Great news over here: we are having the exterior of our house painted. As in, HIRING THE WORK OUT! I was planning to spend the fall doing the job myself, but after such a stressful and overwhelming first month of school/homeschool for me, we were curious what it would cost. When the quote came back extremely reasonable, we decided to clamp down on our spending over the next few months and go for it. My very talented designer/DIYer friend, Karen at Destination Eichler, described watching her house get painted by someone else like a mini vacation. I hope that’s how I feel too… because yikes are we ever dipping into that travel budget, haha!
The change of plans really truncated our timeline and I needed to pick a paint color like immediately. Thankfully, I already knew I wanted to go all white. Our painter expressed a preference for Sherwin Williams, who happened to be having a sale the week we decided to say yes. Pro tip: turns out they are pretty much always having a sale to create false urgency in suckers like me. In an effort to save every penny we can, I spent hours choosing a paint color to buy everything at sale price. FYI, I did ask if I could buy 30 gallons of untinted at sale price and come back to have it tinted if I couldn’t decide before the sale ended and got a reluctant “I guess.”
There are like 100 white paint colors. What the heck, do we really need this many options? Talk about agonizing over a boring decision. After reminding myself how much money we were spending and how this is basically a 10 year commitment, I dedicated myself to doing my best, turning into the neighborhood freak who painted white squares all over her house and stared at them for days.
Here’s my process in case you are in the same boat on a sea of tedium:
- Search for exteriors you like. I’ve been gathering exterior inspirations on Pinterest for the past year so I already had a good collection going. I picked a few favorites to investigate further and see if I could get any info on the paint color. I did come up with a few, but none were SW. (This was my favorite for sure, in Dunn Edwards Whisper, and also this!!)
- Pull together a general idea of what you want. Me: bright, warm but NOT BEIGE. Crisp but not blue. Clean and fresh without feeling dead. Basically a glowy white. We have mostly stucco so it was super important that it didn’t look depressingly beige.
- Pay major attention to the different light at different times of day in your neighborhood, and what hits the majority of your house the majority of the day. Here, we generally have gray overcast mornings that pull out every weird undertone of paint. Then a good chunk of the day offers bright, sunny, contrasty light that blasts the front of our house, making even the faintest pastels appear saturated. Late afternoon brings the warmest, orange light where every surface glows.
- Get like 50 paint chips. I grabbed even the ones I thought I wouldn’t like, walking outside at the paint store to double check my direction in the natural light.
- Bring them home and eliminate. I tried to do this outside but my current exterior tan color was distracting, so I moved the operation inside to a sunny pure white wall. For me, blue undertones, the only thing I was sure I didn’t want, were the first to go. I wavered on whether I wanted green undertones, but ultimately I eliminated those too because I lean warm and generally don’t love cool colors (though Makerista’s recent gorgeous paint job had me thinking maybe that greenish SW Moderne White was all I ever needed). I liked a lot of the pinkish/red undertones, but since we’ve lived with a pinkish hue for 5 years, I ended up eliminating those too for a more dramatic change. Next, I eliminated grays because, after some thinking, I remembered CRISP not murky. I kind of continued this process until I was left with 12 colors, all falling in the bright warm white/vanilla range.
- Google exteriors in all of those colors. Painfully, I whittled it down to 7 colors. I really liked this exterior color in SW Alabaster and this one in SW Westhighland White.
- Buy paint samples of the finalists and paint them directly on you house. I painted on several different sides, on both wood and stucco (after pressure washing the spots and drying ugh).
- Observe the samples throughout the day. Oddly, the three I loved at first glance on the wood board and batten were the three I hated on my stucco, mostly because they were so similar to the current color which I think is gross beige. And the one I thought was way too bright on my wood was the one that made the stucco glow. Eventually I eliminated Shoji White and Ivory Lace for being too gray/murky. I cut Creamy after being scared of the possibility of going real beige real fast. Westhighland White and Greek Villa were the ones that I was drawn to the most but I kept Alabaster in there because, although it didn’t wow like the other two, it was a good sturdy white. Eventually, Greek Villa went too because, compared to WHW and Alabaster, it was missing that hint of warmth.
- Paint large papers with your narrowed down colors. Carry them around to every nook and cranny of the house for another day. WHW was a hands down winner in most locations and times of day…it radiated and glowed while Alabaster looked flat and gray. But in full sun, they were so similar and a few times I even liked Alabaster more.
- This is so stupid just pick a color because they are all the same. OK, Westhighland White it is.
- THIS ONE IS KEY: Go to buy the paint and then find out it’s only available in exterior satin when you are set on using flat. WTF even, I hate you SW.
- Complain on IG. And get a color suggestion from one of your favorite Palm Springs designers that happens to be the same paint as your favorite inspiration exterior to begin with: Dunn Edwards Whisper. FOR REALS. Check with your painter if he’s cool with Dunn Edwards. When he gives an enthusiastic yes, swatch it, see that it is almost identical to the other one you wanted, love their customer service, and be done.
And that’s how you pick a white paint color haha. Such a joke. In the end, though, I chose one I’m really excited about. The one I should have just gone with from the beginning I guess!
Painting is almost done and wow what a transformation. (2020 update: check out the full exterior paint job here – only 1.5 years late!) I‘ll share more soon but lets just say 1. don’t forget your sunglasses and 2. we are SO Halloween ready with this color scheme. xoxo Jenny