The Best (Cheating) method for Selecting Paint Colors

Hi Everyone,

Thank you so much for your kind comments regarding my LED recessed lighting. And also for so many wonderful recommendations!

I realize it’s unusual for me to go this long without a post. However, there has been too much going on this week in all aspects of my life.


What’s funny is by accident, I discovered the best cheat for selecting paint colors.

We’ll get to that in a sec.


my bathroom - wall color - Benjamin Moore - Paper White


For my primary bathroom walls, I love the look of Paper White. It’s the palest shade of gray with the slightest whisper of green like I had in my New York apartment shortly before I left. I do believe the super replaced the four recessed lights with warm LED bulbs. It also looks terrific in my upstairs bathroom, which is painted Marilyn’s Dress.


Things will get better in the bathroom and kitchen when we can get rid of the cheap overhead yellow LED lights.


Marilyn’s Dress is a beautiful pale, cool gray-blue that looks terrific under warm LEDs. However, it is a touch more blue than I would like for the downstairs bathroom. Paper White is a hair lighter, grayer, and greener, making it exactly what I want.


Laurel, what about the white you’re going to use upstairs?


Ahhh… that is a great question. It’s funny, but I’ve been surprised at how yellow Greek Villa looks in my kitchen. That is because of the LED lights, especially the aforementioned overhead light. Since the toe kicks haven’t been installed yet, I took one near the fireplace, and Sherwin Williams Greek Villa is gorgeous.

However, I prefer not to use Sherwin-Williams, mostly to keep things as simple as possible. So, if you recall, Benjamin Moore Simply White is a close match. Now, the living room is a completely different ballgame.
That’s because the two huge windows are south-south-east facing. On a clear day, throughout the year, I have bright, warm sunshine from about 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM, give or take an hour or two, depending on the year.


If it’s overcast, well, it’s gray.


Currently, the walls are Classic Gray, and the trim is Super White.

I would prefer to paint the walls, trim, and ceiling one color. While I used Super White on the trim in my Bronxville living room and it was beautiful, it was paired with buttery yellow walls. (Americas Heartland). I think that Super White would look very stark with the kitchen, and in general.


During the day, because of all the red brick, the living room can look slightly pink on the small walls on the edges of the bay. The center between the windows always looks like a dirty, pale, yellowish gray. Classic gray is actually a greige with a whisper of lavender in darker rooms, and it is very lovely, as you can see in Mary’s (of the gorgeous kitchen) entry. (below)


Please also note that the trim in the entry is cotton balls as are the trim and walls in the living room.


Yes, they are the same color! This is why it’s best not to get too riled up about which shade of white you end up using. The only time I’ve ever gotten in trouble was when I chose a very warm, beige-ish white (White Blush 904) and used it on a job, everywhere, including the youngest son’s room, which was a clear yellow.


Benjamin Moore white-blush-904


That was back in 1997!!! I had only been in business for a year. Experience and mistakes, really are the best teachers.


bronxville-entry-classic-gray-walls-tobi-fairley-cr-laine-stool-circa-lighting-sconce-pilasters-traditional-entry-gracious-home - selecting paint colors - Classic Gray walls, Cotton Balls trim by Benjamin Moore

Back to Classic Gray.

In bright rooms, Classic Gray reads as a dirty off-white.

This is not a color I would’ve selected for my bright, large living room and I can’t wait to get rid of it.


So, why not continue Sherwin Williams Greek Villa in the living room?

I certainly could.


But, here’s my cheat for selecting paint colors.

The other day, when I was vacuuming, I noticed the Greek Villa fridge panels hanging out in the living room. Forget the damned toe kicks. lol. Now, that is a sample!!!


selecting paint colors - Sherwin Williams Greek Villa door with colors from Benjamin Moore - Swiss Coffee, Simply White, White Heron, and Chantilly Lace


Haha.  I checked the cabinet panel with my small sample from Sherwin Williams, and it’s an exact match. Or, as exact as my human eye can tell.

