What color should I paint my room? That is an age-old question and I think we can all agree that choosing paint colors for interiors can be a royal pain in the booty. Truly. I just put 14 samples on my bedroom wall. I speak from experience. So I thought it would be fun to start a series called, “Talking About Paint,” in which I feature a certain color and how it might be able to work for you. I’m kicking off the series with one of my all time favorites, Pale Oak by Benjamin Moore.
BENJAMIN MOORE PALE OAK
When we moved into our home, the walls were much darker. You can see the before pictures here. Part of why we fell in love with this home is all of the natural light. It get’s flooded with it during most of the day and I’ve always dreamt of really light walls. Many of you have asked me how I chose Pale Oak so I thought I’d walk you through that.
bathroom reveal | 10 questions to ask before a remodel | marble vs. quartz
I first used BM Pale Oak oc-20 in our previous primary bedroom and our children’s bathroom remodel. I had used it in three client’s homes prior to that and LOVED it. I knew when we moved into this house I wanted something neutral that read a very warm gray. I also knew I didn’t want to go completely white.
While I absolutely love white walls, we have high ceilings with a great deal of white cabinetry and woodwork. I wanted the walls to read a bit warmer with Pale Oak but still accomplish a neutral color palette. I get asked all the time about the color. Is it gray? Is it beige? Is it white? Is it off-white? Yes. It’s all of those. While it can appear beige in certain lights, I would call it a very warm pale gray. It does not tend to go on the cooler side. But much of how it looks depends on the light it reflects (more on that below).
more of this room (and dresser makeover)
Here you can see the warmth that Pale Oak brings to a space. This room has less natural light and if you look to the left corner of the photo, you’ll see it appears darker.
LIGHT REFLECTANCE VALUE
breakfast nook reveal | our home before we painted
If you have looked into paint you may have stumbled upon the LRV. The Light Reflectance Value is the why behind why you may be surprised that a freshly painted room looks lighter or darker than expected. It’s actually something that should be talked about more often and is a complicated animal but each paint has an LRV number.
Pale Oak comes in right about 70. White being on the end at 100 and black at 0. The higher the LRV, the more light it will reflect. You see the true color of paint when it is reflecting light. Having said that, you can paint two different rooms in your home the same exact color, but depending on the amount of light it receives, it will reflect differently. That is why some walls in our home look like a darker gray and in others it looks quite light. It’s not editing differences, it’s due to how much light the walls are reflecting.
If you have a particularly dark room, even the lightest LRV white paint may not brighten it up as much as you think because light is necessary to reflect off of it to show its true color. If you have a room that has huge windows opening up to a green space and use a paint with a high LRV, chances are you will see a hint of green reflected back. So an undertone may actually be a result of the surrounding colors.
Why do I mention this? It’s crucial to paint samples on ALL OF YOUR WALLS. No matter what, walls will look different due to the amount of light reflecting off the paint so you want to be sure you like each shade you see.
GREIGE PAINT COLOR
We gravitated towards Benjamin Moore Pale Oak because of its tendency to read greige. It’s warm and subtle and really pretty.
One of the main reasons I love a soft neutral color is because you can infuse any color you’re currently loving in your decor. Keeping the big pieces neutral allows you to swap out colors according to season or give the room a quick update.
WHAT IS A SIMILAR PAINT COLOR TO PALE OAK?
I created this reference for you because these are all great paints to sample if you are looking to lighten things up. It’s important to note that colors can read differently in all homes and all rooms. Be sure to try out the paint on enough of your walls and watch how it changes throughout the day. You want to love your paint morning, noon and night. The Magnolia line is the latest from Chip and Joanna and available online. I love both Edgecomb Gray and Revere Pewter.
Another example of this neutral paint color in a master bedroom. Pale Oak is definitely soothing and I especially love it in rooms that have a lot of natural light. Definitely a versatile neutral paint color.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, I do not know our trim color. It was the existing trim color when we moved in and we still can’t seem to figure it out. When we do, I will share. I do, however, recommend going with White Dove by Benjamin Moore.
Hope this helps as you navigate a new color. There is nothing better than a simple paint transformation.
I am planning on using Pale Oak when we repaint our interior. Great neutral.
I hope you love it as much as we do, Lauren. I can’t wait to see it lightened up. Hope you’re having a great week, my friend.
I am going to use Pale Oak soon in my entire house and am wondering if you used a flat finish for the walls or an eggshell?
I am wondering the same thing! Love this color.
