What Everyone Should Know About Paint

I learned something new about white last year when I was working on a project that I finally photographed this past week.

Since the project wasn’t finished until last winter and my client’s home overlooks a stunning mountain view, (Crystal and Rob Hasell, Crystal is the Owner and Director of Studio B Yoga here in Chilliwack) I wanted to wait until the leaves were back on the trees for the photo shoot.

I shopped until I dropped this week, for flowers and miscellaneous items still missing from some of her rooms. Then spent three full days styling her house to perfection prior to the photoshoot. Then we spent two days with Barry Calhoun shooting the house.

Barry was awesome. It’s absolutely true what he says on his website, “He’s willing to run from elephants if it means getting the best shot possible.

He was tireless, and when I would look at yet another photo that he had downloaded to his laptop AGAIN and think to myself “Well, we could move those towels into the shot but I’ll let it go”, that’s when HE would notice and mention it. I can’t wait to work with him again. Here he is on my instagram.

This was the view from Crystal and Rob’s home on March 31 last year, when we were choosing fabrics. Our winter was so bad this year that we were about 1 1/2 months behind. You can see that the colour palette we chose coordinates with her view.

What Everyone Should Know About Paint | Maria Killam

So here’s what happened. I chose BM Chantilly Lace for the cabinets and the wood work throughout the house.

When the cabinets were installed, I noticed that they didn’t exactly match the trim colour. In fact, they looked off-white, not the true-white I had chosen (If you’ve read my White eBook, you’ll understand what I’m talking about).

So I pulled out my Chantilly Lace paint chip and held it up against the cabinets.

It was a perfect match.

Then I did the same with the trim colour.

It was also a perfect match.

The bottom line. Your cabinet guy uses his own lacquer to spray the cabinets, therefore, it will RARELY, if ever exactly match the paint from the paint store.

So one way to coordinate them is to choose a whiter white for the cabinet colour than the trim colour.

I had this conversation with Traci Zeller (an interior designer and True Colour Expert) at High Point Market last weekend and she emailed me this photo to use in this post.

The cabinets are SW Extra White and the trim colour is SW Snowbound. You can see in this photo (below) that the casings around the door in fact still look slightly whiter than the lacquered cabinets which will OFTEN end up creamier.

Since both colour chips will match, you need to COORDINATE the trim colour.

What Everyone Should Know About Paint | Maria Killam

Interior Design by Traci Zeller

So what this means is that you can’t get the door sample matched by the paint company because they technically do match. All you can do is coordinate your new trim colour with your kitchen cabinets.

Now, if you’ve done this already and noticed that they don’t match, now you don’t have to be cranky anymore.

You won’t notice that they are different once the room is decorated, there will be too many other things to look at.

And you don’t notice it in all lights. This is the first time I have ever noticed this phenomenon and I have never received an email from a reader complaining about this dilemma, which is the thing I wonder about the most?

When I looked at my kitchen, I realized that there is only one area in my kitchen where the door casing is directly beside my cabinets and it does look slightly different, but it wasn’t enough for me to notice until now.

What Everyone Should Know About Paint | Maria Killam

Elizabeth’s Kitchen (her existing adjoining doors were already white, not related to her glazed cabinets)

My sister Elizabeth is getting a new quartz countertop on her island to replace the blotchy, gold, brown and cream laminate countertop (above). We will also install new panelling so it looks like a piece of furniture (like an island should look).

Her panelling will coordinate with the existing cabinets and the base will look like this photo (below).

However, Mike at Quality Cabinets (who is installing the millwork) said that it would be more cost effective to have the cabinet side painted on site (you can’t spray the actual island on-site anyway) but then, he said “Be warned, your painted panelling will not EXACTLY match the existing drawers/cabinets because again, there will be two different paints used.”

What Everyone Should Know About Paint | Maria Killam


 This also explains why (and I talk about this in my exterior on-line training webinar) my garage doors don’t match the vinyl siding even though I took a sample of the siding to the paint store. Because obviously (well only obvious to me AFTER this happened to me) vinyl is not the same as paint.

Over to you my lovelies, have you ever had this happen to you? I’m just amazed that no one has ever asked me this question until I discovered it for myself? Well Traci said she did mention it to me before, but I guess it didn’t land until I saw it with my own eyes.

