Post Updated September 29, 2022
White is my favorite color. It is timeless and classic IF you know how to work with it.
It’s okay if you’re not into white as a fantastic paint color for your interiors. However, I’m hoping by the end of this post about the best shades of white paint, you will see this versatile color in an entirely new light.
Therefore, please enjoy my 20 Best Shades of White Paint list.
There was an older version of this popular post and hundreds of comments. I have saved the most relevant comments, which you can read here.
Okay, it’s time to dive into this important topic of the best shades of white paint.
Over the years, if I had to state, the NUMBER ONE ISSUE that people face when decorating their homes is:
What damned color will I paint the walls, ceiling, trim, etc.?
And, then, we go to the paint store and find that there are at least 150 colors that they are calling white. And that’s just from Benjamin Moore.
Of course, you are!!!
And, sorry to say, it would appear that it’s just how they like it. I dare say that Benjamin Moore’s bottom-line might be hurting if we didn’t make 50 trips to the paint store to get those test quarts of paint!
Oh, you think it’s just YOU that’s the “crazy paint lady (or guy)?”
Not by a long shot.
If it makes you feel any better, some 23 years ago, when I first chose paints for myself (for my old home), I, too, was a frothing at the mouth, wild-eyed-wacko making her 16th trip to the paint store, so I could then ponder another three or four shades of the best white paint colors. I’m sure I’ve written my next point before. However, I think it bears repeating.
White paint is very much like a husband.
Most of us only need only one husband. ;] You search and search until you find just the right one. You marry him and then live happily ever after until he begins to crack, peel, and chip off the wall. ;]
After earnest attempts at spackling without success, you get rid of that one, find a different husband, and are happy with that one too…
Well, white paint is precisely like that!
In other words, in most cases, you would be just as happy with a different white paint color.
Therefore, please (try to) relax a little. :]
I am happy to share this information because I know it’s so difficult to know which shades of white are the best shades of white paint.
Here are the common issues concerning white paint that I’ve found or heard over the years
- One issue is that some so-called white paint colors are NOT actually white. Ever go to the store and ask the guy for a gallon of white paint, and then you get it home, and it looks horrible?Once it’s up, you realize it’s not white, it’s actually– pink, peach, greige, yellow, green, blue, gray, violet, or BLINDINGLY WHITE? This may not be easy to see on the chip, but here’s a trick I learned from my wonderful colleague, fellow paint guru, and friend Maria Killam.
Maria says that if you compare any white color to Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace oc-65, you will easily be able to see if it has any undesirable undertone. I’ve not tried this, but I do not doubt she’s right about that.
I love the work of this young firm and featured them in this post about another misunderstood color. – beige
Two more issues I hear regarding the best shade of white paint
- The shade of white is too bright, dirty, warm, or cool. We are going to go over this.
- The shade of white is warm alright; it has a distinct yellow undertone.
- White is boring. Well, I don’t think so; and I believe there’s nothing more beautiful than white on white. (remember this exquisite home?) I also wrote this post that discusses why some don’t understand white paint.
Before getting into the list, we should go over a little color theory.
Some already know these principles, but some of you don’t.
We see different colors because an object absorbs some colors (wavelengths of light) and then reflects or transmits other wavelengths seen as colors back to our eyes through our brains. Different wavelengths of light create different colors.
The light reflecting on an object will affect the color we see.
This is why a color might look different at 10:00 AM than at 4:00 PM.
Or, two adjacent walls might read like two completely different colors.
In addition, there’s something called the light reflective value.
The lighter the color, the more it is affected by the light hitting it, and the brighter it projects back to our eyes.
And, there’s more. The perception of any color is influenced by the colors surrounding it. For instance, opposite colors on the color wheel enhance each other. If you put red and green together, the red will look REDDER and the green GREENER. If you have a gray with a tiny touch of green in it next to red, it will begin to look decidedly green.
Okay. Now, close your eyes for a sec, scroll down and then open your eyes.
Does desert twilight look greener? A little, I think.
Of course, the above information is a very simplistic explanation of a complex subject.
An even more simple explanation is:
It’s all a big bloody crapshoot!
This is why–
NO MATTER WHAT I OR ANYONE ELSE SAYS, YOU MUST TEST YOUR COLORS IN YOUR HOME AND YOUR UNIQUE LIGHTING SITUATION.
Whatever you choose, I strongly recommend that you test your white paint on all four walls and look at it at different times of the day and at night. A movable sample on poster board or a small piece of sheetrock (which is sold at most paint stores) is the way to go. (be sure to tape the board flat against the wall!)
You can also try using the wonderful Samplize.
For more tips on getting your color right the first time, please fill out the form at the top of every blog post where it says, “Freaking out about your paint colors?” And I’ll send you a free guide!
(please do not confuse the freebie guide with the 500-page, two-part Laurel Home Paint and Palette Collection)
However, if you would like more definitive answers about paint colors and the white paint colors that will go with them, please look into getting the Laurel Home Paint, Palette, and Furniture Guide. You can read more about it here.
