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New House Update + Choosing White Paint

    I finally got started on a few house projects this past weekend.

    To catch you up to speed in case you missed it: We bought a new house. It took forever to close. We lived in our friends’ above-garage apartment for six weeks while we waited. The week we moved in was also my busiest work week ever. We listed our old house and all of our furniture is still over there since it looks so nice staged. We are currently sleeping on air mattresses, eating off a folding table and using camp chairs for seating. Basically, these past two weeks have been mildly-organized chaos and I kept feeling like I just needed to get through last week before I could mentally move on to working on our new house.

    Well, here we are. I feel like I’ve come up for air and am so ready to make this fabulous house ours. I really like it here. I like the layout and the exterior and the views out the windows and our vision for each space.

    It will take time, I keep reminding myself. Our last house was a work in progress for 10 years and this one will be the same (well, hopefully not 10 years, but we’ll see …).

    We have plans for nearly every single space. Some plans are more involved than others and there are a handful of spaces that won’t be done until we’re ready to do a bigger remodel (take out a wall, replace the floors, new kitchen layout, move doors).

    So my goal at this point is to make our main living spaces feel more like us – as inexpensively as possible – since this is really just a phase 1 fix.

    The easiest way to update a space without a lot of effort or budget is paint.

    And the good news is that I happen to enjoy painting.

    This weekend, I pulled out our painting supplies and got to work.

    First up: the guest bathroom.

    redwhitepaintThis bathroom is right off the kitchen, is windowless so it gets no light at all and was painted a very deep red. I know red was a thing years ago (remember how everyone was painting their dining rooms red?!), but it happens to be my least favorite color. Red and black together is even harder on my eyes.

    In this tiny bathroom, the combination was not working for me and so the minute we got back from our son’s football game on Saturday morning, I popped open a can of old white paint and slapped it up on the walls.

    I posted the photo above on instagram and smiled at the comments.

    No, I don’t normally dress like this when I paint.

    Yes, of course I use a roller.

    This was just me unable to contain my neutral-loving self any longer :)

    There were also a bunch of questions about picking the perfect white paint. So let’s chat about that for a minute.

    Picking white paint is tricky. We went through the whole process in our old house (here is a post about that – the before and afters make me so happy!) and are doing it again in this house.

    We hoped we could use the left-over paint from the other house to paint the walls in the kitchen for our phase 1 fix. Sherwin Williams White Heron is a warmish gray white that looked great and I was very happy with the choice.

    But in this new house? It looked terrible. So cold and a little dirty and not what we were hoping for.

    I did use the leftovers in the guest bathroom because my plan is to put up removable wallpaper (like I did here) for a pop of pattern until we can get to the bigger bathroom remodel phase. So the white was really just to cover up the red and act as a light background for wallpaper (still undecided, but I’m leaning heavily toward this one).

    bathroomwhiteIt looks one million times better.

    white-paintIn the kitchen, we needed a different white. So I pulled out my massive paint chip card from Sherwin Williams and searched through the whites. We were looking for something warm, but not yellow. The house is not super bright, so stark white would feel too sterile. The previous gray on the walls didn’t read super dark until we pulled off the upper cabinets and it revealed an off-white underneath that made the gray look surprisingly dark (you can see a little sliver in the photo above where the off white and gray meet in a 90* angle).

    I bought three sample pots and tried them on the wall in a few different places.

    Sherwin Williams Downy

    Sherwin Williams Snowbound

    Sherwin Williams Shoji White

    It is amazing how you look at white paint in a paint can and it just looks white but when you put it up on the wall it takes on a different hue.

    The top color (Downy) looked pink.

    The middle color (Snowbound) read cold blue.

    The bottom color (Shoji) looked taupe.

    One thing I’ve learned about picking white paint is that the color takes on what’s happening around it. With the orange-wood trim and gray background, it was a little hard to tell which white had the right undertones. I painted a few splotches on a white paper plate and that sealed the deal. It was so much easier to see the undertones and pick a winner.

    We went with Shoji White.

    whitepaintkitchenNow that it is up on the walls, it does not feel taupe at all. Just a nice, warm white.

    Oh, white paint, you are such a challenge but you sure do make things look fresh!

