. And even though I’m making light of it, I understand that even though a renovation is ultimately a good thing. Sometimes it’s difficult to let go of the old.

The other thought is that I know that some get paralyzed over choosing colors, particularly white. And that is why I narrowed them down. I wish it could be like trying on a dress in a store.

But it’s not like that and even after the ENTIRE room is painted, it IS going to change– with the light. And sometimes it might even change into something not so desirable, but like a whiny child, eventually, it’ll stop whining.

Blessedly, after a while, the focusing will stop.

And one day, you’ll walk into your room and realize that you’re once again in love.




***PS: Please don’t forget that if you want to get the new blogging guide at the promo price, you’ll need to get it in before Monday at 11:59PM ET***


  • Jennifer - June 3, 2018 - 11:54 AM

    Hi! I am struggling with choosing between a true white and a slightly (very slightly) softer white! My house has many angles and shadows but also lots of windows. I want the white on white look but worried too white might be too abrasive. My current top 2 paint finalists are Dun Edwards White Picket Fence and Benjamin Moore White (just straight out of the can). We have a transitional house with french oak medium brown floors. My new kitchen will have white shaker type cabinets with hand made white subway tile (I should note that the cabinets are not stark white but definitely read white and not cream.) Any advice would be great!! I am completely suffering from Decision Fatigue!! Thanks!!ReplyCancel

  • Christine - May 16, 2018 - 7:28 AM

    Laurel, Curious if you considered Simply White when you were selecting a white with no undertones? I wanted a true white for my sunroom (b/c we were not planning on repainting the beadboard A- frame ceiling – which is Linen White, nor the trim which is probably Decorators White). I did not want any undertones of blue (Shoreline), gray (White Dove, Calm), green (Cloud Nine), pink (White Winged Dove) or yellow (Cotton Balls). After much thought and comparison of the chips, literally holding them in different angles at different times of the day (shh… no paint sample!), I selected Simply White. It is simply a white. To me, it has a warmth without any visible undertones. My husband and I painted the room (at first he was very skeptical, but loved it!) and we plan on repainting the ceiling and trim in Simply White as well. Possibly even our basement, which has very little natural light. That’s for another day.

    In my quest to bring more white to our home (after de-browning the house when we first moved in), our new master bath is done in Ballet White walls with Cloud White ceiling an trims. It’s perfect.

    Back to the Sunroom for a moment… the original color, and what we lived with for over 3 years, was Linen White. I always disliked it, too yellow. Then on a whim one snow day this past winter, I had my husband paint it Ewing Blue. A lovely color for a front door, but not the entire room! It didn’t blend with anything in our home.

    Anyway, the Simply White is simply perfect… wondering if it was on your list and you crossed it for any particular reason? And yes, I have read your white Paint Posts over and over, and love them!!! Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 16, 2018 - 10:57 AM

      There are numerous whites which would’ve been suitable. The lighting in this room is insane. And White Dove goes from looking close to pure WHITE, to cream, to slightly pink, taupe-ish and sometimes all of the above– and at the same time. But I love it! Over-all, It’s exactly what I wanted– a warm, very soft white that’s not calling a lot of attention to itself.

      I chose white dove because I didn’t want a lot of contrast between the wall/trim and the wallpaper, because of my floors, my chair. But Cloud White or Simply White would’ve been fine too, I’m sure. BTW, with a highly reflective color like white, the undertone theory doesn’t always hold true.

      If a room is north-facing, then the light will be more consistent. ReplyCancel

  • eileen lonergan - May 12, 2018 - 7:53 AM

    After years of allowing my children to choose the color of their rooms (we had hot pink, orange, polka dots, Tiffany blue) I went to the Laurel Paint Guide and decided to take my home back and selected Cotton Balls. Lucky me could trust the pro – I promise you the rooms look beautiful and every time I walk by I delight it the bright clean rooms. Thank you Laurel!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 12, 2018 - 10:20 AM

      Oh Eileen,

      You’re a much better (wom) man than me! But then, I had boys and one is partially color blind! I painted their room a beautiful gold with a touch of green in it when Cale was eight. He couldn’t tell the difference between that and the dirty white. Happy Mother’s Day!ReplyCancel

  • Jane Mangan - May 7, 2018 - 6:11 PM

    OH Laurel….I commiserate with you! I’ve been there. One thing to keep in mind when choosing color for a room is to have the rug on the floor too , when deciding the wall color. I can’t tell if you did this or not …? It will affect the color on the wall.The color on the floor reflects that color onto the wall. YOu probably knew this anyway!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 7, 2018 - 6:20 PM

      Great point! And yes, I realize that my orange-y floor is reflecting that, especially in the afternoon. Not that my walls look orange, but definitely more beige. But when I put a white sheet down in front of the closet, it all went away.

