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Benjamin Moore Willow - A Paint Colour With a Dual Personality

Posted by: Heidi Nyline

I stood in the powder room at a neighbour's house in South Surrey and stared at the paint colour on the walls. It was dark and sultry and a bit sexy in the perfectly dimmed lights for a cocktail party. I had to know what this colour was.

Some homeowners, when you ask them about the colours on their walls, give you a perplexed look that says "paint colours have names other than brown or dark brown?" At best they will suggest there might be some old cans in the garage.

Then there are the homeowners that know every colour in their home by name, brand and finish. This was definitely one of those homeowners.

I was not prepared for her confident, "don't ya just love it?" answer though. It was Benjamin Moore Willow (CC-542).


Benjamin Moore Willow CC-542

Benjamin Moore Willow (CC-542) is from the Designer Colour Collection. And designers love this colour. They rave about the rich, sultry look of this colour and how well it pairs with neutrals and even brilliant brighter colours. Don't get me wrong, it is rich and sultry and does all of those things. But Willow, for all its interior divineness, as an exterior colour has caused me angst.

No.6 - Benjamin Moore Willow CC-542 Source: Style at Home

When I first saw the above picture, I knew I could explain it in a blog. See that lovely number 6? That's Willow (CC-542). But notice the undertone in it? Compared it number 7 and 8, you can really see the purple undertones in that colour. It's why it works so well as a deep, rich, sultry interior colour.

As an exterior colour though, against the wrong siding or exposure, this rich brown can read purple. And you know what I think about purple houses.

This summer I used this colour on two houses as a trim colour. In the first one below, with a Southern facing home Willow really helped anchor the house. The columns were originally off-white and didn't relate to anything else on the house. Combined with the fabulous orange front door (Benjamin Moore Buttered Yam AF-230) and the Manchester Tan vinyl siding, Willow works perfectly well.

An exterior house painted by Warline in Surrey, BC this year.

In the second case, I was dealing with a heavily stoned rancher that faced West. There was a lot of bossy orange ledge stone on this house with a large dark purply stone scattered throughout it. Willow was a good choice to work with the stone but there was a problem. The gutter colour on this house was a red brown. I did some checking and I am pretty sure it is a standard gutter colour called Mansard Brown. Of course, when I sampled Willow, I sampled it against the stone and the siding colour but I didn't sample it against the gutters. Guess what? Those reddy brown gutters made the fascia boards freshly painted in Willow look purple.
The solution? Paint the gutters to match the fascia. But I could have avoided the problem by sampling the trim colour against the gutters (the downspouts would have been a ladder free way to do this). I might have spec'd something like Benjamin Moore Dragon's Breath (1547).

So here are my two pieces of advice when using Willow as an exterior colour. One: be aware of the exposure and fixed features that can impact how this colour will read. Two: sample this colour in a large way at at least two different facing exposures and look at it at different times of the day and in different light. Oh, and don't make the mistake I did. Sample it against the gutters.

Don't just assume Willow is a dark brown and will work where ever you need a dark brown trim. This is a complex colour. Like a good wine, it needs to be paired well.

Posted by: Shelly
I am having a terrible time choosing a deck floor color that will work with my trim and cedar shakes colors. My cedar shakes color is Benjamin Moore Meditation and the trim/support beams is Benjamin Moore Dragon's Breath. Any recommendations? Thanks for your help


Hi Shelly,

Will it make you feel better to know that I find it tough to choose deck colours too? If you are doing a solid stain, go for matching it to the Dragon's Breath. If you are doing a semi transparent, go similar to your cedar colour. I take the approach that a deck is an extension of your home so you want it to tie into the colours of your house and not look like an add on.

Good luck with your choices.

Posted by: amy
Can you tell me what color #8 is in the picture?? Looks like just what I''ve been looking for!


Hi Amy, The colour you love is one of my very favourite colours, Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal HC-166.

Posted by: Krysteine
Always love to read your posts!

Thanks Krys. 

Posted by: Maria Killam
Great post Heidi!

Thanks Maria :)

Posted by: Kristie@thedecorologist
Heidi - What a great post. Thank you for the warning about Willow. I have spec'd Dragon's Breath on trim before myself, and really liked the result. Gotta keep an eye out for those crazy undertones!

So glad I could help Kristie. I think Dragon's Breath is going to be my alternative to Willow when I am concerned about the undertones coming through.

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