    So here are my best tips for choosing white for your home:

    1. Don’t pick a white paint color you’ve seen online or in someone else’s home. It’s tempting, but don’t. Every room and home has different natural light, shadows, flooring, etc. A white that looks great on my friend’s walls in Kansas will look much different on my walls in Washington.
    2. Think about what undertone you want. Blue, yellow, pink, green. If you are on the blue side, it will feel cool. Yellow will feel warm (but I caution you from going too far on either side because you’ll end up with baby blue or pastel yellow walls rather than white).
    3. Try a bunch of samples in several different places. Don’t be afraid to mess up your walls. Just paint big swatches all over to see how each color looks around the room.
    4. Sample the color on something pure white. This made a big difference for us so we could really see what color we were working with. It is so hard to tell on the little paint chips and sometimes challenging when your eye is also seeing colors next to or near the paint sample on the wall. Putting it on clean white makes undertones more apparent.
    5. Give it at least two coats. Even the best of the best wall paint looks better when covered twice. It will remove any background color and give you nice, clean coverage.

    Things are slowly shaping up around here. We have far to go, but white paint makes all things better.

    52 thoughts on “New House Update + Choosing White Paint”

    1. We are choosing between SW Alabaster white and Snowbound for our home. In the main living area, there are cathedral ceilings, white shutters, white banister and trim and big windows up top where light shines in. The kitchen has brown cabinets and a beige like tile. The bedrooms are small, but we were hoping one of these colors would help open up the space and make it feel more modern. The flooring is like an oak wood floor. Thoughts on either color? I am afraid to go any darker, because I want the space to feel open and bright.

    2. We are painting a bedroom white, and it already has white trim and shutters. Should we use the same white as the trim, or find a complimentary white?

      1. This one is totally up to your preference – in our old house we did the trim in a slightly brighter white than the walls. In our new house, all of the walls and trim are the same color (just in different sheens).

    3. We are building a townhome that is modern/industrial loft in style, concrete floors, dark metal staircase etc. The included builder grade paint options are sw pure white, alabaster, shoji… And they are painting the walls AND ceiling.
      Alabaster def looks too yellow….but shoji looks so dingy in comparison to pure white. As you said and I see in your pics it doesn’t come off that way…but what about it being on the ceiling?

      1. Whites are so hard because what looks great in one house or in photos, might look totally different in your house, in your location, with your lighting. I don’t feel like shoji is dingy. The only room I’m not super crazy about it is in our master bedroom where it reads a little creamier than I prefer. Just throw lots of samples on walls and ceilings around the house to see what you think.

    4. Love the bathroom transformation. I saw the pictures of your new kitchen and noticed that you have a cooktop in your island. We’re in the process of purchasing a house with an island cooktop as well. Just wondering if you willl keep it or change it in your master kitchen design plan. I feel like I’m not going to like it, but I guess I don’t have any idea yet!

      1. The new kitchen does have a cooktop in the island – our old house did as well. I much prefer to have a sink in the island and cooktop/oven against a wall (which is most likely what we will do when we redo the kitchen). For one, I like an oven and hood to be the focal point in a kitchen. Second, I don’t keep my cooktop perfectly clean and so I don’t want it on full display in the middle of the island. I don’t love kids sitting at an island while I’m cooking on a hot stove. And, perhaps most of all, I always felt in our old house like my back was to the activity while I prepped food and did dishes and I want to be facing our family/guests. Those are my two cents :)

    5. For years, and in several house, my daughter has used the SW color “Wool Skien”, and paired it with “Panda White” trim. I’ve been amazed at the difference in appearance of the colors in each of the houses! Truly, the amount and location of the light have an effect on color.

    6. so I assume Sherwin Williams gives you a deal, as I’m not sure why you don’t choose a Benjamin Moore white paint. Most people in the design world know Benjamin is the best quality and color….

      1. We have a Sherwin Williams store nearby – and that makes it easy :) For our kitchen, I actually just had Home Depot color match since we were not quite as concerned with quality. We have a second phase plan that will require reworking all the walls and so we didn’t want to spend a bunch on paint that would be messed up in a year or two.

      2. Jill, shame on you for leaving a condescending and rude comment like this. Everyone is entitled to their opinion on what colors work best for their home, regardless of the brand.

        Emily, kudos to you for handling a rude comment with grace. As always, I am impressed by your style and look forward to seeing more of how you make this new home yours.

    7. It’s amazing what new paint did to that bathroom! I’ve been in a rental house for 5 years with a color scheme that is too dark for the PNW winters. I asked if I could paint one room white and my landlord said it didn’t go with the theme of the house! ?! Needless to say. I will pin this post for the day I can paint my own rooms white! Good luck with the transformation.

