The Writer and Residence

Finding the perfect warm white: 5 designers weigh in

As I promised earlier this week, here are five designer picks for the perfect warm white paint (in no particular order). Which one did I choose for my master bedroom redo? Read on to find out!

1. Benjamin Moore Creamy White. This was architect Bill Ingram‘s go-to color for the walls of his Mountain Brook Cottage featured in the August 2011 issues of House Beautiful. To make his 1,400-square foot cottage feel more expansive, Ingram used Benjamin Moore’s Creamy White throughout the house, which he notes “comes off as white, but very warm.”

2. Lindsay Bierman, Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living magazine, recommends Benjamin Moore Ivory White for when “you just want a room to be ‘warm white,’ meaning not too yellow or too peachy or too anything else.” When it comes to choosing the right white for the space, Bierman exhorts folks: “Don’t overthink this—I’ve already done enough agonizing for everyone, and I can say for sure that it works pretty much anywhere, unless you’re going for museum-like sterility…” I think we can take his word for it—witness this gorgeous room in Ivory White via Traditional Home:

3. Benjamin Moore White Down. Here is an inspiration photo from Philip Mitchell Design via Canadian House & Home. I love the ease of this room, and how it manages to be fresh and warm at the same time, due in large part to the wall color. There’s something about this color that puts me in mind of the froth of a cappuccino—the perfect warming pick-me-up.

4. Benjamin Moore Elmira White is Brad Ford‘s pick. It has subtle warmth with a modern edge, as evidenced by this West Elm photo:

On the appeal of Elmira White, Ford notes: “This is one of my favorite hues because it’s both warm and bright without being too cheery. It’s a perfect blend of beige and gray and will complement literally any color palette you choose to introduce in the room. You can’t wrong with this one.”

5. Benjamin Moore Linen White. Celerie Kemble, in her latest book, Black & White (and a Bit in Between), describes Linen White as “[a]bsolutely classic. A bit warm and not overly crisp, meaning it never looks brand new. Fades into the background, offering support to the other colors in the room. My kitchen cabinets are linen white, since I wanted the room to look lived in instantly.” Here is an inspiration photo of a modern bedroom in Linen White—so clean looking yet cozy:

For quick reference, below is a recap of our short list for warm whites (all Benjamin Moore):

  • Creamy White (OC-7)
  • Ivory White (CC-925)
  • White Down (OC-131)
  • Elmira White (HC-84)
  • Linen White (CC-912)

So which did I end up choosing for my master bedroom painting project?

It was a toughie, but in the end I went with Celerie Kemble’s pick, Linen White, to give much-needed warmth and brightness to my bedroom. Now that the hard part’s over, all that’s left to do is actually paint!

Which of these appeals to you most? Do you have another favorite “no-fail” warm white to add to the list? I’d love to know, I’m always looking to expand my repertoire!

Anna xo

P.S. You may have noticed that the paints on my list are all Benjamin Moore—this wasn’t a conscious decision, but when I have a painting project on the horizon I always find myself coming back to their classic colors fandeck for inspiration!


  1. [...] The room still feels a little spartan, but I plan to add several things to help cozy it up and personalize it down the line. But please believe me when I tell you that this room has come a long way! It has morphed from a dull yellow (the original color at move-in) to a gray (when I got caught up in the whole “greige” trend; more on that here), to its current “Creamy White” (Benjamin Moore OC-7). With this latest coat of paint on the walls, the room feels light, bright, but still warm. I am really pleased with how it turned out. My choice of paint for this room was inspired by Bill Ingram’s home featured in House Beautiful. You can read more about how to choose the perfect warm white paint for your room here. [...]

  2. [...] white paint resources: Ruth Burts Interiors – She describes the undertones of whites. Writer & Residence – Five designers share their favorite shades of white. Carolina Interior Works – The color white [...]

  3. Barbara Fritsche
    July 19, 2013

    Very Helpful Thank you!
    Barbara Fritsche

  4. terri
    August 26, 2013
  5. Michele
    November 29, 2013

    Thank you thank you Lindsay Bierman! Choosing paint IS agonizing for me! I have it in my head what I want but never seems to come out right until now. Your comment was dead on. I would have sampled my time and money away. Ivory white is perfect!

  6. […] Writer & Residence – Five designers share their favorite shades of white. […]

  7. toby
    January 22, 2014

    How do you match wall color /whites with hardwood floors? We’re considering pecan floors.

    • writer&residence
      January 22, 2014

      Hi Toby, pecan hardwood floors sound lovely! I think a warm white makes for a great backdrop for hardwood floors–it helps bring out their warmth. Here’s a link to an article which you may find helpful:

      I would also suggest taking a look at Houzz (I’m seriously addicted!) as a source for ideas. A quick search of sample photos with the phrase “pecan hardwood flooring” yielded two inspirational views of kitchens that incorporate warm white on the walls and white cabinetry:

      Finally, I’d suggest picking up sample paint chips that appeal to you and putting them on the wall (or alongside your flooring samples) and living with them for a while. I’ve learned the hard way that something that looks great online or in a magazine might not necessarily work in my own context. I think the best option is narrowing down your favorites, maybe your top three, purchasing samples of each so you can see a larger section of the wall in each color, and then seeing how they change throughout the day. Don’t rush it, and choose what you love. Good luck!

