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How can I fix "American White" walls?

Ruth -Ann
last month

Having my smallish bathroom reno'd and chose Benjamin Moore's American White for the walls. I wanted a hint of gray rather than a strong gray. However, with daylight LED lights, and nearly everything else being white (except grey floors, and shower tile with grey streaks), the walls look almost off White or 1980s builder "white" with no hint of grey.
I tried 'bright white' bulbs but that just made the walls look dingy. I want daylight bulbs. How can I get a bit more grey? "Cement grey" which is next on the card seems too dark.
Reno is nearly over and I know I'll have to pay more for this but I really hate how blah the walls look. Thanks in advance for advice!

Comments (35)

  • MarleneM
    last month

    It’s always helpful to add photos to get better responses, so if possible I suggest adding photos. You say you’re under renovation, and just wondering if flooring/tiling completed.
    I have used American White and while it does have a hint of grey, it fairly light do you may need to go darker. Also American White and Cement Grey both can show a bit pink/purple in some spaces, so that’s something to consider too. Maybe BM Wickham Grey as shown in attached photo would be worth checking out.

    Ruth -Ann thanked MarleneM
  • PRO
    Perfect Edge Finishcrafters
    last month

    Light color change or paint color change. If your paint looks right in another light, try to replicate that light. If you are seeing it too warm, I suspect the light is too cool, the lowest/warmest kelvin bulb you can tolerate may help. Or buy some expensive fully adjustable smart bulbs, you can make any color you want. If your fixture has built-in LEDs with no color settings, get rid of it. Overly orange hue can be corrected with green, like natural light with outdoor plants refracted, tinted globes, etc. If you can't change the light color, you'll need a color deck in that room and pick again, in daylight and at night. Not knowing the cost of the fixture, painting might be more cost effective,,. you're not changing the color much (1 coat) and bathrooms aren't that big of a paint job.

    Ruth -Ann thanked Perfect Edge Finishcrafters
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  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting
    last month

    I always use LED 4000K to keep colors true but that color at best has a tiny hint of gray and with all the other gray in the space IMO leave it as is . Mixing grays can be tricky . Now just add some color with towels accessories art etc.

    Ruth -Ann thanked Patricia Colwell Consulting
  • PRO
    Perfect Edge Finishcrafters
    last month

    I hear ya with the 4000k, but kelvin change could completely change the wall color if you had to use it that way. It's amazing how a fast toggle trough 3 colors on one of those built-in bulb fixtures makes the wall look so different, not that I would use the blue or orange setting.

  • Ruth -Ann
    Original Author
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Thanks everyone. Photos aren't great but they do show that you're not seeing grey. I included the door which is true white to show the difference. The 4 bulbs are 5000K (daylight); local stores don't seem to have anything lower for daylight. I even tried 3 bulbs but that didn't help.


    I had tried Philips bright white which is around 3000 but as I noted, I don't like the light or how the walls looked.

    I didn't see it before but today I did notice it looks pinkish (my least favourite colour) so that is very annoying. Good to know that cement grey will do the same (though I read that it is a cool grey so that's surprising) I think my issue is that the walls look blah not inviting. There's just too much white all around. I do have grey towels but that won't hide much wall and of course those towels will change over time. A shower curtain will go up (grey and white or maybe just grey) but I also don't want to hide my tiles (which I really like).

    I do wish I could have found a reasonably priced countertop with more grey in it vs. just flecks but that was the best I could do.

    BTW, in the pics, the 'open' shelf will be covered with mirrored doors. I will also have a small shelving unit (white!) above the toilet.

    Maybe I just have to decide to want a white bathroom.




  • Cate
    last month

    imho the vibe is too dead looking, you need some warm tones to make it come to life.

  • ci_lantro
    last month

    What is the CRI (color rendering index) of the LED's that you tried?

  • kandrewspa
    last month

    I have a white and gray bathroom that I painted a very light green. I also have green towels. If you don't like green that wouldn't work for you, but you could try blue. BM Paper White is a subtle blue-gray-white that I have used before. It looks different under different lighting conditions (like most colors), but you could try it if you want something less white.

  • cat_ky
    last month

    I think the bathroom is just fine. It looks nice. What you need is colored towels, and a colored rug in front of the sink, and a colored shower curtain, and some art work on the walls, to bring it to life. I would also try to find 4000 daylight bulbs. 5000 is more like being in a hospital operating room. You can order bulbs from Amazon. I have many times, and had no problems with them arriving in perfect condition. I also ordered a whole case of chandelier bulbs, because, I needed a lot, and none available here. Those were not from Amazon.

