Best White Paint Color for Walls and Trim

Everyone wants to know the best white paint color for walls and trim – I get this question all the time!

best white paint color for walls and trim

 

You all know how much I like COLOR, but there is a place and time for everything. And on occasion, it’s the place and time for white paint on the walls and trim. This space felt choppy and small because of all the color shifts in the room. Notice all the changes, starting from the top of the photo and going down: yellow family room ceiling, white crown molding (in family room), green room header between family room and kitchen, yellow kitchen ceiling, white crown molding (in kitchen), green wall, white countertop, brown island, orange wood floors.

before

before

By painting the ceilings, trim, and walls out in white paint, we made the space feel open and larger. Now the same color (white) extends from the top of the photo all the way down to the dark island. Isn’t it much more pleasant and peaceful to the eye?

white dove walls trim
There are other whites I sometimes use, but

the best white paint color for walls and trim is Benjamin Moore White Dove.

It’s the perfect warm white – it has a very slight yellow undertone, but it isn’t discernable to most. It reads like an ever-so-slightly grayed white. Benjamin Moore White Dove is what we used in this space.

Another reason to use white paint on walls and trim is to downplay odd angles and architecture. Although the area beneath the stairs was a very efficient place to tuck in storage and a television . . .

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before

it looks so much better when it isn’t outlined by all the green wall paint that was around it previously. The change in paint colors drew more attention to awkward angles, and now the best white paint color for walls and trim make the architecture less choppy.

benjamin moore white dove living room

 

I hear designers speak of choosing two different whites in the same room – one for the trim and one for the wall. But do you want to know a shocking secret? When you use the same white paint in two different sheens (eggshell for walls, semi-gloss for trim), they don’t look the same! That’s right, the wall and trim in these photos are the same exact color, only in different sheens. Here’s the why: the higher the sheen, the lighter any color will appear. A shiny White Dove will read lighter and whiter than a flatter finish of White Dove. So in most cases, there is really no reason to do two different whites unless you are looking to get more contrast than this:

white designer family room and kitchen

 

You’ll notice we changed out that ugly ceiling fan. The previous window treatments blocked too much of the natural light, so we freshened the windows with new window panels and nixed the roman shades altogether. Here’s the before:

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before

White is a great choice if you have a room with lots of natural light. I don’t typically use it in rooms with very little natural light, because it can look shadowy and dull. Fabrics with lighter backgrounds and metallics like polished nickel and wintergold lightened up this room, too.

white sofa

 

We kept the slipcovered sofa and natural fiber rug, but found a fun coffee table to replace the heavy dark one from before. The new art looks more in keeping with the fresh, new look of the space.

best white paint color in living room

 

Ok, I know you’re dying to see more of the fabulous kitchen. The homeowners upgraded their kitchen with white cabinetry and marble countertops several years ago, but a few tweaks were needed. The island pendants were super-small and dark:

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I chose these oversized lantern style pendants to take the kitchen up a notch. My client and her husband were initially worried the lights would be too large.

nickel lantern pendants over island

 

They’re perfect, right??? Here’s the room from the opposite angle. Notice how all the changes in colors look choppy:

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But not anymore! Everything blends beautifully in the best white paint color for walls and trim:

marble countertop in white designer kitchen

 

 

The darker fabrics are about to say goodbye:

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To make way for white washable slipcovers and BARE windows. With no privacy or light control issues in the breakfast nook, we opted to keep things as light as possible and forgoing window treatments here.

white slipcovered dining chairs

 

Are you all confused now after reading the post dripping with sarcasm about Ben’s and Sherwin’s 2016 Color of the Year? Well, like I said before: there’s a time and place for everything, and this house proves it!

So now my clients are moving to a new house, and guess what color they have chosen for their main interior color? White Dove, of course. They must think it’s the best white paint color for walls and trim, too! The new owner made an offer after being the first person to view it after staging, and happens to be a famous author whose book was #1 on the New York bestseller’s list for OVER A YEAR! That’s all I can tell you about that, but let’s just say she thinks this beautiful house has some divine secrets . . .

SPEAKING OF HOME STAGING, my next 3-day certification course in Psychological Staging is June 17-19. Spots are filling up fast, so make sure to register soon to secure your place. I’d love to meet you and look forward to teaching you everything I wish I had known when I started my own home staging business 13 years ago. If you’d love to break into the world of design, It’s a small investment that will make a huge difference in your future!

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after photos by SqFt Photography

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67 thoughts on “Best White Paint Color for Walls and Trim

  1. Elizabeth Scruggs says:

    Once again, you nailed it in this space and in the entire home. Thank you for sharing your God-given talent with others….you are doing exactly what you have been called to do my friend, and it shows!

