Published on October 27, 2020

Photo Oct 06, 4 53 05 PM (2) Pin It
Photography by Ye Rin Mok

“There’s no such thing as one white paint,” says Amber Lewis. The Los Angeles–based interior designer, whose iconic lived-in, California-cool style has gained a cult following of 1.1 million on Instagram, has been known to cover every wall in a house a different shade of white, from eggshell to cream. In her opinion, it’s the most difficult to get right because it is the most layered. “Is it warm? Is it cold? Does it read more green or red? You could add one drop of another hue and it would change the entire tone,” she adds. 

In Lewis’s new book, Made for Living, she devotes an entire chapter to her best tricks for picking the right neutral color. “It’s always really based on the light in a room,” she explains. In a space that doesn’t get a lot of natural light, stay away from blue or red, and look for brown or yellow undertones. In a modern home, go for a white with blue notes. If you’re trying for a more traditional feel, look for warmth. Never go for a pure black—instead, opt for a chalky faded version that won’t seem too harsh. 

Surprisingly, lately Lewis has been shying away from her bright staple. She gave her home a coat of Portola Paints’s Piano Room—a muddy gray-green plaster, and she’s currently designing a dark burgundy kitchen. Her best tip when going for a bold color: Stay away from primary hues, which can read as too intense. “You always have to do a toned-down neutral version of whatever color you’re going for,” she says. For those still struggling with decision paralysis, try one of Lewis’s all-time favorite shades, all of which are excerpted here from her book.

The Best White Paints

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Photography by Tessa Neustadt

Wevet by Farrow & Ball

The prettiest, warmest white. I use this to bring warmth to any space. It can go a little beige and yellow if paired with a brighter white trim. Try painting the trim the same color as the walls for a tonal and serene look. 

Milk Glass by Dunn-Edwards 

Like its name, this has a very milky and fresh feel to it. I painted all the walls in my last house this color! It can read green in certain light. Avoid painting it in rooms where green grass or a blue pool could reflect inside. 

Wimborne White by Farrow & Ball

This is a moody white, if you will. It’s great in a Spanish-style home or if you want a space to feel like it has some history, but it’s definitely not my pick for a contemporary or modern home. This can read very yellow and may not be a bright enough white if there is not enough natural light. Don’t use it in a room without windows, like a powder room.

Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore 

This is a cool-toned and crisp white. Its hints of green and gray will easily brighten a dark space. Avoid painting this in a bathroom. The green and blue tones are not great in rooms with mirrors! 

White by Dunn-Edwards

The perfect clean and bright trim. Enough said. I like to use this in a velvet or satin sheen, because it has a slight luster without feeling too shiny. 

The Best Dark Paints

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Photography by Tessa Neustadt

Green Black by Sherwin-Williams

An almost-black with a green undertone that looks amazing on a front door or kitchen cabinets. 

Nitty Gritty by Portola Paints

If you want to add some interesting texture to your space, start small and go for a powder room or a child’s bedroom with this amazing blue-green plaster clay specialty paint. 

Black Pool by Dunn-Edwards

Is it black or is it dark navy? Actually, it’s both! This color is first on our list for painting millwork in a library and can be a perfect accent color on a bathroom vanity. 

Down Pipe by Farrow & Ball

This color is the perfect combo of a blue-black and gray; use it on anything, from cabinetry to an exterior. This one is hard to get wrong, so paint it on everything and never look back. 

Maison by Portola Paints

Another texture-friendly option, a deep gray with subtle hints of blue mix that’s perfectly dramatic.

The Best In-Between Paints

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Photography by Tessa Neustadt

Midnight Spruce by Dunn-Edwards

This is a dark forest green with a hint of olive that makes it a classic for painting cabinetry or furniture pieces.

Manor House Gray by Farrow & Ball

A dramatic, true gray. No matter the lighting in your space, this gray will hold its hue. 

Purbeck Stone by Farrow & Ball

A calming gray that gives me serious British design vibes.

Revere by Portola Paints

A gorgeous gray with hints of blue and green and all the texture you’d ever need. 

Hague Blue by Farrow & Ball

A statement-making deep blue that I find to be timeless and a little moody.

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