      My new rug is in the living room. I figured that I’d wait until they had finished before bringing it in.ReplyCancel

  • cheryl - May 7, 2018 - 2:34 PM

    I love all these white rooms I see but they always have lots of windows with sunlight coming in. Will White Dove or Cotton Balls look good in an east facing room with only two windows?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 7, 2018 - 3:43 PM

      Hi Cheryl,

      That’s very difficult to ascertain without being in the room. There are so many other variables as well. Like, ambient light from other exposures, height of ceiling, size of window, color of floor, other colors, age/style of home, geographic area, outdoor space. Is it wooded, grassy, desert, lake, ocean, big hill, or other buildings close by? Is it a room that’s used more in the morning or afternoon. Morning, it’ll be nice and bright most likely, evening, not at all, of course.

      Mirrors placed opposite your windows if it makes sense will double your light!

      Mostly, I have used white dove for trim and cabinetry, but not nearly as much as cotton balls for both trim and walls. Cotton balls looks great in all lights. Of course, it’s going to appear darker in a more dimly lit room, so if you are hoping for light and bright, it’s not going to happen. However, Cotton balls never looks yellow or too gray, dingy, even when I’ve seen it in lower lights. It is a “cleaner” (less gray) white than white dove. However, white dove looks lovely in my morning light, in my south/west facing room. But south does get a little more light from the morning sun unless it’s cloudy. And that grayer note, is what adds a full-richness of delicious creamy white that makes it such a winner.

      I have to say that the only time I’m not as fond of white dove– at this point is in the very late afternoon when the sun is going full throttle and is tinging everything orange-ish. But it’s only that one corner where the closet door is. I’m not seeing that anywhere else in the room. If I had gone brighter, I might’ve felt that it was too cool at times and I want a warm white.ReplyCancel

  • Amy - May 7, 2018 - 10:16 AM

    So far, it looks beautiful. 🙂 This is going to be the best bedroom ever. Love that paper.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 7, 2018 - 3:27 PM

      Thanks so much Amy. Just found out that the paper is going in tomorrow!ReplyCancel

  • Colleen - May 7, 2018 - 3:09 AM

    We just finished building our retirement home. Paint. The bane of my existence! I wanted white walls, everywhere. But which white to choose? Bought several samples and didn’t like any of them. What I ended up doing was just doing white..straight out of the can white. It’s funny because the sheen between the walls and the baseboards have given the walls a slight soft gray hue to the walls and it’s perfect. Like a soft baby grey. The painter hated me..haha…With everything white, he had a heck of time with his painting. Couldn’t tell where he started or left off, so there had to be tons of touchups. However, I will compensate with colourful furniture. Not everyone’s taste, but I quite like it.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 7, 2018 - 9:54 AM

      That is very interesting Colleen and here’s why. So many times I hear that someone ordered a color at “50%” or “75%.”

      A percent of what? To your point, the base, which is what you are using does have a color and it reads as a pale gray on its own. For some colors, this additional coolness might be just the ticket to ward off unwanted yellow undertones, but it also might create more unwanted gray.


  • Gaye - May 7, 2018 - 1:07 AM

    Yes, we all have had cases of PFN. But ours are never so interesting as yours. Plus, we come running to you saying, “Laurel, I am DESPERATE. All white paints look alike to me by now or turn strange colors. Tell me what to do. Please, please, I’ll give you anything.” But you must go running to yourself, something of a disadvantage when the wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth start. This new bedroom is going to be more luxurious than your former, and that is going to make you feel like the Queen of Sheba. I did the same kind of switch two years ago, and I can tell you: that’s how you’re going to feel. So you might want to start looking around for some pretty slippers and nightwear. Be prepared, I say.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 7, 2018 - 1:29 AM

      Oh, you’re so sweet Gaye. We do expect a lot from our paint colors. It seems that we want them to be how we imagine they are going to be when we look at them on the chip.But that is rarely the case and even then, once up, there can be some surprises.ReplyCancel

  • Julie S - May 6, 2018 - 11:36 PM

    Hahaha! Priceless as always. I love that closeup of your wallpaper + paint by the way – things will turn out well.

    Overly focusing on paint color is something I have also been guilty of recently. We painted our new, sunny, vaulted open floor plan area off-white, and it was rather shocking to walk in after it was done. I had to remind myself that with furniture in the room the effect would be greatly reduced, and yes I do love it now! I also recall griping that I had been forced to get Eggshell sheen as Matte, the planned sheen, was not available in the tier of paint we could afford. I honestly haven’t noticed the sheen after the first day.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 7, 2018 - 1:25 AM

      Hi Julie,

      I find that the eggshell has barely any sheen and it is only noticeable from certain angles, anyway. Great point about having everything all together.ReplyCancel

  • Rose - May 6, 2018 - 11:32 PM

    Did the painter sand your door before painting it? It looks so perfect (in the best sense).ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 7, 2018 - 1:22 AM

      Yes, he sanded, but it was in good shape before. It seems that the previous owner had the paint stripped because this is definitely an original door.ReplyCancel