It looks lovely in the living room and the marble fireplace mantel.


However, let’s look at the top Benjamin Moore contenders in front of it.


From left to right are:

Swiss Coffee, Simply White, White Heron AKA: Oxford White, and Chantilly Lace.


Laurel, where’s Cotton Balls?


I don’t have a big sample of it. I got samples of colors I either don’t know or colors I recommend, but am less familiar with that I think might be possibilities.

I also left off Super White because it’s even more white than Chantilly Lace. I can see why these are amongst Benjamin Moore’s most popular shades of White Paint.


All of the colors are close to Greek Villa.


However, in these samples, Simply White is still the closest, with Swiss Coffee in second place. All of these, except for White Heron, are part of the Laurel Home Essential Paint Collection.

Swiss coffee is the grayest and deepest color on my shortlist. However, it has an undertone that is more green than yellow. This will help counteract any red that reflects off the color during the day.


For a crisper but still soft white, White Heron, AKA Oxford White, looks very lovely at night.


Downstairs, the Solitude White Chinoiserie Mural from The Mural Source needs a bit of tweaking of the background.

Please see a rendering of it in my bedroom, here.

The background is a tad pink. One doesn’t notice it until trying to pair it with a white. The best white with it is Decorator’s White with Chantilly Lace in second place. However, I would like the Mural Source to tweak the background color to make it a little creamier. White Heron is my favorite at this point. However, I could really go with any of them for my primary white paint color.


Laurel, White Heron is a white that’s not on any of your lists, like your 20 Best Shades of White Paint or the Laurel Home Paint Collection.


Yes, I know. =] You see, as time passes, I have been learning and refining my knowledge with y’all. White Heron/Oxford White wasn’t strongly on my radar until about 2017. It is a little creamier than Chantilly Lace but not as creamy as Simply White, Cotton Balls, White Dove, and Swiss Coffee. In many ways, it might just be the perfect shade of white paint.


Okay, I see some of you going wild in the back of the room.


I presume that’s because you’re a big White Heron/Oxford White fan. Right? Please let us know in the comments. I’d love to hear your reviews of White Heron.

If Swiss Coffee and Decorator’s White had a baby, it would be White Heron. ;]


As I said in the Laurel Home Essential Paint Guide, the differences between many of these whites are so slight that they are interchangeable. I’ve always maintained that there is too much choice, with numerous duplicates, just to add to the confusion.

I found it interesting that even though White Heron appears to be a little brighter, it’s actually 3 points darker in Light Reflective Value (LRV) than Simply White. White Heron feels crisper because it has more gray than Simply White, but it is still a soft, warm, non-yellow-looking white.


Another interesting thing I discovered when looking at three White Heron samples is that they are all a little different from each other.


Three samples Benjamin Moore White Heron - selecting paint colors

These were taken in my kitchen with the lights on, of course. The ones on the top and right are older and by Benjamin Moore. The one on the left is by Samplize, which I just got. They could easily be three different colors! However, when you purchase the paint, it can also vary slightly. So, if you’re having a room painted, if you can swing it, have the painter begin with the smallest wall to ensure there are no big surprises.


In the meantime, I discovered a new source for murals that I adore.


I’m not going to tell you who it is just yet. However, I wanted to share a new entry rendering using one of the murals.


kitchen render my new kitchen perspective - Wollerton wall mural Watts - selecting paint colors - kitchen in Sherwin Williams Greek Villa


What do you think? It’s taken from an old tapestry. This is the same company that produces the fabric for my bathroom curtain. I hesitate to use the word “shower” because the connotation doesn’t work for me. How about? Draperie de Salle de Bain.


I will be sharing all about this company. It is well-known in Europe but just emerging in the USA.

In closing, here’s the latest reno news.


The sink and legs for my new vanity just arrived two days apart!

The embrasure doors arrived this morning, and looked lovely, but at first, I was freaking out because their pocket is four inches larger than the doors. I wasn’t freaking out because they also forgot to send the hinges! Robert, my GC, flew on over while I cooled my jets. He assured me that they are the right size and that Brendan often makes openings too big because it is easy to fill in, but very difficult to take away.

