Choosing the Right White Paint, Take 2

Color Therapy

The trouble with writing an online column is that it never goes away — it doesn’t become puppy litter or fish wrap the way a newspaper column does, it’s out there in the ether for the rest of time. Words come back to haunt you. I find my old points of view being quoted verbatim from earlier stages of my development; case in point:I started a series of "best-of" posts a few years ago— best red, best yellow, best brown (where did that idea go?) and this was the opening salvo: there are so many whites to chose from in every deck, how does one parse the offering? I look at my earlier list of whites and now I’ve scarcely used any of them since. But tastes evolve and experience, doubley so. Perhaps it’s time to update the list…

For starters, there are whites that look white, and whites that look like non-color, so we're blending two ideas. Also, bear in mind that I don’t like beige or linen yellows, so if that's your thing, you may not find what you're looking for here.

Whenever I paint an apartment to sell, I always use off-the-rack Benjamin Moore White Dove — it’s warmish and never a color and it’s not too stark, like gesso. It doesn’t compete with anything else, and it allows a buyer to project his/her decorating fantasies across a blank canvas. I recently used Benjamin Moore Decorator's White to sell (to match an extant grey) and was slightly shocked at how icy it was.

As to the rest of these, let’s not call them the "Best", instead, lets say they are my current favorites. I start with them and fan out from there; this is my go-to list as of Summer 2010. I’ll probably have a different current set in six weeks. But meanwhile, the list (filled out with some reader favorites as well):

BENJAMIN MOORE
Seapearl OC-19. Cool beige or warm grey, the closest I get to beige.
Floral White OC-29. Warm without being yellow.
Swiss Coffee OC-45. I’m going to keep this from my earlier list — warm and simple without being beige or linen.
Cotton Balls OC-122. One of my designers likes this. Bright but not yellow, matches your beige wall covering.
Simply White OC-117. Another colleague's favorite, neutral and doesn’t go grey.
Vapor AF-35, Etiquette AF-50. I’m not quite used to the Affinity deck yet but every time I use it I hover around these two. Vapor is warmer, Etiquette starts to go stately grey.

RALPH LAUREN
Cove Point WW29. Cool and grey, great for a loft or an urban look.

FARROW & BALL
This is a great place to start digging around for non-colors. I’ll quote from the catalogue.
All White 2005. Neutral. Only different colored white pigments and no modern brighteners are used to formulate this bright white.
Clunch 2009. Neutral. As in the chalk stone building blocks used in East Anglia. A very versatile off-white.
Old White 4. Neutral. This color will look white in almost any “old” situation.
Skimming Stone 241 (and my favorite, slightly warm). A highly versatile off-white, without the common undertone of green or yellow. “Skimming” refers to its original use as a 19th century skim color or whitewash, today equally useful as an all-around white.
Off –White 3. Neutral. This is a bright non-colored white. Use in place of brilliant white. Paler than No.4 Old White with which it could be used as a picking-out color.
Shaded White 201. Neutral. Just darker than No.3 Off-White and lighter than No.4 Old White. This can also be used as a light “drab” color.

- Mark Chamberlain, interior and decorative painter

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