  • Jenn - May 6, 2018 - 10:30 PM

    You’re so awesome and hilarious–thanks for letting us in on your process! Can’t wait to see the room reveal!ReplyCancel

  • Rose - May 6, 2018 - 10:26 PM

    Judging by the responses, it seems like we are all empathetic to this syndrome. :). Thank you for reassuring us we are all batty and it’s ok! I’ve spent the the whole week going back and forth on my wainscot color decision. All my bedrooms have white dove trim and it looks lovely, but in my hallway looks completely drab (no windows), so I am changing it up to Cotton Balls in all the common areas as I work through the house.
    My whole family room is floor to ceiling in cotton balls and I love it. But for some reason, it’s looking ridiculously stark white (like Chantilly lace, which reminds me of white out/primer) in the living/dining room wainscot that I’m afraid to pull off the paint tape and just start all over. I think I’m just going crazy, because the door trim, ceilings & columns in that room have been cotton balls for months and I’ve never felt this way. My husband really wants me to let it go and see how I feel In awhile. Thanks for the laugh!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 7, 2018 - 1:17 AM

      That is reminding me. Several years ago, I specked white dove for the trim for all of the upstairs bedrooms and it was lovely, except for ONE room and white dove looked like a sheet of bright white paper. The walls were not dark at all. The clients were thrilled with everything. Was it the time of day? A passing cloud? A reflection of something? Did it look like that 3 hours later? Probably not.ReplyCancel

  • Cathy Popkin - May 6, 2018 - 10:10 PM

    Chris, THANK YOU for that brilliant description: “nicotine stained” gets it exactly right.ReplyCancel

  • Anita Lynn - May 6, 2018 - 7:33 PM

    Laurel – I only have time to skim the previous comments, but apparently you are not alone! What I was planning to say was “welcome to my hell.” Not to make light of it – I think what you chose is going to look beautiful, and I know you are a pro and I’m not. However, I do have a lot of experience with paint colors and colors in general, a very fine-tuned color eye, and a design-related degree. Nevertheless, choosing the “white” for our new build has been nothing but hell…I actually spent several months and close to $1K on samples (I was buying gallons so I could test the actual sheens). I guess you might call that a tad obsessed 😉 Even then, after choosing it, I went back and had them custom tweak it…and even now, after going with it, I have doubts daily! (Yeah, after typing this I know I sound certifyably crazy…) It’s the LIGHTING damn it – good luck!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 9:22 PM

      Yes, it’s the LIGHTING damn it! And while I believe that there is definitely validity in the undertone theory, the lighting ultimately dictates what our eyes PERCEIVE any given color is. And the other colors around it!

      I’m sure that your white is gorgeous!ReplyCancel

  • Lauren - May 6, 2018 - 5:35 PM

    I’ve been thinking about this post all day. Thank you for keeping it real, Laurel! I am currently in some kind of existential battle with the paint in the house I am renovating. Shoji White is oddly going pinkish, so I am going to have to tweak it and repaint the whole center hallway + living room something like Shoji White but somehow less pink. Simply White is turning out to be way too yellow for one bathroom even though it was perfect in another. (I think Chantilly Lace may fix the problem). I feel like a flaky idiot having to change the paint color and the doors + trim in that room now and I hate to waste money. Thank you for being honest and saying that it has happened to someone with way, way, way more experience. At least I’m not alone…wah wah wah. And as my husband is reminding me, the painters are perfectly happy charging to do it again. waaaaahhhReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 9:17 PM

      Hi Lauren,

      Chantilly Lace will not look yellow! It probably will fix it, but also look at decorator’s white, if Simply looks too yellow.ReplyCancel

      • Chris - May 7, 2018 - 12:52 PM

        I have some rooms in Chantilly lace and it is the most neutral and void of undertones white color, but it can go blue-white in certain light, especially east facing afternoon light.ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - May 7, 2018 - 3:30 PM

          Yes, it can go too cool, but that would hold true for the opposite time/exposure and maybe cloudy days. I probably wouldn’t use chantilly with a very dark color either as the contrast will be too extreme.

        • Chris - May 7, 2018 - 3:54 PM

          I agree Laurel,
          And, it will also reflect the color of your rugs or other items that bounce back to the wall. So proving once again that whites are never the same from one place to another, which makes them so interesting and possibly frustrating at times.