  2. Georgianna Mae May says:

    That is the most incredible before and after, especially since it consisted almost entirely of simply painting the walls white. What a beautiful home. That coffee table is so cool. Where did you get it, if you don’t mind sharing?

  3. Kim says:

    If white can look shadowy in a room without a lot of natural light, what would you suggest if I want to keep a light palette? I have a north facing bedroom with small dormer windows and to be honest, every color I’ve tried on there has looked different dingy and shadowy including a light yellow. We have Brookline Beige in there now and it has never looked good even when it was in style! Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      The only color that I’ve found that will “lighten” a dark room without natural light is yellow. I like Philadelphia Cream and Hawthorne Yellow (both Benjamin Moore)in spaces with limited light. My best advice is to add lots of artificial lighting in the way of lamp light and maybe sconces.

  4. Dee says:

    Could you do a post for the best white for an exterior paint? My house has charcoal roofing and vanilla bean ( which looks creme) painted brick. If I paint dove white will that be too light since it gets full sun? thanks!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Dee,
      I like a whiter (vs. creamier) white on exteriors with a gray roof. Creamier whites are better with brown roofs. So I think you definitely could do White Dove on the exterior as long as there isn’t creamy stone or unpainted brick to deal with!

      • Kim Passmore says:

        Kristie,
        Thanks so much for the information. My husband is a general contractor and I am a real estate agent, decorator, laborer and more:) I also LOVE color and always have but I am on a “white” kick lately. I used a SW Alpaca (gray) on our last four projects and I think I am going to venture out and go “white” on our latest purchase to renovate and sell. The interior on this one is not near as open as the houses we build or renovate as I have no walls I can remove. I am second guessing myself on the exterior but I want to do a “creamy” paint on the masonite siding with black shutters, large black lanterns, etc. The roof is brown with some black in it. Do you have a suggestion on exterior color?

  5. Jean says:

    Beautiful! Hard to tell though what color their cabinets are ?One question I have is; do you need to be careful of white dove walls against white stock cabinets? Is it ok to have white dove walls and a stark white or linen white stock cabinets?

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Great question, and a very important one! The cabinets were a close match to White Dove – we tested whites against it to make sure it would appear to be the same white. If you have white cabinets, it is very important to choose a white that matches the cabinetry. If you don’t, the darker of the two whites will look kinda dirty and the brighter white will stick out (not in a good way). I always start with my client’s desires for the space, but I NEVER forget that the existing finishes are hugely important to the outcome. If your cabinets are too stark white, you can paint the trim in the room the same white. Then perhaps choose a warmer white for the wall. In another project, I used Chantilly Lace (a whiter white) for trim and Classic Gray (a warmer white) for the walls. Here’s a link to that: http://thedecorologist.com/heaven-on-earth-the-right-paint-colors-for-belgian-chic/

  6. Robin says:

    Oh man!!! Drop dead gorgeous. All of it. The before and after pics are jaw dropping. It all looks so seamless. I don’t have enough natural light in my home to pull this off (and your tips on who can/should saved many readers from running out to the paint store lol) but I would if I could….Oh! I would!! Now I’m racking my brain to figure out how to make my kitchen/dining area look more cohesive. Great, inspiring, drool worthy post!! lol

  7. Lorri S. says:

    This looks so nice and what a transformation! We are about to paint and now I’m second guessing our choices. We thought it would look good to pop the white trim but now I’m wondering. Our home does have a lot of natural light. The color on the walls now is BM Navajo White with a bright white trim (don’t know the color). I’ve always felt like the Navajo was a little bland and too yellowish. We are looking at SW Simplify Beige or SW Sand Dollar. Any advice?

  8. Carol Clark says:

    Yet another SO gorgeous project. I would have thought those lights would be too large, also, but they are PERFECT! Great job, Kristie, and thanks for sharing it. I learn so much from you!

  9. Katherine Faubion says:

    What do you think about BJ White Chocolate everywhere? So far it’s just on trim & I’ve got a ridiculous number of colors that have got to go in order to get ready for selling.

  10. Nicki says:

    Thank you for simplifying what can often be an agonizing choice, Christie. And I feel extra lucky, since you’ve featured my favorite, White Dove! I love the idea of using the same color, but in different finishes — genius! As a color lover, I’ve been through the stage (pardon the pun, lol) of painting each room a different wall color…but now I want more of a neutral backdrop with colorful art and accessories.

  11. Heather says:

    Hi Kristine, would you recommend white or ivory as a sofa colour against the white dove? Thank yiu for your beautiful work!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Heather,
      These slipcovered sofas are a bit whiter than White Dove. Either is fine, so long as you repeat each of the whites you use a few times in the space. In other words, if the sofa is super white and the walls are off-white, make sure there are other things in the room that are super white and off-white, so that the mixing of the whites looks intentionally. I hope that helps!

