I wanted to paint my walls white. How hard could that be? You go to the paint store, buy a few gallons, and slap it on.
So I did that first part: I went to a paint store. I gravitated towards a salesman who resembled the coach of the Boston Celtics.”Um, I’m looking for white paint,” I said helpfully.
The Coach pulled out a, what’s that called, a color wheel? A rainbow spread? There’s a name for that thing that opens up like a fan to reveal 657 different shades of white and throws you into a full on panic attack. (I’ve never responded well to a multitude of choices.)
“Can you narrow it down to the creamy ones?” I asked. The coach licked his fingers and snapped shut a third of the Panic Wheel, leaving me with only about 400 decisions to make. I grew a whiter shade of pale; moisture sprang from my armpits. “Uh, what do most people pick?” I asked, lamely.
“Lady, it’s a personal thing.” The coach checked his watch.
It was too much for me. I started to get that feeling I get at the shoe store when I’ve tried on four pairs and none are good but I feel like I have to buy a pair anyway because I’ve made the man walk to the stock room four times. I needed to abort the paint mission before I felt obliged to buy a gallon of “Winter Dust,” or some other irrelevant color.
I went home and launched a large-scale obsession. I asked for opinions from friends and relatives. I visited my neighbor on the pretext of borrowing a can opener and secured the name of her paint color. I called a hotel where I’d stayed and whose walls I’d admired. I asked the bookseller, the neurologist, the florist, anywhere I saw a good white, I asked someone what it was. I went online, did some social networking, picked the brains of people I do not know.
When I’d finally assembled a group of color candidates, a portion of my dining room wall became a patchwork of samples, which I checked on at different times of day to note changes as the light shifted. I concealed my madness behind a portrait of my great-grandfather, who must have been twirling in his grave.
I also painted the colors on white Bristol board and carried the samples from room to room. I made decisions, booked the painter, panicked and unbooked him. I threw away rejected samples, and then, in a frenzy of uncertainty, re-bought them for another look.
I kept all this activity covert, under my husband’s radar, so he wouldn’t have me committed.
I did eventually make a few selections, and it worked out all right, if not perfectly. (One room suffered through two repaints.) I offer here a list of my top choices of white wall paint (which are really almost-but-not-quite white) from a variety of manufacturers. This will save you weeks of trial and error, time better spent mastering the tango, buying a new garden hose, or writing your congresswoman. (If you do write her, please ask what color she painted her bathroom.)
Benjamin Moore: ($20-$50 per gallon)
I used both “Oatmeal” and “Linen White,” the latter being more yellowy, the former more, well, oaty, but both nice colors. “Swiss Coffee” is another one I have used, which is like white with a little splash of espresso. “Alabaster” as a good B.M. color for trim, also.
Donald Kaufman: ($90 per gallon)
“#28” is a beautiful creamy white my sister-in-law has all over their house. I was too cheap to buy it, but D.K.’s paint is amazing, more like light than paint, so you might want to splurge in a room or two.
Farrow and Ball ($70 per gallon)
This manufacturer makes my favorite colors, all of which have inspiring names. It’s pricey, so I limited myself to using “Matchstick” in my office only, but if I were going to splurge I’d have also gone for “Satin Slipper” or “Clunch,” colors so interesting they inspire conversation.
4. YOLO ($40 per gallon)
If you are in green mode, these paints are non-toxic and low VOC, and “Air.01” and “Air.02” are lovely whites.
5. Restoration Hardware ($32-$36 per gallon)
“Mediterranean White” and “Buttermilk” are good choices here, and “The Right White” is great for trim.
Too funny! I went through the same thing when we painted our livingroom. You wouldn’t think there would be that many shades of white!
Hah! amazing isn’t it?
“Swiss Coffee” is sooooo eighties, darling. Leave it there.
I like the sound of “Satin Slipper”—what exactly does it look like?
But “Clunch”?? Is that a typo?
Not a typo, and a great color…you should go check out Farrow and Ball if you’re in the repainting mode…their colors are amazing, hard to describe….
I just sent this to a friend of mine who’s driving herself crazy over the same issue for her new house.