    8. When I saw the “after” photo of the bathroom, I seriously felt like I could breathe more easily… Like a claustrophobic sense about the light in the room had been completely removed. Isn’t it amazing how white does that?! :)

      And you’re so right … white is hard. I have BM White Dove everywhere, and in my home, even this creamy white sometimes feels a little stark. It’s truly all about the light!

    9. helping my mom pick white paint for our cabinets a few years ago made me want to ram my head against a wall. it really is so hard! but we found the perfect one and love it now :)

    10. How true! Choosing white paint is not easy!! I always rely on my husband’s skill (he’s a color matcher in the ink and printing industry). He nails color choices 99% of the time. We went with SW Aesthetic White on our mudroom walls and SW Snowbound on the ceiling.
      We recently had our hallway painted and decided on SW Canvas Tan:

      Good luck with all the color choices and painting!

    11. I have a question that has nothing to do with paint…really random. But I see in your bathroom you have the foam pump method soap. Do you buy the refills or just toss it and get a new each time?
      The reason I ask is that a new bottle always makes lovely luxurious foam, but if I refill (with the official method refill, I might add, bought at Target) then it becomes thin spitty foam instead. So I get frustrated, buy a new one, cycle continues. Do I have a curse on my soap dispensers? It’s driving me nuts!
      Does this happen to anyone else? Please let me!

    12. I have been a fan of your style for years Emily, but am so excited to see this new house come to life! I see you have wood (orange-wood you called it?) trim, yet white wainscotting in the bathroom. Will you keep that? We have similar trim but I love white!

    13. The bathroom looks 100% better! Looking forward to seeing what you’ll do with the rest of the house. Enquiring minds want to know….are you painting all the wood trim too? Honestly the wood trim would’ve been a huge deterrent to me buying the house, but hey, if you love painting….not a problem to change that, right? I have painted so many houses, that I can’t bear the thought of painting!!! ; )

      1. We are planning on replacing the baseboards and door trim with something more substantial, so that wasn’t a big deterrent. As for the doors, yes we will be painting.

    14. Yes!!! I just finished picking a house full of colors. These are all great tips. Good luck with everything! I can’t wait to follow along this new adventure with you. Love the wallpaper!!!

    15. Hello Emilie
      In fact you are right, the white paint is the most that difficult to find for her inside! There are a few years, I never painted white, because here in France, it makes hospital !! But we must recognize that white light makes the darkest room and brings out the decorative elements. Here in France, the trend, so to speak, is to paint a wall with a strong color, and I admit I succumbed to this trend in my room “copying” a bit your blue I love so much !! I have associated with a very light gray with a hint of blue. This works well but I had to asbtraction oak floors because it can not be any match at all! However in an old kitchen in a appatrement we had renovated, we left the pavement which had several colors so rosy beige to choose the color but white walls with a touch of cream and pink! We must try to take account of the furniture already in place and the ground so that the paint is in harmony! Congratulations anyway for your renovation and acquisition of this house !! I look forward to follow the transformations, the j’i RINTING to know you a little more! And if one day I can meet with you to talk decoration, it would be really great !!
      You can see examples of my design on my blog

    16. I’d like to add that in the northwest, white often looks like a dirty gray, so sometimes a gray works well in its place. Lighting makes such a big difference. Can’t wait to see the new house unfold!

    17. looks good – but question – did you use a primer for covering the red? My kitchen is red and want to go white…. so your writing is good timing. Should i use a primer?

      which white did you use for the bathroom to cover the red?


      1. I didn’t use primer – but I really was just looking to cover the red to create a clean background for wallpaper. However, with two coats, it really did cover well. The paint is good quality from Sherwin Williams so I would recommend splurging on a nice paint (maybe one with the primer built in?) and saving yourself an extra coat of paint.

    18. The bathroom looks great Emily. I love the navy poppy wallpaper, it is divine.
      I white you chose for kitchen is a very nice white, like the warmth in it.
      Happy painting, it is fun it to start putting your own touch on your new home!

    19. Your timing couldn’t have been more perfect! We are in the middle of a major bathroom remodel. We ripped out the garden tub, created a walk-in shower, removed the vanity to replace with an antique piece, lighting change-out, etc; and, we are finally in the painting phase. Only, I can’t figure out the “right” white paint…or, should I choose grey, and which grey??? That is the question of the day around here. Love the idea of painting a sample on a white paper plate! I’ve just been taping paint swatches everywhere.