Bottom line, I think there are too many variables to try and ‘coordinate’ the trim colour. If NO ONE has ever emailed me with this dilemma then it must be close enough most of the time. So unless you are not choosing paint colours with a designer who has experienced this many times, I would still go with the same colour for trim and cabinets. However, before you install backsplash tile, I would look again, and make that decision last, in case you have to go with off-white instead of true-white or cream instead of off-white.

Here is yet another argument for why you should go with the SAFE option for tile or countertops (hard finishes), rather than the more CREATIVE or RISKY choice. There are way too many factors involved in getting just plain whites to match but at least you can live with different whites easier than different patterns or undertones that don’t match in the end.

Terreeia and I leave for our SOLD OUT Specify Colour with Confidence workshop in Chicago tomorrow, I’m so excited, I love leading this course so much! And there’s always something new to talk about!

There are still two spaces left for my second course in Chicago the following weekend here.

Don’t forget to fill us in on your experience with different paint companies in the comments below.

Related posts:

White is a Snob

What NOT To Do with Your Kitchen Island Design

Danger: The First 24 Hours AFTER You Take Possession



leave aREPLY

  1. Maria, what a great and timely post. I’d mentioned earlier that I was planning to paint an old cabinet door the same color as my trim, Dunn-Edwards Swiss Coffee (since I have white appliances and didn’t want to bring in a third white). About to do that soon. I’m hoping to use a painter who prefers to use Dunn-Edwards paint and who will be getting the same paint as used for the trim from the same paint store, so maybe I won’t have quite the problem that others have experienced. But so much else in your post and in the comments from others are so important to keep in mind, especially any natural light and what direction it comes from. With a two-window corner sink with one window facing due south and the other window and patio door facing west but opening onto a screened in porch and with a solar tube in the middle of the kitchen that makes the room blindingly bright in the center when the sun is overhead and quite shaded in the windowless areas, I suspect that I’m going to have a visual “shades of white” treat every day. I already do with the Dunn-Edwards Jakarta wall color in the LR/D’office and the kitchen. It’s categorically a yellow beige but I’m hard put to see the beige, actually like the soft pale yellow and, in the early morning in the east facing foyer, it can appear a wee bit peachy. It does help to understand why this happens and how to work with it, particularly if you can’t change it, or how to ignore it — and that’s where you, Maria, and other designers help us so much. This is one of those very good Save for Future Reference posts.

  2. When I read this post this morning, I was convinced you had written it just for me. It is unbelievable that no one has ever brought this to your attention! I must admit, I have been agonizing over this very thing. I am one of your clients; you did an exterior color consult (more on that later–you were right, I was wrong) and a counter top consult for me a few months back.

    I will be honest–the reason I didn’t bring up this question is because, frankly, I was afraid you would tell me I made a white mistake. I already made several costly mistakes with paint that I have since fixed. Anyway, I too have Sherwin Williams Extra White on my kitchen cabinets, on all my trim, and on some of my walls. I considered going with Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace, but decided against it because you would need sunglasses to survive in my house. It gets A LOT of natural light. As it is, Extra White reads as really, really white–in most cases. The case in which it doesn’t read really, really white is in the kitchen (in some lighting situations). The lighting in my kitchen changes minute by minute. The kitchen is south-facing, but is open to the rest of the living/dining room, so all of the trim has to “match”. In addition to a kitchen window and skylights, I have two sets of french doors and two single doors, all in the same room.

    Without writing a novel and in a nutshell, we went wrong with paint in our new construction house immediately. First lesson: never ever do a color match using a paint chip from a card. The paint almost never comes out the same as if you sent a sample of the actual paint. Our kitchen cabinets were matched to a paint chip, but after they were installed, it was AWFUL. They read dingy, pinky, creamy white. The trim and beams that butted right up to them looked insanely white compared to the cabinets. So, after much agonizing, research, and waiting, we decided to have the cabinets repainted. We found a company that could respray the cabinets with lacquer paint right onsite, including the doors, and even the kitchen island. The gentleman who did the work created a tent in my kitchen and sealed off the rest of the house. The result was even better than brand new factory finished cabinets, as all of the little seams were closed and caulked. They look wonderful. Here’s the but…

