An addendum: Pictures! – Benjamin Moore Sail Cloth Paint and Minwax Special Walnut

May 4, 2010

So the 1439 project is over, but every day there are hits on this website from people searching for pictures and images of Benjamin Moore’s “sail cloth” (or “sailcloth”) paint color.  There are an equal number of hits from people looking for pictures of Minwax floor stain in “special walnut.” To help all of the google searchers out there, here is some information on both…

Paint: BM markets Sail Cloth as an exterior color, but I used it as an interior color and it works beautifully.  It looks a bit bland on the paint chip, but it comes up as the perfect neutral taupe.  I highly recommend it and it’s pretty much going to be my go-to color now for any future projects.  Enormous thumbs up.

Floor Stain: The vintage floors here are red oak.  (Note: if you are renovating a vintage Chicago apartment from the 1930’s and you’re not sure what kind of original wood flooring you might be working with, it’s almost certainly red oak.)  Special Walnut came up very nicely when it came time to stain the floors and I’m happy with it.  Dark, but not too dark.  Warm, without being too red.  It’s a solid choice.  Final note, we applied a satin finish.  The alternative was semi-gloss, which I was assured was also lovely, but satin won out in the end and I don’t regret it.

Here are good clean pictures of what “sail cloth” looks like up on the walls, and “special walnut” looks like down on the floors.  These pictures are a good indication of how these finishes appear in reality.

BM Sail Cloth paint color with Minwax "Special Walnut".

Benjamin Moore Sail Cloth (Sailcloth) Paint Color / Minwax "Special Walnut" floor stain

The same scheme in better light.

So for all of the google searchers who found their way here….I hope this helps with your decision making process.  If you want to leave a comment, please do, I’d love to hear about the various projects out there.



  1. I loved your pictures…we are in the middle of choosing our flooring…white oak or red… and the colour stain…provincial or special walnut??? as well as the width..can you tell me how wide your floors are?

  2. The width of the boards in this project are about 2 inches wide. They are the original floors that were put in during the 1930’s. They look great, but if I was laying brand new boards I’d go with a wider plank for a more contemporary look. Red oak is a winner, as is Special Walnut. Provincial is also a solid choice though – they are fairly similar.

  3. I was leaning towards early american, but since seeing your pictures I am now leaning towards special walnut, do you find the colour looks washed out? How do you think it will fare with dust and pet hair, I have 3 kids 2 cats and a dog!!!!
    Also I love the wall colour, I may just have picked the colour of my family room walls :)

  4. Special Walnut may be a great choice for you – it’s pretty much universally “liked.” The floors were originally a yellowish natural color and I wanted to go with a darker color to update the look. I looked briefly at Dark Walnut, but I read online that this does show every bit of pet hair and dust, so I went with the lighter route out of that concern. Special Walnut is a great “middle ground” choice. Dark enough to be interesting, light enough not to cause problems.

    As for the paint color, I’ve seen that color now used in two different homes and it’s a winner.

  5. Bonjour, Polite to yoke you, I am Julia

  6. Thank you for putting these pictures up showing the floors with the paint colors help ALOT! Being that we are looking to paint similar colors. We are staining our floors today and its been a tough decision to make. We wanted darker floors but I was fearful to go to dark or too red, so we choose “Special Walnut” I hope its dark enough for us. I will let you know!

  7. I hope it turns out well for you, glad to know these pictures helped. good luck.

  8. Yup, just as you suspected I stumbled upon you while trying to identify a paint can in my basement to see if it would work in our new house. Love the color! … although I really don’t know how the paint can got there.

  9. What color white did you use for your trim? We are thinking about sail cloth for accents with a different color on our walls. We are also considering sail cloth for our base and case moldings, but I’m not sure it will be “white” enough. We also have select red oak and are thinking of going with a natural clear finish w/no stain.

    • The white was a semi-gloss that the contractor chose, I’m fairly sure it was just a standard interior pre-mixed white that he bought straight off the shelf. I know for sure that he got it at Home Depot. Regarding your concern that the sail cloth color won’t be ‘white’ enough – unless you’re pairing it with a really deep wall color, it won’t look white at all, sail cloth is definitely more of a light taupe.

  10. Anne, I was just thinking I should thank you for posting your pictures, and here you have the perfect post for doing just that! I’ve had your paint post bookmarked for quite a while now, and after buying a test sample, I’m finally ready to commit to Sail Cloth as my living room wall color. It has just the right amount of depth and warmth. Without your pictures for inspiration, I doubt I would have gone back to it time and time again. Of course, it helps that the entire apartment was gorgeous, and who wouldn’t want to emulate such a home? Thanks again for sharing!!