        • Laurel Bern - May 7, 2018 - 4:02 PM


  • Chris - May 6, 2018 - 3:59 PM

    I have a few rooms in White dove with Chantilly lace trim.
    Some face west and south, some face east…and all are surrounded by greenery and trees, which can also change whites to a more greenish hue.
    But White Dove looks really, really good in every room no matter the light an time of day. It is my go to, or place holder, if I don’t know what else to use and have to make a quick descision and have never been disappointed.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 9:15 PM

      Hi Chris,

      I’ve specked white dove for trim more times than I can count and also have never been disappointed, but rarely used it for a wall color. One reason being, that until recently, very rarely did white walls.ReplyCancel

  • varya - May 6, 2018 - 3:17 PM

    Funny,informative, & honest post. You,Miz Laurel,are the best at that even with a case of Paint Focusitis Nervosa! Now,the variations in a color that happen throughout the day,the seasons,sometimes from one room to the next as you noted; that is what fuels my fascination with a color. Not the static moment but rather the subtle interchange with the light. I actually search out shades that shift more,not less. ps-Love the peeks of your new room. Enjoy!ReplyCancel

  • Marianne - May 6, 2018 - 12:18 PM

    In my family we call it “ocular malice” that i think needs no explanation and covers all the decorating and other changes one makes. It usually takes 2 days to get over it or 3 friends you trust to say “it is just ocular malice you will love it. However if it continues you have to make a change no matter how painful because you will regret it!! I bought a condo and then proceded to hate it for days and sleepless nights on end. When the floors and popcorn ceilings changed i fell in love again. Love your posts, so honest and true. Thanks again Marianne TorontoReplyCancel

  • Karen - May 6, 2018 - 12:06 PM

    Laurel don’t freak. You haven’t even got the wallpaper up and the whole effect yet. You will LOVE what you did because you’re the expert here! Sometimes we freak over the change itself, especially if you are a sensitive gal. I think that you will LOVE all your choices. But now you’re mourning a tad for something reliable that gave you comfort for years.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 8:53 PM

      Yes, I think that you’re right Karen. Two weeks ago, my son was here and I gave him my rug that I still love but it’s too small for the room. And we drove it to Boston. It looks so nice in his little funky living room. But when I got home and saw my naked floor, it gave me kind of the same feeling.

  • GL - May 6, 2018 - 11:59 AM

    The bedroom’s going to be a stunner when it’s done! but the change is too big not to be causing some angst. And always remember the wise words of Jocasta Innes (the mistress of paint effects in the 1980s), that you will almost certainly hate your newly painted walls (especially if you’ve done any kind of effect on them, such as dragging) until you’ve got the furniture and the wall decorations, whether art or wallpaper panels, back in. Once everything’s in, the walls become background instead of being the focus of too much of your attention.
    Caution: matching your wall colour to something in the room is a risky idea. I did it once, matching the walls of a bathroom to the slight beige relief on the “decorated” tiles (the rest are off-white). Hideous! I hated it for years, and then we had water damage from above (melting snow coming down from the garage) so I had to repaint (not to mention replaster the ceiling, a truly horrible job)and F&B White Tie on walls and ceiling solved the problem!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 8:59 PM

      Hi GL, I have found that the eye “tries” to match what doesn’t match exactly. I do remember Jocasta Innes. I had bought a couple of her books. Wise words, indeed!ReplyCancel

  • Ramona - May 6, 2018 - 11:25 AM

    I love painted brick but didn’t work up the courage to paint the fireplace in my first home. Issues aplenty.

    I especially love white painted brick houses.

    Your start looks yummy!ReplyCancel

  • Robin - May 6, 2018 - 11:21 AM

    Laurel, your wallpaper is absolutely gorgeous! Can’t wait to see the finished bedroom. And thank you for helping me laugh at myself for being “phenomenally flawed” and laboring over every design decision in our home. Love your blog!ReplyCancel

  • Leslie - May 6, 2018 - 11:20 AM

    Dear Laurel,
    OMG going through the same thing at our house and sometimes the process gets the better of me! But really, I do so enjoy it and feel blessed I can do it after a lot of tough situations. This morning I was reviewing the Paint Palette groups for inspiration (and have been every night for the last week:) I remembered to check my email and there you were going through a similar trial and error. You too struggle with this stuff too and you are an amazing designer! The upstairs guest room has lots of shadows… one window is in a dormer the other is pretty but tiny, a curved wall, dark corners and a lower than 8 ft ceiling are my challenges plus you know, keeping the rest of the rooms in mind:) I chose a fairly dark color for the den and don’t want another dark room. But today is the day I have to decide because tomorrow is painting day! Wish me luck, I’ll need it for sure.
    Your wallpaper choice is so pretty and well deserved. It’s going to all work out and be lovely like all of your design work. Thanks again for keeping it real and making it fun!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 5:33 PM

      Thanks Leslie and here’s wishing you good luck in all things.ReplyCancel

  • Marilynn - May 6, 2018 - 11:17 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    White paint drives me insane.
    I chose a paint color BM Gray Mist for all my walls in the summer last year. Swear to gawd I saw no gray more of a soft linen color. They were stunning with all the sun shining in until the winter where they look drab and well gray. LOL :/ Would adding more lighting help?I have painted my house twice now and my husband says absolutely no to a 3rd attempt.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 5:31 PM

      Hi Marilynn,

      The problem might be what else is in the room. If the walls are gray in the winter, they are gray. Maybe adding more white in art and/or fabrics, + some rich, deep color will help. But of course, I’m only guessing as I can’t see the space.ReplyCancel