  8. […] Writer & Residence – Five designers share their favorite shades of white. […]

  9. Name *
    March 25, 2014
  10. Shannon
    March 30, 2014

    What about a white for a dark kitchen, southwestern house with terracotta floor. The rest of the house walls including right next to the kitchen is a light warm tan. Thank you!!!!!

    • writer&residence
      March 30, 2014

      Hi Shannon! Here are some ideas:

      Benjamin Moore Swiss Coffee on the walls and cabinets paired with terra cotta floor tiles. Gorgeous:

      This photo has a real Southwestern feel–BM Dove Wing on the walls. Really crisp, yet warm:

      My fiance’s favorite warm white (and he’s a designer) is Benjamin Moore’s Navajo White, which is a more muted white, very warm. Here it is with some terra cotta hex tile. I love the effect:

      And here is Navajo White paired with dark kitchen cabinetry. I’m totally in love with this kitchen:

      I think all of these options could play well with the warm tans you have in your adjoining rooms. I hope this helps! Thanks for your question!

  11. Becca
    April 5, 2014

    Hi. I would love to use linen white and silver sage in my house. The kitchen and great room are combined. How should I plan on painting and do you think these colors will go well with each other

    • writer&residence
      April 6, 2014

      Hi Becca, thanks for your question. BM’s silver sage is really lovely–a very muted, soothing color. I looked at it against linen white using my trusty Classic Colors fan deck, and I think the two pair well. My mother, who is a painter, is a fan of cool/warm contrast–it kind of keeps things balanced, for lack of a better word, and this pairing would give you that. That said, I’m a big proponent of buying paint samples to see whether you like the colors in situ–everyone’s light is so different, and it can have such a big effect on how the color reads in your house. I’ve picked up paint chips at the store thinking I’ve got a winner, but when I get back home it somehow doesn’t look the same! Especially since you’re planning to paint what sounds like a larger area–kitchen and great room combined–I would definitely take your time and test out some samples.

      If you’re thinking about this color combo, there are lots of nice options to consider. For me, continuity is really important. And I think that becomes even more of a consideration in adjoining spaces. You want the spaces to feel related so there is a smooth flow from kitchen to great room.

      You could paint the walls in both rooms silver sage and use linen white for your trim and cabinetry. I ran across this kitchen on Houzz a few weeks ago, and I loved it because it felt crisp and the kitchen and family room felt visually connected, creating that continuity that makes things feels pulled together. I know this is a greener green than silver sage, but it still gives you a flavor of how this design option could work:

      Here is a shot of what I believe to be, according to Houzz, the exact combo we’re talking about: Linen white cabinets alongside silver sage walls. Gorgeous:

      Another option would be to go with white on the walls, using silver sage as more of an accent. I love this look — light walls, light upper cabinets, and silvery green lower cabs. I think it has a really clean and sophisticated (yet homey) vibe:

      Or you could just go for it and do all the cabinets, uppers and lowers, in silver sage for a more traditional look. This kitchen makes me think of Martha Stewart. Very lovely:

      I hope this helps, Becca! Good luck with your project!

  12. Summgardner
    April 10, 2014

    I will be painting master bedroom and have just set up a new bed with a dark brown leather tufted headboard to go with my dark cherry bureau. I have different style bed tables but they also are dark wood. I now have white walls and trim and white bedding. I would like to keep white walls and plan on having wall to wall wool sisal in a natural color carpeting. What white colors would you suggest for both the walls and trim? We live on the coast so I would like to keep colors neutral and light and plan to use white and navy accents. Thanks for any help!

    • writer&residence
      April 11, 2014

      Hi Summgardner, thank you for your comment. First just let me say I’m slightly jealous of your sisal carpeting! I love how this all sounds!

      This is my inspiration photo for you–it incorporates a lot of the elements in your plan–natural fiber flooring, white and navy accents (plus lovely coral accents), dark furniture finishes and light walls. This definitely feels coastal to me. Relaxed elegance at its best. They’ve done something a little different here by going lighter with the wall color and slightly darker with the trim. I love the effect, and think you could achieve something similar with BM “White Down” on the walls and “Olympic Mountains” on the trim:

      Here is another white–White Dove. Here it’s combined with a darker wood dining table. Lovely, clean, and crisp:

      I also love the idea of using the same color on the wall and trim to make a space feel light and breezy, modern and fresh. Here is White Dove again with a navy scheme and natural fiber elements:

      Other whites you may want to try:

      Navajo white (great with dark furniture): (more coastal vibe)

      Maritime white (warm white that pairs well with navy, a “seaside neutral”):

      I hope this helps! Good luck with your project; it sounds just lovely.

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