Best white paint color for cabinets/trim in North facing rooms

June 20, 2019

We are building our first house and need to decide on a white trim color. I want the same white to be carried throughout our entire home, so I suppose the biggest consideration needs to be the kitchen cabinets.

Our kitchen and great room (open floor plan) are North facing, and I know that can affect how white appears. Our great room has four large windows, our dining area has a double sliding door, and our kitchen has three windows over the sink (see attached photos for an example of our layout and window placement).

Our floors will be dark, walls very light gray or off white, our counters a white quartz (possibly Helix, but hopefully Cararra Marmi). It will be a white on white kitchen, and we don't want it to look stark. We want a soft white, but not creamy or dingy!

Everyone says to try samples in your space during different times of the day, but this is a new construction has just been framed, so I have no idea how the light will reflect! Any advice for starting completely from scratch??

So far, I am between Benjamin Moore Simply White or White Dove, or Sherwin Williams Pure White or Snowbound. Are any of these good for whole house? Please help! Thank you!

Comments (26)

  • beckysharp Reinstate SW Unconditionally

    I used Laurel's advice for trim/doors and ceilings in our new house two years ago -- BM Cotton Balls (Regal Select ulti-matte finish for ceilings, and Regal Select semi-gloss for trim) -- and have been very happy.

    We have rooms with all four exposures and the trim and ceilings in Cotton Balls, and it looks great in each room.

    abbyfaye thanked beckysharp Reinstate SW Unconditionally
  • luckyblueeye

    My new kitchen is also north facing with large windows. BM Simply White looks the best in my rooms, no undertones but not stark. Cotton Balls read a definite yellow in my house (I read her blog also), every house is so different.

    abbyfaye thanked luckyblueeye
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  • calidesign

    I don't think you can go wrong with Simply White or White Dove for the trim. I would look at a slightly warmer white for all the walls, but you could use the same color on the walls and wait until after you've moved in and furnished everything to start adding some color where you want it. It would at least give you a good neutral base.

    abbyfaye thanked calidesign
  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    our counters a white quartz (possibly Helix, but hopefully Cararra Marmi)

    You do not have a choice in terms of which white for the cabinets and trim. NSEW, doesn't matter.

    Your only option is to pull the color of white directly from the counter top.

    You need the counter top FIRST and you use that as the template, the guide to informing which color of white to choose for cabinets/trim.

    abbyfaye thanked Lori A. Sawaya
  • Abby Mac

    Following because I'm in a similar predicament. I have my quartz picked but have a little tiny square sample and I'm afraid to pick the white from that. The quartz website suggested cotton balls for the one I picked, but when I got a Samplize sample all I saw was yellow. I'm beginning to hate whites and grays. Paint was supposed to be the last, easy thing to pick.

    abbyfaye thanked Abby Mac
  • abbyfaye

    Thank you all for your feedback! Whites are SO difficult! I wish we could finalize our quartz selection, but we are waiting to see if it will be available.

    I have heard that Simply White can give off a yellow cast, too...has anyone experienced this? This had me leaning more toward White Dove, but I hear some people say it looks dingy/dirty.

    I have to find something as neutral as possible, but soft! I think bright, stark white looks kind of cheap.

  • cpartist

    My trim is all Cotton Balls but then again, I wanted a slightly warmer white.

    abbyfaye thanked cpartist
  • dchall_san_antonio

    I'm always amused when someone wants "white" and then adds color to it. We take the white stuff you add color to when you want to make something with a name. Everything is off white unless you use the raw white from the can. Makes it very quick to pick up more.

  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    White is kind of straight forward.

    Every color of white belongs to a hue family.

    Even untinted bases directly from the can have a hue bias. We know that because we can measure it.

    The most neutral looking whites, the whites that render in the space and are perceived as "just white" most often come from the green to green-yellow hue family neighborhood.

