As an interior designer and colour consultant, one of the most common suggestions I hear from clients is, “what if we just paint the walls white”?
While it might seem like a simple request, if you’ve ever stood in front of the 100+ white paint options at your local paint shop, you’ll understand how challenging choosing the perfect white paint can be.
So how do you choose the right shade of white?
While I’d love to give you a simple, go-to, magic-wand formula for choosing the perfect white paint, there’s no one-size-fits-all equation.
So to give you a helping hand (and the best chance of success), I’m sharing my top tips for picking the right shade of white for your project. You’ll be able to distinguish between white half-dune and vivid white in no time.
First things first – let’s get familiar with warm & cool tones.
Understanding the difference between cool and warm whites is essential in choosing the right paint colour for your project.
What are warm whites?
Warm white typically carries a subtle pink, yellow or peach undertone. As the name suggests, these whites add warmth to a space, making them ideal for darker rooms that lack natural light or sunshine.
What are cool whites?
Cool whites tend to carry blue or grey undertones. They’re fresh, crisp, and refreshing, working perfectly in well-lit modern homes, particularly coastal ones.
Five tips for finding your perfect white paint
Use a warmer white if you need to add warmth to a room. In contrast, a cool white with blue or grey undertones works well in well-lit rooms to soften bright yellow light. They’re perfect for creating a crisp, minimal and modern feel. While warmer whites lend themselves to cosier spaces with warm-toned furniture.
Consider your lighting
Lighting can affect how the white appears. Think about the amount of natural light entering each room. If you don’t have much light to play with, you might choose a warmer white to bring a sense of warmth and cosiness to the room. In contrast, if you have ample natural light, you may select a cool white with blue undertones to neutralise the bright sunlight.
Determine the room’s function
Think about how you want to feel in each space and the purpose of each room. You may opt for a cosy warm white paint if you want a relaxing feel. While cool whites are better for functional spaces like offices, kitchens and bathrooms designed to invigorate.
While there are undertones to consider, paint texture is just as important. A glossy finish will reflect light, while a matte finish tends to absorb light. Choose a matte finish if you have a super bright room you’d like to neutralise.
Samples. Samples. Samples.
Once you know whether cool or warm undertones work best with your space, it’s time to choose a small selection of whites and test them in real life. Head to your local paint store and ask for some sample pots to play with. Either paint a small amount on the walls or board and see how the colour works with the lighting, furniture and functionality.
When in doubt, choose a neutral white
Again there’s no one-size-fits-all. However, stick with neutral whites if you’re looking for a fool-proof option that works with almost any lighting and room. Here are my top recommendations:
A well-lit living room with white, blue and grey furnishings: Choose a cooler white with a matte finish
- A warm white in this room may look dirty against the cooler-toned furniture, and a glossy finish may reflect too much light.
A small dark kitchen with a golden sink and tapware: Choose a warmer tones with a glossy finish
- A cooler tone with a matte finish may make the room seem even darker. Whereas a warmer glossy white will brighten the space and complement the warmth of the tapware.