I’ve designed interiors for over 20 years and tried lots of shades and paint brands. I find that I go back to the same Benjamin Moore and Farrow & Ball paint colors time and again when designing for clients. Not only do I love the shades, but the quality and coverage is great too.
I still marvel at the number of whites in a paint color deck. With the daunting multitude of decisions to be made when designing a room – it can be overwhelming to cull down and find the perfect hue to ensure the right mood for the space. Paint colors can change on a wall depending on the time of day. For example, a soft grey in the morning sun can turn an unpleasant purple in the evening. For that reason, people often ask me for my favorite designer paint colors.
Why I like these paint colors
My favorite paints are versatile, complex and have enduring appeal. They can be applied to a broad range of areas – walls, cabinets and focal accents. Also, because of their sophisticated tones they have worked great in both my modern spaces and traditional interiors. Not overly pure in pigment, I find them the perfect paint colors for timeless interiors – which I love to design.
The Carrera Marble of paint colors – Benjamin Moore, Simply White, OC-117
White paints have slight variations that can have a big impact once spread over an entire room (or house)! Too much yellow, pink or black in the mix can make a white…well, not bright and crisp. My favorite workhorse white paint is Benjamin Moore’s Simply White, OC-117. This white paint color always seems to have the right rich but clear tone and consistently aligns with my modern traditional interior designs. Slightly creamy white, but never yellow, it looks great in sun-lite rooms or shadow.
We used Simply White, OC-117 on the walls of our Greenwich, Connecticut tailored master bedroom. If you like the vibe of this room you can check out the whole house here.
Before photo above. To give you an example of what a difference paint can make – check out the master bedroom before we started. No thanks, I would rather not live in a cave!
Here, Simply White covers the walls and cabinets in our Dallas Master Bath renovation.
I love how this white blends with the cool grey veined Bianco Carrara marble and neutral gray porcelain tile floors. If you want to see more of our sleek master bathroom and its renovation, check out our blog post: Before & After: Mastering the Master Bath
We used Simply White on the ceiling and custom cabinets in this pantry to get this beautifully bright look in our modern traditional Georgian Colonial home.
OC-117 also had the right amount of warmth to blend with the brass accents and classic pinstripe wallpaper in this space. It’s really the perfect shade of white!
Never met a design scheme it didn’t like – Benjamin Moore, Revere Pewter, HC-172
Not every room calls for a white. Sometimes you need a little contrast. That’s where Revere Pewter comes in.
First, I’m a big fan of Benjamin Moore Paints and their Historical Color palette. The colors have grounded, interesting tones and of course historical significance from beautiful American cities like Williamsburg, VA and Charleston, SC. Revere Pewter, HC-172, is a fittingly named for the warm gray tone of Paul Revere’s colonial pewter works.
Here, HC-172 covers the walls in our light-filed Tribeca Penthouse Living Room. This space is modern, but definitely warm and inviting thanks to the Revere Pewter.
As a light gray, it’s soft and versatile. It adds warmth to modern spaces and a bit of edge to traditional ones. Having used Revere Pewter often, the color looks great all times of the day.
We created a feminine modern home office with Revere Pewter walls. The shade compliments the cream and berry red tones throughout the refined interior.
Revere Pewter is perfectly paired with Simply White for an energetic and inspiring home workout room in our Preston Hollow Dallas renovation project.
By the way, an important thing to note when picking grays, or any color, is what is in the base. Here’s what I mean: when you are looking at a color deck, the paint strips show the darkest version of the color at the very bottom and the color gets gradually lighter as you move up the strip.
You should first look at the darkest color at the bottom of the paint strip. Whatever that darkest color is, will be included in the lighter versions on that paint strip. If the darkest color has a green tint, then the lighter color versions will also have a green tint to them, even if you can’t tell from the lighter samples. This is a simple tip to help narrow down color choices when they all start to look the same!
My millwork mainstay – Benjamin Moore, Kendall Charcoal, HC-166
Many times, a little more contrast is needed to make a room really stand out. That’s where my other favorite, darker gray comes in handy. Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal, HC-166 can make a statement without being overbearing. This gray has a lot of brown in it, hence a warmer tone similar to Revere Pewter. It seems to be a color I go back to often for millwork and cabinetry in my modern traditional mixed interiors.
In fact, it’s the charcoal gray I used on the trim in my Dallas office to align with my SBL logo colors of camel and white stripes.
I used Kendall Charcoal again in this classic kitchen renovation. The cabinets were originally white, but we wanted to make this room and the entire house more striking for our clients that had moved out of NYC to the suburbs. I love the contrast of the white walls and the dark cabinets.
Moody blue paint hue– Farrow & Ball, Light Blue #22
I love blue and a lot of people gravitate towards the softer shades for interiors. But I don’t like paint with a lot of pure color or blue shades that end up looking sweet, like a baby boy’s nursery. I prefer mercurial color mixes and Farrow & Ball Paints are great for that. For an interesting soft blue, try their Light Blue #22. It’s quite the chameleon – complex and sophisticated, Light Blue changes from a blue green, to pale blue gray depending on the time of day or light level. Despite the shift, it always looks good.
