Neutral Wall Paint Colors: Designers Give These a Thumbs Up Now

There have been plenty of paint color themed posts this month for good reason. As a paint color consultant, I can tell you folks love to begin planning their DIYs and home improvement in winter. And we need as many color ideas as possible since it takes a few samples to land on the best option. I appreciate it when interior designers share the names of neutral wall paint colors in their projects…especially showhouses. The benefit goes beyond how we get their professional approval or score paint names to sample. It is also helpful when (1) you can view the color in person, and (2) multiple photos are taken by visitors to the showhouse so we see the space in various lighting situations. Professional photos of interiors frequently are edited or photographed in the best light…but shadowy glimpses help too.

Arched window seat nook with storage beneath in a beautiful French country new build home - Brit Jones.
Sherwin-Williams ALABASTER – Brittany Jones Design

Neutral Wall Paint Colors Designers Give a Thumbs Up

What Makes a Paint Color “Neutral?”

Even though I write about neutrals alllll the time, sometimes it helps to backtrack and consider what we even mean by neutral paint color. A neutral paint color is typically muted and has undertones that will be perceived differently depending on the lighting context. The most common neutrals are usually described as gray, beige, white, cream, tan, putty, greige, black, and brown.

Benjamin Moore PALE OAK on kitchen cabinets in a gorgeous warm, European inspired luxe kitchen by AKB Design. #benjaminmoorepaleoak #warmwhitekitchen #whitekitchencabinetcolor
AKB DesignBenjamin Moore PALE OAK on cabinetry – Find more ideas for kitchen cabinets colors here

Wait a second though. Do neutrals need to be muted? Blacks and browns in a wardrobe are considered neutral since they complement a wide range of other colors. My personal opinion is there are plenty of colors in the land of neutrals that while neutral, aren’t commonly used neutrals. As an example, let’s start with a beautiful idea home from Southern Living and an incredible design and color story in the basement.

Sherwin-Williams NOCTURNE

Designer Laura Hodges chose Nocturne for the walls in this Leipers Fork home imagined for a family, and it creates a whole lotta warmth.

Sherwin Williams NOCTURNE in a basement lounge by Laura Hodges Studio for Southern Living Idea House 2023. #sherwinwilliamsnocturne #moodypaintcolors
SW NOCTURNE – Design: Laura Hodges Studio; Southern Living (Photo: Laurey W. Glenn)

Is it too deep and moody for you to consider a neutral? It is quieting, sophisticated, and calm though. Because I’m seeing so many homeowners choose similar colors for studies, offices, home libraries, and media rooms where the whole point is to be enveloped in velvety richness.

Does Nocturne remind you of Sherwin-Williams Iron Ore or Urbane Bronze? I’m definitely perceiving the green undertones in Nocturne. Similar to Nocturne and selected for the pantry in this idea house…

Sherwin-Williams FORGED STEEL

Forged Steel is a strong color that pairs so well with natural wood tones, yes?

Sherwin Williams FORGED STEEL painted pantry by Laura Hodges Studio for Southern Living Idea House 2023. #forged steel #moodypaintcolors
SW FORGED STEEL – Design: Laura Hodges Studio; Southern Living (Photo: Laurey W. Glenn)

This neutral wall color is similar to Benjamin Moore Iron Ore and also SW Shade-Grown. Its LRV is 10 so not one of those shy neutrals we tend to imagine when we hear “neutral” or even “natural.”

It’s beautiful to use when you’re after interesting contrasts and can definitely make a statement. There aren’t many design elements such as paint where for a little money, you can add drama, warmth, character, and strength in one fell swoop.

Encouragement quote on Hello Lovely Studio. #encouragementquotes #strugglequotes

Sherwin-Williams WHITETAIL 7103

In the living and dining rooms of the 2023 Idea House, a warm off-white with yellow undertone was chosen for walls. It’s bright with its light reflectance value of 86.

Sherwin Williams WHITETAIL in a living room by Laura Hodges Studio for Southern Living Idea House 2023. #whitetail #whitepaintcolors
SW Whitetail – Design: Laura Hodges Studio; Southern Living (Photo: Laurey W. Glenn)

I’m wondering if yellow tones are gaining popularity…will antique white replace all of those cool modern farmhouse whites? While similar to Benjamin Moore’s Swiss Coffee and White Dove as well as SW Alabaster (see image at very top), you can definitely perceive yellow in the room above.

Coordinating colors for Whitetail? Sherwin-Williams recommends Cocoa Whip and Touch of Sand. (Personally, I think SW ought to hire me to name and maybe re-name their colors and watch them become more sellable.)

