Choosing The Right White

Many of my clients over the years have been resistant to changing their trim colour to something other than Ultra White. It can make a huge difference in your overall paint scheme and it’s worth considering, especially if you are using mid-tone or darker wall colours.

This photo is a great example of trim that is too bright for the wall and drapery colours. I would recommend a colour like Mascarpone AF-20 for the trim in this room to minimize the contrast slightly. If the client’s didn’t have white vinyl windows I would suggest something even a bit darker but you have to be careful with creamy trim colours and bright white vinyl windows. Usually I try to find the right white for the room keeping it light enough to look okay with the vinyl.

The first thing you should consider before selecting your white are the ‘permanent’ whites in your home that already exist and cannot (or won’t) be changed (appliances, white floors, white furniture etc.)

Best Crisp Whites
Paint Colours by Benjamin Moore

Simply White OC-117


This colour has just a few drops of yellow and a hint of black in it so it’s quite versatile yet warmer than the stark Ultra White. It works well when your neutral colours are either taupe or gray.
I have used Simply White on my trim and doors in our new house and it’s the perfect white for our colour scheme. One of the main reasons I selected this white is because it was a very close match to our new Ikea Applad kitchen cabinets. It also works really well with the blues and grays in our home and since I tend to use cooler colours on my walls it will work in the future when I change my paint colours. A warm/creamy white would have appeared to yellow against the grays and blues.

An example of Simply White on window casing with white cabinets

Oxford White CC-30


Oxford White is a great crisp white with almost no yellow in it. I recommend using this colour when you have white appliances or floors or when you are looking to have a very clean bright white. I dislike Ultra White as it tends to be very harsh against anything deeper than pastel colours so Oxford White is a great alternative. Also, unless you purchase very high quality paint, the factory whites tend to be grayish and can look very dingy.

Best Warm Whites
Paint Colours by Benjamin Moore

Mascarpone AF-20


This is one of my favourite whites for cabinets, trim & doors and ceilings. It has just enough warmth to it and it works well with warmer colour schemes yet it still reads as a white. I have used it in many clients homes and it looks great.

Vanilla Ice Cream OC-90


Vanilla Ice Cream is a beautiful soft, creamy white that is great with historical or earthy colour schemes. It really softens the contrast between richer paint colours and the trim/doors in the space.

Mayonnaise OC-85


A great choice if you are looking for a clean warm white. Mayonnaise is fresh and bright and it works well with an equally fresh colour scheme.

Painting Kitchen Cabinets White

If you have bright white appliances then painting your cabinets in a warm white like Mayonnaise or Vanilla Ice Cream will make them look dingy. White appliances tend to be very cool whites with bluish undertones (although check yours by holding paint chips up to them as there are some exceptions). I recommend keeping your kitchen cabinets in the same white as your trim and doors when possible. Unless you are using creamy whites and you don’t have white appliances. Then you can mix them up a bit more and have a warmer white on the cabinets.

Keep in mind that any colour looks different on a larger surface and cabinets are no exception. I’ve had several clients use Cloud White (CC-40) expecting to see a creamy look when it tends to appear brighter and less creamy on cabinetry.

If you have a wood finish on your kitchen cabinets and are considering painting them, see my post here about painting wood cabinets.

Kitchen cabinets painted in Benjamin Moore's Cloud White

The best way to figure out which white is best for your colour scheme is to hold all of the paint chips together and add a white to the mix. Try holding a bright white paint chip and then a slightly softer/creamy white and you’ll see which looks better with your colour scheme. Often clients think they want the Ultra White until they see the whole palette together with it. Ultra White can look very stark and out of place unless you are using very pale colours throughout your home. Most colour schemes require a white with some tint to it to help minimize the contrast between the wall colours and the trim. Keep this in mind for ceilings too!

My last tip is to always, always try paint samples! Never select a paint colour based only on the tiny paint chip. Colours always look different when shown in real paint on a larger swatch.

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