white is white, right?

Choosing colors from the swath of swatches we picked up on Saturday... Turned out to not be as hard as we thought (at least for these test colors). The hardest thing was choosing the exact flavor of (the real) white we wanted.

That reminds me of a post about architects and color by Jody Brown, he of Coffee with an Architect fame (and a frequent contributor at Houzz):

Ha! And those are only the first three of nine total (and you gotta love the comments from the clueless: "These all look the same. Am I missing something?").

As it turns out, in decorator-space (and architect-space), there are indeed different shades of white. The scientist in me says that white is white (white is light that contains all wavelengths of the visible spectrum). However, with some other colors barely mixed in (some other frequencies being absorbed), white can take on different character (warm, cool, not as glaring).

Sherman Williams, paint provider of choice of our builder, provides these tiles in their "white" collection:

I don't know about you, but the vast majority of those don't look white. In fact, none of them do! Here are some of the actual names (with snarky comments [i.e., value] added):
  • High Reflectance White (in other words, white [although it doesn't say "Total Reflectance" {and it's not as white as the border backdrop}])
  • Extra White (when just plain white is not enough)
  • Ceiling Bright White (when you need a white for your ceiling)
  • Pure White (looks a little green to me...)
  • Zurich White (as pure as the Swiss)
  • Windfresh White (got a bit of Amarillo dust storm in there...)
  • Snowbound (who pee'd in the snow?)
  • Elder White (slightly coffee stained)
  • Origami White (a wee bit pulpy)
  • White Heron (before hunting season)
  • Toque White (a good white if you are a chef and don't want to be seen...)
  • Heron Plume (before the Gulf oil spill)
  • Moderne White (oddly Arte)
  • First Star (the color of the mother of all hydrogen explosions)
  • Marshmellow (uns'mored)
  • Modest White (when you don't want the neighbors talking)
  • Reliable White (because the others aren't)
  • Bauhaus Buff (would cause Gropius to vomit a rainbow)
  • Steamed Milk (someone forgot to clean the steamer last week...)
  • Polar Bear (was there an oil spill in the Artic Ocean I missed?)
  • Restful White (the last white you'll ever see...)
The whites go on and on. Here, here, and here are some guidance on choosing the perfect white. There are indeed some things to think about. Pure absolute white can be overbearing. Having grown up in northern Illinois, I know about snow blindness. Sometimes white is indeed too white. With all the aluminum and concrete in the house, we need something more along the lines of a "cool" white, a white with a hint of blue or gray.

So, the colors we have chosen at this point:

White for the outside of the house: Extra White SW 7006  (R: 239 G: 240 B: 236)

This is the basic white which (we hope) has a hint of cool in it. On our computer, it looks gray-gray-gray, but the chip is white (no, really!). 

Color for the southwest volume and faschias: Ice Cube SW 6252 (R: 227 G: 228 B: 226)


This is a color (gray) we chose to be close to aluminum. 

For the Hardie board volumes: Olympus White SW 6253 (R: 213 G: 216 B: 216)


I get a chuckle out of the name since this is a darker gray than the aforementioned Ice Cube, yet it is called white.

For the non-wooded soffits: Sky High SW 6504 (R: 221 G: 231 B: 233)


A wee bit of the vernacular in here (light light blue is traditional for porch ceilings) and an homage to the original intent of having an icehaus (Ice Cube helps too!).

Interior color:
    Extra White SW 7006 
(R: 239 G: 240 B: 236)

Same as the above for the exterior white to keep that inside-outside she-bang going.

Looking at the RGB formula (a color formula that mixes amounts of Red Green Blue), I noticed the following:

  • When the numbers are exactly equal to each other, you have true gray.
  • As the numbers get smaller, the colors get darker. In other words, the smaller the number, the greater amount of that color.
  • Given that, based purely on RGBs, Extra White is lighter than Ice Cube is lighter than Olympus White.
  • Extra White has a slight emphasis on red and green, so there's a hint of purple in there (just a hint!).
  • Ice Cube also has a slight (very slight) emphasis on red green.
  • Olympus White has a slight emphasis on blue and green, and Sky High has a stronger emphasis on blue and green (hence the sky blue color).

If you click on the links above, you might be appalled. The colors on my computer screen look mucho diferente than the colors on the chips. Here are some photos that better catch the colors, but it's still hard to capture them for internet viewing.

Yep, that dark gray is called "Olympus White". Pollution combined with marble??? Facade limestone for the backdrop.

Slightly different light.

And here's where they would go and what they would (kinda) look like on the house:

The builder will throw some up for us to see, hopefully this week!


  1. Oh thank goodness you're using Extra White. I was afraid you'd make the rookie mistake of going with just a regular amount of white.

    Seriously, though, I think I really dig your choices. Do you think they'll look more like the picture on the limestone or the picture on the wood? (I like the darker version better.)

    1. Don't know. The one with the wood was bright light, but mottled by the clouds. The one with the limestone was full-on sunlight. I took both photos with my iphone.

      My experience with color is that you don't really know what you have until you get it up on the wall...