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Picking an exterior paint color

Who here loves paint? Do you love staring at all the different colors selections at you local paint store? Buying a gazillion samples? Agonizing over making a selection while your husband rolls his eyes and tells you that they all look the same?  Do you love talking – in detail – about extremely subtle differences in various shades of white paint?

Me too. So let’s find an exterior paint color for the new house, shall we?

First, a disclaimer. The sun hasn’t come out in what feels like weeks, so the colors are a little dull and not white looking. Also, the yellow primer on the hardie board is throwing them a bit. And lastly, you can’t trust your computer monitor when it comes to choosing a paint color. Isn’t this fun?!?

So here are the contestants –

light neutral exterior paint colors

The color I choose will be going on the board and batten (which wraps around to the back of the house) and on the entire garage (which isn’t pictured below, but it’s attached to the breezeway). Front of House

Agreeable Gray

A greige (combo of gray and beige) that everyone seems to love. I keep seeing people sing its praises online, but to me it looks purple.

Picking a white exterior paint color

Okay, so not so much in the computer sample, but on the wall? Purple.

Agreeable Gray swatch



Perfect bright creamy white, similar (if not identical) to Benjamin Moore White Dove. It is likely that this will be the trim color for the inside of the house.

Picking a white exterior paint color
It doesn’t look white in that sample, but trust me…it’s a bright white.
Alabaster paint swatch


Ancient Marble

Greenish white. A very nice color, but not for the outside of the house.

Picking a white exterior paint color


Ancient Marble paint swatch


This is the only non Sherwin Williams sample in the bunch. My sister-in-law choose it as her interior house color, and I jacked her sample because I liked it.

Picking a white exterior paint color
Halo paint swatch


Oyster White

A warm white greige. I really like this one.

Picking a white exterior paint color
Oyster White paint swatch

Shoji White

A white with a slight warm gray undertone, extremely similar to oyster white, but lighter. Also really like this one.

Picking a white exterior paint color
This just proves you should never pick colors based on what you see online, because that sample looks straight up tan. Here it is on the wall.
Shoji White paint swatch


Useful Gray

A warm gray with subtle green undertones.

How to pick an exterior paint color

 Of course, against the yellow wall it goes purple. I probably should have painted this section pure white and then put my samples up.

Useful Gray paint swatch


Wool Skein

A light greige, emphasis on the “eige”. Adam wants me to pick this one just because he likes to smoosh the two words together and yell them in a thick german accent. “WOOLSKEIN!”

Picking a white exterior paint color
Is a great color, but too dark for what I’m looking for.
 Wool Skein paint swatch

Zurich White

White with the tiniest amount of color.

Picking a white exterior paint color

I thought I liked this one the best on the paint chip, but in person it has a slight pink undertone. Not a fan of those.

Zurich White paint swatch


I have to pick a color before the stone goes up, but picking a color that is supposed to complement the stone without actually seeing the stone is next to impossible. Here is a picture of the stone we are getting (yes, it’s been picked!)

sisterdale top rock

Do I want a creamy white that will match/blend in with the stone, or something bright that will differentiate itself? I definitely don’t want the siding color to be darker/dirtier than the stone, but I also don’t want it to look stark and ridiculous. But really, can any of these colors look ridiculous? I mean, we’re talking shades of white, here….it’s not all that risky.

Anyway, I took my four favorite samples and painted them in another area of the house, next to the clay colored windows.

what is the best white to paint your house

After studying them for a while I called my husband over, fully expecting him to make fun of me and ask if they are different colors. But he stared at them for an appropriate amount of time, numbered them from his favorite to his least favorite, and said why. Man it was sexy. He said Shoji White is his favorite, Zurich second, and that Oyster White is too dark and Alabaster is too bright.

I think I agree. I like Shoji and Zurich, but Zurich is still throwing me a pink undertone. I want to paint a bigger section of Shoji in the sunlight just to make sure, but I think we have a winner!

Also, I perused Houzz and found a few houses with Shoji White exteriors.

best white exterior paint color


best white exterior paint color


best white exterior paint color


best white exterior paint color
best white exterior paint color
Here is Shoji White as an interior color. It’s the darker color (paint always looks so much lighter outside than in).
Shoji White
I think I like it, especially with whiter trim. It gives you the clean white interior look without feeling sterile and cold. I may just paint my inside the same color.

