I would say that the number one question that I get asked as an interior designer is “what are your favorite paint colors?” I get it… paint is tricky! Even for us pro’s! I still second guess myself every now and then or hold my breath until the built ins are complete and painted… especially if we are going bold with a fun color - it can either go SO right or so wrong… eek! But, there are a handful of colors that I use time and time again that never let me down. I want to share those colors with you so that, hopefully, I can take some of the guess work and stress out of picking the right paint color! But before we get started…. let’s lay down the ground rules:
Let’s Talk about Whites
Alright, now that we have gotten the “rules” out of the way, let’s talk about whites! White paint will NEVER go out of style and it can be used in almost any setting. Of course, contrary to what any red-blooded American male may think, there are hundreds of various shades of white - so how do you pick the right one? A good rule of thumb is to think of it as the brighter the white the more modern and stark a space will be. Likewise, the closer you air to cream or ivory the “softer” it will feel. My all time, never fail, favorite white is Benjamin Moore White Dove. I love it on walls, trim, ceilings, cabinets, built ins and exteriors. BM Simply White is another favorite - especially for trim - and it pairs really well with White Dove in a lot of scenarios.
The best light, warm neutrals
I know that white paints seem to be all we see on our social feeds - white kitchens, white walls, white homes…. but y’all, I just LOVE a good warm, light neutral. Personally, I think it beats white in most cases. I do believe that the “cool gray” trend of the past decade is giving way to warmer neutrals - so if you are planning to paint a home to sell, keep that in mind. But the main reason that I love a light, warm neutral is because they still achieve that “light, airy” feeling without running the risk of being to stark. They hide dirt better than whites. They subtly “warm” your space without really competing with any colors you might want to use. And….. drum roll please…. they compliment white like no other!!!! A match made in heaven if you ask me!
Let me just give you an example…. Benjamin Moore Ashwood is my favorite, never-fail, light neutral. My own “white” kitchen and my bedroom are painted this color in fact. It compliments any color and warms my space but still doesn’t really “register” as a color in my mind because it is so subtle.
I had a client recently who was renovating their kitchen and we were planning to paint the walls White Dove. However, we were already using White Dove (surprised?) on ALL of her kitchen cabinetry, plus the marble counters were white and the tile backsplash was white too. She definitely wanted a bright white kitchen, but I was afraid that if everything was white it would feel too sterile. So we looked into painting the island a contrasting color. After a few trials with the cabinet vendor we just couldn’t find a contrast shade that we felt confident about for her space. So, I suggested that instead of doing an accent color with the island, lets just paint the walls Ashwood and viola!!! It was the perfect solution. Not only does her kitchen still feel light and airy (you barely recognize that the walls aren’t actually white) but the subtle shift in the tone of Ashwood in contrast with White Dove actually brings out the white in the cabinets and makes it pop! Success! (More to come on this kitchen soon)
Pale blues and soft grays
Despite what I said about about cool grays being on the decline, they do still have their place and some of you just love them! Personally, my favorite way to pull off a “cool gray” look is to actually use a really soft powder blue. It has to be something subtle, like Benjamin Moore Silver Polish, but I think the result is truly beautiful. Take the room above for example… when you walk into that room you don’t really think to yourself “this room is blue” but instead it just has a really pretty, airy feel to it that happens to lean a little cooler with the blue tone.
Darker, warm grays
I love the way a darker, warm gray can add richness to a space. Using a deeper tone within the warm gray family looks sophisticated and can set a room or built in apart without having to add color. My favorite way to use darker warm tones is mainly for accents - I like using them to off-set the entry or dining room from the rest of the lighter house colors. Or, like in the kitchen above, we did the upper cabinets and walls in White Dove and the lower cabinets in Benjamin Moore Coastal Fog as a way to accent them and they turned out really beautiful!
My favorite paints for built ins
For the most part I love to give built ins their own identity by giving them a special paint color rather than just matching them to the walls. I do really love adding a pop of color to built ins sometimes, but we’ll save the paint colors post for another time, this post is about my go-to’s. For built ins, or even custom furniture pieces like buffet cabinets, I like to jazz up the neutral tones and go with slightly deeper colors. I tend to keep things in the “warm” neutral family but sometimes I will pull a paint color that has a hint of a green or blue background, like Farrow and Ball De Nimes, to add interest.
I hope this post will help you think through your next painting endeavor! Just remember the 5 rules and hang onto this “cheat sheet'“ below and I am confident that you can tackle the job! You got this!