Why Is Picking A White Paint So Tricky?

White brick wall
beautiful kitchen with white paint on cabinets
Beautiful kitchen and use of the color white

Why Is Picking A White Paint So Tricky? Maybe because there are so many white paint colors to choose from. Did you know that Benjamin Moore & Co has 372 colors with white in its name? Of course, I knew that there are many different white paint colors. However, until a client was trying to remember a “white” she had in her old home, I had never checked to see how many.  It is no wonder why picking a white paint is not an easy task for most people.

I stood there at the consultation with my paint deck asking, “was it cloud white, white Christmas, oxford white” until she said, “I don’t remember and they all are looking so similar.” 

white paint on brick wall in room.

With there being 372 whites, it is no wonder picking a white paint color is so difficult for many people. White paint is not just white. More importantly, you can make a mistake by picking the wrong white.

Understanding Color

It is helpful to understand some color theory basics to explain the difference between the many different white paints available. This will also help you when picking colors for your home.

fan deck showing colors of paint to pick from

Warm and Cool Colors

First, all colors can be categorized as either warm or cool. Warm colors have an underlying color of either orange, red or yellow. Warm colors advance towards you. This means they can make large rooms seem smaller. Logically, this tells us that warm colors can help us create cozy rooms. On the other hand, cool colors have an underlying color of either blue, green or purple in them. Cool colors are known to recede. Painting a small room in a cool color can make a small room seem larger. Additionally, using a cool color on a ceiling can make the ceiling seem higher. Cool colors can help create a feeling of calmness and tranquility in a room.  

When critically looking at a color, you will see its underlying color. This is sometimes called an undertone. If this is a new concept to you, the best way to discover this is with the color white. Many people think white is white. As I said above, it is never just white.

living room showing white paint on walls with warm colored accents
Cool white walls with warm accents

Some are warm whites, and some are cool whites. Looking at each white separately, it may appear to just be white. When you compare them to each other, you will be able to identify their underlying tones. Some have cool underlying colors like blue or purple. Others have warm underlying colors such as yellow or red. 

These are the nuances that can cause you to pick a color that ends up not being what you thought once you put it on your walls. If something is not quite right, it is probably the underlying color that needs to be tweaked.

Don’t make this white paint mistake

A client of mine painted her walls off white to create a monochromatic look with her off-white pickled oak cabinets. Sounds simple enough—what can go wrong? The “off-white” cabinets had a pink undertone to them. The “off-white” paint she chose had a yellow undertone to it. Guess what? They clashed! She could not figure out what she was unhappy about until she called me in to help.

A blue undertone would have brought coolness and balance to the room. A red undertone would have continued the warm cozy feeling the cabinets had. Any other undertone then the yellow one she picked would have been a better choice.

living room showing white painted walls with warm colored accents
Warm white walls

When you pick a paint color, blue, pink., white or any other color, be aware of whether it is a warm or cool color. Next, know it’s underlying color tone to make sure you selected a color that will work in your home.

If you are starting a decorating project and need to pick paint colors, you may find Decorating with Colors Inspired by Nature helpful. Another great resource is Personality Types and Colors.

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You Don’t Have To Live With Things You Hate!

You don’t have to live with things you hate! So why do people live with things that make them unhappy? I am talking about the worn-out sofa, the wallpaper falling off the walls, the carpet with bald spots and well you get the picture. It is hard for me to understand because my surroundings impact my mood big time. I always try to figure out a way to “correct” whatever it is that is not working for me. In the same way, I try to design in ways that work for me as I explained in my post, DESIGN TO BE HAPPY, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

Young Children?

Don’t live with things you hate because you have children.
Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash

I have heard lots of excuses that people use for living with things they hate. Very often it is: “I have kids.” I won’t replace that sofa, or any other piece of furniture for that matter, because I have kids. Children need to be taught to respect and take care of things. Plus there are so many durable products on the market these days. You can even buy a sofa with Sunbrella fabric, which would certainly hold up with children. Having children should not stop you from having a nice home or force you to live with things you dislike. Puppies on another hand are a different story. Definitely wait for the chewing stage to be over before making any major purchase.

Budget Restrictions?

Another reason that people live with things they hate is budget restrictions. I totally understand that money plays into our decisions. But I want you to know that there are ways to improve your surroundings that do not cost a lot of money. Temporary bandages and creative solutions can help. They take a bit of effort on your part; but, again, the payback is ten-fold.

Use temporary decorating bandages so you don’t have to live with things you hate!

I believe in temporary bandages when it comes to our home. For example, a sofa that is worn out can be given a better look with the small investment of a slipcover. A sofa is a central piece in your home and something you see every time you walk in the door. You should enjoy your home as much as possible at all times. Continuing to make do with an old sofa can cause negative feelings. You may begin to feel sorry for yourself that you have to make do with one that is a worn-out or outdated and even start ruminating with an inner mantra saying I hate that sofa, which can turn into a downward spiral of self-pity. A simple slipcover solution can make things better until a new sofa is in the budget.

Creative Solutions Can Help With Things You Hate

Don’t live with a kitchen you hate
Kitchen Before

My daughter recently married and bought her first home. The home needed a lot of updating, and they did not have the budget to tackle it all at once. The kitchen had dark oak cabinets that screamed “1970”! New cabinets were not in the budget; and these cabinets were solid wood, in fantastic shape, just dark and dated. We were able to transform them with a few days of work, and the result was a much more visually-pleasing, up-to-date kitchen for pennies.

