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Emily Henderson

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by Arlyn Hernandez
Emily Henderson Mountain House Kitchen Lores81

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

Emily Henderson Portland Traditional Master Bedroom9
photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd | from: the portland master bedroom reveal
photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd | from: the reveal of the mountain house kitchen

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

Emily Henderson Portland Traditional Family Room71
photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd | from: the portland project family room reveal

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

Jesslivingroom25 1
photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd | from: jess’ small space living room reveal

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

Michael Keck Living Room 41
photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd | from: michael’s vintage-filled living room reveal

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

Powdered Snow By Behr1
image source

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

Emily Henderson Sara Moto Neutral Cozy Masculine Living Room 7
photo by tessa neustadt for ehd | from: sara’s living room reveal

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

Emily Henderson Go To Paint Colors Neutrals 2017 7
photo by zeke ruelas for ehd | from: silver lake hill’s living room reveal

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–UPDATE: you can see my living room here). 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

Emily Henderson Go To Paint Colors Neutrals 2017 3
photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd | from: how we styled the living room to sell

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

Emily Henderson Go To Paint Colors Neutrals 2017 8
photo by zeke ruelas for ehd | from: introducing my living room – commonwealth

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

Emily Henderson Go To Paint Colors Neutrals 2017 6
photo by zeke ruelas for ehd | from: ginny’s living room reveal
Emily Henderson How To Edit Family Photos
photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd | from: how we shoot family photos, with framebridge

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

Emily Henderson Frigidaire Kitchen Reveal Waverly English Modern Edited Beams 101
photo by tessa neustadt for ehd | from: our modern english country kitchen reveal
Emily Henderson Living Room Update 2
photo by ryan liebe for ehd | from: my living room design, updated

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

Ehd Amanda And William Turret Room 03
photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd | from: how we staged a home to sell with soul

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

Emily Henderson Modern English Cottage Tudor Master Bedroom Reveal10 Without Light
photo by tessa neustadt for ehd | from: my master bedroom reveal

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

Emily Henderson Curbly Diningroom02
photo by melissa oholendt for ehd | from: the curbly family dining room reveal

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

Brady Tolbert Design Emily Henderson Living Room Eclectic Pavillion Grey Farrow And Ball Brass Coffee Table English Roll Arm Albini Masculine Traditional West Elm Souk Flokati Leather 41
photo by zeke ruelas for ehd | from: brady’s living room reveal

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.

Emily Henderson Best Paint Colors Whites Grays

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

**For more paint color recommendations: 12 Bold Blue and Green Paint Colors We’ve Tested (& Approved) So You Don’t Have To

  1. I used BM decorator’s white in my last home and loved it. However, I just moved and the light in my new home is a little dimmer (lots of windows but also lots of tree cover) and BM DW didn’t work there, it was reading … dingy. After a lot of white testing I went with BM white opulence. It has a very very slight pink undertone but reads totally bright white on the wall. The pink/warm undertone cuts the gloomy factor. I would definitely recommend it.

  2. I’ve used Benjamin Moore Cotton Ball 3x and love it. It’s a warm white without going creamy. I’ve used it in a basement that got a reasonable amount of light and it read as very white, a very sunny bedroom where it was warmer, and now my whole (dark) house where it’s a bit cooler. It looks creamy on the chip and online but I’ve never had it go that way.

    1. BM Cotton balls is one of my favorites as well. It is the best trim color too. It took us forever to find a white that would match our vinyl windows and this was one step away from a pure white (like BM Chantilly Lace) without being too creamy.

      1. Oh this color sounds very nice! I tried Chantilly Lace on my walls (way too cool-toned in my living room that gets a tone of green in it from the surrounding trees), but didn’t know about Cotton Balls. I ended up with White Dove, which I love, but will check it out if I have another space to refresh!

        1. Oh no! I love Chantilly Lace (it’s all throughout our house), but I could see it feeling too cool. In our space, it’s super crisp and feels like a pure white

        2. So funny! White dove went cool and grey in my house. I tried swatches painted on those poster boards with adhesive and moved it around. Nope. Didn’t work. We ended up with BM ivory white with chantilly lace trim upstairs. In the basement the ivory looked yellow so we did chantilly on the walls. it’s crazy how a color can vary so much in one house based on lighting!