The hinges were found and hopefully will arrive tomorrow.


Okay, that’s the latest over here in Boston.



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18 Responses

  1. Ohhhh, the decisions of paint color!! I chose BM White Dove for this house. I’m in sunny Florida and the color is perfect in this bright cozy house. Our previous home was darker due to large trees etc so I used BM Cotton Balls. Your renovation seems wonderful. Have you reach the “ It will never be finished “. days yet? I remember them well! Wishing you much happiness in your lovely new home.

  2. I used Swiss Coffee in our northern exposure sunroom (yes there’s an east window) and kitchen. It really requires more lighting in the corners of the room. The kitchen – I could barely see a contrast between it (on the tongue and groove walls) and the F&B Shaded Ehite cabinets! Do redo in the walls in the less warm BM White Dove for the win.

  3. Nice adventure…. I love Super White and love the boldness. I prefer mural to tapestry which looks heavy and busy with floor pattern. Also, think your cat’s color is a lovely shade and should be used somewhere!

  4. I love this blog! Not only for all Laurels fascinating and helpful information on all aspects of interior design/decor….but the comments are great too. Imagine learning in your local BM store that the Group of Seven mixed their own white and that Mascarpone is recommended for the walls where you’re hanging your Tom Thompson.
    That is so cool…I do not care if I have to wait…it’s worth it.

  5. Are you aware that Benjamin Moore now has the formulation for all of the Sherwin Williams colors? We have had Benjamin Moore mix several different Sherwin Williams colors for us, and they are an exact match.
    Also, we used Greek Villa for the woodwork in our Condo remodel. I love the color!

  6. Are you aware that Benjamin Moore now has the formulation for all of the Sherwin Williams colors? We have had Benjamin Moore mix several different Sherwin Williams colors for us, and they are an exact match.
    Also, we used Greek Villa for the woodwork in our Condo remodel. I love the color!

  7. Hi Laurel, Good luck with the decision on white. White Heron looks nice–I can see a little gray in White heron on my monitor but that may be misleading. I think the Grecian Villa looks really pretty with your marble, but I can see if you are worried about it getting too cream. But if you love, it I would go with the Sherwin Williams, just in case!
    Out of curiosity, I looked back at one of your Furlow Gatewood posts and I think you had matched the white color to Ivory White, which is much deeper! I was surprised! How it looks when it’s all painted vs. a sample–that is the hardest for me, an amateur. Does the color get more intense or less intense?
    Would it be possible to put your samples above your mantel too, or even higher on the wall so you would get a feel for how it would look in such a tall room?
    P.S. I think that the entry mural will look nice whatever you choose. From the small swatch, I like the new one even better than Plantasia! It seems restful.

  8. Hi Laurel, always exciting to read the newest blog but never worry about being late! I am just happy to read the next idea.
    My 2 cents worth, paint is hard. I read so many blogs, articles, spoke to paint specialists etc my mind was a mess and yet I had to come up with something. I was so lucky in the last house, I met a manager of a Benjamin Moore store in Dartmouth. She was amazing, I had decided I would go white in that house, not realizing how many whites were out there. I had a print of a Tom Thompson painting and I wanted to match that white. She had a degree in Art and explained that the group of seven mixed their own white and that formula was theirs alone but she called what I required a complex white and recommended Mascarpone AF20. For that home, it was perfect! Unfortunately, for the new home, she was no longer employed there. Very sad for me, but I hope she is employed in a field where she is using her talents. Long story, and all this to say, I used Swiss Coffee for the cabinets and Cloud white on all the walls, moulding and ceilings and I am very happy with the outcome. I have a lot of natural light, many large windows framed with trees and a river, not a cityscape. The light is south/west.
    What I have learned about whites is so much is dependant on the light and you have to be in that space and use samples,I painted Bristol boards, moving from one area to the other and still so easy to make a mistake.Too many to choose from and probably many that would be fine. So hard when you want it to be as close to your vision as possible. Cheers and can’t wait until the next post.