    I was convinced that our new color match using the real SW Extra White paint from the trim (right out of the can) was STILL wrong. It isn’t wrong. It’s the lighting. And there is nothing I can do about it. I stopped letting it bother me, because like you said Maria, probably no one else will notice it after the kitchen is styled. And they don’t. The laundry room situation is exactly the same, except this time, in certain lights the paint on the cabinets looks even creamier because I chose a very pretty sunny yellow that reflects on the cabinets (BM Lemon Sorbet). I don’t let this bother me because I love the yellow enough to put up with the glow on the cabinets. After I read your post this morning I felt much, much better. I also learned that every surface is different and will never truly match. My white quartz is clearly whiter than my cabinets, but in my fickle kitchen lighting, the bottom cabinets look less white than the uppers and less white than the quartz. It somehow seems wrong to try to go whiter on cabinets than trim, so I’m glad I didn’t. All of my whites flow together and seem to take a backseat to my colorful accessories.

    Another lesson I learned from the paint store regarding color matching is that Sherwin Williams’s base paint is not the same as the base paint from Benjamin Moore, and even with identical tinting, the paints will not be 100% the same. After calling several SW stores, most of them said their closest match to BM Simply White is actually SW Extra White (with nothing else added). We tested and tested, and really couldn’t notice any difference between the two whites. I have never heard anyone else mention this before.

    This was a great post; you put my mind at ease. Thank you.

  3. HI! Experiencing different variations of the same color has happened twice to me. Back in Denver before we sold that house I had to paint the living/dining room. It had 9 foot ceilings and tons of light and I decided to have no window coverings when staged. I painted the ceiling and walls from the same gallons (it was a beige from SW that eludes my memory). The realtor strongly cautioned against this act (he was a former contractor mostly in high end kitchen and baths) . Ceilings, being above the light from windows etc, are naturally darker. It was the same exact paint and yes the ceiling read darker. In the brightness of the room it worked out and he was pleasantly surprised. In this kitchen remodel we went with an eggshell for the walls, that matched the cabinets, and it looks different 90% of the time. I mentioned this problem with sheen changing a color to an acquaintance. He had worked with a contractor for years and said – you should have gone to yy paint store in xx. Evidently they have some “old timers” that insist you bring a finished door and they never settle with the factory colorant formulas as they change it to “match” the door. According to him it takes time but it really works. I am intrigued but not willing to pull the trigger and try to do this … the time and expense involved. Thanks for a great post and welcome to Chicagoland! I am not going to the class but would be open to meeting up in your suburban location some evening or whatever! Thanks!

  4. Great post! I’ve had this exact situation happen many times with kitchen facelifts. My clients question the need for samples of the sprayed doors. ” why do we need them when it’s the same color?” Recently I used super white for the cabinets and simply white for the trim. The lacquer added a creaminess to the cabinets. My advice, always get a sample cabinet door done and then select your trim color.

  5. Maria, As usual I love this post. One can never stop learning! All of the comments are also worth so much. I just acquired a new client that needs new paint in the kitchen, family room and dining room. I tried to explain different sheen’s to them which seemed to go over their heads. I have decided not get too technical with a client because they get confused. We definitely see things differently than the average person. Also because most paint companies have different levels of sheen, it is hard to explain to anyone. This post has helped me a lot as far as problems with different whites and also the wood source. I know that when a cabinet is sprayed with lacquer it has a slight yellowing effect and does yellow more the older it gets.

    Love all of the pictures that you have posted. Also want to compliment you on the pallet that you chose for Crystal and Rob’s home. The colors just flow into the scenery!

  6. Maria,
    I’m so glad you wrote about this subject. I am working with a client now, specifying all white, custom-handcrafted, cabinetry in a new construction project with heavily detailed white trim. I will most definitely work more closely with my cabinet maker to ensure the whites are coordinated to ensure a fabulous outcome for my client! As always, I love your insight into color Maria!!

  7. I sent an email a while back asking what how you chose paint colors if they were going to be painting the cabinets with oil based paint because of the yellowing.

