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our process for picking white paint


    Our house is a disaster. And I couldn’t be more excited about it.

    We’ve been waiting years to do a few big projects to our house and finally took the plunge. The floors were ripped up last week, the walls needed a fresh coat of paint and the new floors will be installed this week. In the meantime, we’re living in a construction zone with all of our furniture moved out and no stove to cook on (which just means eating out or at friends’ houses and I’m not complaining about that!).

    I posted about our flooring options and it was helpful to run through all of the choices and hear what you had to say. We made our final selection, placed the order and have let them acclimate in the house for the past few weeks (sneak peeks coming!).  Well, once we pulled up all the carpet and existing hardwoods downstairs in preparation for the floor install, we decided it was the right time to paint the walls. Normally I’m the painter. I really don’t mind it and do a decent job. But the places that needed new paint the most – the stairway, ceilings, hallways and tall walls in the living room – were not areas I was excited about working on. Besides the difficulty factor, it would also take us weeks, and we just don’t have time with kids and soccer and work and the holidays coming up.

    So we hired painters. I’ll tell you what, I may never go back to painting myself again. They do such amazing work and they are quick. Yay for nice people who paint houses for a living!

    The only problem is that it costs money. And when you’re paying a bunch of money to have nearly every wall in your house painted, you really, really want to make sure you pick the right color. There are a million bigger issues out there than choosing paint colors, I am well aware. I felt ridiculous going back and forth, painting swatches, staring at five whites that looked exactly the same and yet I also didn’t want to waste money on a color that we didn’t love.


    We knew we wanted white. I’ve been craving clean, fresh, light, bright. One peek at my living area pinterest board and you’ll instantly see what my eye is drawn to. We moved into our home 8 years ago and the walls and ceilings were all the same khaki-ish color. It’s a fine color, but started feeling dark – especially during our dreary Pacific Northwest winters when the sun doesn’t show up much. So white was the obvious choice.


    But have you seen how many different white paints there are?! It’s slightly obnoxious and overwhelming. Some whites are cool (with blue undertones) others are warm (with yellow undertones), then there are those with pinky hues or grayish tints, bright whites that feel institutional, creamy whites that read yellow. Each color looks different depending on lighting, so a white that looks great in a friend’s house in Kansas City might not be the right choice for mine in Seattle.


    We initially narrowed down our choices just based on the Sherwin Williams paint chips. I bought two sample pots and painted little swatches on several different walls (origami white and snowbound, if you’re curious). Snowbound was too stark, origami felt cold-ish. So back to the paint store to grab a few more samples. This time I compared each white to the existing color in our living room (wind’s breath, by benjamin moore). It is a good color – maybe a tiny too dark and muddy, so we wanted something in the same tone, but lighter and cleaner. I dabbed a little bit of the wind’s breath color on the paint chips to see how they compared.

    I tried a few more colors (torque white, pearly white and white heron) and the winner was clear.


    The funny thing about whites is that they look different on the paint card than they do on your walls. From the paint card, you would think white heron would be beige-ish. But just look at how white it looks when on the walls:


    Even that first coat made such a big difference. Ryan was home when they started painting and he sent me a text: “I love the color! It’s white but not hospital and gray but not dark and tan but not dirt.” Which is basically exactly what we were going for.


    Now that the painting is nearly finished, we’re so happy with the choice. Going white felt risky – white everywhere? don’t people usually paint their walls a color? – but I had to go with my gut on this one.


    Now we just have to wait for the floors to go in (this week!) and this place is going to feel brand new. It’s a mess, but a pretty exciting mess!

    (are you local and need a painter? We highly recommend JRV Painting. Tell them Emily sent you if you call).

    61 thoughts on “our process for picking white paint”

    1. How did the pearly white look next to the heron white. I’m currently debating color and my favorite so far is the pearly white however i haven’t sampled white heron yet. Just curious if your remember in the difference?


      1. They all look so different in different lights. White Heron is a little bit creamier. Sometimes it is helpful to paint the white samples on a plain white surface (like a paper plate or piece of posterboard) so you can truly tell what the undertones are. Often, the paint samples on the wall will take on the paint color around it and it makes it difficult to find the right white.

    2. Having oak kitchen cabinets painted white but need to find a white that will work with dark brown counters.and medium brown oak vinyl plank floors. Thinkkng of pale gold or yellow walls with turquoise accents. Black appliances. Any paint suggestions for white?

    3. Found this post at a great time. We are doing a new build designed with ministry in mind (open concept, large kitchen with creamy white cabinetry) and medium dark hand scraped hickory floors throughout with the exception of the baths. Choosing paint colors can literally make one’s head spin! It’s comforting to know we here in Ohio aren’t the only ones who don’t get many sunny days! I am excited to check out White Heron. I am going for a clean, uncluttered look. One question came to mind. How do I keep this “look” from looking too cold and unfriendly? I actually pray this house ends up saying, “Welcome! Come on in & make yourself at home!” Any advice will be appreciated!

