Benjamin Moore rolled out their interior painting color of the year for 2016, and much to the astonishment of the net, the company chose white, even for countertops. In all fairness, it’s not just “white,” as they apparently have more than 250 shades of white available. This particular white is called “Simply White.” In the promotional video, Benjamin Moore’s Color and Design Director explained that it was chosen because, “It was the most neutral…” Well, yes, a person doesn’t have to be a paint or design expert to know that white is neutral. Most people equate that with boring, which is why the company’s color choice seems a little off. Even still, it is a major design trend, and white really is going to be the “it” color for quite some time.
Here’s how to go with white paint, and make it work for you.
Before You Begin…
Know that everything affects white. The pros at Benjamin Moore say that Simply White is constant, that’s a bit of a half-truth. White isn’t a constant color. While the particular shade they chose may be more agreeable than other whites, everything around white changes the way it looks. For instance, natural light isn’t just natural light, and if you paint two rooms in the same shade of white, but the windows are facing different directions, the paint will look like it’s a different shade. The shade will also look different as the seasons change. If there’s snow outside, a bright white may be blinding, If a leafy tree blocks the light, the same room may seem dark, but the space may seem perfect in the fall, when there’s no leaves or snow.
You should also know that white is only boring when it’s used “incorrectly.” Stark, sterile, emotionless rooms are the result of improperly used white. White should be thought of more as an enhancement color. Because everything that’s around it affects it, white will enhance and convey the message of the colors around it. Therefore, it can represent any emotion, thought, or concept. For example, if a room is white, with only black or gray around it, it can feel cold, clinical, or contemporary. If the black and gray accent pieces are changed out for orange and yellow ones, the space can feel happy or energetic.
Choose Where to Apply White Paint Carefully
The pros at Titan Contractors suggest that a refined elegant look often utilizes white heavily, perhaps on all the walls, but it’s incredibly difficult to pull off without coming across as utilitarian. An entire room doesn’t have to be painted white to embrace the trend. Use these ideas for inspiration.
- Paint only one wall white
- Make all the walls except for one white
- Paint only the upper or lower half of the walls white, and separate the colors with a dado rail
- Paint thick molding at the ceiling join, floor join, and any other trim white
- Highlight an alcove or fireplace with white
Be Mindful When Selecting a Shade
All shades of white are not equal. They have undertones of other colors in them, although you might not be able to tell it just by looking at it alone. It’s easy to see an undertone when you look at the shade next to something that’s a true white. In order for the colors to coordinate, the undertones can’t fight each other. (If you’ve ever put two colors in the same room and expected them to look great, but they felt “off” for some reason, the undertones are the likely culprits.) You’ll also want to try to use the same undertones throughout the house, so that it flows better.
You should examine the shade under multiple lighting variants. Even though you can’t duplicate the seasons, you can paint a portion of a wall and see how it looks with different types of natural and ambient lighting. It’s a good idea to try this with any color you choose, so you have a chance to experience it before you commit.
Professional designers will tell you to add texture to pull off white, and it does work if you’re trying to recreate the look of a magazine. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always look quite right in a home that’s actually lived in. Everyday people will probably get more mileage from a neutral white if they add accents and color throughout a space. In the end though, the only person whose opinion matters when it comes to your house is you.
Jason Greschuk is the owner of Stratford Price Painting based out of Winnipeg Manitoba