  9. I really appreciate your sharing the extreme learning curve on paint selection…
    It’s so helpful since I’m repainting over FB Strong White (too blue gray without sunlight)…
    Love your newest mural choice.. hope it works out for you.

  10. I vastly prefer the first mural you’ve had in your mockups in the upper entry. The tapestry look is heavy and messy to my eyes.

    You always make the best choice, however, so what you eventually choose will be elegant and beautiful.

  11. Paint selection is an incredible crap shoot. I lucked into BM Oyster 2115-70 as a white trim that harmonizes/neutralizes a wallpaper with a subtly pink-hued background. You might check this out for your bedroom. Having the mural tint adjusted sounds like it could be easier said than done.

  12. Great idea to use your refrigerator panel as a paint sample! It is large, but portable, and reliable. It is so understandable that a blog post is delayed from time to time. I for one am just happy to see an update and I do keep checking back. The latest entry mock-up is very nice and it will be very interesting to read more about the company. So now with more pieces and parts arriving, (embrasure doors–and hinges–and vanity and legs!), it will be very exciting to see the progress. Thank you for taking the time to document this all for us, explaining the various nuances, and educating us.

  13. Hi Laurel. No worries about not posting. We all know things can get crazy sometimes.
    Before I moved into my house, I had the contractor paint all the walls Swiss Coffee. Now that I’ve lived here a couple of years, I’m realizing I prefer color on my walls. Nothing garish, just a pale color. I’m now waiting for samples to arrive so I can repaint my bedroom.

  14. Hi Laurel, I have been following your reno and realizing how much planning and research has gone into it. I just want to give you some feedback on the white paint colors. I used the Oxford White on my living room trim with Silver Satin on the walls in my Mass. home before selling it. It took a long time for me to settle on just the right colors. I read so much about revere pewter and how colors like it were so popular but they just didn’t work with my lighting. The Oxford White was the perfect trim color. It looked fresh and clean so I would give it a go. Your blog has been so helpful in my understanding of paint colors over the years. I want to try White Dove in my new old home next.

    Valerie in Maine

  15. I’m not seeing what the “cheat” is here. Is it looking at all of the samples together? That’s really not a great way to decide on paint colors, as each color can appear differently depending on what is next to it.
    Sorry, but there’s no shortcut to choosing colors. You put a sample on a plain wall and look at it in different lighting–day, evening, artificial, etc. You also need to take into account the flooring, what’s outside the windows, the exposure of the room, etc. It takes a lot of time, because if one doesn’t work, you need to view another, but by itself. If the white has too much red/orange/green/yellow/blue, etc. in it, then you need to find another that doesn’t. It’s a fairly long process. I think it’s the most difficult decision in decorating any room.

  16. I heavily ‘consulted’ with your blog when I was designing my own home 7 yrs ago. You influenced me to use Opal Essence on my ceilings and I chose Simply White (the color of the year for 2016) for my walls and trim. I’ve been delighted with those choices ever since. I will say that my bathroom window faces greenspace and, during the summer, those walls reflect that green tinge…I couldn’t care less–I embrace it in this small space!

  17. Waiting with baited breath for new mural source details! Teaser of the entrance rendering very naughty. But I have a suggestion I want to see if I can get our public art gallery to explore and that is to use a painting by an Australian artist Sydney Long entitled Spirit of the Plains 18 for a wall mural. Clever curators could no doubt assemble other contenders so there’s an Australian mural option although I get it is about whether or not an original can be adapted for that use and at the right scale. Public art galleries in Australia struggle for patrons, funding and bequests. Like many if my ideas it will probably not happen but I am keen to see if there’s any interest.
    Any lateness posting Laurel is completely understandable so don’t worry. The white paint issue is one I struggle with for myself. (assuming I will be able to afford a refresh paint one day!) and I am keen to see the back of a slightly yellow white paint used throughout. In the meantime I read and learn much here. Thanks again.

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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