Choosing the perfect neutral paint color is an overwhelming process. How can you tell the difference between one beige and the next? How do you know if your favorite gray paint color will have cool or warm undertones? Realistically, the best way to know is to try the color on your walls—something that's not always the easiest thing to reverse. So to help inform your next neutral paint color decisions, we asked three interior designers to share their favorite white paint colors, as well as their favorite warm neutrals and cool neutrals.
Overwhelmingly, they all picked the same white paint color: Benjamin Moore's Super White.
Unless you elect for a true white paint color, most other neutrals will have some undertones of red, yellow, green, or blue that creates either a sense of warmness or coolness. Warm colors—hues from red to yellow (browns and tans included)—advance toward the eye and appear more active. By contrast, cool colors—hues from blue-green to blue-violet (most grays included)—appear to recede. As a result, warm colors have a stimulating effect, while cool colors tend to be calming and relaxing. Paints with warm pigments are ideal for communal spaces, workspaces, or entertaining spaces where you and your guests want to remain alert and keep the conversation lively.
If you're looking for a shade that's light but still bright, versatile, and engaging, a warm neutral is your ticket. Put down those swatch books, and coat your walls with one of these neutral paint colors—they'll complement colorful artwork, accessories, and fabrics.
"I love super white," says New York designer Tali Roth. "I find it's the cleanest, crispest, and it always brightens my spaces. It's too cool for some people's preferences, but for me, it's spot on."
Jess Blumberg of Dale Blumberg Interiors agrees: "Super White is my go-to crisp white," she says. "It has the perfect amount of coolness in its undertone and doesn't pull yellow or pink at all, which a lot of whites can tend to do. I love to use it on both walls (in an eggshell finish) and moldings (in a semi-gloss), which gives a slight contrast. It's the perfect beach house white."
It seems that Super White is overwhelmingly the favorite of interior designers everywhere because Dan Mazzarini of BHDM Design had a similar answer: "Super White is a ready-made color and really is the perfect white—not too blue, not at all green—it makes any room feel art-gallery fresh and looks particularly amazing in flat and high gloss."
"I love Revere Pewter, a warm chameleon color," says Mazzarini. "Sometimes it looks browner, sometimes it looks grayer. It has worked for us in traditional and contemporary spaces. It looks gorgeous in sunlight and candlelight."
"I love Farrow & Ball's Off White," adds Mazzarini. "It surprisingly has a lot of color to it. Sometimes its warmer and sometimes, it reads like a perfect light beige. It's soo pretty and formal feeling."
"Donald Kaufman's DKC-62 is one of my favorite more heavily pigmented beiges," says Blumberg. "It's warm and cozy while staying modern and clean."
"Purbeck Stone by Farrow & Ball is my favorite gray of the moment," says Roth. "It's an amazing mid-tone and isn't too warm or too cool but it sits nicely in the middle. It warms up every single space. I predict we will see a lot more of these tones coming through instead of the cooler light grays we have been seeing the past few years."
"Hands down: Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal is the best gray paint color," says Mazzarini. "It's like a great gray cashmere sweater. It has just the right amount of purple to make it warm and green to make it masculine. We love it in an office, library, and in small spaces where you feel like you're in a little nook. It's the best. "
"I also love Benjamin Moore's Raccoon Fur," adds Mazzarini. "Just the name says luxe. It's a gray with just the right amount of inky blue to it. I love it as a backdrop to a gallery wall of black and whites."
"Repose Gray is a perfect light neutral gray," says Blumberg. "It's soft and versatile in that it works with both warm and cool accents, and it looks amazing in any light. It isn't too blue and can totally work as a 'whole house' color."
"Cornforth White by Farrow & Ball is super warm and light and has pretty gray undertones so it won't scare people off by being a 'yellow' beige," says Roth.
This story was originally published on March 5, 2014, and has since been updated.