      • Marilynn - May 8, 2018 - 1:14 PM

        Bingo! You are genius!!!!ReplyCancel

  • GGG - May 6, 2018 - 10:55 AM

    Loved this post. Nice to know that even the pro has second thoughts. Ten years ago I picked a color for the siding on our house (half brick/half siding). The brick is a funny brick–sort of a Spanish-style effect with the brick popping through a white coating, kind of painted but a rustic version. It is hard to find the right color to go with it! I thought I had found a good color (with samples painted), and the painter got going painting it. When I returned at the end of the day, it looked awful! The house glowed and looked like it had been dipped in caramel! However, it was not just me, our neighbor across the street mentioned she liked how it “glowed”! So for the second coat we repainted (yes, it cost more….) with a different color, much calmer, much happier.

    BTW when we replaced the wood siding with hardiplank a couple of years ago, I was so skittish that I just went with the contractor’s suggestion of Sherwin Williams Balanced Beige. Of course, I bought lots and lots of wild paint samples for the front door, so still wasted a lot of time and money on that process, then ended up going with Virtual Taupe, two colors down on the same paint strip! Trim Dover White. (Took about ten whites to get there….)ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 11:12 AM

      Hi GGG,

      Yes, exterior colors can be equally tricky. Years ago, a professional commercial contractor put up a building near my old house. It wasn’t a terrible, but wasn’t great either. However, the color of the wood part was a way too bright blue green. Sort of between sea foam green and robin’s egg blue. I’m sure that they were going for sage but missed the mark by a few shades. I kept hoping that they’d change it but nope. Ten years later, it’s still there.ReplyCancel

  • Mary - May 6, 2018 - 10:50 AM

    Thank you, Laurel, for saying what I’ve come to realize over years of choosing white paint colors for my home: the only “best” white is the one that looks best in a particular room. A few years ago, when repainting my living room, I was so excited to try the much-vaunted BM Ivory White, which looked lovely on the chip and in every designer photo; I was so disappointed when my big sample board looked cold, gray and chalky in that north-facing room. Another time, before I learned to sample, I painted a light-filled hallway and an adjoining light-filled bedroom with two-coats of a lovely white BM paint from the same can (so no possibility of a bad mix); the hallway looked dreamy, the bedroom ghastly. There are no magic whites that work everywhere, and no way to avoid testing colors on sample boards. When you find the right one, then there’s magic.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 11:06 AM

      Yes, you are so right! And I realize fully today that my biggest problem is the CHANGE, not the color. Now here’s an interesting point. Does the room feel bigger or smaller? It feels more rectangular when it in fact it’s not. And that makes sense, because peripherally, the effect is not noticeable, but looking straight ahead, the wall does appear closer. I feel more like I’m in a big old hotel than my bedroom. In fact, this building was built to be a residential hotel. I imagine that meant that people were here for less than a year. There’s a safe in my closet!ReplyCancel

      • Mary - May 7, 2018 - 3:00 PM

        Ooh! I love those gracious old hotels! Lucky you! One of those I stayed at thirty years ago in D.C. was the inspiration for the all-white bathroom I have (and love) today. Your new bedroom will look gorgeous — an ethereal retreat!ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - May 7, 2018 - 3:45 PM

          I love that too and alas, that will be short-lived as the paper is going up tomorrow.

  • Susie - May 6, 2018 - 10:28 AM

    Thanks for sharing your paint panic with us! It is funny how even an interior designer becomes paralyzed when choosing paint for herself! I love how it looks in the room. And I love the look of painted brick, too.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 11:01 AM

      Thanks Susie. It is a thousand times easier to choose for someone else.ReplyCancel

  • Nancy - May 6, 2018 - 10:25 AM

    A great blog Color Me Happy is an excellent resource for understanding colors,undertones,etc., etc. Your room is going to be beautiful!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 10:59 AM

      Love Maria. We’re very good friends; just had dinner together in NYC. I taught her everything she knows. No, really just joking.ReplyCancel

  • Susanamantha - May 6, 2018 - 10:22 AM

    I am suffering from focusitis nervosa about cream instead of white. I finally convinced my husband to have our red brick house painted cream with a light-ish taupe/mushroom trim. It’s a cross between a Cape Cod and a Tudor. I think it will look splended and it’s photos like the painted brick one you posted today that convinced him.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 10:57 AM

      Hooray! Please send pics of before and after if you like to admin at laurel bern interiors dot com.ReplyCancel

  • Gina Donza - May 6, 2018 - 10:14 AM

    Laurel, Just wanted to let you know you are not alone. For some reason, I thought interior decorators were immune to this condition. ANY life changes take time to adjust to and paint colors are no different. Enjoy your lovely, new space that you’re so deserving of!
    BTW, I love your writing style and often think you missed your calling to be an author. 😉ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 10:56 AM

      No, most just don’t talk about it for fear of looking like we don’t know what we’re doing. lolReplyCancel