  • lgerard
    last month

    Our master bath is very similar colors in tile. I used Sherwin Williams Repose Gray (7015). It photographs darker than it looks in person but it is a nice neutral with contrast to the trim. I am very happy with it, but based on your description you may want to go one shade lighter.

    Ruth -Ann thanked lgerard
  • Ruth -Ann
    Original Author
    last month

    @ci_lantro, the current daylight bulbs are 80 CRI. The bright white ones I tried aftewards are 95.

  • Ruth -Ann
    Original Author
    last month

    @cat_ky, Yes, maybe it'll look different (nicer) with a floor mat, curtain and towels. I'll look around for 4000K daylight bulbs; maybe a specialty store will have or Home Depot/Lowes online. I'd like to have the easy option of return if I don't like those either. What brand did you get from Amazon?

  • Ruth -Ann
    Original Author
    last month

    @Cate, I agree. I was hoping different bulbs would make the difference but the ones I tried were worse than the daylight. Maybe the towels and curtain etc. will bring the warmth, or at least some life/colour. Although I'm doubtful that a "builder white" wall can look better. The floor has a warm tone but there's not enough floor to do much for the overall space.

  • Ruth -Ann
    Original Author
    last month

    Interestingly (and unhelpfully), the walls look more stark white than in reality. There's more difference between them and the door than the pics show.

  • Cate
    last month

    get some paint chips to determine what the indertone in the tiles floor and walls are so you can see if there are competing undertones. this happened to my sister who had green white walls with blue white tiles and gray white floor tiles the answer for her was to repaint the walls with more of a neutral blue white to cut out one of the colours.




    Ruth -Ann thanked Cate
  • Cate
    last month

    Better yet get a fabric liner and make a down to the floor curtain out of a fabric that has warm and cool colours

  • PRO
    Perfect Edge Finishcrafters
    last month

    Repose Gray, as mentioned above is an excellent recommendation for a neutral/slightly warm gray. Revere pewter is similar, with a very subtle green undertone. Both have just enough contrast with white and look lighter in person than in photos. Revere Pewter has surprised me enough in it's ability to work its way nicely into so many pallets, that it's my go to grey.


    Also, as mentioned above, accents are key. I try to think of small spaces in terms of % of surface area- some towels, mats, curtain and art suddenly add up to +20% of the total visible surface area in a bathroom that size, and the color refracted from those surfaces can have a big impact both in perception/psychologically and by actually changing the available light in the space.


    With greys, I encourage most clients to go a little darker than they think. Much easier to dial in hue when the value (darkness) is greater.

  • PRO
    JAN MOYER
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Sorry you're disappointed with the final feel, it wouldn't wow me either. It's sterile?

    I don't think any white or gray is the answer. I'd stop trying to dance on the edge of hues. You have no natural light. Show us the glass shade light fixture? That's part of the issue- disperses the HIGH light and to me? Every single one of them results in less than lovely lighting in a bath? Are there any recessed lights in the space?

    I realize you wanted a light gray and white bath, but.........I'd go get a gallon of , a deep navy blue, or a dark green or even charcoal and watch it come to life. In other words? Do the opposite thing , deep versus light and watch that white tile glow bright and sparkly. As of now? It just reminds me of a clinical bath in the E.R.....

    Add art, blinding white towels, white waffle shower curtain a great rug to step out on from the tub. and then enjoy.

    "But its not what I planned!" True. : ) But it will feel like the space doubled,

    The best things often aren't.......planned. They come from adjustments



    A dark green could do the same thing





  • jackowskib
    last month

    If you haven’t already, consider adding a dimmer switch for the lights.

  • K L
    last month

    Normally, I would say go the the paint store with a piece of your shower tile and bring home several little cards that look like they match, then take them home and put them next to the shower-wall tile until you find the one that actually matches. But that's because that matters to me when there is no physical outline to the shower compartment; it enlarges the space visually.

    But that choice would give you a basically all-white-and-greyroom, which you gave just discovered you don't like. I like Jan's advice, and she really knows her stuff... just look at her work on her profile. Go bold in the other direction with a deep navy blue, forest green, dark aubergine, oxblood, tricorn black. Choose a color family from a neighboring room. What colors are nearby? What is your favorite color? The contrast will help naturalize the inevitable clutter on the open shelves next to the mirror... a bonus. If you go this direction, your painter will first need to use a dark primer over the current light paint. That's very important.

