By now, we’re all feeling a little blasé about Mrs. Blandings’ account of how to choose the perfect white. At least I was, anyway, until I spent an afternoon at the Kohler showroom helping a client to realize the dream bathroom she describes as: “An exceptionally modulated and multi-layered, mixed, almost nearly, but not exactly an entirely white, all white bathroom.” There are right around 151 whites to choose from in the Benjamin Moore color system. The Kohler white fixture choices have grown to more than ten. And so it began.
It was impossible for me to assure my client that the existing white walls in her soon to be demolished “nearly” all white bathroom would survive the process, so we agreed a new white wall color would be selected. At the Kohler showroom, we made our way through the offerings and I organized them into three categories, all of them white:
- The whitest whites: White, Honed white, Earthen white, Cane sugar
- The warm whites: Almond, Boucle tweed, Biscuit, Cane sugar
- The cool whites, some of which are nearly grey: Dune, Ice grey, Boucle muslin, Cashmere, Earthen white
A logical approach to mixing whites is (usually) a steadfast adherence to either the cool range of hues, or the warmer side of all things white. This philosophy works well enough for choosing wall color, but it grows exceedingly more complicated when we’re in the bathroom. Every surface in a bathroom that’s white will vary in shade depending on the material. The whitest white, in every all-white bathroom, will always be represented by white towels, rugs, or other textiles, like the shower curtain or drapes. Oh, yes, and anything plastic.
White solid surface counter material is available in a dizzying array of colors termed “white.” This is the second, most white-white, in the all-white bath.
Next in the undulating and modulated progression of whites, which vary in tone, chroma, warmth and clarity, is any white tile, white granite or white marble. The range of white tile, no matter where you are shopping, reveals one single hard and fast truism: the least expensive white tile, is always the most white of the bunch, and white tile floors are almost never truly white.
Bringing together a mix of all-white materials, painted surfaces, and textiles, all with varying levels of sheen, will leave any all-white bathroom appearing layered and only nearly entirely white, whether we like it or not. Good news for my client, and better news for me once we got down to the wall color selections.
The brightest whites
In the baths from House Beautiful magazine pictured here, the white walls compliment the lighting and the space.
Notice how the very sunny baths, and the baths with lots of slick surfaces and shiny materials, suit the choice of very clear white? Baths with fixtures which fall into the definitely white and warm white category, companion best with the most crisp and clear whites, such as:
To add depth and interest to an all-white palette with very white bath fixtures, the peachy toned whites will add a lovely glow, soften very bright lighting when no daylight exists, and leave a bathroom feeling a bit warmer.
Peachy whites bring out wood tones, too, and everyone looks better with a dash of peachy-pink in their cheeks. Peachy toned whites are each perfectly suited for the warmth of biscuit, ivory, and almond fixtures as well.
Cool, gray & sparkling whites
Mixing cool whites and warm whites together takes practice.
As a general rule of thumb, I’d suggest avoiding any white that has a green or yellow tone for the walls in a bath, and let the warmth come from the mix of materials and the lighting, keeping the wall color toward the cool range:
Has anyone had great success with green- or yellow-toned white in a bathroom? I usually stick with luminous and crystal clear whites, which are neither too gray, nor too antiseptic, just as Mrs. Blandings suggested. See anything here you’d like in your bathroom? I’ll keep you posted on my client’s new bath; biscuit fixtures, White Down on the walls. If only it was really that simple!