      1. I think if you choose a warmer white, as opposed to a cool/blue undertone white, it will feel more welcoming. Then it’s all about what you fill your home with!

    4. Hi Emily,
      Did you paint the ceilings, the walls, and the kitchen caninets the same color white? We are getting ready to paint a very small lake cottage home, only 682 sq feet and I love the idea of going all white throughout the house. I don’t know if I should stick to regular ceiling white and then paint all the walls and cabinets the same….any suggestions?
      Your home is beautiful!

      1. We used the same paint color on the ceiling, but in a flat sheen. Trim is a custom mix that was already in the house – it is a brighter white than the walls.

    5. Hi Emily! I also live in the PNW and am thinking about going white in our north facing living room that just feels DARK all the time. Is your kitchen white also the white heron (the top portion)?

      1. yes – the color on the top of the kitchen is heron white. It is really pretty, but be sure to check a swatch in your house because they look so different in lighting/directions/etc. Good luck!

    6. I too am tired of the dark color but mine is a dark dark hunter green inside of a cabin of less than 200 sq ft. In winter it suffocates, so we’re painting this early summer. It’s sure to enlarge our place considerably. Beautiful color.

    7. I’m new to the blog world. Think this is where to comment rather than email.
      Do you think white heron will complement ultra white semi gloss trim?

    8. Hi Emily,

      I was wondering, did your painters use a primer first and then one coat of the actual color on your walls, or did they just put, say, two coats of the color on and not use a primer?

      I know it may depend on the old color that is being painted over, but I wonder which might be the best method to achieve the true color. From the pictures it’s looking fantastic already, and we all can’t wait to see how it turns out!

      1. They did two coats of color on all the walls – no primer. He did mention that this Heron white went on well and covered better than other whites he has used :)

    9. We painted our living room in Heron Plume (one step darker than the white) and our hearthroom in Versatile Gray (three steps darker than the white) – I love that whole color family by Sherwin Williams! I am not normally an “all white” sort of girl, but I am seeing it more often lately (Miss Mustard Seed’s repainting is largely all white this year as well) and if I had taller ceilings and larger spaces, I’d be very tempted to repaint my house already! I love how your large living room just soars with all the white.

    10. we built our house three years ago, and it’s all white … inside and out. and it makes us so happy. it’s like a bright, clean vacation every day. our neighbors come over and immediately say how happy the white feels. it’s a bit more maintenance (fingerprints and whatnot), but so worth it. you will be amazed … a week, a month, a year from now … how much lighter you feel every day because of that white! good call, and i can’t wait to see the finished product!

    11. Painting our walls white (except for the office which is more of a khaki color) was the best decision I ever made. Our PNW winters (and sometimes fall and spring) can be dreary and we don’t have a lot of natural light. Funny how white can feel like a risk : )

    12. I feel the same way about white! No offense to those who love the coffee colors, but i need the light, even in sunny southern California. Thank you for the information on your process. It helps.

    13. My husband and I just bought our first house a few months ago, the previous owners had painted khaki and a darker khaki on the kitchen, living and dining room. In our tiny house it was just too dark, even with all our big windows! I knew I wanted something light and bright, especially come fall and winter. Pnw can be so dreary! We went with bright white for the ceiling and a super light grey (almost white) and I couldn’t be happier!!!

    14. Love this fresh look! FYI- before you get your floors installed, walk around your whole house and find the “squeeks” in you floor. Put a screw in on edge of plywood into boards below. We did this and now we dont have any sqeeky spots. :)
      I cant wait to see it finished!

      1. The baseboards are being replaced, the trim is a custom color matched to the original trim. It is slightly whiter than the walls which still lets the trim work stand out.

    15. Just recently moved into a house. Have yellow walls in the living room, blue walls in the den, dark cranberry walls in my crafts room and light green walls in the bedroom. too much color for me. I would like to leave one wall in my crafts room the cranberry and paint the other walls in a shade of purple, my favorite color

    16. We went through the same decision process a few years ago (re: which white?) and have no regrets, either. We chose Benjamin Moore White Dove and love the freshness it breathed into our home! We also live in the Pacific Northwest, so I understand your longing for brightness amidst dreary and rainy winter days. Looking forward to the final reveal – it looks so great already!

    17. I devoured this post, Emily! I’m trying to figure out what kind of white to use in our home, with the SAME concerns. We live an hour north of you, so while I crave a bright, fresh look in our basement apartment, I don’t want it to feel COLD during our dreary winters. THANK YOU for the tips! I’ll definitely be testing a white like the one you chose to see if it works in our space. :)

    18. Love it Emily! Wondering what you did with your trim color? Is it all the same color? I’m getting ready to go with white but don’t know what to do about baseboards etc. Thanks!

