I love white. It represents purity, it’s clean, bright and fresh. If you pay attention to color design trends, white has been a top color choice for both Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore as their “Color of the Year.” In 2016, Alabaster was the Sherwin-Williams COTY and Simply White was Benjamin Moore’s Top Color.
White on walls as the main color creates the perfect backdrop for pops of color in accents in both furniture, fabrics and other accessories. White on trim and cabinets is my favorite way to contrast against wall color and add some freshness to a space.
So, if you have been following my Color Wheel feature color posts lately, you may have noticed that I have been highlighting several different white paint colors. In light of this, I thought it would be beneficial to have one cohesive post detailing my top tried and true white paint colors by Sherwin-Williams.
Whites can be tricky. It’s easy to look at a sample paint swatch with 7 different “whites” staring you in the face and then all of a sudden they all blur together and look exactly the same. “How do I even begin to find the right one for my space?” you may be asking.
If you have spent some time researching paint colors or read any of my feature color posts, you have most likely heard of “undertones” in paint colors. Well, it’s a real thing. It’s not just some technical term designers have come up with! Colors that have been mixed into varying shades for wall paint, have a certain main color or “undertone” that shows up most prominently when painted. The same is true with whites. For the sake of simplicity, I will start with my go-to “true” white and then outline the best cool whites, greige whites and warm whites.
Let’s start with my go-to “true” white. This will be the base that I will work off of before I go to the left of the spectrum with “cool” whites and to the right of the spectrum with “warm” whites. Sherwin-Williams has one white that is their “true” white-white. Which basically means that it doesn’t have any warm or cool undertones. It’s just a bright white.
Some will argue that Extra White has a tinge of a cool undertone. I will just say that I have Extra White on my trim, half-wall and cabinets and I don’t see any undertones. It comes out looking like a bright white. So, for the sake of sanity, I’m going to trust Sherwin-Williams and my experience with it and use Extra White as the base “true” white-white.
I specify Extra White for clients that want a bright white for a classic and fresh look. Like I mentioned, I have Extra White in my home. I also love Extra White for ceilings. Sherwin-Williams has a color called “Ceiling Bright White,” but it actually does have a slight cool undertone. I tend to go for Extra White to avoid any undertones.
Okay, so we established our base “true” white with Extra White. Before we go into exploring the best cool white options, I want to share a quick trick for Sherwin-Williams whites. The Sherwin-Williams paint deck was recently revised to have one complete section of Whites/Pastels for easy access. Before the revision, the whites and off-whites (not all of them, but a lot of them) were at the top of the color paint swatches.
For instance, Eider White SW 7014 is one shade lighter than the popular Repose Gray SW 7015. So, before the paint deck revision, Eider White was above Repose Gray. Now, Eider White is in the “Whites/Pastels” section. So you have to search in the whites and pay attention to the paint number to know which colors are the lighter shades of the other colors in “Neutral” and “Color” sections of the paint deck.I share this trick for whites in case this helps you to coordinate with your current neutrals.
That being said, let’s outline my top Cool Whites. Snowbound is definitely one of my favorites that I have actually outlined recently in one of my Color Wheel Updates. If your palette is leaning towards cooler grays (or even greiges that have less warmth) and your other selections (tile, etc.) are brighter whites, consider going with Snowbound for trim and cabinets.
I also love Snowbound as a wall color for a crisp canvas to add whimsy and color through pattern and texture. The inspiration picture below is a perfect example of Snowbound on the walls with pattern and color in the furniture, accents and accessories.
As I mentioned previously, Eider White is one shade lighter than Repose Gray. Repose Gray can be a hard color to categorize as “cool” or “warm” definitively. I consider Repose Gray as one of those colors that can still look like a warm gray, but has a slight blue undertone that comes out looking cool the majority of the time, in my experience.
For that reason, I’m keeping Eider White in the Cool White category. Eider White is beautiful in spaces that need a subtle and soft neutral the leans a bit cooler, but doesn’t look too cold. I love it with black and white to add some contrast! The inspiration picture is a perfect example of how Eider White has a cool undertone, but it comes out looking still a bit warm and not “concrete” feeling. I like how the warmer tones in the floor also help to warm up the space and creates a perfect atmosphere for Eider White.
The Rest of the Cool Whites
Egret White, Crushed Ice and On the Rocks are a few other whites that can be used in spaces where a cooler undertone is desired. Egret White has a cool gray undertone while Crushed Ice and On the Rocks have more of a blue undertone. Spare White, Fleur de Sel and Frosty White are cooler off-whites that have a slight green-blue undertone.
I tend to stay away from specifying these for trim and cabinets because the undertones come out a lot stronger in these colors and I like to have trim and cabinets that don’t have saturated undertones coming through. They can be beautiful on walls, though!