We painted our guest room and entry way in Pale Oak in October and absolutely love it!! Our painters start in 2 weeks to do the rest of the house in Pale Oak. We owe you a huge thank you for introducing us to this color Courtney!
What color did you use for the wainscoting and doors? I love the idea for a regular paint segment!
Hi Courtney! I’m looking forward to this series — thanks for sharing with us! I love how Pale Oak reads in your space — it’s perfect!
Love your blog and style! Can you tell me what color you like for the trim with the Pale Oak?
I’m doing pale oak, with white dove trim.
How did the pale oak walls and white dove trim look? I am thinking about using the same.
Kathryn Nethers says
I used this combination last year and it was beautiful. We painted the paneling Pale Oak
Paint is one of the areas I get stuck on. Why is it so hard?
A series on paint, it’s undertones and what color ist works best with, would help me immensely in moving forward and painting my home.
I’m going to BM today to get a Pale Oak chip to try against fabrics in the room.
What color is the trim?
I love this color. At the moment I have this sample color painted on our bathroom wall but next to Swiss coffee trim and door, it doesn’t appear to stand out as much. I wonder if I need to use a brighter white color for the trim. What color trim did you used?
We used Foggy Day by Dunn Edwards which gives a similar hue.
What color did you decide on for your bedroom?
I might attempt to paint our master bedroom furniture. I haven’t fully decided to take the plunge b/c I’ve never done a project that big before. It would be 3 pieces. I hope you continue to talk about paint and I will keep it at the front of my mind to see what I decide.
Pale oak and agreeable grey are my two colors for all over living/kitchen I’m debating on! Thoughts on those 2 compared? Your pale oak is gorgeous!
I just painted my hallway and foyer pale oak. It reads different colors all day long but mostly violet….ugh!! Sometimes it is the perfect color but it clashes with my agreeable gray in my bedroom. I even changed my lightbulbs-it helped but I still see purple. Get a test board and sample it all through the day on different walls first. I am repainting my hallway tomorrow. I can’t stand it!
Oh no! That is such a bummer. I’ve totally been there so I feel your pain. Paint reads so different in different homes. I wouldn’t be ok with any violet undertone either. I have had that happen with so many whites that work for others. I tried over 12 in my room and none of them worked.
Good luck with finding one you love. Sounds like agreeable gray might be the way to go.
Lisa L Burnett says
Is the space lit by a north facing window. I just had a similar experience with a “perfect gray” (Filtered Shade by Valspar) turning pinkish and lavender. Looked fine in the late winter. When dark and gloomy outside. Then spring came and it got sunnier and omg .
Ugh. That is sooooo hard. Paint is the trickiest thing EVER.
sue d says
I am having same issue but Pale Oak looks like a baby bluish on two walls :(. It looks great on the other two
Same thing just happened to me! Inspired by Courtney’s house, decided to bite the bullet and do Pale Oak on our entire first floor. It’s definitely showing a pinkish/purple undertone. It looks beautiful in our front room which gets a lot of natural light. Paint colors are SO tricky!!
I have my guest room and hall bathroom painted in Sherwin Williams Agreeable Grey. I absolutely love it!! The trim is a bright white. It is a real greige color ( is it grey or beige?). The bedroom paint looks lighter because the room is flooded with light while the grey hue is a bit more predominant in the bath. I am redoing our master bath now and am looking for a cream color. Any suggestions?
Kellina Crews says
Same! I am using Pale Oak and Agreeable Gray throughout our home. I’ve heard Shoelace by Behr is a great white, I’m going to check that out for trim. Anyone used that color before?
I just painted my bedroom and master bath in pale oak. I love it! So elegant!
Another request for your white trim color!
Would love to know trim color
Nancy H Thomas says
We are in the process of painting our two guest bedrooms and I originally thought Pale Oak would work but unfortunately it did not due to the one small window in both rooms. Just not enought light. I went with Swiss Coffee instead and I love it. One room down, one more to go!
Peg Harsh says
May I please see pic of room with Swiss coffee? Thank you
Why do you think the Pale Oak doesn’t work in a room with little natural light? I want to paint my Family Room andv thinking of Pale Oak or White Sand, and live Agreeable Gray! However, my room gets very little natural sunlight, and it’s north facing. Any advice?
I just think it will appear much darker and so you may want to cut it by 25%. All of those are really pretty colors.
I love the pale oak, but what color is your trim?
Holly James says
Love the pale oak, also would like to know the trim color.
Cathy Norrie says
I am definitely going to try out Pale Oak in our new condo although it does not get as much light as you have. Did you use White Dove for your trim? I am adding my name to the many others who have asked the question “What colour did you use for the trim?”.