    2. I painted my living room and dining room with BM Cotton Ball and I love it! I will say I had a hard time getting it to cover the generic beige the contractors painted my house before buying. My floors are original to the house and the lean to the orange tone and I found Cotton Ball was the perfect white for them. It’s warm but it’s white.

    3. My kitchen is BM Cotton Balls and I’m in the process of painting my laundry/ mud the same color. Love it. Seems to work well in a variety of different lights. My kitchen is bright, but the laundry room is dark.

  3. I’ve used Swiss Coffee from your list and loved it. BM Pale Oak is another good one that I used in a different home when the lighting suited it better.

    Nice list to use to get samples and see what’s best for the space. Very useful post.

  4. We used BM Seapearl and it reminds me of Pointing. It feels very neutral but has a nice contrast with a white trim.
    These are some photos of early days in our house (more work has been done since!) and all of the main living areas are painted Seapearl.

    https://www.hgtv.ca/www.greatcanadianhomes.ca/photos/stunning-ranch-sault-ste-marie-forest-indoors-1910304/

    1. Your home is beautiful!

    2. It’s fun to see other readers’ homes. Thanks for linking your gorgeous place.

    3. thank you for sharing! So lovely.

  5. When you have all white walls do you usually stick to the same white for built-ins and trim or choose a different white? This is breaking my brain. Thanks!

  6. What’s your rule of thumb for trim color? If you’re already using something pretty white (I.e. white dove), use the same color for trims (and ceilings?) but in different sheens? While I’m talking sheen, what’s your go-to wall sheen?

    1. I would love an answer to this question! I’m about to paint my home white, usually my go to is decorators white for trim/moldings, but wasn’t sure if the walls should / could be the same white? And should they be a different finish?

    2. We were actually just talking about doing a post on paint sheens. When and how to use what. We typically go flat or matte for walls (unless it’s in a bathroom or high-traffic area) and then do one sheen up on moldings and trim, but there are so many things you can do as design details here. You can go tone-on-tone with a color in either the same finish, or in different sheens (flat and then high gloss for instance). My apartment is White Dove on the walls and Swiss Coffee on the trim (the trim is not my choice, it was my landlords and she told me not to touch them), but it actually works really well. But honestly, to keep things simple, I would have gone all White Dove across the board, just with a subtle sheen finish on the moldings and baseboards. Hope that’s helpful!

  7. My last home (a very modern 3500 sq ft new build) was 100% painted in SW pure white, and it was perfect. We just did our 1925 Dutch colonial in a mix of bm white dove, FB winborne white, and bm super white, and love them all. If you are looking for a blue/grey neutral, we painted our mud room FB light blue and it is the absolute perfect color. I wish I could paint more rooms that color. I needed a paint color and didn’t have time to test, so picked off the swatch and cannot believe how good it turned out.

  8. We used Sherwin Williams – Nuance in all the common areas of our home and I LOVE it! I wouldn’t say it’s for everyone. It’s a creamy gray, but not beige. In the morning and on cloudy days it definitely reads the faintest of grays, and if it wasn’t for the white trim you would likely see it as white. In the evening, with the warm, west light streaming in, it’s slightly creamy. This insta photo shows it best! https://www.instagram.com/p/BthS_Czl4El/

  9. Thanks for this post! Perfect timing! I’ve been stuck in paint color paralysis for a long time now (with swatches everywhere) and this may be the perfect thing to nudge me into a decision!

    1. paint color paralysis is SO real. good luck! I hope there’s something here that will help you shake that and land on your perfect paint.

  10. We basically slathered our house (doors, trim, ceiling, walls) in Ultra Pure White by Behr. It’s the base color before any tint is added, so you don’t have to worry about matching the color later and you can just take it off the shelf and go! 🙌 It’s the perfect white if you have a lot of natural light coming in. You are the one that recommended it to me after I emailed you asking about white paint about 9 years ago!

    1. Hmm, I did this once to paint over a deep teal door in a rental and it was impossible to coat (I think it was even Behr Marquee, which has a one-coat guarantee). When I went back to the store to complain, they told me that even if I was going white, they need to add “pigment” to make sure it coats properly. It didn’t sound like you had this issue, so maybe I just grabbed something different? Who knows! It was several years ago.