And now, we are ready to examine my 20 favorite shades of white paint.
And some that I’m not as much a fan of.
(My largely sucky-white list. But in some cases, there are exceptions.)
You might want to take this time to go and grab a sandwich and/or take a potty break and then please come right back. :]
Please note. Many of these colors, I don’t know what they actually are.
I am sticking primarily to the best Benjamin Moore white paint colors because where I live, most contractors prefer it, and it is readily available.
These are rooms by designers known for using the best shades of white.
From the Bronxville kitchen, we did a few years ago. This cabinet is Benjamin Moore White Dove oc-17.
Benjamin Moore- WHITE DOVE oc-17
You can never go wrong with the dove. It is a soft, warm white with a teensy touch of a subtle gray undertone. We also did the bathroom cabinetry that I designed in Benjamin Moore’s White Dove.
Above is white dove from Lotte Meister’s home. Photo by me. There’s a lot of white dove in her home. To see more of Lotte’s gorgeous home, click here.
A Sunroom we did in 2010! The walls are Benjamin Moore linen white, and the ceiling is Benjamin Moore Palladian Blue. For more great sunroom ideas, please check out this recent post.
Benjamin Moore – LINEN WHITE. I prefer it in brighter rooms. It is a classic cream and looks very lovely paired with white dove for the trim, such as crown moulding, baseboards, chair rails and wainscoting. An alternative to this color is:
Benjamin Moore – LILY OF THE VALLEY905. This is a lot like linen white, but just a hair brighter. I did it once in a family room full of gorgeous built-ins. I don’t have a photo, however. But, it is close to Ivory white, which is the color above.
Making it Lovely is a terrific blog filled with info about paint colors and sources.
Benjamin Moore WHITE BLUSH 904. (see above) The color looks ever so slightly pink on the chip (and the name also implies pink), but when it goes up, it’s very lovely, soft, and creamy. It does not look pink in most situations. This is a wonderful white with taupes, warm grays, and the challenging “pinky-beige.” It does not look good with a clear or bright yellow, however.
Benjamin Moore IVORY WHITE – 925. This is the home I helped the loveliest long-distance client in 2016. It was one of the last jobs I did. Please note that Ivory white is the same color as
ACADIA WHITE – ac-41. For more of this lovely home in Kentucky, please click here.
Benjamin Moore CLOUD WHITE – 967 This is another very pretty white with just a whisper of cream. It is quite close to White Dove, but perhaps a hair whiter.
Benjamin Moore COTTON BALLS 2145-70 or oc-122 – This is from their “newer” fan deck. You can see more of this cool vintage apartment here.
Too funny. I just realized that this is the former home of the parents of the long-distance client who used Ivory White in her home.
Cotton Balls is a soft, warm, lovely, lovely white. Really beautiful for walls or trim with any other color.
Benjamin Moore SIMPLY WHITE – 2143-70 The name says it all. However, it is another white paint color decorators love for its warmth. It’s very close to Cotton Balls, and a touch whiter than White Dove.
HOT TIP: I find that these two whites are the most versatile, in that they look good with both cool colors as well as those more difficult shades of yellow.
Occasionally, I hear someone wanting to paint their walls a “pure white.” Well, there’s no such thing when it comes to paint. However, the closest in Benjamin Moore paint colors is Chantilly Lace – oc-65.
Above is one of the 40 mood boards I created with furniture sources, using the wall colors in the background for the Laurel Home Paint and Palette Collection.
Above is a reduced screenshot of one of the pages associated with this color from the palette collection.
BM DECORATOR’S WHITE – an enduring classic white that’s on the cooler side of the spectrum of whites. Please be careful about using it in a darker room, and especially on the ceiling. It is better for brighter rooms, I think.
Oh man, since that post, Gerald has had the outside of his home painted too! What shade of white is it, you want to know? I’m sorry, I wish I knew too. I adore everything he does.
EVERYONE DOES! And, here’s the thing.
Benjamin Moore DECORATORS WHITE mixed 50/50 with LINEN WHITE — This one is a little secret that’s no longer a secret. Although I’ve never actually tried it, but it makes so much sense. Dec has slightly blue-green undertones and linen, slightly gold… and together, makes for a sublime creamy white.
Benjamin Moore – WINTER SNOW – oc-63, a vignette from Nancy Keye’s living room
This is also known as a Darryl Carter color – SOMERSET WHITE dc-05.
And, here it is again, in Nancy Keye’s Living Room.
Benjamin Moore MOONLIGHT WHITE 2143-70 – This is another of the Darryl Carter colors for Benjamin Moore, which, just to confuse us into thinking is a different color, is also called Huntington White DC-02.
If you are interested in a great post on “cracking the Darryl Carter code,” with the actual names and numbers, you can find that here on My Knotting Hill Blog. And yes, I know that the image is too small to read. You’ll need to go check out Knotting’s blog. Sorry, she doesn’t publish her name.
