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How to Choose the Right White for Each Room in your House

How to Choose the Right White How to Choose the Right White for Each Room in your House

White is white. Right?


When it comes to home design and the particular airy, naturally-lit aesthetic of each room in your house, there is much to consider with respect to “white” walls.

But we only know what we know, and if your like us, the above sentiment, the white is one thing,  is likely the only truth you have known thus far.

Knowing, however, that this is in fact not the case, we’ve done our research on how to choose the perfect shade. We hope these lessons will give you a solid starting point and much guidance in your quest for the perfect white.

1. The Nuances of White

Those who are trained in what makes color, well…color know that white is not one thing. It is not something you add to other colors to change hue. In fact, white in and of itself, is comprised of innumerable hues, some of which are brighter and more “white” than others.

This is especially true when it comes to paint. White paint hues can lean in any direction, from bluish to reddish and more.

The problem is that we cannot distinguish a yellowish white when it is the only color we are currently looking at. In that moment, it is just white.

If you are looking for a truly eye opening experience, head down to your local paint store and begin viewing the various shades of white side by side. You will be amazed at what you find.

shades of white

The real pros will go into this with the purest point of comparison they know, a piece of white computer paper. Use this to find out how close to the real deal each paint type is before choosing.

2. Consider the Room and Everything in It

A real artist knows his or her palette and what is meant to be achieved from the finished product. What colors are in each room? What color is the couch, the bedspread, the throw pillow, the ornaments on the mantle?

Take a full audit of all the colors in your home and what you tend to pick while decorating. You may find trends that are more consistent than you think that you simply have just not considered before.

If you find that your choices tend to be warmer colors, you will want to lean towards warmer whites (i.e. reddish, yellowish, orangish white hues). The opposite is true of the cool colored design style.

bedroom white paint

It is also vital that you did not limit this color style examination to one room and then make a sweeping white paint shade choice. It may be that you have subconsciously been picking cool colors for the bedroom because you like the mood those shades create around sleeping hours, but like to brighten up your kitchen and living areas with yellows.

If this is true for you, you will need to utilize various hues of white for different rooms throughout your house.

kitchen white walls

And if you are truly neutral in many of your furnishing choices? When in doubt, choose warmth, and always remember that a lot of our perception of color and hue, especially with white, is collaborative. That is to say, your brain sees a myriad of colors in the room. It knows the sofa is beige and the shades are speckled blue, but it also looks at the cooperation of the room in a big picture type way. What you draw from the combination of colors is what you will see reflected from your white walls.

3. Lighting

More so than the color of the furnishings and decorative elements of the room, lighting plays a huge role in the perception of white.

If natural white is your goal, and you have the windows to achieve it, a purer white is your best bet. In rooms that are centered in the house, void of natural light, pigmented whites look best and should be chosen with other colors present in the room at the front of your mind.

It’s also good to think about geography and the type of natural light your room tends to receive. In big, metropolises, for instance, natural light tends to be greyer and warmer. In southern locations, on the other hand, the light tends to be cast in cooler colors. When cool light bounces off warm white hues, it creates a pinkish phenomenon. This could be an extremely unpleasant surprise if you are not an admirer of pink.

Also know that better lighting options will provide purer light. LED lights, for example, will present your whites more purely than traditional, incandescent bulbs, which give just about everything a yellowish hue.

4. Pick a Bunch!

Once you’ve figured out your color choice tendencies and lighting, you can begin to look at various hues of white within those parameters.

Here are some tips:

  • Whites that are closer to pure provide a more modern aesthetic than those with some color in the mix.
  • Pure, bright whites can be overwhelming, and more times than now need some color dilution.
  • When push comes to shove, and you are unable to make a choice, go with neutral. A neutral white is one that does not clearly read warm or cool.

5. Trial and Error

Even if you think you have found the perfect white, there is no real way of knowing until that color is on the wall.

Paint chips are so so so deceiving, and sometimes the hues chips present look completely different when that color is expanded across the surface area of your wall.

testing white paint

It is not necessarily that hue will not hold up, but more likely, whatever aesthetic you were pursuing when choosing a certain white may be too much or too little when applied to the entire room. For instance, a crisp white that is closer to pure may feel cold and industrial in a large room.

The best way to find out for sure is to paint on several of the top contenders in one room. Put some space in between the test spot and roll it on as large as you can in a given area to mimic the full effect of that shade coated over the entire room.

Another option, if you are not into painting direct to your walls for a test, is to use some sort of large panel that can be carried around the room and placed up against different walls that receive different light or reflect different furnishings.


There is so much variance in color that is dependent on so many factors. This is especially true of white. The tone of the sunlight that hits the room, the color of each furnishing and decorative element, and the scheme those respective elements create all play a huge role in how a white paint will appear on the wall.

A good place to start is by working to identify the light and color scheme in a room as either warm or cool. Once that is done, you can begin parsing out white options.

From there, the only tried and true way of landing that perfect white is trial and error. Paint it on and look at it in the space. Don’t be afraid of getting it wrong. After all, it’s white. It will cover easy!