Deciding on the best white paint for a room feels like it should be an easy task, but once you start researching, you quickly realize that there are hundreds of white shades to pick from.
White is a timeless option, yet choosing the right shade of white for a room can actually be a minefield because there is such a range of cool to warm whites. Get it right, and you’ll have a bright and fresh blank canvas against which to showcase all of your furniture and accessories.
So where to start? We asked five experts from the world of paint to give us their top tips on how to choose the ultimate shade of white.
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1. Check your white against a pure white to judge its tones
Joa Studholme, Colour Curator at Farrow & Ball (opens in new tab) shares her expertise on the nuances of sourcing the right shade, ‘Choose your white depending on whether you want a subtle, muted feel or a fresh, graphic scheme. The best way to "read" a white is by putting a pure white like magical All White (opens in new tab) behind it so you see the underlying color. It is impossible to judge the color bias without this contrast.
'White can indeed be dramatic if it is used in a very single-minded way on both walls and woodwork or if it is contrasted with a really dark tone like Railings (opens in new tab). White full gloss on walls or ceilings creates a really strong statement which is right on trend.
'The cooler whites like Wevet (opens in new tab), Blackened (opens in new tab) and Strong White (opens in new tab) pack more of a punch than the warmer tones which are designed to soften spaces. Red- and yellow-based whites like Dimity (opens in new tab) and White Tie (opens in new tab) are always deemed to be gentler and pretty, so are often popular in bedrooms, while simple Pointing (opens in new tab) and Wimborne White (opens in new tab) never fail in kitchens, which most people want to be the lightest space in their house.’
2. Test your white paint against all light levels
‘The wrong white can look stark, drab or can have undertones that simply don't work with your chosen wall color,’ says Helen Shaw, UK Director at Benjamin Moore (opens in new tab). ‘It’s also important to understand how the appearance of colors tends to shift throughout the day with the changing tones in natural daylight, as well as with different artificial light sources.
'White paint colors are especially prone to taking on different tonalities from morning to evening. Be sure to test your color out before taking the plunge. Our US pint-size tester pots are deliberately large – it means you can paint a large area out on several walls (or on some lining paper) and check the color at different times of day, in different weather conditions and with your particular artificial lighting, too.’
- See: Decorating with white – pure, fresh and oh-so sophisticated ideas
3. Don't assume one white paint suits all your rooms
Marianne Shillingford, Creative Director at Dulux (opens in new tab) gives us her expert knowledge, ‘White is one of the most popular colors in the world and so it’s no wonder there are so many to choose from. The simplest white of all is just called White and you can buy it at all DIY stores. If you want your simple white crisp and zingy, opt for Pure Brilliant White (opens in new tab) or Absolute White (opens in new tab).
'The best advice on finding the perfect white is to remember that the same white will look different in other rooms and so you may have to choose more than one if you want white throughout your home.’
4. Check the room's orientation to judge its warmth
‘There are no rules when it comes to white paint,’ counters Jane Ryder, European Marketing Director at Valspar (opens in new tab). ‘White is an incredibly versatile color, perfect for any room – you can pair it with literally any other color for a fresh but striking aesthetic.
'When you think of white paint you probably think of a brilliant, bright shade, but the truth is there are so many different hues that you’ll be spoilt for choice.
'For lighter, south-facing rooms, cooler white hues such as Fresh Beginning (opens in new tab) and Spring Respite (opens in new tab) are perfect to reflect the sunlit environment and enhance an airy feel.
'Alternatively, soft whites with hints of pink and gold like our shade Milk and Honey (opens in new tab) are brilliant for adding warmth, depth and opening up smaller rooms, particularly in white bedrooms.
'For larger spaces, I’d recommend opting for a neutral white like Seven Sisters (opens in new tab) to help to lift the space without making it feel too sterile.’
5. Understand the importance of undertones
'Undertones are extremely important when deciding on the right white,’ says Sue Wadden, Director of Color Marketing at Sherwin-Williams (opens in new tab). ‘If your accessories are on the warm side of the spectrum, choose a white with warm undertones like creamy buttery or beige shades.
'White paints also work well with other neutrals. Cool whites have blue or gray overtones and pair well with shades like blue, gray and violet.
'Pure whites have little to no undertones meaning they can work well with all colors, but are usually reserved for trims, doors, shelves and other architectural elements.’
What is the most popular white paint?
Pure White SW 7005 (opens in new tab) by Sherwin-Williams is the most popular white paint – it has a go-with-anything tone that means it's a great match for rooms with both cool and warm light. Other companies' Pure White paints are generally the most popular of shades, too, simply because they offer the broadest appeal in terms of being able to be coordinated with other colors within a room.
What is the best white paint for walls?
The best white paint for walls depends very much on how much natural light your room gets, the tone of the natural light (warm or cool), and the other colors you will be introducing into the room. It also depends on the effect you want to create: warm whites will make a space feel cozier than cooler whites which look more formal. If in doubt, pick a Pure White, such as the shade by Sherwin Williams.
Sophie has been an interior stylist and journalist for over 20 years and has worked for many of the main interior magazines during that time, both in-house and as a freelancer. On the side, as well as being the News Editor for indie magazine, 91, she trained to be a florist in 2019 and launched The Prettiest Posy where she curates beautiful flowers for modern weddings and events. For H&G, she writes features about interior design – and is known for having an eye for a beautiful room.
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