      Would love an outside opinion: Our newly remodeled bathroom has charcoal and white floor tiles, white subway tiles, a white antique buffet as the vanity and warm antique wood accents with brushed bronze hardware. So, white walls or grey walls? Do you have any go to suggestions that I can try samples of?

      I’m excited to follow your progress on your new house! The exterior facade is my favorite! And, with your style gracing it’s interior it’s sure to come to life!

      1. Hi Cynthia – if I was you with all that white I would go with a nice grey. Too much white can look too clinical and cold so the grey will ‘warm’ it up and give your walls some depth :)

        1. Thank you, Denise! We’re looking at a few samples today and so far that’s exactly what my husband is leaning towards- grey. The white seemed to make the painted vanity look cream. Thanks so much and have a blessed weekend!

      2. i would love to see your vanity/remodel. I am thinking of doing that also. I have a 40’s dresser for vanity in powder room and was thinking of buffet for double sink bathroom but i dont thing it will work as we currently have wall to wall built in and this would leave gap on either side and we would lose the laundry shute.

      3. I really love Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter. It might be just the thing to contrast slightly with your white tile and vanity and tie in the charcoal floor tiles.

        1. Thank you, Emily! I tried a few whites last night and they definitely didn’t work; the vanity looked cream or dingy. Then, this morning, I saw your suggestion and called SW and they knew the color number right off the bat and were able to mix it for me. I went this morning and got a sample and what a GORGEOUS color! It’s not quite grey, not quite beige, and works so nicely in the master bath and bedroom. It is a perfect accent to my antique bedroom furniture and truly is an awesome contrast to the bathroom white tile and charcoal floor. My husband loves it too, so bonus! Thanks again for the suggestion!

    20. This spring we hired a painter to do our main living level (700+ sq ft) and upstairs hallway-way too much area for me to paint and trim out. (It took me 3 days to paint a small bedroom!) He cautioned me to 1) never paint swatches on the walls because they’re too hard to completely cover (especially if you’re really undecided and don’t get them painted over quickly!) & 2) never wash your walls with any oil based cleaning product. He said it can take years off the life of the paint-who knew?!! I bought a package of flat painting canvas-board things to use as swatches and propped them up all over the place to help me decide. (They were like gremlins-every time my husband walked into a room they were in a different place LOL!)

    21. What finish did use for the Shoji White? We’re building our own house- slowly, but sometimes just dreaming of the day we can paint cheers me up. We plan to use Shoji white in our south facing, large windowed great room. In other houses that lacked natural light, I used semi-gloss for light reflectence, but this house even tho in the Pacific Northwest, has lots of natural light. Should i use Satin finish? Thanks for always being inspiration for DIY, simple, but stunning ideas!

    22. You crack me up how you paint on a whim like me once in a while! Pop the can- don’t bother changing clothes, taping anything off, or putting down drop cloths…when a girls excited a girls excited! (even when the husband’s cringing)
      Looks great!

    23. I love Benjamin Moore’s Linen White. It’s warm and I love it with cool colors and warm as well. If I had to go really white white I would go with Dove White…

      1. We have lived with flat builder white for 4 years in South FL. We just painted with BM White Dove and to us, the difference is great! Its still very white, but warmed up our space. In our bedroom we did Olympic Off White, which is more creamy(slight yellow undertone) but very calming. PS I love your style.

    24. Yes, the white definitely brightened up the bathroom. I have to laugh because my hubby always says, “white is white.” Not quite honey.

    25. Hi Emily!! Great tips, I needed this post as I’m considering painting a room white. I have creamy white trim that has definite yellow undertones. I hate yellow undertones, but I would have to repaint all the trim and doors in my house. Not happening. Am I right in thinking that a white with violet undertones could neutralizing the yellow? I don’t want to end up with a purple room though!!

    26. Everything you said is sooooo true! Whites are tough! We used antique white (SW) and it looked so yellow when I was picking up samples I thought I would hate it but in my house it is true soft white :)

    27. The newly painted bathroom looks so much better than when it was red! I really like the Antique Poppy wallpaper. Are you thinking about navy? It would great in there!

    28. Emily, the white looks great in the bathroom! Instant upgrade :) I have a question for you, we moved into our house about a year ago and I’m working on updating our master bedroom/bathroom. I found the perfect brass scones for next our bed but I have always loved the look of chrome in the bathroom. Do you think it would look odd to have brass fixtures in the bedroom and chrome in the adjoining bathroom? I like the look of mixed metals so I could do some of both, however I think chrome and brass are kind of polar opposites.

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