We associate the color we call "cream" with warm things, or at least with things that make us feel warm inside. It's an old-fashioned color - think of fresh cream spooned from the top of a bottle of milk, or a creamy milkshake made with real vanilla ice cream. You can see how warm the color cream is if you think of the bright white of a fresh snowfall, then temper that shade by thinking of how that snow would look with just a spoonful of maple syrup drizzled on top.

Where white is fresh and crisp and bright, cream has just a slight tinge of yellowish brown stirred in, softening the harshness that's often seen in pure white. All the sense of cold that we sometimes see in pure white disappears.

Used on a wall, a cream can gentle a room's sharp edges, because it throws back a little less light than a pure white does. If you paint a whole room cream, with trim in a color with the same tones, you'll gain the illusion of enlarging the room without suffering the brightness of a room painted white.

Cream can be the perfect color to use as a counterpoint to walls painted a rich, deep color. For example, in this photo you see one wall painted a dark raspberry. If each wall in this room were painted this color, you'd feel as if you were confined in a tight little box, albeit a box of a pretty color.

By painting two opposing walls cream, and two raspberry, the owner of this home has created a room that's abloom in color, without allowing the color to become overwhelming. The cream tones down the heat of the raspberry, warming it in a way that pure white wouldn't be able to. You can see here how cream adds a warmer tone to a room than white does. Once again, think of how the colors you're using work in the natural world. What's more appealing for a springtime dessert than a bowl of raspberries drenched in heavy cream?

Cream is also a good choice for accents, because some of the light is absorbed by the yellow and brown tones in the cream, so a smaller piece in cream doesn't stand out quite as distinctly as one in white. A pure white accent piece, whether it's a throw tossed artfully over a chair or the background of a floral print cushion, will arrest the viewer's attention, whereas an accessory in cream works more gradually on the viewer. There's nothing wrong with using pure white, as long as your intention is to really call attention to the accessory. But if you want to use accessories that blend in with the whole mood of a room, choose cream.

Cream is a shade that will warm and soften any room, allowing you to play other colors off one another to achieve a harmonious whole.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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