How to Coordinate White & Cream (If You Made a Mistake)

Just in case you thought that you can’t mix white and cream, you certainly can.

But sometimes it can look like you made a mistake.

Or maybe you finished the room and it doesn’t seem quite right.

For example, what if you chose all your kitchen finishes, countertops, flooring and backsplash in white or cream, with only one exception? You might be staring at your kitchen and wonder if there’s something wrong.

Here’s how to fix it.

White & Cream Kitchen

Better Homes & Gardens

See this kitchen (above)?

Kitchen Dining Area

If you scroll through ALL the images one by one you’ll see that this entire space is mostly CREAM (above).

It almost seems as if this homeowner was absolutely convinced that too much white would be clinical and cold (maybe). And, all of it could also have been totally intentional because the thing that pulls this entire kitchen together is the cream and white subway tile backsplash. (See first image)

cream and white kitchen

Then, the pure white is repeated in the marble countertops and this slab above the sink. And, the white dishes displayed on the open shelving.

Overall, the combination of white and cream in this space is very pretty.

How can you make it work in your interior?

How to Combine white & cream


What if you have a cream leather sofa in the living room like the one above?

White Dining Room

Verandah House Interiors

And white dining chairs in an open concept space?

Make sure you repeat both the white and cream at least once in something big and make it look intentional by repeating them both three times in a gradation of small, medium and large elements.

cream and white living room

For example, your drapery fabric (above) could be a combination of white or cream (that takes care of the “large” element).



And then you could add some cream and white pillows (that takes care of the “medium”).

white lamp

A white lamp (“small”).

Cream bathroom

Dillon Kyle Architecture

Here’s another example in this white and cream bathroom (above).

The reason this works is that the walls are painted the same cream colour as the cabinets. If the cabinets were cream, the walls painted some kind of colour and every other surface was white, it might look like the cream cabinets had just been painted the wrong shade of white. Right? If the cabinets were the only cream item in the room, you could think it was just a white mismatch.

Or if you already have cream cabinets and white countertops, floor and fixtures, perhaps tying in the baseboards and crown moulding with the same colour cream would pull the bathroom together.

Cream and Pink Beige Tile

Better Homes & Gardens

Here the white countertops are repeated in the bathtub, window casings, and the directors chair. In addition to the white matt in the black and white framed photo above the vanity.

cream bedroom

{click on images for sources}

What would make this bedroom (above) perfect is if the walls were white to provide contrast to the cream drapery or if the drapery was white. Then some pillow shams in cream and white as well as a cream coverlet placed at the end of the bed.

If you have lots of cream in your house and want to incorporate white, these are some tips to help introduce white into your home!

Where in your house do you need an injection of cream or white?

Need help choosing the right whites and creams? My White is Complicated: A Decorators Guide to Choosing the Right White eBook will help you get your whites right for your cabinets, trim, ceilings, and walls. This eBook also includes my Bonus book of Whites which will take the guesswork out of your decisions.

You’ll need them both if you have an entire house of whites and neutrals/colours to choose, get them here.

If you would like to transform the way you see colour, become a True Colour Expert.

Related posts:

Can I Paint my Walls White even if the Room is Dark

Dated Oak Cabinets to White & Fresh: Before and After

A Consultation on White Trim



leave aREPLY

  1. I’ve been taking the course, and evaluating my house 🙂 It turns out that I have been mixing White and cream like crazy and breaking the color rules for years. I haven’t decided if my new knowledge will make me crazy or not! Thanks for the pictures above, they are helpful.

    • Hi Nicole,
      Nothing wrong with mixing white and cream as long as it looks intentional.
      And even then, there are so many other factors that make a room work or not even if the rules have been followed or broken.

      Is that a contradiction or what? But that’s the world of decorating.

  2. Hello Maria

    Thanks for the tips for using the cream and white together so it seems intentional and delightful as shown in the examples.

    This is what I love about your posts – you give the perfect visuals for people to see how colors are used in the space.


