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How to Choose the Right White Paint

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Interior designer Tricia Foley, whose upcoming title Life | Style chronicles her loving renovation of an all-white Long Island home, shares her tips for picking out and using white paint. 

tricia foley life style 

Whether your home is modern or traditional, in the country or in the city, a white paint palette provides the perfect backdrop for any style. The interiors I create are done in many shades of white: There are warm, cozy whites in shades of cream and ivory, cool whites with a touch of blue for a clean, minimal look, and chalky whites with a hint of grey for historic interiors.

A cool white can emphasize a sculptural wall, a warm white can hide imperfections, and a clean white can open up a space or call out architectural details. Using a mix of whites on the walls, trim, ceiling, and floor—as well as using flat, eggshell, and semi-gloss finishes—adds depth. I’m also influenced by the evocative names of white paints: “apron strings,” “tuxedo shirt,” “ironstone.” 

When shopping for white paints, I love looking at the names on paint charts and envisioning how they could be used in a space together, to evoke different moods as one transitions between rooms. In the kitchen I want a clean, fresh white; in the dining room, a soft white backdrop for my china; in the living room, a warm old-fashioned white for the bookshelves; and in my bedroom, a calming white

Tricia Foley Life style  Tricia Foley Life Style

Ideas for making the most of white paint:

  • Painting the window trim white inside and out brings reflected light into a room, brighting the space.
  • A good way to keep closets and cabinets brighter inside is to paint them a clean white.
  • To give the illusion of more height, ceilings are often painted a flat white, sometimes with a tint of color from the wall paint.
  • A collection of disparate chairs or tables come together painted the same white, whether it’s in a romantic old summer house or a minimal Scandinavian inspired space.

I like the simplicity of white, the cleanliness of white, the purity of it, the blank slate of it, and the world of possibility in it. It represents serenity and calm to me—and a fresh coat of white paint makes everything new again. Ralph Lauren’s Brilliant White, Benjamin Moore’s Super White, and Farrow & Ball’s All White are some of my favorites—but these are some other reliable white paints, grouped by type.

Warm & Cozy

parish white  Farrow & Ball Clunch  Benjamin Moore China White
Parish White (Williamsburg Collection for Benjamin Moore); Clunch (Farrow & Ball); China White (Benjamin Moore)

Also: Journal White (Ralph Lauren Paint) 


Clean & Minimal

Farrow & Ball All White  Benjamin Moore Snow White  Sherwin Williams Pure White
All White (Farrow & Ball); Snow White (Benjamin Moore); Pure White (Sherwin Williams)

Also: Brilliant White (Ralph Lauren Paint)


Cool Whites

harwood putty  chalk white ralph lauren paint  Benjamin Moore Decorators White
Harwood Putty (Williamsburg Collection for Benjamin Moore); Chalk White (Ralph Lauren Paint); Decorators White (Benjamin Moore)


Soft Whites 

Benjamin Moore White Dove  picket fence  Mother of Pearl
White Dove (Benjamin Moore); Picket Fence White (Ralph Lauren Paint); Mother of Pearl (Ralph Lauren Paint)


Calming Whites

Farrow & Ball Cornforth  Benjamin Moore Simply White  Sherwin WiliamsCornforth White (Farrow & Ball); Simply White (Benjamin Moore); Ethereal White (Sherwin Williams)

What white paints do you love? Let me know in the comments!

Photographs in post by Marili Forastieri; home page photograph by William Abranowicz.

Tags: Home Decor, Entertaining, On the Cheap