  12. Keti Abazi says:

    One word: GORGEOUS!
    You are awesome Kristie.

    I love it so much I had to share this post with one of my staging clients who just bought a new house and loves the clean, crisp white look. 🙂

  13. Shawna says:

    Great article, I am working on a plan for painting our fairly new-to-u- house. Your Essential Paint Color guide is invaluable! I’m ready to get some samples to test this week. I cannot wait to paint the trim – for some reason the people that built this house chose Rocky Road for all the trim, doors, laundry cabinets and mudroom lockers. It is so icky! Pretty much ANY white would have been a better choice.

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  15. Ashley says:

    Hey! Thanks for your post! I’ve been debating on doing this color in my dance studio and could not find any information about having two different white or one for the walls and trim. So just to verify, you painted the ceiling, walls, and trim ALL in White Dove? Just in different sheens (flat, eggshell, and gloss?). Thanks again! Looks fabulous!

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  17. Gregg says:

    Is the ceiling in White Dove as well? If not, can you share the color, please. Forgive me if I missed in the article.

    I’ve spent two months looking at the nuances of about six whites—and I keep coming back to White Dove.
    I made the mistake of painting only a small sample on a wall in a couple rooms–and I just focused only on the undertone (as you mentioned can look a bit creamy in some lighting conditions)—and not the overall effect it would have on the room.
    I see that BM changed the formula of White Dove in November of 2014. Not sure of the change—some say it was in response to some coverage issue (online there was mention of more yellow, less black)—but have you noticed any difference in the color?

  18. Jill Hooper says:

    Hey! BEEE-UUUU-TI-FULLLLLL!! Love it!
    I read one of these comments and it sounds like you don’t recommend the all-white idea in a room with little natural light. Is that right? Also, my kitchen cabinets are a cream/towards pale yellow—would the white walls/trim work in there? Thanks! Jill

  19. Kim Gaspari says:

    I’m going to paint my entire interior white dove, walls and trim.
    Just talked with my painter, who thought eggshell walls and semi gloss trim using Regal BM in white dove are the sheens to use. I’m so hung up on choosing proper sheen for the walls and thought PEARL white dove walls and Semi gloss white dove trim would be better. Please help me get over this ridiculous indecisive detail.
    Why am I stuck on deciding between Pearl and Eggshell walls? Because I’m afraid the Eggshell/Semi gloss might be too much of a contrast and Pearl/Semi gloss might give me too much shine in the walls.
    Help!

  20. daizy says:

    amazing. very good job. Pls can you give advice. I am painting a house off white and will want to know what fun colour I can use to add light in the sitting room area. pls what do u advice. thanks a lot

  21. Jane says:

    Hello!
    Love this, I’m inspired! What is your take on Sherwin Williams Alabaster? Also, is the ceiling painted the same white as well? What type of finish? Thank you!

  22. Sarah says:

    This room is gorgeous and just what we would love. I’ve seen so many great white rooms online and usually the paint color listed, but no one ever mentions the color/brand of flooring they use.
    Could you tell me the flooring used in this room or one that would go along with this type of room.

  23. Suzanne says:

    I love what you’ve done with white. I’m currently having my kitchen cabinets sanded and prepped for painting. I want to paint the cabinets white. New granite counters are going to be grey/white-ish color. Walls are going to be a true light grey.
    I’m stuck on choosing the right shade of white for the cabinets. Can’t decide between BM Chantilly Lace or BM white dove. I’ve been warned about going too stark white on the cabinets. But I don’t want the cabinets to look too yellowish or beigey either. Any advice you could offer would be immensely appreciated.

  24. Gogogramma says:

    So much nicer, however, the darker lighting and (every day living) clutter in the before pictures contribute to a heavier feeling. Would be nice to see the clutter cleared in the before pictures to get a truer sense of change. That said, the rooms look fabulous in white.

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      Thank you for your comment! If you notice, the photos were taken at about the same time of day (you can see the light outside in both are similar). The reason why the room was darker is because of the heavier window treatments that covered the upper portion of the windows and because of the dark wall colors. The lighter colors of the walls, art, window treatments, and accessories made the whole space feel lighter than before.

  25. judy lofgren says:

    hi Kristie, would your tip for painting the windows black,”macara tecnique”,look pretty with an all white dove painted living room as you described ? also… i was thinking of putting a saphpire colored sectional in the white dove living room, would that match or do you have a better idea? thank you!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      The black eyeliner on the windows would look stunning with a room painted white. I’ve done it! I think a jewel-toned sofa would be gorgeous – just be sure to repeat some of that color in some art or fabric elsewhere in the room, and it should be lovely!!! Thanks for reading, Judy.

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