Sherwin Williams WHITETAIL in a dining room by Laura Hodges Studio for Southern Living Idea House 2023. #whitetail #whitepaintcolors
SW Whitetail – Design: Laura Hodges Studio; Southern Living (Photo: Laurey W. Glenn)

This white reminds me of…

Maritime White Benjamin Moore paint color in bedroom with design by David Christensen for 2020 Southeastern Designer Showhouse. #maritimewhite #paintcolors
MARITIME WHITE – Design: David Christensen (2020 Southeastern Designer Showhouse); photo: Atlanta Homes

Benjamin Moore MARITIME WHITE

Benjamin Moore Maritime White paint color swatch. #paintcolors #benjaminmoore #maritimewhite #warmwhites #interiordesign
BENJAMIN MOORE Maritime White
Maritime White (Benjamin Moore) paint color on the walls of a coastal style entry in a luxurious traditional home - Kotzen Interiors). #paintcolors #benjaminmooremaritimewhite #maritimewhite #interiordesign #coastalstyle #entry
Kotzen Interiors – Neutral wall paint colors – BENJAMIN MOORE Maritime White
Vulnerability poignant texting quote or tweet from Jon Acuff on Hello Lovely Studio. #textingtweet #lifequotes #vulnerabilityquotes

Next up? Three gorgeous contenders for you to consider sampling. Psst. Aren’t they sort of magic together as you see on this mood board to pin:

Neutral paint colors are designer picked from showhouses: SW Pure White, BM Oystershell, and SW First Star. #neutralpaintcolors
Neutral wall paint colors trusted by interior designers to consider
SW Pure White paint color on walls of kitchen, scullery, bar, pantry in Southeastern Designer Showhouse 2022 - Cathy Rhodes Interiors. #swpurewhite #neutralpaintcolors
SW Pure White in beautiful #SEShowhouse22 kitchen by Cathy Rhodes Interiors (scullery, bar & pantry by Joyful Designs Studio) – photo: @dhcphoto; cabinetry: @bellcabinetryanddesign; flooring: @europeanwoodcompany

Sherwin-Williams PURE WHITE 7005

This is a reflective white we covered HERE, and it happens to be a bestseller at Sherwin-Williams. In this showhouse kitchen, it feels freshly modern and is warmed by wood cabinetry along with that strikingly bold blue..

SW Pure White paint color on walls of kitchen, scullery, bar, pantry in Southeastern Designer Showhouse 2022 - Cathy Rhodes Interiors. #swpurewhite #whitepaintcolors
SW Pure White neutral wall paint color in kitchen – SE Designer Showhouse 2022

This Atlanta kitchen is such a great example of how neutral wall paint is but a single layer in an elegant design plan which may not have quiet, subdued, or calm qualities at all!

A vivid blue stands out and brings an energetic dynamic thanks to the understated walls with what SW calls a versatile bright white with the slightest yellow undertone.

Southeastern Designer Showhouse kitchen 2022 with blue cabinetry white walls and light oak wood.
Pure White – Southeastern Designer Showhouse 2022; Neutral wall paint colors trusted by interior designers to consider

This kitchen’s magnificent architecture makes a statement too. Sometimes the paint color sets the mood, and sometimes a neutral is there to recede, to allow other elements to come forward with their story.

Funny overwhelm quote from Hello Lovely Studio. #funnyquotes #overwhelmquotes #momlifequotes

More PURE WHITE Examples for Inspiration

Sherwin Williams Pure White painted seaside living room with gallery wall and Belgian linen sofa - Pottery Barn. #sherwinwilliamspurewhite #coastallivingroom
Pottery BarnSherwin Williams PURE WHITE in a coastal living room

The LRV for Pure White is 84 so it’s going to reflect tons of light.

Bright white walls (Sherwin Williams Pure White) and black cabinets in a lovely kitchen by House of Silver Lining. #sherwinwilliamspurewhite #whitepaint #paintcolors #bestwhite
House of Silver LiningSW Pure White

Even though we’re focusing on wall colors, if you’re searching for house exterior paint colors, these ideas may be helpful too.