  11. Fundamental White by HGTV Home by Sherwin Williams. When I discovered this color I didn’t understand how it hadn’t been included on one of these “favorite white paint” lists before. I don’t know what it is about this color but it glows. It reads as a true crisp white that is not blue at all but has the tiniest hint of glow-y brightness/brilliance that keeps it from feeling stark. There is no creaminess or yellow but it somehow radiates this ultra subtle warmth. It lit up the north facing entry of my last house and is now my go to trim and door color for our new house. I’ve only ever seen it at Lowe’s but it’s been a game changer for my home! I feel obligated to share.

    1. We also use Fundamental White by Sherwin Williams throughout our house and love it. It does add warmth but also depending on the light it can have a very subtle blue/grey undertone (in our bedroom we don’t have a lot of natural light). We can’t recommend it enough.

    2. OH that sounds SO nice. I like my walls like I like my face…with a subtle glow.

  12. What color white is the mountain house bedroom?

    1. All the walls there are Pure White by Sherwin-Williams! A SUPER crisp, modern white.

  13. If all my walls are White Dove, how would Oyster White look on kitchen cabinets and island?

    1. hmm, it would definitely read creamy taupe, but I actually think it might be a nice subtle contrast. It would be similar to the photo above of the Portland family room (painted Oyster white) where the moldings are Pure White (which is much brighter than White Dove, but both are pretty neutral whites) and the walls have a defined warmth and depth. Just be sure to put two swatches up next to each other in the same room so you can see what they do in your sunlight.

  14. Such a HELPFUL post! Thank you!!! This is what I come to EHD for. (Dangling preposition, ugh! Oh well.)

    Would you do a round-up of exterior colors that EHD has used and loved??? I find exterior colors REALLY hard to nail down. Thx!

  15. I have to throw Sherwin Williams Crushed Ice out there for an amazing grey. Almost our entire house is painted this color and it looks almost white until it’s up against a white trim which is where we use our go to white, Swiss Coffee. Our house gets lots of light so I’m curious whether it will hold up when we move.

  16. This post is SO great!!! Always looking for good grays and whites to paint my rooms. As a follow-up post, maybe you can talk about some “rules” regarding what tones of whites go in different lights or exposures? Like, would a cool gray go in a northern facing room or would that be too cold? Or would a warmer white go in a western exposure without a ton of light? These are the questions that wake me up from a deep sleep. Well…not really, but I do worry about them when trying to pick neutral paint colors.

  17. Fabulous post and what a great resource! I recently did a bathroom with no natural light in a creamy white and love it! So interesting what the natural light (or lack thereof) does to a paint color.

  18. PERFECT timing. Thank you! Trying to figure out the best white to paint the main living areas in our new (to us) 1920 craftsman…hoping to find a perfect white/neutral that works well against all of the original wood work.

  19. Love the post, super helpful! What sheen are Emily’s Strong White cabinets?

    1. According to Emily, the cabinets were actually color matched because her cabinet guy wanted to use a lacquer instead of a water-based paint for durability.

  20. Super helpful post, thanks! Btw, what sheen are Emily’s Strong White cabinets?

  21. Great post! I’m thinking of painting my daughters room white but all her trim and doors are cream and I really don’t want to repaint them – and would like them to continue matching the rest of the house. Should I stay away from white and just pick a light gray? I’m worried white against cream will make the cream look dingy as mentioned in the post? Any thoughts, readers?

    1. Literally have this exact same dilemma. Help us?

  22. My favorite is Droplets by Dunn Edwards! It’s such a nice neutral white that can work as a trim color, or used on walls with whiter trim.

  23. I painted the main level of my home BM gray owl after the Ryan Gosling gray post some years back. Best post ever btw. And I still LOVE the color in my home. It’s just perfect. Thanks for this very helpful round up.

  24. We have SW Alabaster in our mudroom and on our painted brick fireplace. We picked it after a lot of research. It does not have yellow undertones but is also creamy (actually, I would say milky 🙂 ). It also matched our Pottery Barn desk perfectly, which was important in the mudroom. We are about to do all of our trim on our first floor this color, as well! I should report back when all of that is done. Here it is in the mudroom if anyone is curious.

    http://www.ourcorneroftheworldblog.com/the-official-mudroom-reveal/

  25. I have used SW West Highland White in my last two homes and I love it.
    My painter laughed when he saw what little pigmentation went into a gallon.
    He said why didn’t you just get Pure White?
    I said…..this looks good and maybe I just happened to like the name:):):):)
    I also use it on trim in a semi gloss.

