5 Tips to Choosing the White Shade that Works Best for Your Room

The decision to paint your walls white is easy, but finding the right shade of white can be a challenge.

Most paint brands offer a variety of white paint options to choose from, and some larger brands may have dozens of options. 

Snowbound, Pure White, and Oxford White, among hundreds of other shades of white paint, could lead an indecisive soul to spend hours trying to decide. 

Besides the fact that white looks good with anything, there are lots of great reasons why people pick white. But despite its popularity, white paint is not a “one size fits all” solution.

Read on for a quick guide to finding the perfect white paint for your space.

How to Pick White Paint Colors

1. Understand undertones

The undertone of white paint can vary from blue to red to yellow and even green, each of which will influence the look of your finished room.

In order to see the different nuances of the whites you’re looking at, choose the paint samples that look interesting to you and compare them side by side with a sheet of white printer paper.

Each color will reveal its complexity to you.

Start by asking yourself: Do you want your home to feel warm or do you want it to feel cool?

Cool whites tend to have a blue undertone; warm whites tend to be yellow. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is mixing cool and warm whites. 

It’s common to see a room with lots of white but not be able to pinpoint why it feels off. This is because many rooms blend both warm and cool white tones.

When you mix whites with different undertones, the vibe of your room feels a little off. That’s why it’s important to maintain the same undertone throughout.

From flooring to backsplashes to window treatments, choose a white with a cool or warm undertone. Consistent undertones create an attractive, cohesive atmosphere, while mismatched undertones may appear amateurish or out of place.

2. Consider Natural Light and Direction

White is not advisable in a north-facing room or a room that receives no natural light, such as a little powder room. In such a room, a cool white may appear drab, and a warm white could look dingy.

Rooms facing the other three directions, East, West and South, work well with either cool, warm or pure white, as long as there is plenty of natural light.

3. Choose a White That Fits Your Space

the White Shade that Works Best for Your Room
Photo by Max Vakhtbovych from Pexels

Look at the design of your home first before choosing a white. In a modern home, a pure white may hold up well, but in others, not so much.

For example, in a Tuscan-style house, choosing an “art gallery white” will look blue since there’s such a high contrast between the earthy undertone of Tuscan travertine and basic white.

Instead of getting a “fresh look”, you’ll end up with something that looks like unpainted primer.

Assess the palette of everything that will be in the room before selecting a paint color. 

How warm or cool are the colors?” If they are warm, choose whites with warm undertones (pink, orange, red, yellow). But if they’re cool, go with whites that have undertones of blue, purple or green.

If the furnishings are neutral, a warmer white would be a great choice, but if there’s a lot of color, opt for a cooler white.

Be aware that your furnishings will influence how you see any paint. A warm white can sometimes be a function of the entire room, not just the paint.

Don’t forget the outside. If your big picture windows overlook lots of trees, expect some of that greenery to spill back into your room. 

If you opt for a white with cool undertones, it can be easy to create a room that feels antiseptic. To avoid this, add a touch of gray to warm things up just a bit.

4. Pay attention to how white makes you feel

Prior to choosing what seems to be the perfect match, consider the feelings a color will evoke and its physiological effects. If you select the purest white, be aware that it may cause eye strain or even headaches.

5. Consider Taupe and Greige

And finally, if you simply can’t decide on a particular shade of white, consider another option…taupe or greige.

In warmer environments, the palest taupes and greiges can bring that same element of freshness, warmth, and brightness as white, especially if the upholstery or surface finishes have warm undertones.

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