Thanks so much,
Cath – Not sure what Courtney used for trim, but I have Pale Oak with White Dove trim in a few rooms so far (multiple exposures) and they look fantastic together!
I love everything about your home, especially Pale Oak! Plan on using it in my home too – what Paint type and sheen do you use for the walls to get that gorgeous finish? Eggshell, Matte, Aura, Regal, etc. Thank you!
I’d love to know the finish too. We’re just about to embark on a full wall color makeover and I love this color.
We have Pale Oak in rooms with White Dove (OC-17) trim and ceilings, and it looks fantastic!
Jeanne G Quinn says
We have a 90’s home with all golden oak woodwork (ugh). I’m not sure my husband will agree to paint the woodwork white so I am wondering how the Pale Oak will look with the golden oak trim?
I have white trim with the pale oak, but golden oak flooring throughout. The pale oak looks amazing with the floors!
I am painting my cabinets white dove and walls will be pale oak. I hope it turns out okay. It’s so nerve wracking.
I love this oak color and have been looking all over for a grey/cream/beige and by your description and pictures it might be exactly what I am looking for! I also love your couch- I need to ask- is it comfortable enough to be the main sit and watch tv couch or is this better for a non sitting just looking room?
I am terrible at picking paint colours…but I somehow came across pale oak and fell in love…painted our upper floor and it has made a huge difference…but here’s my question….we are in the midst of finishing our basment….and I am already stressing about paint. Would it be totally silly to paint it pale oak as well…or what colour would be wonderful for a basement?
Hi Courtney –
Thank you for this post! I just moved into a new home and your makeover is giving me some serious inspiration – just beautiful! I love the Pale Oak color, what finish did you use? And also, do you have a white you recommend for the the trim & wainscotting?
Hi, Your house looks amazing! Can you tell me where you found that lovely coffee table? Thanks!
Susan Hasty says
What trim do you recommend with Pale Oak? Consdering Chantilly Lace and White Dove. Also, on paonted paneling what finish? The two rooms I plan to use it in both have little naturak light. Concerned that without the right finish and trim it will read lilac. HELP!
Looking forward to your answer.
I used BM Intense White trim paint with a Pale Oak walls. Looks absolutely perfect! We also painted the rock fireplace in White Dove. A softer look that blends well with Pale oak.
My designer chose Pale Oak for me with Simply White trim. I’ll be painting in the next month or so.
Courtney, I just saw the “In Skilled Hands” article from BH&G, July 2016. Is Pale Oak the same color used on the walls in this photo spread? I liked the color in the photos. Is it a grey tone?
Lynnea Walker says
I just did our Great room, dining nook, back hall and Master Bedroom in this color…it is perfect! Next year so will continue it through the rest of the home… Did accent colors in the 2 baths… and and back hall… it’s a perfect color … lovely. We had a lot of existing beige in the kitchen and it blends perfectly . My only negative is the beautiful color in our Master Bedroom makes the carpet look look even worse… lol! more projects
This is the combo I am considering as Simply White closely matches my new white kitchen cabinets. How did Pale Oak and Simply White work out?
Hi! We have cream colored trim. Which color would you recommend for cream trim, throughout the house? Thanks!
Beautiful. I painted my bedroom pale oak and love it. I am just not sure about the finish. Could you tell me the finish your walls are? Satin, flat, eggshell. Opal. Etc
Kathy Sargent says
We renovated our previous home and used matte Pale Oak for walls and White Dove for the trim and cathedral ceilings in semi-gloss in the mater bedroom. It looked fantastic!
Our basement is painted Pale Oak and we love it! Any suggestions for paint color for a bath that is attached to it? Something that pairs well with it. Thanks!
lehrfield jennifer says
i did seapearl (i think thats how you spell it) its a lighter white version related to pale oak.
Read the article and feel in love with the pictures. Didn’t read posts before painting. Pale oak does have a violet and sometimes a light blue hue depending on the lighting. I may not have purchased it. Gonna see if it grows on me.
Paint is soooo tricky. It truly looks different in every room/home. I don’t see the violet undertones in this home. I sure hope it works out for you.
Beautiful color. You inspired me to start painting my house interior Pale Oak. I truly love the color but my only question is, is it taboo to paint every room the same color? In your photos, it looks like several rooms are this color and it looks great, but I’ve seen articles online from designers saying you shouldn’t paint every room the same color. What are your thoughts? Should I stick with the color I like all over if I really love it or try to add more colors?