  • littlebug zone 5 Missouri
    last month
    last modified: last month

    If you don’t like the gray, don’t use gray. IMO, gray IS dingy.

    Give it a few months, as someone else said. Maybe bring in a strong accent color (towels, rugs, art) and see what you think.

  • Ruth -Ann
    Original Author
    last month

    @littlebug zone 5 Missouri, it's not that I don't like grey. I do. But the right ones. I just didn't want very grey walls here. I agree that using strong accents may do the trick. I've never been keen on artwork in a bathroom so I would need convincing for that! :)

  • Ruth -Ann
    Original Author
    last month

    @JAN MOYER and @K L, thanks! The colour of the dark blue bathroom in your pic is very nice. The others look nice too - very modern. A bit too modern for my house (I was aiming for more transitional but I think I landed more on the modern side). I hear you on going bold. I need to work up that courage :)


    I had/have 4 hesitations: 1. I like bright spaces and I didn't think that this room was large enough for that to look nice vs. absorbing the light. 2. I generally lean towards muted and neutrals (I'm not one who changes things often or stays on trend; I wonder if we're on the tale end of the grey trend). 3. Choosing the wrong colour or too deep a shade would be a bit pricey to change (I know that in the grand scheme of things it's not super expensive but for me, it kind of is). 4. The rest of the house is neutral (off-white or bagel walls) and brown (floor and trim), per 80s and 90s. I don't know what I want for those (or if I will invest more here or end up moving) and didn't want the bathroom to look too extreme.


    To be honest, I did want to try some colour or deeper tones in this bath but not as wall colour. I consulted a designer; given the size of bathroom and my leanings away from bold colours and patterns, the recommendation was go with light neutral walls and add colour via the flooring and vanity. Unfortunately the only shade of grey for the vanity for the space wasn't one I liked. I would have liked charcoal (or a dark blue grey but that was not an option). Also, it was hard finding flooring I liked and was within budget, and my selection clashed with the grey vanity. I did take samples around with me.


    The nearby rooms wouldn't inspire this as they are on the cream and beige/brown side of things. At some point I may paint those but I wouldn't go with too dark or too strong a colour. The hallway and kitchen have off-white walls (per the 1980s; I haven't gotten around to figuring out what colour I want), stained brown baseboards & trim, and a reddish oak floors. Hall lighting is still soft/warm (nice for ambience but not so much for seeing well).


    Changing wall colour will be a separate and later job, not something the company could do now anyway. I suppose I could do it myself; I think I need to live with the space for a while to figure out what to do. I like the idea of the shower curtain and floor mat bring warm or even bold colours. If you're ever in Canada, maybe you can stop by for an in-person consult :)


    Here are two new photos (yes the light fixture is a bit too high). There's still a few touchups for the reno'rs to do before I clean and put things in. The main wall is the one with the towel bar and behind the door which is white on the other side. The mirror is on the opposite wall. That's also why I don't want a dark wall (plus I have black hair!).


    Perhaps a pastel/lighter colour would make the tile stand out. Suggestions? I like purple but it would likely look pinkish instead.



  • Ruth -Ann
    Original Author
    last month

    @jackowskib, too late for a dimmer. I considered it but had to watch my pennies. I also like to just flip on the light rather than dim. I didn't think I'd use anything beyond full.

  • K L
    last month

    Hi Ruth-Ann. Thanks for considering going bold and for sharing your concerns about it. You are concerned about it clashing with the rest of your house. I'm so pleased you are thinking of that! I think that's very important in interior design: continuity and connectedness! It increases a sense of space and contentment. Houzz and outside Houzz have many articles on the subject. If the rest of your house really is ALL creams and beiges, then in choosing light grey and white you have already broken from connectedness. Now I think you would benefit from thinking about a whole-house color scheme. To get started you can consider a few references: the colors of your home exterior, including landscape; your favorite colors; fixed interior colors like wood flooring to our mentioned. I need to refloor my entire home and am considering several materials in a mix of chocolate/cocoa brown and blue-grey. Are there future changes scheduled for your home that could affect your flooring? Could you show a picture of your current flooring perhaps what is right next to your new bathroom floor?