    • Jessica, so glad it helped you, I hope your living room turned out great. Sailcloth is the secret weapon in my own personal decorating world, and I’m very happy to share the love.

  11. Hi Anne,
    I also used the Sail Cloth color in my living room (and other rooms) many years ago. I still love it because it is a beige with a lot of grey in it. I am re-painting and I lost the old cans. I don’t remember whether I used exterior paint (flat) or interior paint. My question is: did you get exterior paint or interior paint in that color? Also, I am thinking about the Matte finish for the paint. What are your thoughts about that? Also, do you think your trim white color is more like pure white with no tint in it? I used more of a creamy, off-white for the trim and it seems to have changed color and “taken on” the sail cloth or wall paint color over time.

  12. Hi Amy, the contractor was in charge of buying the paint and he actually just took the Benjamin-Moore paint chip to Home Depot, where they use Behr paint, and had them match it. So it was just a color-matched interior paint. I tend to stay away from matte paint on the walls b/c it’s harder to clean and doesn’t have the slight sheen I prefer. I always go with an eggshell or pearl finish, but overall it’s really just a personal choice.

    The white trim is a pure white and it was a Home Depot ready-mixed white interior semi-gloss. It’s possibly to actually lose your mind choosing whites, so I gave up long ago and trust in the ready-mixed usually.

  13. We are having all of the red oak floor in our house refinished on the main floor (about 1400 sq. ft.), after replacing about 235 sq. ft. of wood, due to sewer backup. Please advise if your floors were stained with full strength Special Walnut stain and not cut in any way. Last week our floor refinisher put down 5 test samples (1 ft x 1ft) of Special Wanut stain on our red oak floors for us to make a decision–from full strength to 4 others cut with different percentages of paint thinner. My wife and I initially chose the lightest sample of the five with one being full strength – with one of the refinishers strongly suggesting the lighter one. He and others have told us dark stains will show everything on the floor – no pets, just wife and I. When the lightest stain was put under the refrigerator, it appeared to be too light. So I told the refinisher on Friday after the rough sanding and buffing was done. So to humor me, he put down larger samples (2 ft x 2ft) in 3 different parts of the house with different lighting and gave us the weekend to decide. He has been refinishing floors for 24 years, comes hightly recommended and does most of the new wood floors for a couple of long established carpet/flooring companies, one of which also installed the new wood. He did not put down the 2 darkest stains, as we had originally thought those would definitely be too dark. I really like the looks of your floors and if they could duplicate the look, I think I would be happy. The refinisher looked at the photos you posted above and he said the lightest color he used under the fridge is the same as in the first photo. Your second photo looks much darker, but lighting probable explains that. I have not looked at other colors of stain and may live to regret that decision. Initially, he said we had special walnut on our floors for last 26 years and that many of his customers have been happy with this color –although looking at sample in foyer vs. steps to upstairs is very different (26 yrs. old stairs). He wants $500 to refinish 13 steps, so undecided on refinishing them. It is really hard to look at small test samples on the floor and even looking at photos on Internet to make such an important decision. However,they are coming tomorrow morn to get up sample stains and put down the final stain. They are already behind schedule and if I said to put down some more samples of other colors, bad karma could result. Your thoughts would be much appreciated ASAP. Thanks.

    • Hi, you’re correct, the floors in the two pictures above have the same stain, the only difference is the lighting. The true color of the floor is most similar to the lighter color in the top picture. It’s true that darker floors show more dust, but that would be more of a problem with the really dark stains. A reasonably clean home with no pets shouldn’t be a problem.

      You asked if we used the full-strength stain in Special Walnut. I am 99.9% sure the answer is yes, but I wasn’t there when the contractor did the floors. He could have cut the stain, but I have no reason to believe he did. The finished floor matched the sample.

      As far as dark stains go this is really a middle-ground. My contractor actually recommended I go darker, and I chickened out. This choice felt safer. Now that the floors are done I do sense that I actually could have gone one step darker, it was a tiny bit lighter than I’d anticipated, but the floors are gorgeous and I haven’t regretted the stain choice.

      The other thing you’re going to need to choose is the finish – either a semi-gloss or satin. These floors are satin, again, happy with how they turned out. Good luck with your project.

  14. I’m testing special walnut tomorrow on a Hyde Park vintage. Thanks for your post. The Dark minwax colors all looked too dark on red oak.

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  16. Do you know what the paint color is?

  17. Painter will be here at 7 am. Pant samples all over my walls. I have narrowed it down to sail cloth, but can’t sleep thinking it is a little to dark😩

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