Designing a room is full of so.many.decisions. What furniture? What fabrics? What textiles? How and where do I hang this art? Who am I anymore? Don’t get me started on curtain selection. But, perhaps the most drawn out and treacherous decision to make is what color you’re putting on those fine walls of yours…especially if you’re going neutral. There are seemingly 1,000 shades of white alone, so yeah… We’ve done our fair share of wall painting around here, have tested dozens (probably more) of shades of white and gray and beyond, and we feel confident that these 15 are solid choices if you don’t even know where to start.
We did a similar post two years ago (you might remember it), but have since added a handful of new favorites that are actually tried-and-true by EHD. Before proceeding though, I’d be remiss if I didn’t implore you to test swatches in your own home, on numerous walls of the same room. The quality of light you get in your home could be different than any of the homes pictured here, so where a white might look crisp and pure in one room, it could also read totally green or beige or yellow in another. Please test before taking the color plunge, and observe the shades during different times of day to see how they interact with your sunlight. Sure, paint is relatively inexpensive as compared to other parts of the design process, but nothing strikes sheer horror, dismay and exhaustion in my heart (and maybe yours) more than the thought of REPAINTING after you’ve already gone through the trouble of moving out furniture, prepping, clean up and moving back in furniture. My back hurts just thinking about it.
So, let’s take a look at the 15 shades of white and gray that we’ve stamped our seal of approval on. We also created a custom graphic down at the end of the post that you can pin and save for another time. Oh, and please share any of your no-fail, go-to neutral shades (and if you have any photos, please feel free to link them up in the comment).
Pure White by Sherwin-Williams
In the master bedroom of the Portland project (as well as a handful of other spaces), we used Pure White from Sherwin-Williams and it’s exactly what it sounds like: a very neutral white. It’s not warm, it’s not cool, it’s crisp white with no undertones. Quick note: If you’re painting an existing room with a white like this one, be sure you’re also painting your moldings and baseboards because you already have might be warmer and come off looking dingy. Emily and the team liked it so much, they also used this color for the downstairs of the mountain house (including the kitchen which we recently revealed).
Oyster White by Sherwin-Williams
For many of the public living areas of the Portland house, we used Oyster White from Sherwin-Williams. It’s almost a touch taupe-y gray in comparison to the crisp white of the molding (Pure White from Sherwin-Williams) so it works really well in that sense. During the big open house event we did last summer, the most asked question of anything in the house was “What is this paint color?” It’s cozy and comforting but still white enough to not run too deep into gray territory.
Pointing by Farrow & Ball
The swatch online of Pointing looks SO warm and beige-y, but in person, it’s such a lovely warm yet neutral white. Jess used this in her living room and kitchen and was very happy with it. It’s warm enough that crisp white curtains pop against it, but looks very “white” against most other colors. Farrow & Ball paints tend to be more expensive than traditional hardware store brands, but the paint is VERY thick and super high quality with a wide range of finishes.
Decorator’s White by Benjamin Moore
This is called “Decorator’s White” for a reason. A ton of decorators and designers use it (honestly). Michael picked it for his current home because it mixes really well with other neutrals but also pops of color. It’s calm yet bright and an “elevated” sophisticated white. Not too clinical, just a great backdrop for lots of styles.
Powdered Snow by Behr
While Michael’s current home is Decorator’s White, he can’t stop singing the praises of the white in his previous home. He tested dozens of white paints before landing on this one and says it the perfect bright white (plus super affordable). It doesn’t go too warm or too buttery or too cold or blue. Just crisp, bright and cheery.
Swiss Coffee by Dunn-Edwards
Sara says she didn’t actually pick this color in her old apartment (provided by the landlord) but she really liked it because it read white but warm without being the least bit yellow.
White Dove by Benjamin Moore
We don’t have a recent photo of a room painted in White Dove, but I just painted my living room in the creamy white (which you’ll be seeing next month if all goes according to plan). It’s creamy and warm in the way that vanilla soft serve looks creamy without being beige-y. Like…it’s white, but not white. It’s the type of color you strangely just want to look at except it’s white, so you feel weird being kind of obsessed with it. Evidently, it was Benjamin Moore’s “Color of the Year” a few years back, if that says anything to you. But yeah, it works well for homes with more character (i.e. nothing super modern), and is warm without being the least bit yellow.
Super White by Benjamin Moore
This was our go-to white for a while (used it in Emily’s old house as well as Brady’s kitchen). We still love it, FYI but have since turned to Pure White by Sherwin-Williams for recent projects. This color is great if you are looking for a modern clean color. It reflects light in such a pretty way and doesn’t have any cool tones that would make it go blue or warm tones that would make it yellow. It’s just really white.
White Diamond by Benjamin Moore
Another great white from homes of Emily’s past. This one was in the living room of her Commonwealth house, which she loved for the space. It’s a much cooler white that can read a little blue up next to true, pure whites, but she said in person it read really white. We have a lot of “warm” whites on this list, so if you’re looking for something not the least bit creamy, give this one a try.
Blackened by Farrow & Ball
The design team of past and present has used Blackened both in Ginny’s living room as well as Emily’s entry and stairwell. This is a cool white that can sometimes read a little lavender (it has a slight hint of purple/red in it), so be careful and test it out but in the right room can pop against white trim so well.
Strong White by Farrow & Ball
This is a gorgeous taupe-y gray-white that Emily painted her cabinets (the perimeter, not the green island, obviously). She loved is so much she painted her living room walls and ceiling in the same color. The swatch online reads very beige, but it’s a lovely creamy grayish tone that can still read white enough in a large setting.
Gray Owl by Benjamin Moore
We haven’t used this color in a while, that is until recently when the team was styling out the above project (see more of this sick house here). It’s a little creamier than other cooler grays, can sometimes read green (depending on your light), but, in general, is just such a nice color. It’s warm, cozy, not too dark, not too light, but definitely swatch test this one (as you should ALL paints before buying) to see what it does in your home.
Ammonite by Farrow & Ball
From Emily: “My current master bedroom (and family room) in the above pictures is painted this color and if you are looking for the softest, lightest gray that is so warm but not taupe then this is for you. I love how subtle the color is all while bringing some different hues into the home besides white.”
Aloof Gray by Sherwin-Williams
We used this light gray back when we did the Curbly’s dining room, but we still stand behind it. It has a teeny tiny more green to it so it’s a cooler gray that happens to look really nice with warm wood tones.
Pavilion Gray by Farrow & Ball
We loved it two years ago when we wrote about it, and we still love it now. During Brady’s first living room iteration, he picked this color and it worked so nicely with the other warm neutrals he had going on. It’s a pretty soft gray that adds depth but still brightens up a room. Not too warm, not too cool, a good happy medium gray.
We wanted to put everything together in one place for you to be able to Pin out and save, but remember that these swatches are just screengrabs from online. Some of these look SO different than they do IRL here so just use these as a reference based on our descriptions, and like I said earlier, test, test, test.
1. White Dove | 2. Decorator’s White | 3. Powdered Snow | 4. Super White | 5. White Diamond | 6. Swiss Coffee | 7. Pointing | 8. Ammonite | 9. Blackened | 10. Pure White | 11. Oyster White | 12. Strong White | 13. Pavilion Gray | 14. Aloof Gray | 15. Gray Owl