Picture shows a kitchen renovation illustrating that you don't have to live with things you hate.
Kitchen in progress

First, we filled in grooves with wood filler that ran the length of the cabinet doors. Then we sanded, primed, and added a wood molding to each door, resulting in a shaker style. With some paint, wood filler and trim it was on its way to becoming a brand-new kitchen, achieved with work, not money. They may choose to remodel their kitchen in the future; but in the meantime, they don’t have to live with something they hate. My daughter said it bought her some time. Instead of rushing, they can save money and put in a better kitchen then one they would do if they felt force to act quickly because they had something they couldn’t stand.

With hardware, tile and a new counter, the kitchen could look like this.

One of my favorite websites for inspiration when trying to come up with a creative solution is www.hometalk.com. It is an easy to search site with a million tutorials for creative DIY projects.

If it isn’t your taste

In reality, sometimes we do choose to live with something that is less than optimal for us. Consider this scenario: You move into a new home. The previous homeowner spared no expense when remodeling one of the home’s bathrooms—high-end tile, luxury vanity and fixtures, and it is very well done. Unfortunately, you don’t really like it, but you feel that ripping it out would be wasteful; or maybe you just do not feel like being inconvenienced with a remodeling project.

My advice is to try to find something that you can be excited about which would work with the current décor. If you can find artwork or fabric for a window treatment or an accessory that you love and that works well in the room, you can change the room from one you hate to one you can live with.

Think out of the Box To Correct What You Hate

I encourage you to think out of the box when working to rid your living space of things you hate. A client of mine had a cleaning lady spill bleach on her brand-new bedroom carpeting. The result was bright white splotches on her dark green broadloom. Since it had just been installed, my client could not fathom replacing it; and, unfortunately, it was located in a spot that could not be covered by furniture.

I am pretty good at mixing paint and knew I would be able to mix up the color of the carpet. I suggested painting the bleach stains to match the rest of the carpeting. I used craft acrylic paint and mixed it with a textile medium ensuring it would be permanent. The end result was not perfect, but it was close. If you looked for the spots, you could see them; but when entering the room, they no longer jumped out at you. I would say that the creative solution of painting the stains made the best of a bad situation.

The takeaway from these two stories is that you can benefit greatly from a little face lift or a temporary decorating band-aid. So stop putting off updating, freshening or remodeling your space.

Copyright 2019

How Much Tile Do I Need For My Backsplash?

A tile backsplash can make a kitchen. It is the icing on the cake. Without a backsplash, a kitchen just doesn’t look finished. Once you select your tile, you may be asking, “How much tile do I need for my backsplash?”If you need help finding the perfect tile for your kitchen, my last post, HOW TO PICK THE RIGHT TILE FOR YOUR KITCHEN BACKSPLASH will help. There is also a lot of great information and pictures on Old Country Tile’s website.

It is a good idea to bring home a few samples from the store and look at them in your kitchen. Your lighting is going to be different than the store lighting and you want to be sure that your selection is going to look great in your space. Once you have decided on a tile or a combination of a few tiles, you can decide how much you need.

Keep in mind that you will need to order extra tiles because there is always some waste. A good rule of thumb is to order 10% more. However, if the tiles are installed on the diagonal, order 15% more.

First, let’s get acquainted with some tile terms. 


Border – a decorative strip, texture or contrasting color that creates a design concept. Also called a listello.

Bullnose – Used to create a finished end. It is a trim tile with a convex radius or finished edge on one side.

Deco tile – short for decorative tile.  Any tile face with a decoration on the surface usually placed strategically to make a design.

Field tile – the primary tile used to cover a wall or floor.

Listello – a decorative border, primarily for walls.

Tile backsplash showing deco tile, field tile and border tile.  Tile terms needed to learn how to measure for a tile backsplash

How Much Tile? Let’s Measure

When you measure field tile, it is in square feet.  If your backsplash is 10 feet long and there is 18 inches between the cabinets and the counter, you would simply multiply 10 x 1.5 (18 inches is 1 ½ feet).  This will give you the area in square feet.

10 x 1.5 = 15 square feet.  Now add in waste.  10% for regular straight designs.  15% for tile being installed on the diagonal.  In this example, we would order 16.5 square feet.  (If adding a border tile, make sure that this measurement is subtracted from the total to avoid over-ordering)

Measuring for border tiles is different than measuring for regular tile.  Border tiles are measured in Linear Feet. To determine how many border tiles you will need, measure the linear distance that needs to be covered. This is simply the straight distance or length of the backsplash. Measure the total linear distance in inches and then divide by the length of the tile to get the number of border pieces needed.

To figure out how much tile I need for my kitchen backsplash I first measure the linear length of the counter-tops

If 10 feet is the linear length, 10 x 12= 120 inches.  If the border tile is 8 inches long divide 120 by 8 to get the amount of border pieces needed.

120 /8 = 15 pieces of border tile


Typically the tile installer or store may assist in figuring out the amount of tile the project needs. But it is always a good idea to figure it out on your own as well. You definitely don’t want to over order and pay for lots of tile that is never used. And on the other hand, it would not be good to run short on installation day. For these reasons, it is always a good idea to double-check the tile amounts before you order.

Now it is time to order that tile!