  • Lisa in MT - May 6, 2018 - 10:09 AM

    Thank you for the smiles this morning! I bet your bedroom will look wonderful when it’s completed. Can hardly wait for the big reveal!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 10:11 AM

      Hi Lisa ~ me too! And then there’s the bathroom and kitchen and some stuff in the living room too.ReplyCancel

  • Mary - May 6, 2018 - 10:01 AM

    Sometimes I think it’s best to new view a newly decorated space until it’s all done & everything is in its place. Seeing things individually & out of context causes panic. Of course that’s hard to do when you’re doing the decorating in your own home.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 10:10 AM

      Hi Mary,

      You are 100% right in that regard. Something I learned a long time ago when decorating for myself is that “clashing shades” of the same family that I wouldn’t have done for a client actually look great together. But it made me less fearless in general about getting it “perfect.”ReplyCancel

      • Lara - May 6, 2018 - 2:14 PM

        Hi Laurel! That’s so true – I’m a quilter and one of the things we learned about choosing fabrics is that adding some clashing elements lends vibrancy and life. If everything is too perfectly matched it can look static and ho-hum.
        Thank you for your blog. I can’t fully express how much I look forward to Sundays and spending a couple of hours exploring your posts. No visit here ever ends up being a quick one, LOL. We took on a fixer upper 60’s ranch and I’m so grateful I found you before it was time to renovate. You have improved my sense of style significantly. (Un-kitchen here we come!) Your humor and warmth are such a delight too.ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 9:03 PM

          Oh wow! That just made my day Lara. Thank you for such a lovely note!

  • Lori - May 6, 2018 - 9:59 AM

    First I agree with runningonempty, a red/blue based color like your purple is the hardest to cover. Even with primer, two coats sometimes allows for some bleed through. Have you considered having the background on the paper match and then cut down maybe to 60%? I’ve done a million color consults and sometimes there is just no right color available.

    Looking so so pretty though!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 10:08 AM

      Hi Lori,

      The color is covered. And no, I do not ever color-match and don’t recommend it as I tried it once very early in my career and the results were not optimal.

      I once had a job where every color in the bedroom looked green. Even pink looked green! So, we settled on a cream and don’t remember which one, but it was a lovely celery color.ReplyCancel

  • Joanne - May 6, 2018 - 9:32 AM

    This is a timely post for me. I’m struggling with wall colors for my traditional yet open-ish space, and the whites are particularly maddening. You’ve given me some hope that I’ll settle on the right one, and that it will be OK in the end. :o)ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 9:55 AM

      Hi Joanne,

      It will be okay because there is rarely only one that will work. And the differences between some are incredibly slight. And I do know that Acadia White and Ivory White are the same color and I believe that might be the case with Atrium White and Alabaster as well and probably some others!ReplyCancel

  • Janet Knowlton - May 6, 2018 - 9:27 AM

    What a perfectly timed article! I am tearing my hair out over White Dove and Simply White for new kitchen cabinets. I now worry it might clash with bianco white marble because it is a tat too warm! At least this is what I am reading. I have to pick out paint for my new kitchen cabinets now and was all set on Simply White until I read I should go with something more white. AHHHHHHHHHH!!!! Then the walls. Any suggestions? I am scared to go with Chantilly White. Can you use one white in the kitchen but another for the rest of the room which is the dining room, a big open space? Help I am going insane!

    P.S. I absolutely love your blog.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 10:55 AM

      Well, I’ve used white dove with Carrera Bianco and Calacatta Gold and it is beautiful. There are numerous examples in the links provided. You can use different whites in different areas near each other.

      They WILL look different, in any case, during the day. Guaranteed.ReplyCancel

  • Karen Smithson - May 6, 2018 - 9:07 AM

    I used cotton balls after reading your advice. I painted the whole house with it including the kitchen and bathroom cabinets and I love it. I had planned on painting the master bedroom a different color but it is very dark and I hated everything I tried so I stayed with cotton balls. I love it, for my house it worked beautifully and it is the perfect white for me. I can’t wait to see how your beautiful bedroom comes out.ReplyCancel

    • Cheyenne - May 7, 2018 - 3:34 PM

      I used Cotton Balls as well after reading Laurel’s amazing blog. All ceilings and trim, and then for the walls as well in the laundry room, a windowless bathroom, and a north-facing bedroom. This post resonated so much with me because when it first went up before everything else was done, I totally panicked. The color looked a weird yellow-greenish, particularly in that bedroom (northern light does weird things). Now that everything is together, I love the color and am so grateful to Laurel for saving me from a million white paint samples 🙂ReplyCancel

      • Laurel Bern - May 7, 2018 - 3:48 PM

        Hi Cheyenne,

        Oh, I’ve had that problem before and everything in this bedroom looked GREEN! It was about 13 years ago, so I don’t remember what shade we went with. It might’ve been cotton balls when I first started using it. But it was a beautiful celery color. I think I mentioned this here on another comment. Also, it’s good to note as many have stated that looking at an empty room, just painted is not indicative of what it’ll be like once all of the furnishings are in.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 9:51 AM