      1. Trim color is a custom white (matched to the original trim). It is slightly more white than the walls and it gives it a nice finished look. When choosing the white for your walls, try to find a complimentary white that is a shade lighter for your trim. Our woodwork is in semi-gloss, so even if you just vary the sheen, that is even pretty.

    19. Emily- Looks so fresh and clean. My entire house is shades of white but one room is Whale gray. I love shades of white. One designer I love is Daryl Carter and all his shades of white paint.

    20. I am changing from color….pastel celery….light sea blue….bright teal (grand-daughters room?Wonder what she was thinking!) to all white. I purchased a Night Blooming Jasmine from Behr and actually had a difficult time covering the pastel blue!!! I went back and the gentleman at the paint counter told me to request a 10 white to use when I pick my color. It takes out the oxide out of the white and makes it cover so much better! So my next color is still going to be white but with the 10 white in a 5 gal container!! I love the color you picked and am going to pick up the color chips tomorrow! Thanks for the great article!

    21. I just repainted all the main living areas of my little house white and I love it! Now, however, the blah builders white on the ceiling is sticking out like a sore thumb and will get painted the same white as the walls.

    22. Emily, did you use the paint in any rooms that are north facing with little light? I’m wanting to repaint a room at my in laws but it has those conditions and I’m worried white may look dingy- we’re in the northwest too. Your white looks fantastic!

    23. Thank you for the painter recommendation. I’m local to you and in the process of getting bids on repainting the interior of our home (builder beige all over, even the ceilings! ugh).

      Any other tips would be appreciated as well.

    24. Looks great. It must be exciting to have your new floors going in too. The floors made me wonder how your painted office floors have held up? Would you recommend it for a temporary – say 1-2 year solution? I am dying to rip up the shag rug in my guest room and paint it, but I’m nervous that I’ll regret it.

      1. It is very exciting!

        The painted subfloor in my office is not great. It has been fine for these past several months, but nearly impossible to clean and the white is looking dirty. If you have subfloor that is not the chippy plywood type, it may work better. Honestly, though, I love it more than with carpet so I would go for it!

    25. Emily – great choice! Hey, did you decide to do the floors that need to be sanded and stained in house, or did you go with prefab? We have that decision to make – to redo the floors we have (ugh on the time and mess and hassle) or just get new ones put down that area already done!


      1. We went round and round on the floors (for about three years!). The existing maple was nice and could be refinished, but we would have to try to find something that matched and it was more effort and expensive to do it this way. We decided in the end just to tear it all out and start over. We bought pre-finished oak – a nice hard wood that should hold up well. But we won’t have to sand and finish in the house, which makes things much easier. Good luck with your decision!

        1. thank you…that was the perfect response! I shall follow suit! :)

          yay! can you divulge which brand you used for floors? and did you say you used satin on the walls?

    26. I know this room is going to be beautiful!! OT. Do you have any leads for inexpensive nursery room rugs that are like pottery barn kids?

    27. Looks great. I recently repainted my entire house in 2 different shades of white, Sherwin Williams Creamy and Steamed Milk. No regrets. Love how clean and fresh it feels.

    28. It is beautiful! Paint colours are always so hard to pick out but I love the white in your space and its going to be amazing with wood floors. We are repainting our main living spaces white too (the living room is already white and I love it – the kitchen is still on our to do list).

      I cannot wait to see it all come together!

    29. Almost all of the walls in our house are white (besides some pops of colors in the bedrooms) and I loooove it! With dark floors and white walls our house feels simple and clean and lets the attention be on the decor in such a refreshing way. :) But I can’t tell you the number of people who have asked me when I’m going to decide on a paint color. Ha!

    30. So exciting! The walls look amazing!!! I too do most of our painting, but when it came time for the stairwell (very high ceiling) and exterior shutters, we called a professional. There was definitely added pressure to get the color right the first time. I have loved your paint colors but in my house they looked quite different (we’re in Virginia)…I think it is also important to consider which direction the room faces…colors/whites in a north facing room look very different than they do in a south facing room. Oh, how I have labored over paint colors:)

    31. Hi Emily. I love it! I always liked all walls white! You see, I’m from Brazil and there that’s what we mostly do. So it doesn’t look strange to me. My husband on the other hand, doesn’t feel as comfortable. I’m very happy for you, looks great!

      1. Hi Emily!

        I really like your white walls and I don’t think it is strange at all! When we moved into our house 2,5 years ago, we ripped out almost everything as well and painted all the walls white! I love it and still have not added a single color in wall paint! What I really enjoy the most is that it gives you an extra freedom to play with furniture, floors and accessories. We switched rooms around a little as we finished one renovation/construction site after the other and I am so glad I did not paint colors based on what the room was originally being used for and has now ultimately turned into.

        Enjoy your white walls! I have definetly enjoyed mine so far and wouldn’t change a thing about it!

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