  26. I’ve used both F&B Pointing and Blackened and both have worked perfectly in their respective rooms. My absolute favourite F&B colour that I’ve used though was Borrowed Light, it’s the loveliest pale blue

  27. I will echo the rule of testing the color first. We used a light grey paint in our kitchen and it’s lovely. We decided to use the same color in our bathroom; with different light it looks lavender in there! Terrible, but we painted the whole thing and haven’t been able to bring ourselves to re-paint. It’s been 8 years now and I still don’t like it.
    Always test and look at it at different times of day as the lighting changes.

    1. Oh goodness bathrooms are literally the WORST to paint. And yes, it’s a good point to test even if you already know you love a color. You have NO idea what’s going to happen once that color hits the wall in a different room. It could look VASTLY different.

  28. Such awesome design, I am planning to spend some money and time on my own apartment this summer. And I am so glad that I learned a thing or two from your blog today. https://www.homielandrealty.com

  29. I absolutely am in love with this article not only for the white and grey paint choices but for all the beautiful design elements of each room. I used BM White Dove on new 5″ baseboards in my recent remodeling, and on all my other trim, and love it. It blends really well with the BM Revere Pewter throughout most of my home. I’m now looking for an accent dark blue for my family room and living room walls. Love the images with the Blackened and would like to know what that blue is on the dining room wall and will click on those links to see if it’s noted there.

  30. Thank you for this EHD Team! We are trying to decide which white would work in our 500 sq ft summer cottage right now! The style is going to be mid-century modern, the ceilings are vaulted with all wood walls and beams.

    My question is should we use Eggshell or Satin finish?

  31. I just painted my north facing living room a color called Mannequin cream by Benjamin Moore. It’s perfect if you want a creamy warm color. It does not look yellow or beige, just a creamy white. Some other whites I tried looked too stark or too gray in the room. I will send a picture when it is together. I just did it this week

  32. BM Cotton Balls is a gorgeous, happy white. Just painted my whole house and it looks great in North-facing rooms, too. No yellow, pink or blue.

  33. This is so helpful – thank you! I’m bookmarking this forever. Another paint post I would love to read is about how to do paint from room-to-room when you can see into one from the other. What are the tips? Should they all have the same undertones? Are there certain things to avoid? What are some paints/color-sequences that go well together? I love the idea of not having the entire apartment the same color, but I can see from the living room to the hallway, and then the hallway to the bedroom – so I think it needs some flow.

  34. Emily,
    What about a cream color for kitchen cabinets?

  35. Loved this article and was thrilled to see White Dove in your top 15. A large portion of my house is painted that. Everyday I look at it, I love it more and more.

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  37. This was super helpful, especially because I like to use whites and grays with subtle undertones, instead of a totally clean color. I absolutely love Sherwin-Williams ‘Popular Gray’. It has a warm, greigey vibe that adds interest to a room. It can read slightly lavender…so test before using. 🙂

  38. Sherwin Williams – Snowbound. We love this color in our design office. It is one of our favorite paint selections when clients are looking for a pleasant white.

    1. We have Snowbound on about 2/3 of the walls of our house and have really liked it.

  39. We used BM Silver Satin (as far as I remember haha) in our kitchen and bedrooms and we’re sooo happy with it. It’s warm but not too warm, and just dark enough to make the trim pop: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bn1JKyulHXO/

  40. My favorites are BM Simply White and BM Paper White. Simply White is a slightly warm white which I love. Paper White is almost light gray.

  41. You definitely should check out Dunn Edward’s Droplets DEW381. It’s a perfect white!!

  42. SW Lattice is not talked about enough! It’s a warm gray in the same realm as Gray Owl, without the green undertones, and maybe a hint warmer (leaning towards taupe). SOOO lovely!

    And score! We just painted all our trim SW Pure White. Extra White is their base color (the white all other colors are mixed with), but it seemed too cool. Pure White is just right 🙂

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