    In order for a color of white to look dirty or dingy in has to be juxtaposed to another color (near neutral or white) that has approximately the same amount of Chroma. Chroma is a scale of colorfulness, it tells you how close to a pure, true neutral white a color of white is.

    As long as two colors of white have a nice healthy bump of difference in Chroma, neither one will look dirty or dingy.

    Which is why if you are doing a white-on-white kitchen, you must start with the counter top.

    That color of white (the counter top) is the benchmark against which you compare everything else.

  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    Simply White belongs to the end of the yellow hue family and it has a healthy bump of colorfulness at 0.50. Which is why many perceive Simply White as a creamy off-white. Under certain lighting conditions it can show with greenish-yellow overtones. And that's because it belongs to the end of the yellow hue family over near the green-yellow hue family.

    Creamy off-white or greenish-yellow overtones can only be determined by testing in the space and in context of other elements. Like a counter top.

  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    White Dove belongs to the yellow hue family too. However, it "lives" more in the middle of the yellow hue family so it's less likely to show with green-yellow overtones in certain conditions. It also has a little more chroma, a little more colorfulness so it's going to look creamy compared to a creamy off-white like Simply White.

    What determines if White Dove looks dirty or dingy is what it's next to. Because it does have a Chroma value of 0.58, you have to be careful what you put next to it. For example wall color. If the wall color has at least 0.20 more/less in Chroma, then White Dove will look like a clean, crisp creamy white and unlikely to appear dirty/dingy.

    This is why you'll find conflicting opinions about White Dove. For some it's dirty/dingy for others it's the most beautiful creamy white they've ever used. It all depends on how they used it.

  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    Cotton Balls is no shrinking violet when it comes to Chroma. It has a Chroma value of 0.54.

    If you remember, White Dove has a Chroma of 0.58. So, they're close.

    But the reason some people perceive Cotton Balls as more "neutral" is because it belongs to the green-yellow hue family - remember I said colors of white that are perceived as being "neutral" or "just white" come from the green to green-yellow hue family neighborhoods. Cotton Balls is a fantastic example.

    Cotton Balls is literally not as yellow as White Dove and therefore "creaminess" isn't perceived in comparison.

    However, Cotton Balls just barely makes it in to the Green-Yellow hue family. It's right there on the cusp over near the yellow hue family. Which explains why under certain conditions, Cotton Balls might be perceived with yellow overtones. The light and context will determine which way it goes.

  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    And just for fun if you want to see Chroma and Hue Family in action (so to speak), line up paint chips of Cotton Balls, Simply White and White Dove.

    Cotton Balls will look the brightest, "cleanest" and most white.

    Simply White will look the most "off-white"

    White Dove will look dirty/dingy - in comparison. Again, in a different context White Dove wouldn't look as "aged", dirty, dingy.

  • Holly Stockley

    Lori (sorry for the thread-jack) is there a way to use that same data to tell which whites are more likely to look crisp against a color, versus trying for a "warm" white and getting "dirty"?

  • PRO
    Lori A. Sawaya

    Yes. Absolutely.

    When talking about colors of white specifically:

    The lower the Chroma value the closer a color is to a true neutral white and the greater odds it will be perceived as clean, clear, fresh.

    The higher the Chroma value the more colorful the white is. In other words it will be easier to discern an amount of hue, the hue parent will be more evident. Compared to a lower Chroma color, odds are greater it will be perceived as dirty, grayed, aged, dingy.

    No color of white is inherently dirty, grayed, aged, dingy.

    Same as no color of white is in inherently clean, clear, fresh.

    It's the context #1 and the light #2.

    The rule of thumb to follow in order to manage both context and light is there has to be at least a 0.20 ish (plus or minus) difference in Chroma when combining colors of white.

    Whether it's paint or material colors - the rule of thumb can serve you well.

    The dimension of Chroma is where our perception of clean/vivid and gray/dirty comes from.

    We can measure a color's Chroma. And if you can measure it, you can manage it. Ergo the 0.20 ish difference guideline.

