We know what you’re thinking…what an odd name for a post! What we’re actually about to discuss, though, is white and cream paint colors. Do you prefer whites or creams? Not sure? Read on.
Choosing White Paint for Your Home
If you’re thinking of freshening up your home, or you’re starting from scratch, you may not have given your whites much thought, because white is white is white, right? Wrong! Actually white is one of the hardest shades to get right, precisely because there are so many options available. Benjamin Moore has something like 150 different shades of white in their collection alone. Now add cream to that. Is your head spinning yet?
Most people default to white trim because they believe that it goes with everything, and requires little to no thought or planning. When the time comes for the big reveal, and painting is finished, decorating is finished, drapes are hung and that last vase of flowers is placed… ta-da! Ta-da…ta-da…ta-da… It falls flat, and you’re not sure what went wrong. Your heart sinks. What happened? You likely didn’t consider what else is going on in your home. Who knew that choosing paint colors for your house could be so overwhelming and downright difficult?
Clean vs. Dirty Colors for Decorating Your Home
The very first thing you need to consider are your hard finishes. Maria Killam has been teaching her readers for years about clean and dirty paint colors. What does that mean exactly? Maria says that she prefers using the terms “clean” and “dirty” because those words are the most accurate. When you put fresh colors with muted colors, the muted colors actually do look dirty. We agree with Maria. See her post, “3 Surprising Reasons Your Colour Scheme Looks Dirty” for more information. We highly recommend that you take a few minutes to educate yourself about clean and dirty colors so you understand how whites and creams “play” with other colors. Sometimes they play nicely and sometimes they don’t! Before moving on, we’ll give you a few examples of clean and dirty color combinations.
Examples of Clean and Dirty Color Combinations
Keep in mind that our intent is not to say one is good and one is bad; there is nothing wrong with either. However, things start going south when you put them together. Stated again, your clean colors really will make your “dirty” (muted) colors actually look dirty! How do whites and creams fit into this puzzle? Read on.
How to Choose Paint Colors Based on the Hard Finishes in Your Home
As we mentioned, you need to consider your hard finishes first. Whether you are working with finishes you already have, or you’re building new, you need to determine whether your hard finishes are clean or dirty. If you have muted colors, you should choose creams. If you have fresh clean colors, white will make your palette appear fresher. Yes, there are always exceptions, and yes you can (and should) combine different shades of white. What we’re discussing here, though, is a general rule of thumb to follow to help you avoid paint mistakes. We are not diving deep into the nuances of undertones, or exceptions to the “rules”. Remember, there are no hard and fast decorating rules, but we believe that following general guidelines, especially if you are working on your own, will give you a direction and help you to feel less overwhelmed. We do recommend that you hire a decorator if at all possible. Believe it or not, this will end up saving you money in the end because you will not have to re-do costly mistakes, or be forced to live with something you are unhappy with because you cannot afford to fix your mistakes.
When to Choose Cream or “Dirty” Colors
If your hard surfaces (tile, counters, fireplace brick, carpet) are muted or “dirty”, choose cream. Muted colors include pink beige, mustards, orange, golds, browns, olive green, terracotta, tan, etc.
When to Choose White or “Clean” Colors
If your hard surfaces are fresh or “clean” (blues, yellow, red, aqua, pinks–pure colors that do not have brown added) choose white, soft white, or slightly off-white paint shades. Whites and creams are both classic, and neither is better than the other. That is simply a matter of preference.
Our Favorite Benjamin Moore White Paint Colors
- OC-65 Chantilly Lace: one of the purest, cleanest, brightest white paint shades; good for trim, cabinets, walls, ceilings
- OC-64 Pure White: soft off-white with a bit of a blue undertone; good for cabinets with marble tops
- OC-17 Simply White: soft white that reads white but with a hint of warmth; good for virtually any application; not our favorite with carrara marble, which has a blue-gray cast
- CC-20 Decorator’s White: cool white with a gray undertone; looks good with marble and rooms with shades of blue; popular choice for ceilings
- CC-30 Oxford White: fresh white with a tinge of gray; nice contrast with black
- OC-152 Super White: cool white that still reads clean
- OC-17 White Dove: widely regarded as one of Benjamin Moore’s most popular whites; versatile warm white softened with gray; popular for interiors and exteriors; really popular for trim and cabinets
Our Favorite Benjamin Moore Cream Paint Colors
- OC-14 Natural Cream: soft, pure cream; good for trim, cabinetry and walls; if using on walls, pair with soft white trim
- OC-96 Gentle Cream: warm cream with a soft yellow undertone; try it on walls and trim together for a unified look
- OC-146 Linen White: another warm beautiful cream for trim, doors, walls, and even ceilings
- 2153-60 Rich Cream: a deeper cream that goes especially well with muted or “dirty” colors
- OC-13 Soft Chamois: a creamy greige shade with a slight green undertone; works well on walls, cabinetry, and trim
- OC-45 Swiss Coffee: another soft, off-white cream that is perfect for exteriors, walls, trim, and cabinets
Would you Rather be a Pitcher of Cream or a Glass of Milk?
Whether you love milky white or warm cream, you won’t be disappointed if you follow our guidelines for choosing the perfect shade of cream or white. Do your homework! In closing, we will share a very important tip that we learned from Maria Killam years ago: when choosing the perfect paint color, and this applies especially to whites and creams, hold your sample against a plain white sheet of paper. This is the only way you can see the true color! And before you go and paint the whole room or all of your trim, test, test, test! We’d love to know, would you rather be a pitcher of cream or a glass of milk?