Okay, so for the sake of confusion and splitting hairs over cool and warm undertones, I created a “middle” category with whites that have a greige (not too cool, not too warm undertone). These are really some of the top whites that I specify because they coordinate with my top neutrals that I use all of the time.
Alabaster. Need I say more? Alabaster has a reputation as a top go-to white choice and it’s no wonder. It isn’t too cold, it isn’t too warm. I would venture to say that it starts to go more in the warm direction, but Alabaster can be used in cool and warm scheme alike.
I also outlined Alabaster in a Color Wheel post with tons of inspirational pictures of both interiors (walls, trim/cabinets) and exteriors. The thing I love the most about Alabaster is that it is just “off-white enough” to not be super bright white, which makes it ideal for a softer white look. I believe that is what makes Alabaster so popular. It truly is perfect for those that wish to have a white that will still pop against their wall color, without being too glaringly white.
Greek Villa & Westhighland White
Greek Villa & Westhighland White are both whites that have a greige undertone and tend to get a bit warmer than Alabaster, but just a smidge. I still categorize it as a “greige” white that can be used in with both cool and warm selections. The bedroom pictured below has to be one of my favorite interiors. Greek Villa as the main wall color, looks flawless in this monochromatic scheme with creamy whites, greiges and a touch of yellow.
I have more experience using and detailed Greek Villa out in a Color Wheel post, but Westhighland White is also a great choice that is very comparable to Greek Villa. They both look great as wall colors or as trim colors and similar to Alabaster, I love that they are still fresh without being super bright white.
The Rest of the Greige Whites
Incredible White, Aesthetic White and Shoji White are the rest of my Greige Whites that can be used on walls for a soft and subtle feel, on ceilings or on trim/cabinets. These all have a bit more saturation than Alabaster, Greek Villa and Westhighland White. So, if you want to go with more of a bright and fresh white, then consider sticking to one of the 3 just mentioned.
However, I love these Greige Whites in basements, for ceilings or even in areas that need just a hint of color.
Here is a quick reference for their color matches that are one shade up on the paint swatch:
Incredible White SW 7028 → Agreeable Gray SW 7029
Aesthetic White SW 7035 → Accessible Beige SW 7036
Aesthetic White SW 7042 → Worldly Gray SW 7043
This brings us to what I consider the “real” warm whites that have more of a cream, beige or yellow undertone to them. I tend to specify these creamy whites in spaces that have warmer selections. These warm whites work best on cabinets and trim in homes that have creamier countertops and tile floors/backsplashes. Going too bright white can make the selections look off and “dirty.”
I love this color! Creamy has become my go-to for a warmer creamier white that doesn’t have a yellow undertone. If your palette is going warmer with selections like beige travertine floors/backsplash or taupe/brown granite, then consider going with Creamy.
Creamy is a tad warmer than Alabaster and will help the warmer selections from looking too dull. In the kitchen pictured below, the floors are a honey oak color. By using Creamy on the walls and cabinets, it adds warmth to this creamy palette, yet it it is still fresh and clean.
Antique White is a soft and warm off-white that has a yellow-beige undertone, which is the reason that I typically specify it when clients have more beige and golden tones in their home. In one of my most recent Color Wheel posts, I talk about how Antique White is the perfect base color to use on cabinets with a umber glaze to create an “antiqued” look and feel.
Antique White similar to Creamy, but has even more warmth to it (hence my mention of the yellow-beige undertone). I specified it for my in-laws trim, ceiling and cabinet color to compliment the warmer palette and to coordinate with the creamy-beige backsplash and tile floors.
The Rest of the Warm Whites
Panda White, Moderate White and Divine White are the remainder of my top Warm Whites. These 3 colors can be used on walls in spaces that don’t have as much natural light or for trim and cabinets in which a warmer white works best. I recently specified Panda White for a basement design project for that exact reason!
Just like the Greige Whites, here is a quick reference for the color matches that are one shade up on the paint swatch:
Panda White SW 6147 → Wool Skein SW 6148
Moderate White SW 6140 → Softer Tan SW 6141
Divine White SW 6105 → Kilim Beige SW 6106
Wrapping it All Up
My hope in writing this post is to help clear up any confusion over whites and to empower you to find one that works in your home. Also, I wanted to share my tried and true and best whites. To sum it all up and as a general rule of thumb, if your selections are tending cool, lean towards the Cool Whites. If your main color palette is more greige, go towards the Greige Whites. If your fixed elements are warmer and more golden, grab some Warm Whites.
This is not a hard and fast rule, because honestly, there are always exceptions in design. However, it is a good starting place. If you are still struggling with whites and need more help, let me know! I’m always happy to lend a hand through a Color Consultation or an eDesign.