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  1. Gee, that WAS fun! (Oddly). I totally agree… the Shoji is a winner, and the Zurich definitely has a pink undertone, even on the computer screen. So, tell us… did you jump your husband after that very sexy response…? :P

  2. I’m shocked by how purple the Agreeable Gray looks, especially as I’m staring at it on my walls right now! During the day it looks gray and and night it’s perfectly beige. Such an odd color! I think the Shoji White exterior inspiration photos are all quite beautiful. If you’re looking for a great “true” white, I’d recommend Crumb Cookie by Olympic. We just painted our picket fence with it and it’s beautiful and crisp.
    Can’t wait to see the finished result!

  3. I used to think that white was all the same. Ha!
    I agree with the choice you guys made, I also chose that one first. With the slight creaminess of the colour, I think it should go really nicely with the limestone. It’s going to be so pretty!

  4. It never ceases to amaze me how hard it is to pick paint colors! I used to hate the process until I started doing it like this, pick a bunch and go by a process of elimination. I wold have picked the Shoji too, it’s a really lovely colour, I think it will look great with the stone, which is aMAZing by the way :)

  5. Our realtor has his clients (or his own flips) painted Navajo white inside with a brighter white trim. Not stark, not weird. Works with all decor. In fact, we left the house that way when we bought it. No desire to paint, and so glad it was a nice neutral when we got it.

  6. Hmmm would shoji white be a good exterior trim color? I put up pure white and extra white from Sherwin Williams and wow they are bright, too bright for an exterior trim I think. Trying to pick an exterior paint color scheme has been the hardest for me!

  7. I think I am going insane! I have been trying to find the right white for my kitchen cupboards AND the front bedroom which we have renovated. I’ve bought 15 million pots of paint, painted boards and moved them about the house, driven everyone mad with my, “I’m not sure I like this one…..” comments and generally lost my mind. I LOVE Alabaster by Resene paints. Which is a bright white but has warmth BUT then the light changes in our stupid spring nearly summer season (one minute wintery then the next full on need to put on my sunglasses ) THEN to make my brain implode even more so, I went to the local garden nursery and couldn’t decide on Shoji White Azalea or the White Shiko Azalea. I went the White Shiko Azealea but now I wish I went for the Shoji White! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!!
    So in a sentence, I commiserate.
    PS Who knew an azalea had the same name as your paint sample? Bwweelley bwwelly That’s all folks!

  8. Ashley, this is possibly my favorite of all your posts. I loved your process and analysis. Plus, I learned so much about the different types of white. Although I do not see the pink cast that you see in the Zurich, I absolutely appreciate your assessment of the colors as you see them. Thank you for sharing this is detail with us! You are an invaluable resource for so many DIYers out here.

  9. I like the warm whites that you chose. Because I am a warm color person, I decided to find a white I could live with and use that for my go to white. That turns out to be “Linen” at Ace Hardware. Looks good in any light and any finish. Thanks for sharing this. It’s so amazing to see all the tones in the different whites.

  10. I love the way that you write and always have beutiful illustrations to support what you love about something for example the shoji white paint that you and your husband both loved.by the way that was the same color i came up with too before i read on . well keep it up,your great at what you do!!

  11. After agonizing for weeks about an exterior white, I came across your blog and was saved! We used Shoji White on our house and we absolutely love it. Thank you so much for sharing the wisdom you gained from your experiences.

  12. I love the Shoji white! I’m in between that colt for the exterior of our house or the color your friends Jody and Darrin used. Completely different spectrum I know. Do you happen to know the exterior paint color they used on their board and batten?

  13. I’m sure you selected a great color, but Zurich White does not have the faintest hint of pink. In fact, it has a slight green-grey cast which becomes a non-factor when everything is painted. I just used it for a cedar shingle and brick ranch-style home. In contrast to the whites in the neighborhood that have a slight dirty or drab appearance, Zurich is lively, bright but not glaring, and most importantly clean and fresh with little hint of base coloration. I would be the first to say it is not for every house, but it is beautiful on this one.

    One problem I see with your samples for the exterior is painting them on a non-neutral background. They are better painted on individual poster or foam core boards so they can be moved about in various situations outside.

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