  • K L
    last month

    A bold color scheme is not necessarily modern. It was used in colonial times and Victorian. It comes in and out of use. Ignore the trends and follow basic principles of art and your own preferences. I know you have a pseudo preference for the wood and cream in your home because you are anxious about trusting your choices...me too. Not Jan though; she is an experienced pro. Check out her profile and see her work. Ask yourself if your house colors and your clothing colors are the same. Do you wear caramel and off-white? If not, what colors do you see in your closet? Hang some of those in your bathroom and see how you feel with them. Imagine using them in the rest of your home or at least on the adjoining space. I'm sorry I forgot, but is this a master bath or a hall bath? If a master bath, let's say you like the dark blue. Blue and wood (orange basically) form a trustworthy complementary color scheme. A blue bedspread and area rug can start you on your way to coloring your world. I will say that another color you may want in your home is olive green. That golden wood, cream walls and olive green are a tried and true color recipe. Olive green and cobalt blue work nicely together and you just have the blue in places like your bathroom where you have switched to a cool grey floor.

    Ruth -Ann thanked K L
  • K L
    last month

    You are concerned about your budget. I love that you are practical. I suggest you live with your finished bathroom as is for a little bit while you develop a whole-house color scheme that includes your thoughts about needed future re-surfacings. I will follow you if you want to start a new thread on doing so. I think, given what you have said here, you may be done with this bathroom for now. I also suggest you go to your local Home Depot and see if they have free painting classes and other DIY classes so you can keep a few costs down... IFF you are interested.

    Ruth -Ann thanked K L
  • Ruth -Ann
    Original Author
    last month

    Thanks @K L. I will let you know if/when I start a new thread. I appreciate your input! For now, I have to clean things up, move things back in place, and live with it for a bit. After Christmas! :)

  • K L
    last month

    Sounds like a great plan. It is a pretty bathroom even if it is all white and grey. I hope you aren't hard on yourself about it. And the best news is you chose neutrals for the fixtures floor cabinet that allow you to change paint periodically for fun! Maybe painting or even wallpapering isn't your idea of fun, but at the very least you can be comforted knowing you are just a can of paint or roll of wallpaper away from a completely new look! Happy Holidays!

  • K L
    last month

    One more thing to think about... The rest of your house is cream and wood... Is it possible that this white and grey deviation from the rest of your house is a hidden desire for some cool-temperature colors? Personally I went a bit too far into the warm-temperature colors in my own home. I am on a mission to adjust my color thermostat to find balance. This time I am trying to find a mix of warm and cool in each room, or most of them. Your remaining home works great with so many beautiful cool colors like cobalt, moss green, turgoise, shell pink, even black. A few black items in your new bathroom and a few black and grey items in the adjacent bedroom could easily tie the two together, especially with another color like cobalt in both.

  • Ruth -Ann
    Original Author
    last month

    Thanks @K L! I definitely do want to move to the warm-cool mix zone, so I guess we're on the same mission (yours may be more active than mine :) ). I actually how greys and browns look together (I have dark brown furniture and just remembered that in the LR, my winter throws are grey - intentionally). I think that mix brings my house into the 90s :D I like your idea of how to tie the colour in with the adjacent rooms. First up will be changing the drapes since they're deep rust and emphasize the brown tones (carpet is also sand colour). I'll just have to live with the medium red oak floors and all the brown trim for now because that would be pricey to change (and I'm not into painting it). The bathroom floor actually looks "greige" which surprised me as it looked straight grey until installation. I'm ok with it though.

  • Fanny Durand
    last month

    I had wickham gray in a laundry/spare room in my basement, looks gray but feels like a very light breezy blue... no green or purple...


  • K L
    last month

    Hey, Ruth-Ann, I love red oak and your wood trim. I don't think you need to replace it at all. We're looking for balance, not obliteration, right? I also have been looking a greys and browns. I am making a bathroom where I used to have a laundry room, and my blue and brown tile turned out to be more grey and brown in my lighting than in the showroom. But it grew on me. It became a camelion, depending on what colors I put near it. And even alone it's so pretty. Here is a discussion about the tile. The work is supposed to start before Christmas, but I don't see any movement from the contractors.

    https://www.houzz.com/discussions/6088802/help-will-large-backsplash-be-too-seamed-installed

    The tile has a dark indigo blue in it as well as a moss green that you don't really see unless you try or in the right light. My point is that these colors seem to work well with grey and brown. There's also a lot of white in the tile. It's a sophisticated combination too. Maybe you would like those colors in your bedroom/bathroom?

    I think sometimes it's helpful to layer colors too by including light and dark, bright and dull versions of our colors. For example: moss green and chartreuse; indigo and French blue; red oak already has layers.

    We've been talking about including warm and cool colors: grey/white and brown; blue and yellow-greens. To add cool colors is to add blues and relatives, including blue-grey, and cool whites. You just need to pay attention to the blues that you react positively to and incorporate those all over the house... And keep your wood. :-)