How to pick the right white paint colour

How to pick the right white paint colour

Without doubt the most important factor when selecting the right white paint colour for your home is light. The reason light is the most important factor when selecting a white paint colour is because we need light to see colour. There are scientific reasons for this I won’t even try to explain, but without light there is no colour.

Another important factor when selecting a white paint colour is that everyone sees colour differently.  For example, think about a humble pair of blue jeans.  You might say it’s blue but what kind of blue?  There is mid blue, dark blue, washed blue and so on.

I recently did a colour consultation for a client in Coburg and wanted to share my process for selecting the right white for my client and the space.

Choosing the right white paint colour – step 1 – Interior style

With all my projects I start by defining a design strategy.  A design strategy is deciding on a style goal and colour scheme from the outset.  Making this decision from the beginning of the project makes selecting the right pieces of furniture and furnishings easier, avoids confusion and ensures timely completion of a project.

For my Coburg client the style goal was defined as a sophisticated, modern take of traditional colonial style. This is the inspo pic.

Certain styles lends themselves to certain white paint colours.  So knowing your style goal can help narrow down the countless number of white paint options available.  For example, if you like a traditional interior style such as French Provincial you might want a warm white such as Antique White USA. For a modern style such as Scandinavian interior style you might consider to a cool white such as Lexicon.

Defining your interior style goal is an important first step in selecting white paint colour samples to try in your own home.

Choosing the right white paint colour – step 2 – Colour scheme

At the same as working out a client’s preferred interior style goal, I also define a colour scheme.  A good colour scheme starts with three colours.  For example red, white and blue, or black, white and grey.

Knowing the colour scheme and broadly how the colour will be applied in a space helps direct the design and concept I present to clients.  Although, most clients want white walls, some do want colour on their walls, either through wallpaper or paint.

So, for me, it’s important to know the colour scheme from the beginning.  For my Coburg client their preferred colour scheme is blue, pink, gold, white.

But importantly, one of my client’s goal for the space in question was to ‘lighten’ the space. Which also feeds into my decision on which white paint samples to select and test. So, it’s importantly to ask yourself if there are any light, functional or temperature issues in the space you want to paint.

Choosing the right white paint colour – step 3 – Warm whites and cool whites

If you don’t already know there are warm white and cool whites.  This is important to know in relation to both the style goal as mentioned above but also in relation to light.  Especially the natural light the space receives.

Simply if your space receives a lot of morning sun, and you use a white warm, this will impact the overall temperature of the space. 

Warm whites tend to have a yellow or orange base, they can appear creamy or yellowy in a space that receive a lot of natural sunlight.

For my Coburg client I was keen to test a warm white such as White Polar Quarter, primarily because the period architectural style of the house, as period homes lend themselves well to warm whites.

I also wanted to test a cool white because of my client’s goal to ‘lighten’ the space, so I chose Lexicon Quarter.

My final choice was Vivid White.  I have heard some negativity about Vivid White but I like it and so do my clients.  Bearing in mind that everyone sees colour differently and will have a different idea of whate a real white or a pure white is, but for me that’s Vivid White.  Its undertone is not obvious, I think it’s a neutral and flexible white colour.

Choosing the right white paint colour – step 4 – Testing

There are two types of light sources your home will receive.  Natural light and artificial light.  With natural light there are considerations such as orientation, or any filters such as sheer curtains or outdoor pergolas.  There is bright natural light and shady or cloudy natural light.  I test my three samples under all these light conditions to observe the variations and take photos to show my clients how the light impacts the colour.

I don’t paint the white samples directly on the wall because the existing colour may impact the integrity of the colour you’re testing.  So, I paint on white pieces of paper that I can move around to follow the natural light.

There is also artificial light.  And depending on your situation you might have bright white light like in a kitchen or a low ambient light like in a living room with a floor lamp or down lights on dimmers.  I observe all the artificial light situations as well and take photos to show my clients.

Once I have test the three white paint samples under different light conditions I make a recommendation to my client.  The photos I take help them to understand how the colour will perform in the space in question but also in other rooms in the house.

No perfect white paint colour

It is hard selecting the right white paint colour because each room in your house receives different light.  I have received feedback from clients that the white they chose has blue undertones which wasn’t initially obvious but quite obvious in some rooms.

This is normal and why I test my samples under different light conditions and why I move my samples around my own house to see how they change and report honestly to my clients so they’re expectations are managed and realistic.

For my Coburg client I recommended Lexicon Quarter.  The reason I recommended Lexicon Quarter is because of their style goal, colour scheme, their goal to lighten the space and because this colour was a good fit with my design vision to have blue curtains in the space.  Lexicon Quarter would provide a nice contrast for the blue curtains to shine.

If you take anything away from this post is that light is the most important factor when selecting the right white paint colour and observing the samples you choose in different rooms around your house to get a good idea of how these colours perform. Good luck.


You Might Also Like

What’s Japandi Style?

What’s Japandi Style?

During my internet travels recently, I came across a ‘new trend’ in the interior design world, that is Japandi.  This is interesting to me because in Australia, Japanese style elements are not overly popular.  So […]

House Tour – Minimal Scandinavian, St.Kilda East

House Tour – Minimal Scandinavian, St.Kilda East

Client Goal / Problem My interior design studio Grace Interior Designs, started working on this project in April 2020. Soon after the first Melbourne COVID lock down started.  Like many of us, our client had […]

Famous Replica Pieces of Furniture

Famous Replica Pieces of Furniture

It wasn’t until I moved back to Melbourne in 2012, from London, that I became aware of famous replica pieces of furniture. My interior design journey started in London.  I studied at the Interior Design […]