The Simplest-Ever Guide to Choosing the Right White Paint

Purity, balance, harmony; these states are associated with white in colour psychology. White spaces are known to help us experience restfulness, peace, and joy. In a light white space, it's almost impossible to feel anxious or depressed, and in turn, the sense of calm it evokes allows us to create 'white space' mentally and emotionally as well. It helps us slow down and be more mindful, which of course, boosts productivity and effectiveness in everything we do. 

White rooms are timeless. They make a home feel fresh and clean, relaxed and invigorating, all at the same time. They work in classic or contemporary spaces. They can be serenely cool or romantically warm. They play well with all other colours and with natural materials. They're easy to clean and touch up when needed, making them a sustainable choice. And they provide the perfect neutral backdrop for showcasing the things are meaningful in our homes- artwork, books, plants, antiques, mementos, collections, photographs and so much more. 

It's funny then, isn't it, that white is the colour that many people shy away from most? I hear them stressing over choosing just the right white and never pulling the trigger because it seems too complicated. Or they take a month trying a zillion different white swatches on the wall and can't decide. Look, I admit it can seem overwhelming when faced with the hundreds of choices in the paint store. And there are all kinds of conflicting designer recommendations on the best whites, when to use warm vs cool, glossy vs flat, and everything in between to complicate things even further. 

But let's get real.

Most normal folks are not going to be able to tell the difference between white and extra white on your walls.  Stop overthinking it. Keep it simple, stick to the classic tried and true shades of white, and be done with it. Or hire a designer who can give you the right colour recommendation. 

the simplest-ever guide to choosing the right white paint

If you decide to go it on your own and you're into design and love to debate the nuances of how different whites look in your home, all the power to you. But if you're like me and like to simplify decisions for the home but still have it look great, follow the only 3 guidelines you need and choose one of the safe whites shown below. 

Three simple guidelines to help you get it right:

1. If you have a dark space with low natural light, white walls can look dingy. Choose a warm white or instead choose a neutral or slightly warm grey or greige that will help brighten the space and make it feel crisper. I've got you covered here too with this post on the best greys

2. Paint your trim untinted white - yep that's right - you don't need to fuss over what white to paint your trim 90% of the time - untinted will be a nice crisp white that pops against the wall colour. Or, if you're choosing a neutral crisp white for the walls too, just paint them all out the same colour (but with semi-gloss on the trim for depth).

3. Use flat on the ceiling, eggshell or satin on the walls and semi-gloss on the trim to provide contrast and depth. 

If you'd like to print out this cheetsheet plus a short workbook on choosing white, sign up to my free Resource Den and get these plus lots of other cheat sheets and resources. Click here. 

Stop stressing and simplify design. Paint your walls white already and reap the benefits. You can thank me later. I accept chocolate. White chocolate. 

SW Extra White (click on all photos for source)

SW Extra White (click on all photos for source)

SW Pure White

SW Pure White

BM Simply White

BM Simply White

SW Alabaster

SW Alabaster

Hamptons Style Home
SW Paper White
CIL/Dulux Raindrop White

CIL/Dulux Raindrop White

Ready for a little more colour help? Want to go further than white? Download this guide to simplifying colour that works with the existing finishes in your home. 

Kelly Anderson

Refreshed Designs

A re-designer focused on natural, sustainable and holistic design.