      Hi Karen,

      Yes, cotton balls is beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • Cathy Popkin - May 6, 2018 - 8:47 AM

    Totally agree with everything you’ve said here, and your description of the syndrome is hilarious. Just one caveat to pass along to others: don’t change or choose your white BEFORE your cataract operation. You will not believe the difference between what you’ve been seeing and what’s actually there.ReplyCancel

    • Chris - May 6, 2018 - 3:35 PM

      I had catact surgery on one eye, and the difference is ASTONISHING!
      I’m not super old nor decrepit, in my mid 50’s when I had it done a few years ago, because I just couldn’t compensate with bifocals anymore, so I chose the lens replacement in one eye…the doc warned me that I will see colors brighter, but I poopoohed him thinking “no way” my eyes aren’t that bad…but low and behold when I looked around right after getting the new lense, I swear I could see ultra violet light! White was blinding white again. When I close my new eyes lense and only look through my old eye…its like looking at nicotine stained walls vs shines bright white….and this is what we see and don’t even know it! Never would have believed it in a million years!
      I think this is why we see some older women with lipstick that is just too bright…because they see it muted through the brown in our natural lenses that starts already in our early 30’s.
      So colors are subjective, remember that to all stressing about colors.ReplyCancel

      • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 9:13 PM

        That’s very interesting Chris. I must see my eye doctor for a check-up. Don’t think I have cataracts but I was diagnosed with very early-stage macular degeneration four years ago. So far, things are stable and I don’t notice anything.

        This is one of the reasons that I decided that I needed to switch my focus to blogging, not actually designing for clients.

        I don’t notice any changes except being horribly far-sighted and a little near-sighted too. ReplyCancel

        • Chris - May 6, 2018 - 10:41 PM

          Laurel, that just it…I didn’t have cataracts either!
          I was just going through too many dime store readers and always misplacing them….until I got sick and tired of always looking for my glasses! That is the only reason I had the lense replacement done in one eye. Now, I need ZERO glasses or contacts! This one eye works like a charm and I don’t even notice that my other eye just has normal age related vision loss…aka arm not long enough.
          I can read the smallest print and see in distance too as the lens is multi focal.
          But I had no cataracts.
          That is why I was so surprised after getting the new lens how bright everything was.
          The doc told me that WE ALL have lenses darkening starting around age 30 and you will see the colors like when you were a child again. I didn’t believe him either…but It is really that different!
          Sorry, don’t mean to hog the comments! Love ya!

        • Laurel Bern - May 7, 2018 - 1:21 AM

          But then I’ll get all flabby if I don’t have to look for my glasses… ;]

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 9:50 AM

      Thanks Cathy and that reminds me that I must make an appointment to see my eye doctor for a check up!ReplyCancel

  • Tricia Heliker - May 6, 2018 - 8:08 AM

    Perfect timing, Laurel. I am having my dining room walls painted this week from a medium green to OC-20 Pale Oak. I was fine with the green until I was forced to change a few things in the room because a huge mirror slid off it’s backing in the middle of the night and crashed to the floor hitting a caned backed chair on the way down. That’s a whole other story. I chose Pale Oak because I have it in my foyer and on the walls of the stair well and because I might be putting my house on the market and a more neutral color couldn’t hurt. I have been getting a little jittery like I might be coming down with something and the painter won’t even be here for three more days. Paint focusitis nervosa can be triggered by something as simple as, “I think it’s time to paint.” Thanks for reminding me that a few weeks after it is finished the symptoms will subside.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 9:48 AM

      Hi Tricia,

      Pale Oak is another Laurel Home color and is a beautiful neutral. But you already have it, so you know.ReplyCancel

      • Chris - May 6, 2018 - 3:27 PM

        Ok ok, I admit I googled Pale Oak too. Elephant tusk seems a bit more cream/darker than Pale Oak. Both are lovely!ReplyCancel

  • Array - May 6, 2018 - 8:00 AM

    Hi Laurel – the shot of the door newly painted looks beautiful, as does the one with the wallpaper next to the new painted woodwork. Its good to know that even a pro like you goes through that angst during a project – i think you are going to fall in love with your new bedroom!


