Who knew white was so difficult a color?

In the continuing saga of our remodel, I wanted to keep things simple. So I decided to paint the kitchen, dining room and living room white.

White is easy, right? I mean, it’s white. It’s not like choosing between hues of yellow or blue.

Oh, how wrong I was. How absolutely, completely foolish to think this was easy.

I realized this as I stood in front of the wall of paint chips, trying to decide what the difference was between Brilliant White, Cloud White and Snow White. After comparing about 30 different hues of white, the colors all ran together. I was blinded by white.

I left the store, bleary eyed, with a bouquet of paint chips to revisit at home. It was the store’s fluorescent lighting making it hard, I told myself.

Nah, it was having dozens of choices and not being able to really tell the difference between this white and that until I lined them up and they looked yellow, gray and blue, not white at all.

Forget “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Fifty shades of white is much, much more complicated.

The idea to paint everything white seemed sensible at the time, almost a lazy decision, like, ugh, just paint it white because I’d rather not make any more choices about this remodel. But looking at all the samples, I realized this was insane. Dover White, Pure White, Super White, Antique White and Linen White stared back at me, and I couldn’t decide.

It turns out that white can be as bright or soft as any other color, and the sheer variety of undertones makes selecting the right white incredibly difficult.

After gutting the 1970s ghetto kitchen, and clearing out such a cluttered, dark space, we were going for a clean, Scandinavian look to make it feel more open and light. But I didn’t want visitors to feel like putting on sunglasses when they walked into the house, and that’s what I feared as I looked at dozens of shades of white.

What about Bright White? It seemed sterile, almost cold. I didn’t want a clinical or institutional feel to the house. I was looking for something kind of milky, but not creamy, clean-feeling but not barren like the Arctic tundra.

Ugh, this one is so antiseptic.

How about this one?

Too stark.

Too glaring.

Too… Ugh… white.

I wanted white, but maybe not SO white. But this one, well, maybe I wanted something whiter, and not so blue. And this one was allegedly white but had more of a urine hue to it, reminiscent of dog-peed snow. And how was this even called white? It looked like hummus.

I moved on to Paperwhite, Echelon Ecru, Marshmallow, Biscuit White, Glimmer and Polite White (versus what, ill-tempered white?).

(By the way, who gets paid to come up with these ridiculous names? I want that job, just plucking random adjectives out of thin air and applying them to paint samples. “Oh, I’m feeling Egyptian Sunrise with this one, and this seems like… Cultured Pearl. Eeny meeny miny mo… Hmm. I need another word for white. Time to hit up my friend Roget and his thesaurus. La, la, la.”)

In the end, I revisited the store and took the paint counter guy’s advice, which he offered unsolicited when he saw me lingering in the white palette section.

“White is the hardest color to pick,” he told me. “There was a lady in here once for hours who left in tears because she couldn’t choose.”

The sheer frustration of choosing a paint color for a home shouldn’t ever cause someone so much angst.

“Just pick, and go with your first instinct,” the paint counter guy said. “Trust me.”

And so I did, and that’s how we ended up with gallons of white paint that you would never guess is white.

Swiss Coffee is what I went with. But it sure looks white to me.

Erin McIntyre is an advanced master gardener and journalist who hosts “Diggin’ the Garden,” the second Wednesday of every month at noon on KAFM 88.1. Email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with story ideas or feedback.


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