A Paler Shade of White: Meditations on Choosing White for Your Walls

By Catherine Baldi with Julie Feinstein Adams

Dining Room in White by MAS Design

Dining Room in shades of white, by MAS Design

I have a lot of conversations with homeowners and interior designers about color. Working primarily in the Bay Area, I’ve noticed that few homeowners choose white, especially for exteriors.

Bathroom; interior design by Quinn Morgan

I have my own ideas about this. Like, maybe it’s just too gray and foggy here for white. People want color to brighten things up!

When I travel to sunnier, southern locales (relative to our latitude), I see more candy-colors than muted tones, and far more white exteriors, perhaps inspired by the contrast against bold, blue skies. (Think coastal Greece, a hillside frosted with white houses, as an extreme example.)

Living Room designed by Carolyn Rebuffel

But lately, white seems to be making a comeback. My company has seen an uptick in designers spec-ing more whites. White works well as a background, a neutral classic that highlights the art and furniture when used in interiors.

As a painting contractor, I love color, and yet I have to say, choosing white — whereas this used to be a “boring” default color — now we find it often elevates a space. Did the fact that Benjamin Moore named its “Simply White” as “Color of the Year” in 2016 have an influence on the growing trend?

Eichler living room in white, designed by LMB Interiors

At the time, the company noted in a press release for the announcement: “The color white is transcendent, powerful and polarizing – it is either taken for granted or obsessed over,” said Ellen O’Neill, Benjamin Moore Creative Director.

She continued, “White is not just a design trend, it is a design essential. The popularity of white, the necessity of white, the mystique of white is quantifiable in our industry. Of the top ten best-selling Benjamin Moore colors, variants of white occupy five spots. It was inevitable that we would ultimately recognize white as our Color of the Year.”

An art collector’s home, designed by Mead Quin

Frankly, white exteriors are still quite rare. But interiors…? Yes!

For this topic, we talked to a number of our favorite local designers about their favorite white paint colors for interiors, and projects they loved that featured this color (that isn’t really a color, but is).

Read the full interviews with each designer and view their project photos by clicking on the links below!

Mead Quin: All White by Farrow and Ball, and Simply White by Benjamin Moore

Quinn Morgan: Benjamin Moore’s Capitol White, Simply White, and Heron White

Dawn Carlson, MAS Design: Sherwin Williams’ Incredible White

Laura Martin Bovard, LMB Interiors: Benjamin Moore White Dove

Carolyn Rebuffel, Workroom C: Benjamin Moore: Super White, Linen White, White Dove, Decorator’s White