The Simple Guide to Choosing the Right White Paint (plus the best white & off-white paint colours)

Are you ready to throw in your paint towel because you can't seem to figure out which, among the hundreds of shades of white and off-white colours in the paint stores, you should choose for your home? I hear you - it can seem overwhelming. And the many different designer recommendations for white paint colours on the web can make things even more confusing! 

Look, I'm all about simplifying. Everything. That includes my home, my calendar and paint colour. Ok, maybe not so much my Starbucks drink. 

 The Simple Way to Choose the Right White - my hallway is SW Pure White and the trim is untinted white

The Simple Way to Choose the Right White - my hallway is SW Pure White and the trim is untinted white

Yes, I'm a decorator and I have those huge decks of colour chips. But I go to only a few tried and true whites each and every time I choose one for myself or a client. By following a few simple guidelines, it turns out right every time. 

Because let's get real.

Most normal folks like you and me are not going to be able to tell the difference between white, extra white or pure white on your walls.

Stop overthinking it. Use the guidelines below, keep it simple and be done with it.

That said, I do understand painting is time consuming and you want to get it right the first time around. If you really don't feel comfortable choosing a colour on your own, hire a designer who can give you a recommendation. I can do this for you with one colour consult over Facetime or Skype - you often just need the backup to be sure about your choice. 

Simple guidelines to help you choose the right white paint and make it work in your space:

1. If you have a darker space with low natural light, cool and crisp white walls can look dingy and shadowy. Choose a warm white instead - it will look like a crisp white on your walls even though it looks creamy on the chip. Or you could lean into the shadows and choose a slightly warm grey or greige that will help brighten the space and make it feel fresh. I've got you covered on choosing greys too with this post on the best greys

2. If you have a room with lots of natural light, opt for a cooler or true neutral white that will absorb some of the sunlight. If you use a warm white in this kind of space, it can end up over-the-top-bright-white. 

3. 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. Note- if you're choosing a neutral crisp white for the walls as well, just paint them all out the same colour (but with semi-gloss on the trim and eggshell on the walls so the trim will stand out and create depth in the room). 

4. If you're worried that painting your whole home white might feel too boring or institutional, vary the whites slightly by choosing two or three different whites in the same family (ie. cool or warm). 

5. Use a flat finish on the ceiling, eggshell or satin finish on the walls and semi-gloss on the trim and doors (and floors if you paint them) to provide contrast and interest in the room. 

6. Finally, the best way to know if your paint colour will work is to bring home a sample and paint a big swatch on your walls, then observe it at different times of day. Research can help, but this is truly the best way to know if the white you choose will work for you.

White spaces are known to help us experience restfulness, peace, and joy, and they allow us to create 'white space' mentally and emotionally as well. This helps us slow down and be more mindful, which of course, boosts productivity and effectiveness in everything we do. A white wall is also the ultimate neutral backdrop on which to display the really meaningful and inspirational things in your life. 

So stop stressing and simplify design for your home. Paint your walls white already and reap the benefits. You can thank me later. I accept white chocolate. 

Now, check out the beautiful white rooms for inspiration below (click photos for sources). 

 BM White Dove cabinets from Kristina Crestin Design

BM White Dove cabinets from Kristina Crestin Design

 BM Simply White by Becki Owens

BM Simply White by Becki Owens

 BM Paper White via House Beautiful

BM Paper White via House Beautiful

 SW Pure White - Refreshed Designs. Photo by Robin Stubbert

SW Pure White - Refreshed Designs. Photo by Robin Stubbert

 SW Alabaster by Little Red Brick House

SW Alabaster by Little Red Brick House

 CIL/Dulux Raindrop White - Refreshed Designs

CIL/Dulux Raindrop White - Refreshed Designs

 BM Simply White - Studio McGee

BM Simply White - Studio McGee

 SW Extra White - Rethink Design Studio

SW Extra White - Rethink Design Studio

 SW Alabaster - Traditional Home

SW Alabaster - Traditional Home

 BM Swiss Coffee by Studio McGee

BM Swiss Coffee by Studio McGee

 SW Eider White by Erin Gates

SW Eider White by Erin Gates

 SW Ice Cube - Refreshed Designs

SW Ice Cube - Refreshed Designs

 BM Swiss Coffee by Studio McGee

BM Swiss Coffee by Studio McGee

Want a naturally serene home but don't want white?

 

If you found this post helpful, please Pin and Share. Thanks! 

the simplest-ever guide to choosing the right white paint
 

Kelly Anderson

Refreshed Designs

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