However, they can call it whatever they think will sell the paint because whatever Darryl is selling… I’m buying.
above and below
Benjamin Moore PAPERWHITE. This is a white with a slight gray tint, and I had some bookcases painted this color in a room already painted a warm gray with a hint of violet. I had the inside of the cases painted orange. It looks amazing!
Below is another board from the Laurel Home Paint and Palette Collection.
To mix it up, I used Paper White on this board for the trim
Interestingly, another excellent shade of white paint that wasn’t in the original post is DISTANT GRAY. However, the gray is exceedingly distant. Paper White has a touch more gray in it.
Benjamin Moore SUPER WHITE is one of Studio McGee’s favorite shades of white paint, and mine as well. Super White is a clean, warm white that I used when repainting my old apartment in Bronxville, NY.
BM – WHITE. Who knew? Their plain white is good for trim with either clear or cool colors. It does not look so great with gold. For gold and khaki, I love one of the creamier whites like linen white or Mayonnaise. My apartment has BM white trim everywhere. Honestly, it looked terrific in the bathroom and good in the bedroom. (although the bedroom trim is white dove now.)
And, it is very beautiful in south-facing rooms.
Now, for a few faves from Farrow and Ball and Pratt and Lambert.
Farrow & Ball have been featured on this blog numerous times. To see some of those posts, click here.
Their colors are magnificent and complex. If you are interested in as close as I could find alternatives with Benjamin Moore, please check out this post.
Farrow & Ball POINTING 2003 – Pointing is a beautiful white with just the right amount of cream. (I know… there are a lot of these. Don’t knock yourself out. haha.)
Farrow & Ball ALL WHITE is a crisp, true white that looks wonderful in more contemporary settings.
Farrow & Ball’s WHITE TIE Another lovely cream color.
Pratt and Lambert is another favorite company. They have a far smaller collection of colors than Benjamin Moore, but most of them are winners.
img class=”fr-fic fr-dii fr-draggable alignnone” src=”https://laurelberninteriors.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/28-21222-post/victoria-hagan-slipcovered-sofa-1.png” alt=”Victoria Hagan’s Hamptons home circa 1995 – Pratt & Lambert Ancestral – best shades white paint” width=”700″ height=”960″ />
Pratt and Lambert ANCESTRAL.
My old living room was painted this color; I lived with it for 12 years and never tired of it. It’s soft and warm. I discovered it because Victoria Hagan had painted her home in the Hamptons that color.
Pratt and Lambert SEED PEARL, a clean, warm white- Seed Pearl is a fave of many designers, and I know that Victoria also uses this color. She’s a huge fan of P and L. The bedroom above is another of her beautiful designs.
And finally, Pratt and Lambert SILVER LINING, which is not silver. It has a teensy, eensy, weensy bit of gray. It is very close, I think to white dove. It’s another great one, especially for trim.
So, are there any white paint colors I stay away from?
Well, yes; however, my sucky white paint color might be someone else’s perfect white paint color.
This is my shortlist of not-so-great white paint colors that probably sound less sucky than they are.
BM CHINA WHITE. Some designers love this color; however, I think it looks dirty. But, it’s a great white for home EXTERIORS!
I did see China White in a friend’s home a few summers ago.
It is a highly changeable color. Sometimes it looked slightly lavender and sometimes like the palest dirty gold.
ATRIUM WHITE. This shade of white is known for its pink undertones. That is fine if you want a white paint color that goes slightly pink. I think this color looks best in rooms brightly lit with natural light.
BONE WHITE. No. Dirt. Yuck. Stay away! I think they finally got rid of the even more putrid Spanish White. It was like the dog had peed on the wall. I’m not kidding. (However, it might be fine if you live in an adobe home in Arizona for the exterior)
ANTIQUE WHITE. Well, if you like peach, it’s okay, but if you don’t want peach, steer clear.
NAVAJO WHITE. Another one that some designers love but I think looks just a tad too beigey-barf and neither here nor there. It’s an off-white for wimps. However, my former neighbor had terra-cotta/ burnt orangey kitchen walls (actually BM spiced pumpkin, which I had used before and like) and a sage-green living room and used Navajo for the trim, and it was beautiful. But her tile on the fireplace was beige.
One common mistake when choosing the best shades of white paint is painting a dark room bright BRIGHT white, thinking it will make the room look brighter.
It often looks gray and drab because the north-facing light is blue-gray. I don’t recommend white for most dark and north-facing rooms, but I would try one without the gray if you do. Instead, warm undertones usually work best. Here’s my favorite white for north-facing rooms.
If you paint the walls white, should you paint the trim a contrasting white?
That is a matter of preference. However, the trim should always be in a semi-gloss or satin paint. (I once went into a home where some idiot painted the walls in gloss and the trim in flat.) My preference is still for oil-based paint for the trim, but the latex paints are better than they used to be.
Benjamin Moore Advance is an excellent product. It’s a water-based alkyd and does a beautiful job mimicking oil, but it’s low VOC and not oil-based.