  3. at first i loved all the posts. then went back and looked again.

    the ones i REALLY loved were the ones with the same/complementary undertones. there are some with ‘clashing’ undertones that just look wrong, no matter what. As if someone tried too hard and missed. (wondering now if it is the dirty/clean rule that went awry. will go back again and look)

    another lesson — if the undertones are wrong, even repetition and deliberateness is trumped by suitable and undertone family harmony.


    again again again, thank you!

    • ALMOST ready to start learning how and when broken rules ‘work’. 🙂

      I saw a dirty/clean exterior the other day and almost took a picture to send to you. It WORKED. it was amazing.

      Am STILL puzzling out why it worked.
      (love a good mystery, don’t you)

  4. I’m having a terrible dilemma with my kitchen “white” issue.
    The backsplash is white subway, but it has a gray undertone.
    They were installed previously, so if I had my way they would be a bright, clean white.
    But my problem is that I have a 1930’s type of retro look going (subtle) on with red coffee maker, thin line of accent trim in red along counter edge & red vintage pieces.
    The white on the cabinets has yellow undertones which not only doesn’t work, but is making the tile look even more gray!
    I’m wondering if a white w/ gray undertone like Ben Moore “ballet white” would look bright & clean while & not clash with the red accents?
    I want it to work with the red, but ideally a white that would somehow make the subway tile look brighter.
    SO appreciative of any thoughts you may have!

    • If Ballet white matches your backsplash tile then it’s definitely a good option to try. Or it might just need to be a plain white like SW Extra White. Paint them up on large samples and tape them on top of your cabinet. That’s the only way you’ll know. Hope this helps, Maria

      • I so appreciate your generosity of time
        to answer my question!
        I’m actually in parking lot of hardware store & going in to give this a try, thank you again & I too look forward to getting the book!

  5. Good Information
    I have to decide on counter top for large island, 12 ft and backsplash. I looked at frosty carinia but to be honest i like more of a white look .
    leaning towards organic white ceasarstone or pure white
    My cabinets are walnut and white very contemporary
    any ideas?

    • Whichever white is in your cabinets should be your countertop colour period. If you need help deciding, we can help you in our edesign department under hard finish consultation. Hope that helps, Maria

  6. Hi Maria,
    I have a problem…or at least I think I do. We are building and though we have built 6 times in the last 20 years I am really struggling this time with my color choices in my kitchen. I chose bright white shaker cabinets and thought I had chosen white quartz with gray swirls…turns out, the quartz has a creamy or off-white background and I don’t feel as if it flows. I have painted the walls repose gray and I have a medium to dark brown hardwood floor in the kitchen. I have lots of natural light and I have an open concept with the family room and dining space all in view. I have chosen a gray leather sofa and I did choose two off-white (creamy) swivel chairs with some fun pillows to bring that all together with the grays, creams, and pops of color (lime and blue). I feel like I may have made a mistake with the quartz being creamy instead of white. I don’t want it to look like a mistake…there is lots of white board and batten trim, as well as, some white shiplap over the fireplace and on the side of my stairs. Oil rubbed bronze and wood in most of the light fixtures and the ceiling fan in the family room. How can I pull this together in my kitchen? Can I do that with a backsplash so the contrast looks planned? Please help and thank you! Jill

    • Well without seeing photos I would say there’s nothing you can do in this scenario except repaint the cabinets if there is no white in the countertop. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

      PS. Style up the kitchen though, it’ll help distract your eye.

  7. Need quick help.
    Love that I found your great page. I have a cream slip covered sofa Rather than try to match the cream of the sofa I’m thinking of doing a bright white cotton for the reupholster on a gorgeous older sherrill brand club chair. There is not a pair of chairs. Just one.

    Can I send you pictures or what do you think is the proper answer I love how you tied waiting with accessories and pillows a.m. to make it look deliberate just afraid I won’t like the chair in cream as it might look like I tried too hard to match it. -or would the white chair look too opposite. How do I tie it in together.

    Thank you.
    Naples Florida.