  • sharon lee dube - May 6, 2018 - 7:44 AM

    Laurel, paint is so tough. It looks different at the store under those horrid florescent lights, another color in bright sunlight, a third color in your car, a fourth, fifth, sixth color in your home. I’m in the process of repainting my kitchen cabinets and tried about six different whites in this north facing kitchen; a middle room with only one window. Some looked pink, some looked gray, some just too bright. I finally mixed my own color with BM Carrington Beige and one of the whites and had my local paint expert custom “eye” mix it since they’re computer matching is useless. Now onto the wall color. Can’t have white since we have sloppy dogs. BM Carrington Beige looked too pale, Coastal Fog and Herbal Escape too gray, Castleton Mist too pastelly green. What to do? Custom blend colors again and get a custom color mixed. I have enough goofs and samples to open my own paint store! Maybe I should be try black everywhere, lol
    P.S. -I hate natural brick houses but LOVE painted brick. It’s so romantic and the subtle play of light and shadow enchanting and so old world looking. So no complaints from me.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 9:38 AM

      Oh yes, big mistake to look at a paint color in the store or car! It should only be looked at taped FLAT against the wall and really should be a large sample and moved around at different times of the day and night. But white being so highly reflective will take on different shades which is one reason that I love it. It’s just with rooms three big windows facing south and west, I’m getting a huge variation.ReplyCancel

  • Em - May 6, 2018 - 7:37 AM

    I’ve been painting as well so sign me up for your PFN support group. I slopped the same four paint samples in so many places my kids asked if I was making a mosaic.

    The paint looked different on each wall. The one I had nicknamed “dirty walls” was BM Revere Pewter. It was the least objectionable of the four so I went with it.

    After the whole room was painted (versus one large rectangle) it turned out to be the perfect change… whodathunk?

    My uneducated conclusion is that even with the perfect paint, you might not know until you’re all in…But I’m a little reassured to see that it even happens to the master.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 9:33 AM

      Hi Em,

      I’m the proverbial shoemaker. I’ve selected thousands of colors (well, many repeats) for clients over the years, but maybe only a dozen or so for myself in my entire lifetime!ReplyCancel

  • Joan Marie Lee - May 6, 2018 - 7:08 AM

    Laurel, I think that all of hs have faced the “white” doldrums! I have a very large area that was painted a boring, dreadful gold which had become not only dated but worn and dirty. My quest for the perfect color began about five years ago…yes you read that right, it took me that long to find my color. I wanted something warm but not yellow, I didn’t want any orange or alot of grey undertones. After more trips to the paint store for samples than I want to admit, giving up and trying to live with the old color I finally found my perfect white. It’s Benjamin Moore Elephant Tusk. It looks fabulous! Your article made me smile for with enough determination that “perfect” color just may exist.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 9:31 AM

      Hi Joan,

      So glad that you persevered. Elephant Tusk is a beautiful color and is actually one of the 144 colors in the Laurel Home Essential Paint Collection! ReplyCancel

      • Chris - May 6, 2018 - 3:23 PM

        Ok everybody, fess up!
        How many googled Elephant Tusk!?ReplyCancel

  • Brenda Botbyl-Velez - May 6, 2018 - 6:43 AM

    You made me crack up! I too have been suffering from a terrible case of paint focusitis nervosa! I thought it was just me!!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 9:24 AM

      Oh no, it’s not just you! That’s why I decided to share this. You know… I have heard it said that physicians become doctors because they are afraid of getting sick.ReplyCancel

  • Anna - May 6, 2018 - 6:13 AM

    Good morning Laurel,
    So relieved that my affliction has a name: paint focusitis nervosa.

    Actually, my affliction is more general: color focusitis nervosa.

    I recently had my beloved, comfortable, swivel, bedside armchair reupholstered. I’ve had this chair for over 30 years and sit in it often to put my feet up and read.

    I made a big color change from a pale blush to a vibrant but still pastel-y green to match my new bedspread. Eek!

    Every time I entered the room I freaked. So much remorse! I was ready to call the upholsterer and have it redone. The only thing that stopped me was that it had already cost a small fortune (approx $900) to upholster it in the first place.

    Well, I’m (getting) used to it and it really does look just fine.

    This happens to me all the time – usually, like you, with easy to fix paint, this time with pricey upholstery.

    BTW, I love murals and your wallpaper is gorgeous. I can’t wait to see your bedroom when it’s done!

    Thanks for an interesting and comforting read on this overcast Sunday morning in NYC!

    • Laurel Bern - May 6, 2018 - 9:20 AM

      Hi Anna,

      Yes, overcast here today too, although Bronxville is only about 3 miles north of the Bronx border. :] My brain is starting to adjust to the new color.

      There’s also new item focusitis. I had a very lovely client years ago who had it pretty badly, but knew it and kindly left me be for two weeks until she adjusted. ReplyCancel

  • Susan - May 6, 2018 - 3:34 AM

    Hello Laurel Your home is beautiful. The white brickwork and darker trim are stunning. And, can I say your wooden floors are gorgeous! Have a lovely weekend. SusanReplyCancel

  • Runningonempty - May 6, 2018 - 3:10 AM

    You need a minimum of three coats over a dark colour. Until that last coat goes up you won’t see the one you picked. Relax.

    Some dark colours need more than three over them.ReplyCancel

  • lisa ruddick - May 6, 2018 - 1:22 AM

    Laurel, why are you so adorable? Why are you so sweet? Why are we all rooting for you to end up with a yummy, yummy bedroom that you adore? Forge on!!ReplyCancel