• Erin McGinnis

Trend Alert: Should You Paint Your Walls White?

White is the "it" color right now in the world of home decorating and paint color. I just did a video on this topic which you can watch below, or keeping reading this post with details about this new design trend. Before you head to the paint store, there are 3 important things to consider!

You may have noticed on your Instagram feed or in magazines that home interior photos are featuring rooms with ultra-light, "art gallery white" walls like these:

Walls are Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace, a true white

During the past 10 years, gray was the go-to neutral. But color trends last about a decade, and now the obsession is with white. The most popular colors being purchased at the local paint store are shades of white. Three colorists I have spoken with here in Marin confirmed this recently.

But is white right for your home?

The truth is that true white, like Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace, or an off-white like Sherwin Williams Snowbound, is not the best choice for most homes. It's hard to pull off and conditions must be just right.

Most of the photos you see of these light and airy white rooms wouldn't look so ethereal and white without a southern exposure, photo filters or Photoshop. See how filters make the white walls so much whiter in the photo below .

Here are 3 things to consider if you're thinking of painting your main living areas white:

1. Does your house have a lot of natural light?

True white requires a lot of sunlight to achieve that fresh and crisp look. It’s common to think that white paint will lighten a dark room. But in fact, white paint – and even pale off-whites - look dingy in dark spaces.

White is also highly reflective, so it can take on colors around it.

2. What colors are your fixed finishes?

If your countertops or cabinets are shades of brown, or if you have earth tones in your home (for example tile floors), then true white on the walls will be too stark. To create a fresher look, you’ll want to choose a cream paint color or a pale beige that reads more like cream.

3. What color is your furniture and upholstery?

Rooms painted art gallery white need lots of white repeated in them to look good. For example, white sofas, tables and/or accessories.

There’s a designer named Janice Lindsay who said this about white in her book "All About Color:"

"White walls offer no place to hide, no camouflage. They create an art gallery effect, spotlighting attention on every object so each must be worthy. White walls highlight shape and colour and tolerate no chaotic mess... White walls are not the avoidance of colour. They are the embracing of the most demanding colour of all."

So what do you do if you want to update your house with a current and fresh look, and true white isn't the answer? The solution is usually to choose a cream, or a very pale neutral.

For example, try the palest grays and beiges on the color strips at the paint store. By the way, if you are trying to get away from beige, know that pale beige will not look outdated. It is light and reads more like a cream. Paler neutrals are more versatile than darker neutrals.

Some examples of pale neutrals are Benjamin Moore Classic Gray seen here:

Walls are Benjamin Moore Classic Gray, a pale neutral

And Sherwin Williams Eider White:

Walls are Sherwin Williams Eider White, a pale neutral

Even though the undertones in pale neutrals are less obvious than in darker neutrals, you still want to be aware of your home's fixed finishes and try to choose a complementary (pale) color. Always use big paint samples. One way to do this is to buy a pint of paint and paint it on a large piece of thick card stock (at least 8"x10"). Another way is to order your own peel and stick sample from the Samplize website.

If you’re thinking of selling your home and you want help picking the right wall color, please contact me for a free consultation. erin.mcginnis@compass.com

Meantime, here are some popular pale neutrals and creams:

BENJAMIN MOORE (at Marin Color Service on Grant Ave in downtown Novato)

Cream: Natural Wicker (creamy ivory undertone)

Pale neutrals: Classic Gray, Ballet White, Sea Salt (all greige undertones)

SHERWIN WILLIAMS (new location on Grant Ave in downtown Novato!)

Cream: Creamy, Antique White, Divine White

Pale neutrals: Incredible White, Greek Villa, Aesthetic White, Shoji White, Eider White