SW Pure White paint color on a beautiful new house exterior by 2kDevelopment. #swpurewhite #whitehousecolors #whitehousepaintcolors
@2kDevelopmentSW Pure White

Curious about coordinating colors? Look at March Wind and Perle Noir for ideas on how these may work together. And don’t forget if you’re after a white paint for an exterior, the color name may not have “white” in it:

Breathtaking front door and entry to traditional style white stucco mansion in Buckhead. The 2020 Southeastern Designer Showhouse 'Villa Flora' is painted Benjamin Moore Seapearl and trim is Benjamin Moore Pashmina. #paintcolors #seapearl #benjaminmooreseapearl #pashmina #benjaminmoorepashmina #houseexteriors #housecolors
Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles – Villa Flora’s exterior: BENJAMIN MOORE Seapearl; trim: Pashmina

Ooooooh, I forgot about the beauty of PASHMINA:

Benjamin Moore PASHMINA on a kitchen island in a beautiful coastal classic kitchen by Lisa Furey Interiors. #benjaminmoorepashmina #benjaminmoorewhiteoc151
Kitchen island: BM PashminaLisa Furey Interiors
Encouragement quote on Hello Lovely Studio to uplift and soothe in times of struggle. #strugglequotes #encouragementquotes

Here’s the neutral wall color Seapearl in a bedroom:

Stunning traditional style white bedroom designed by Phoebe Howard. COME FIND  3 Neutral Paint Color Ideas from Southeastern Designer Showhouse 2020! #bedroomdesign #phoebehoward #interiordesign #benjaminmooreseapearl #traditionalstyle
Design: Phoebe Howard/Mrs. Howard & Max & Company; photo: Sherry Hart – BM Seapearl

Easiest way to see if a color is right? Order samples to be delivered to your door with Samplize (a peel and stick sheet of “paint” to stick on your wall and easily move around to other walls!).

Serene, sophisticated, stunning white bedroom by designer Phoebe Howard for the 2020 Southeastern Designer Showhouse. #bedroomdecor #phoebehoward #interiordesign #whitebedrooms #traditionalstyle
Photo: David Christensen for AHL; Interior design: Phoebe Howard
Seapearl by Benjamin Moore is the white color above the paneled wainscot in this powder room while Stonington Gray is the paint color on trim. #powderroom #paintcolors #benjaminmooreseapearl #benjaminmoorestoningtongray #seapearl #stoningtongray
via TabulousDesign – Walls: BENJAMIN MOORE Seapearl; Trim: BENJAMIN MOORE Stonington Gray
Seapearl white paint color from Benjamin Moore on the walls of an entry in a modern farmhouse by Veranda Estate Homes. #seapearl #benjaminmooreseapearl #paintcolors #interiordesign #entry #modernfarmhouse
Veranda Estate Homes – Walls: BENJAMIN MOORE Seapearl
Midlife feminist quote from Hello Lovely Studio about letting go of need for approval when you're over age 50. #over50life #over50quotes #feministquotes

Sherwin-Williams FIRST STAR

The new home built for Southeastern’s Showhouse in 2021 (steps from Buckhead’s Chastain Park) has a breathtaking facade!

SW First Star paint color on exterior cornice of SE Showhouse 2021. #swfirststar #exteriorpaintcolors #neutralpaintcolors
SW First Star on exterior – Design-build team Benecki, SOURCE, William T. Baker Residential Design and Land Plus

Love the color selected for the exterior? SW First Star has a light reflectance value (LRV) of 69. A value higher than that can begin to feel too bright depending on the context.

Pacific Fog, Solstice and Winter Walk are similar colors from Sherwin-Williams to peek at if you like First Star. Colors to coordinate with FIRST STAR include Ellie Gray, Deep Forest Brown, and Extra White. What’s wonderful about knowing these coordinating paints is they may help you develop an exterior color story for siding, trim, doors, shutters, etc.

Some designers stick with the rule that the LRV for an exterior should be below 80. Care to see more peeks inside this Tuxedo Park home?

Neutral Wall Paint Color: Benjamin Moore OYSTERSHELL

Here’s an example of a neutral (LRV is 67.87) bringing serenity to a tone on tone bedroom from a 2021 showhouse:

BM Oystershell paint color in a beautiful bedroom designed by Kati Hardwick. #bmoystershell #neutralpaintcolors
BM Oystershell in SE Designer Showhouse 2021; Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles; Designer: Kati Hardwick, B.D. Jeffries; Photo: Emily Followill

Sometimes a neutral is hard to pin down in terms of coolness or warmth. This may be one of those chameleon-like colors. In the room above, it appears rather warm and beige, but here’s the swatch:

SW calls it an eye pleasing gray with buoyant blue undertones. I’m currently living with chameleon greige colors, and they’re quite mysterious. Here’s SW Agreeable Gray downstairs:

And then upstairs in a bedroom (below).

SW Agreeable Gray on bedroom wall with tree mural (Photowall) and modern lift desk (BDI) - Hello Lovely Studio. #agreeablegray
SW Agreeable Gray – Hello Lovely

It looks so much cooler in certain light (yet still warm next to the cool greys in the grisaille wallpaper mural).