  8. This happened to me in our build last year. My painter said to me, “Aren’t your trim and cabinets supposed to be the same white?” “Yes, they are,” I replied. When I went to take a look, I noticed that the trim was bright white and the cabinets looked really creamy. It was all supposed to be Simply White. I felt that one of them must have been wrong. I held up my Simply White poster board to the cabinet and it was close, but the cabinet was definitely creamier. I learned that that was due to the laquer. My trim, however, was way whiter than my poster board. I felt that it made my cabinets look way too creamy. We took some of the trim paint and painted it right onto the Simply White poster board and it was way whiter. The paint company had not matched it correctly! So we took my cabinet door to the paint company so they could match my trim paint to it. Then my painters had to respray my entire house trim!!! The paint company had to pay for the mistake. My trim now looks like my cabinets, but I would say it is all creamier than the original Simply White poster board I had based everything off of. So frustrating. Everything looks nice in the end, but I feel that I would go with a whiter white for cabinets in the future knowing that the laquer makes them more creamy. And I would always match my trim off a piece of the cabinet in the future too.

  9. My bedroom
    Cabinets were sprayed and certainly were a warmer white then i specified. Wish painters would warn us about enamel not exactly matching – very noticeable!

  10. Great timing. I am currently selecting items for a kitchen reno. The shaker cabinets are Chantilly Lace (chosen by the supplier), my trim is currently Cloud White hoping to retain this colour as it’s my choice of trim throughout the house. I’m considering white subway tile and Calacutta Nuvo for my granite. After reading this article I’m beginning to panic wondering if all the whites will work together. Anyone care to weigh in with suggestions.

  11. We own a professional paint company and I have access to many paint chips. I had chosen Sherwin’s Snowbound (yellowy white) from a Sherwin brochure consisting of all white paint chips for my trim paint. The actual paint once mixed was a blue-ish white and nothing like the brochure which was a yellowy white. The store clerk tried to tell me it was because the brochure of all white paint chips had aged and became yellowy where as the individual paint chips of “Snowbound” were a blue-ish white. I then talked to my actual go-to-guy at Sherwin who told me it was a Sherwin error and not an aged brochure thing. I ended up having the yellowy white “Snowbound” custom shot and proceeded to paint my trim. I love it. So, the moral of the story is…..don’t always trust what the store tells you and a color chip from their brochure may be a different color than the individual chip in the store. Hope this helps.

  12. YES, this was an issue for me twice and I’ve been meaning to ask you to address sheens and paint vs. lacquer. I painted my stairs Simply White and then had a built-in cabinet and new kitchen cabinets lacquered by different companies. They have codes to match all paint but when they sent the sample
    I had them lighten the lacquer on the built-in until it matched. With the kitchen, they brightened it up too much so we actually had then re-spray. For me, the lacquer was too yellow or warm and didn’t match my painted trim and stair banisters with a catwalk so it seemed obvious to me. Darryl Carter mentions this too and shows a kitchen with lacquered white cabinets, with the same wall and trim color. Since they are all different sheens, they appear slightly different yet coordinate. A solution to using different paint is to use different sheens 🙂 Thanks and I’ve decided next time to forgo the lacquer and instead use Farrow and Ball paint for cabinets; this seems to be what they do in many English kitchens.

  13. What’s a true white what I can put with Benjamin Moore Blue Lace? I painted my walls Blue Lace in my living room and kitchen and I think I need more of true white to stand out and make the room pop more. I want to paint my cabinets white and also my trim needs repainting and I can’t seem to find a white. I’ve bought a few samples but they all seem to be off white but in the store it looks white.

  14. Pretty cool. And I wonder if you are interested in a relative machine, Color Matching Cabinet. Welcome to click:

  15. Traci Zeller and Maria,
    I’m having custom kitchen cabinets made (my backsplash will be the same as the one in Traci’s photo) and I’m considering Extra White by Sherwin Williams and Pure White by Sherwin Williams. I’m being told by some that Extra White will be too stark. It’s what I would like if I dared, but I’m afraid of the starkness. What do you think?

  16. I know this is a old post
    I’m thinking of doing my cabinets in sw snowbound I just got you white is complicated again for the third time . Some how I still struggle
    Doing pure white ceasarstone I thought it looked good with snowboard but then I read where
    Somesay it has a reddish undertone and can go pink .
    Some say it’s warm some say it’s cool .
    Since you have used can you share your thoughts on SW snowbound?
    I didn’t see pink when I took it to job sight but with no floors no nothing but bare Sheetrock and no sunshine ???
    Thank you