Jeanne Feenick says
Hi Courtney – do you have any experience/opinion of BM Barren Plain – worrying about the comments about purple hue – will try both, but appreciate your input. It will be for a shore home with light white oak wide plank flooring.
So sorry I do not. Always worth a try. It’s so crazy how all paint look different in different homes. Your floors sound gorgeous.
We painted our great room in edgecomb gray and love it. with simply white trim its gorgeous. Takes on different tone throughout the day. Nice warm greige!
Sounds gorgeous!!! Great combo.
Hello, Courtney! I would really love to know what color you used on the trim and doors with the Pale Oak. I know many others have asked, but I did not see your answer. 🙂
Sadly we do not know the trim. We did not repaint it after moving in. 🙁
I’m on the fence about this colour…..did a lot of searching and chips and finally went with Pale Oak. It doesn’t read violet or blue to me it looks like builder beige and I just bought 6 cans of it from Benjamin Moore. Lesson learned, going to do paint pot samples from now on. I actually wanted a violet undertone. The room is my living room dining room and I wanted to lighten it up from the Revere Pewter that has been there 10+ years. Now it looks even darker and dingy. I wonder if I can have the paint store add something to these 6 cans to brighten it and grey it up a bit?
Oh goodness! I am always an advocate of trying paint in every room and home. They all read differently depending on exposure and light. I bet you could have them cut it by 50%. Maybe ask??? I don’t have experience with having it done after but it’s worth finding out. I sure hope you find something you love.
You should go with Balboa Mist, it is similar to Pale Oak but has a violet undertone.
Love Balboa Mist. Great suggetion.
Brittany Jackson says
I used Pale Oak in the majority of my 2 story home. It is GORG! Pale Oak (matte) formal living, foyer, family room, breakfast nook, master bedroom, and upstairs common area; with SW Pure White ceilings (flat) and trim (satin). Pale Oak dining room with SW Storm Cloud accent ceiling, and pure white trim….with a stunning rose/copper chandelier to boot! I also carried the Storm Cloud to an accent wall in my family room bc I loved it SO much. It makes the space look really, really cozy and airy all at the same time. My downstairs powder room is SW Incredible White, as is my upstairs guest bath with Pure White ceilings and trim. There is Pure White wainscoting in the guest bath, too. Master bathroom is SW Sea Salt with SW Storm Cloud toilet room, and Pure White ceilings/trim in there as well. My office is SW Functional Grey with Repose Grey cabinetry and SW Black Fox desk/countertops bc it is a HUGE space and I needed to cozy it up. The playroom is Repose Grey with Pure White ceilings, trim and wainscoting. Pretty happy with how it all came together!
Brittany- Your house sounds like it’s beautiful!!
Jeanne Feenick says
Hi there, I have Benjamin Moore bone white in entry and hallway of my home, need to paint two bedrooms that will adjoin that hall. Could you see Pale Oak or do you have another suggestion that will work with the view of bone white leading to it. Really appreciate your input.
Did you lighten the pale oak? It looks so much lighter than the sample chip. I love how it looks in you home. Thanks!
We did not and the first wall it went on it looked much darker. I almost stopped. Something about getting it all up and the natural light. You may want to try at full strength as well as 50% strength. It all depends on how much natural light your rooms receive. Makes a huge difference.
Thank you for putting together this post. Your home is beautiful, I love everything about it!
We are hoping Pale Oak works for us, getting a sample today!
I hope you loved!
Thank you so much for talking about Pale Oak. It took me four month to decide on a color for our new addition and the rest of the house. This was the last color of many that I tried. When I first put it on it was more beige and I started to panic. After it dried, beautiful!! I have had many friend ask for the color. Thank you again
You are so welcome. Same thing happened in this house. I put a small patch up and it looked so dark but once all over I loved.
How do you think pale oak would look on kitchen and dining walls with Swiss coffee cabinets and island? Or vise verse?
Absolutely beautiful. Always test it in your own light, though.
Cynthia A Dolce says
I may have missed it, but what finish did you use? Is it flat? Thanks
we used velvet (much like eggshell)
We just purchased a home that have kitchen cabinets painted in Pale Oak. I can’t say I love it but since they were in such good condition I decided to leave it for now. The walls were dark chocolate brown, again, not my taste. I had a difficult time trying to find a paint color that paired well with Pale Oak so I decided to paint the walls in Pale Oak, matte finish. The room now looks very fresh!
Jessica M says
Where did you get the blue couch from?
Very lucky HomeGoods find.