Maritime White (Benjamin Moore) paint color on the walls of a coastal style entry in a luxurious traditional home - Kotzen Interiors). #paintcolors #benjaminmooremaritimewhite #maritimewhite #interiordesign #coastalstyle #entry
Kotzen Interiors – paint color in entry: BENJAMIN MOORE Maritime White…in case you admire coastal elegance.

Why So Much Mindfulness About Neutral Wall Paint?

While it may seem like fluff to some, it’s not a superficial pursuit for me. Think of the hours you spend within those walls. We are all spending more time at home. Many are working remotely from home. Our homes seem to evolve as they serve as multi-generational living spaces, office, school, and spa.

Howard Thurman quote on Hello Lovely about authenticity and self-awareness. #howardthurman

If in small ways I can somehow bring a bit of ease to home improvement, guide decorating schemes, and offer ideas for resources, it’s bound to create ripples. Small gestures, yes. But here I am in my 15th year of Hello Lovely, spotlighting timeless and tranquil interiors and muddling through with great love.

Get Inspired By These Showhouses

Neutral paint colors are designer picked from showhouses: SW Pure White, BM Oystershell, and SW First Star. #neutralpaintcolors
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Peace to you right where you are.

-michele

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Boheme Madera Bench
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White Slipcovered Sofa
SHOP MY HOME!
29″ Whitewashed Table Lamp Set of 2
White Matelasse Quilt on MY BED
SHOP MY BATH!
Trees White Wallpaper Mural
Round Farmhouse Table
Myla Slipcover Sofa
Deconstructed Wingback Bed
French Farmhouse Dining Table
Milagro Heart
Slipcovered Dining Chair
Rustic Farmhouse Stool
Edgecombe End Table
Parisian Style Iron Table Lamp  33.5″
Black or Bronze Accent Table
French Stripe Basket Set
White Cotton Crochet Bed Skirt
French Country Rattan Basket Set
Marble Subway Mosaic Tile
Rattan Basket With Lid
White Ruffle Bedding
Seagrass Basket Set
Schumacher Wild Things Wallpaper
Slipcovered Sofa
Upholstered Dining Arm Chair
Shop My Breakfast Nook
White Matelasse Quilt
Tree Mural Wallpaper
Faux Potted French Lavender
Shaw Daybed
Distressed White French Country Chandelier
French Country Headboard
Oval Back Counter Stool, Set of 2
Antique Brass Pharmacy Floor Lamp
Round French Tufted Ottoman
Kinston Wood Bench
Italian Candelabra Chandelier
Slipcovered Linen Chair
Warner Upholstered Bench
Rustic Country French Dresser
Laurel Wreath Mirror
Round Farmhouse Dining Table
Reclaimed Wood Dresser
Louis Upholstered Bench
Pardon My French Doormat
Stripe Turkish Towel Throw
Pamela Arm Chair
Sweater Weave Basket
French Carved Wood Chandelier
Terracotta Pots & Basket
French Country Wood Chandelier
French Linen Dining Chair
Gustavian Cabinet
French Farmhouse Dining Table
Bar Stool
Beachy White Slipcovered Sofa
Rattan Armchair
Diptyque Oyedo Candle
Cross Back Dining Chair
French Country Candle Holder
French Industrial Metal Chairs (4)
Designer Favorite Wall Mirror
Holborn Lantern Pendant
French Country 6-Light Chandelier
Tray Side Table
French Country Upholstered Arm Chair
Wicker Trunk Set
French Ticking Stripe Pillow
Jute Area Rug
Mohair Throw
Rustic Industrial Farmhouse Shelves
Belgian Linen Sofa
White Duvet & Bedding
Rustic Wood Candlestick Set
French Market Basket
Linen Modern Wing Chair
French Country Farmhouse Baskets
Concrete Pillar Table Lamp
Boheme Madera Bench
Belgian Style Lamp
Kendall Skirted Dining Chair
White Charleston Sofa
Scrubbed Wood 5-Light Chandelier
Arched Champagne Wall Mirror
Moravian Star 1-Light Pendant
Highback Armchair
Mini Pendant Light
White Vase Set
Round Woven Placemat Set
Cashmere Throw With Fringe
Wreath Doormat
Fireclay Farm Sink (Reinhard, 30″)
White Waffle Coverlet
Light Grey Vienna Quilt
Boheme Madera Bench
Belgian Linen Duvet Set
Round Marble Side Table
Rustic Pedestal Farm Table
Rattan Hanging Chair Swing