Google is one gigantic popularity contest. And in the world of paint colours, especially lately with whites, the same ones pop up constantly. BM Simply White, White Dove and SW Alabaster and Snowbound are the Kardashians of paint. Simply everywhere you look.
And if the same white comes up in your search over and over, it must be good right?
Are all the other whites wrong?
But what about all those OTHER whites in the paint deck? Are they somehow inferior or flawed? For quite a few of them the answer is probably not, they just don’t have sophisticated celebrity managers. They have no buzz.
There are oodles of true whites, off whites and creams that are perfectly decent. You could spend days and days analyzing the minutia of their merits and flaws. The question is why? You have better things to do with your time. And it can be so elegantly straightforward to choose the white that best relates to your finishes from the well established roster of good whites. And then get on with the fun part, decorating your fresh new house.
I got this question from a dear reader recently that made me think that many of you may be wondering the same thing:
Long time reader of your blogs and posts and have learned so much.
I’ve fallen in love with a couple of whites I rarely see mentioned online – Benjamin Moore’s Steam and Gardenia from the Affinity line. Steam just seems like a perfect white, not cool, not warm, yet it’s rarely, if ever, mentioned in any online literature on whites. Gardenia throws a little red, but so very slightly that I’m not sure you’d even notice it on a whole wall.
Any chance you could share your thoughts in a blog post on these whites that get very little “play?” Is there something wrong with them that no designers see their greatness?
Thanks in advance. My daughter just started her career in interior design in Atlanta and I’m going to get her into one of your workshops soon!
To which I replied, “That’s a good question but its also the reason my system works. No longer do you feel like you have to have seen every single white up somewhere, you just use the ones that work over and over again.”
Because unless it’s your jam to find a unique and rare white for your house, something that will work kind of like your own signature fragrance, all you really need is to know is which category of white you need from my gradations of useful whites to work with your finishes.
The Gradations of Useful Whites in my System for Specifying Colour
And in my system, I have identified a few well balanced and versatile specimens of each gradation. They are the ones that work, over and over.
Choosing the right white should be easy
Because once you’ve identified the correct kind of white you need, the beauty is, now you DON’T HAVE TO go through every available white in the deck through a process of elimination and drive yourself crazy. You know immediately that YOU ARE HERE. And you can move on to make all the other, more fun selections for your project.
I’d much rather spend most of my time finding just the perfect artwork or fabric to bring my room to life than to sit around splitting hairs over this white and that.
Honestly, once your cabinets or your wall is painted, you’ll never see the difference between BM AF 15 Steam and BM White Dove OC 17. They are both pretty off whites. And if that’s what you need to coordinate with your countertops, either will pretty much do.
Choosing the right white is not like mining for precious gems
Now say your finishes dictate off white. But you end up choosing a true white. Because you weren’t sure what to pick, so you just picked the brightest looking white. Then you’re probably in trouble. That’s when you can see the difference, when there is a whole shift in gradation. In this case, your white would be obviously stark.
So my advice is, if you fall in love with a lesser known white in the deck. First identify which gradation of white is belongs to by comparing it to the known list I provide in my ebook about whites. But at the end of the day, I think your time and energy would be much better spent sourcing the beautiful and unique furniture, textiles and objects that will truly make the room uniquely yours.
My mission is to make colour easier for you.
If you have a question for my Ask Maria column, email me here. Please note, it’s rare that I can post an answer to a question without a photo so there’s a higher chance that it will be considered if you send photos, taken without flash and in good natural light.
To learn how to explain WHY your white is the right one, become a True Colour Expert.
PS. We are HIRING AGAIN. Our eDesign department is extremely BUSY and we need a virtual colour designer who can commit to 30 hours a week. Go here to apply.