  • Abby Mac

    Just when I thought "Oh, I'll go with White Dove, people rave about it" I see Lori's info and start worrying again. Problem is, It's hard to tell what a color will do until you have it pretty much all painted. Our cabinets have the dinette and the hallway between them and the west window so they won't get a ton of natural light, so I want to stay away from something that will look dingy or yellow, but I don't want stark and cold, either. Abbyfaye, I"m no help, but everything you say about the look you want, I think YESSS, that's what I want too! Cabinets should be put in our home soon and I"ll have to make my paint decisions. I'm more worried about picking exterior at this point though!

  • PRO

    What is the "availability" issue on the counters? It's a quartz, not a rare slab in a stone yard!

    The take away from all the good info Lori provided? You see white, any white and its tone by comparison to another white, or another COLOR. Simply White cabinetry against black? Against navy or a soft warm gray? It will look pretty darn blinding white. ......despite the green/yellow undertone : ) Lord knows I've used plenty of it.

  • Abby Mac

    And here I'd ruled out Simply White because it was too yellow.

  • abbyfaye

    So sorry to take a hiatus from this thread! You all provided some great insight and I especially appreciated your thorough explanation of how some of these whites are perceived, Lori!

    I finally received confirmation that our preferred quartz option will be available to us (apparently, it was an import issue but has been resolved). So, we will be using MSI Carrara Marmi quartz. And I’m back to square on with whites, because Simply White looks far too yellow next to this quartz. At first, we thought Snowbound looked nice, but I see some pink in it, which I am not crazy about/scares me for how it would look throughout the home.

    I’m now thinking SW Pure White or BM Chantilly Lace or BM White Dove or...??? I don’t know! I’m open to any recommendations! Plus, our subway tile backsplash is a very white, white. How do I find a happy place between the Carrara Marmi counters, very white subway tile backsplash, and the perfect white cabinet color?

    These pictures show the counters with pure white (the large paint sample) and snowbound (the small sample). It also shows the white subway tile, grout options, and our wood floor (the color on the left).

  • abbyfaye

    Here is an up close picture! Any advice?

  • calidesign

    Any of those whites will be fine for your cabinets with your other options. But since you also want to use the same white trim throughout your home, I would consider which looks best with your flooring and the other wall colors/furnishings you are planning to use. You need to know whether you want your walls to be warm or cool colors, which may help you choose the trim. That is a more important consideration than just the kitchen.

  • PRO
    moico inc.

    I personally have an all white kitchen facing North, and used Simply White[BM] .I am very happy with it and my clients have been too. It is slightly "warmer" than some whites. I also love BM Cloud White for a "real" white as I call it. Not warm but not cold . Maybe have a look at that sample.

  • abbyfaye

    I tend to gravitate toward cooler colors in my home decor, but I don’t want the white throughout the home to feel stark or sterile...I’m thinking a soft white would be best?

  • abbyfaye

    BM Cloud White could be a good does it compare to BM White Dove? Or SW Pure White? I kind of keep coming back to SW Pure White, but I’m not sure if that’s just because it seems safe.

  • Carol Bowe

    I am reading each comment with great interest! We are building a house and I am struggling with the same white issues. Lori's info was some of the best I've read, and I've read about 15 blogs on white paint colors. UGH! I opted for BM Super White because I saw it in so many Instgram photos in beach houses (our house is at the beach). I initially chose but ruled out BM White Dove bc we have that at home and I love it--too dingy at the beach. Ruled out Simple White--too yellow in my space. SW Pure White was a little gray in my space, but it is a good white. Unfortunately, I'm just starting to look at countertops, and my cabinetmaker wanted my paint color a month ago. So, I don't know what I will do for countertops? I will look for your countertop. Do you mind my asking who makes that? I'd like to try it next to Super White.

  • abbyfaye

    Carol - I think it is MSI quartz

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