How to Choose the Best White Paint

Kristine Paige Shares Key Insights

Read What Kristine Paige Has to Say:

Interior Designer Kristine Paige shares her approach to choosing the best white paint from her studio in West Hollywood, California.

“For me, it’s something we deal with on every single project,” Says Paige. “Overall, the selection criteria depend on so many different factors. It depends on your natural light. What is the artificial light that you're going to have? And more importantly, it depends on all the other items in the room. So what color are you going to paint your trim? What color are your floors, your carpeting, your drapery, your art?”

Art can really manipulate the color, the tone of the wall behind it. Paige demonstrates these variables with a selection of different off-white paint samples. Each of the sample whites have a certain undertone to them. The first one has an undertone of pink. Paige treats it as a neutral, since it is so fresh, bright, and relaxing. Holding it next to a piece of wall art, it blends right into the art. The walls don't appear glaringly pink, while the combination of paint chip and art just makes visual sense.

Paige shows a brighter white paint sample. “If we don't want the walls to say anything, we want the walls to step behind, we definitely go with a neutral palette. And this white sample has a slight gray undertone. And it works beautifully with the wall art. It just highlights the art, brings out some of the tones in the art. So I really like this one if you wanted to go with just a simple white.”

“Then we can get into darker, deeper whites.” Paige shows a white paint sample that reads ivory, a little bit sand-colored. “For me, this color won’t work with this art. You need a brighter tone of white in order to offset all the art’s bright colors. If the painting had more of a neutral palette, or more muted colors, then the ivory-toned white could work.”

Paige also shares how interesting it is when you have a white that has a cooler undertone. “While you wouldn't normally think a lighter blue could act as a neutral in this instance, it does, because it is such a light blue.” She shares that to get a great cool-toned white, visit a Benjamin Moore independent retailer and ask them to add 50% more white to a particular color, or bring down this formula by 50%. That delivers an even more neutral palette behind the piece of art she is working with. Paige illustrates how it then acts to highlight all the different blues in the piece of art that you wouldn't see if you had a white wall.

Paige shares another white that has a little bit of sand color in it. She advises that the paint was applied to the sample with a heavy brush in order to show the movement of the brush. The brush strokes actually impart some age on the walls, a little bit of interest that you don't get applying with just a paint roller.

“I know it's super hard to pick a white. But I think if you look at all the other assets in the room, all the other items in the room that are going to be playing against that white, you will have a much easier time selecting the right white.”

“I also love working with larger paint chips. I use 8.5” x 11” from the Benjamin Moore paint store and stick them all over the walls so I can see them in varying lights. I also depend upon Benjamin Moore’s off-white collection.” Paige illustrates how she puts up an individual paint strip near a piece of art, one that has a lot of different tones to it, and each of the whites on the paint strip coordinates with the colors in the art.

Paige counsels that you can ask yourself, “what do I want to highlight in this piece of art?" And that same question can be asked if you are looking to coordinate color with, say, marble on your fireplace. Or if you have a fabulous area rug, what color do you want to extract from that piece? And that step will assist in informing you as to which white should be selected.

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