Have you ever stood in front of the paint display at the hardware store—trying your best to find the best white paint for your kitchen—only to realize they all look the same to you? To the naked eye, 50 shades of beige can look more or less identical. But to discerning interior designers who spend their days looking at paint swatches, each individual neutral paint color has different undertones, qualities, and purposes.
Ask any designer which color they would use on a ceiling, kitchen cabinets, or bedroom walls, and they will have very precise answers to give you. The color attributes that they look for from one space to the next may be totally different. For the bedroom, they may be looking for a color that will transition from day to night; but for trims, they may want a color that will highlight architectural details.
To find out once and for all what are the best whites, grays, and beiges, we asked four renowned interior designers—Shea McGee, Robert Passal, Gideon Mendelson, and Jay Jeffers—to share their favorite tried-and-trusted neutral paint colors with us. Order some sample pots—these neutrals are too good to pass up.
The Perfect White
“It’s difficult to find a white that doesn’t feel too cold or too yellow—this is the perfect soft white and works with any décor style.” — Shea McGee
For Trim and Paneling
“This is my go-to for trim and paneling when I’m trying to achieve a cooler tone. It pairs perfectly with black. It’s definitely white but never looks unfinished.” — Gideon Mendelson
For a Pure, Crisp White
“This shade is my go-to crisp white. It provides the perfect backdrop for layering styles and textures.” — Shea McGee
For Your Ceiling
“This is great for ceilings and trim when you want to highlight architecture details but still want some warmth in the room. I like using it with lighter wood tones.” — Gideon Mendelson
For the Perfect In-Between Shade
“This has just enough warmth in it to make a room feel cozy, not sterile. Sometimes it feels beige; sometimes it feels gray. It’s extremely versatile and changes throughout the day. That’s the best part!” — Gideon Mendelson
For the Perfect Backdrop
“This has just the right hint of gray, creating the perfect backdrop for a room with hits of vivid color.” — Robert Passal
For Day to Night
“Just like good fashion, this color can go from day to night with ease.” — Jay Jeffers
For an Airy Neutral
“This is a very light beige that makes a space feel airy while adding a level of sophistication that a plain white would not be able to achieve.” — Robert Passal
For Mixing With Jewel Tones
“This color mixes well with jewel-tone colors like emerald green and cobalt blues, which we are loving right now.” — Jay Jeffers
For Hints of Lavender
“This gray is imbued with just the smallest touch of lavender, creating a certain depth that makes it one of my newest favorites as a neutral.” — Robert Passal
For Warm Undertones
“We’ve used this light gray countless times because it’s just that good! It has a warm undertone, so in some lights, it is a true light gray, and in others, it is more greige.” — Shea McGee
For Your Artwork
“This color feels bright and airy during the day, but in lower light, it becomes sexier. It’s a fantastic backdrop for art.” — Jay Jeffers
- "Cloud White," Ellis Paints: A crisp yet delicate white with a tinge of gray
- "Timeless," Clare: The direct-to-consumer brand's best-selling "off-white you've been searching for"
- "Zen," Jolie: Peaceful, subtle beige-taupe with pink undertones
- "Sabi Grey," Ellis Paints: Soft, deep gray absorbs light beautifully
- "Beigeing," Clare: Cool, inviting, modern beige
- "Stone-Dark-Warm," Little Greene: A color reminiscent of the stone that gives Bath, England its unique look
- "Grayish," Clare: A soft, greenish gray recommended for spacious rooms
- "Faded Blossom," Ellis Paints: Pale, dainty, washed-out pink
- "Dirty Chai," Clare: Warm and spicy, like cinnamon
- "Linen Wash," Little Greene: The color of natural linen
- "Smoked Green-Blue," Ellis Paints: Just enough color to remain neutral, a mid green/blue
- "Shade," Clare: The brand's darkest greige with warm undertones
- "Eucalyptus," Jolie: A soft, muted green with gray undertones
If you’re still weighing how much color to put in that sanctuary space we all know and love, you can also check out the bathroom paint colors interior designers swear by.
This story was originally published on January 8, 2018, and has since been updated.