I used Light Blue on the kitchen cabinets at Le Mas des Poiriers in Avignon France, which was featured on the cover of the March/April 2019 issue of Veranda Magazine. The sunlight changes so dramatically in Provence which is part of the charm of the area. But, I needed a color for the kitchen that would look good despite the dramatic light shifts in the East-facing Kitchen.
Also, Light Blue was the right choice because it aligned with the warmth of the creamy limestone. And, due to its sometimes green cast, it complimented the red undertones in the copper pots and surrounding stained wood antiques. To read more about this Provence Kitchen renovation check here.
Back in Dallas, I used the same Light Blue #22 to accent the walls of a modern media room. Painted just under the wood railing – it adds interest to an otherwise white wall. The custom gray sofa and rug, taupe leathers recliners and warm camel mohair pillows all pair well with this subtle blue.
If Nantucket Red pants popped out of a can of paint- Farrow & Ball, Red Earth #64
Want even more color? Farrow & Ball’s Red Earth #64 is a perfect accent color for small spaces. This is another complicated hue…not quite coral, rose or orange, but some combination of all!
I love the color of the original Nantucket Reds™ pants introduced in 1960’s by the late Philip C. Murray of Murray’s Toggery Shop in on Nantucket Island. Like the pants, which vary in shade due to fading over time, Farrow & Ball’s Red Earth #64 color takes on a different tone depending on the location and light level.
I used punchy Red Earth in a petite attic playroom to make the space feel more cozy and fun. Mixed with cornflower blue and white it’s my nod to the seaside colors found on Nantucket where I vacation each summer. In the light filled space, the color takes on a rosy glow.
In our Tribeca apartment project, we used Red Earth in this artwork niche to add drama and draw your eye back to the space. I wanted the artworks to pop against the back wall color.
Remember, with all colors, especially saturated shades like this one, always put the actual paint on the actual surface you plan to paint in a few different areas and let it dry. Review the color first at various times of the day before starting the project to make sure the intensity and tone work in that room. Also, sometimes painting contractors substitute the actual paint with a less expensive brand computer color matched to your swatch. I don’t recommend it and always look at the paint can, because in my experience they often don’t get the match perfectly right.
I hope you find these colors as awesome as I do and will find a place for them in your interior projects. I’d love to hear from you and find out where/how you use them!
Holly Alderman says
Favorite colors noted! I instantly recognized the first image color, F&B Red Earth because I’ve studied all the terra cotta and brick tones of major brands and found that the most beautiful. Spent the weekend painting Red Earth trim on 4 windows and 2 doors to set off Dufour Views of Italy in light sepia, with warm white molding and baseboards. Will look at your whites! And the blue looks promising for antique chinoiserie trim. And the others. Thank you!
Susan Bednar Long says
Glad you liked the post Holly!
Karyn Verdecchia says
Cannot wait to get started!!
Barbara Wright says
There is no color from any manufacturer that is anything like Farrow and Ball Red Earth or their archived color Fowler Pink so folks spend the extra money and get the right paint. You won’t regret it.
Lori Hamrick says
Thank you very much for the tip of looking at the darkest hue on a color wheel to identify undertones of a lighter color on the same sample strip.
Vancouver painter says
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Aluminium Joinery Restoration Auckland says
I am so happy I found your blog and I absolutely love your information about my all-time favourite paint colors from Benjamin Moore and farrow ball and the tips you have shared are awesome. I liked and it is wonderful to know about so many things that are useful for all of us!
Theresa L Leach says
Thanks for the enlightening tips.
This is a great post! I love farrow & ball and BM in tow as far as manufacturers go. I am looking to pair off-white hood cover (and cabinets in the future) with my simply white kitchen walls. I love Farrow & Ball’s Cornforth white. Any tips on how I can make sure the two with go together?
Would farrow and ball cooking apple green compare to bm mesquite or bm apple bloom more ??
Susan Bednar Long says
Benjamin Moore Mesquite would probably be closer. I would order swatches online or paint samples to compare fully!
I’m vacillating between calm and classic gray for my walls the floors are wood and throughout the house but I feel I need the perfect white for the trim that’s not too stark my suggestion say that gray or chantilly lace I just don’t wanted to end up being green or yellow? Coming from Southern California where the natural light is so plentiful that was my go to color Swiss coffee trim cabinets etc. please help
Susan Bednar Long says
Cloud White is a great crisp white that will complement a variety of different shades. I’d recommend getting swatches of each and seeing what looks best in the natural light
Painting Contractor says
WOW!!!! Thank you so much for sharing this information about choose house painting color.
The paint color is absolutely perfect and brings out the appeal of the house.
Truly amazing what paint color can do. Fantastic!!
Wonderful tips! Love the French country kitchen you designed! What BM or F&B paint color would you say grace the walls of most Parisian apartments? I have spent quite a few holidays in many Paris apartments and still cannot figure out what that creamy white paint color is!
Imad Awad says
I mirror the comment up: Thank you very much for the tip of looking at the darkest hue on a color wheel to identify undertones of a lighter color on the same sample strip