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 of the hundred shades of white and off-white colours in the paint store you should choose for your home?

 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

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. 

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, the results are amazing every time. 

Because let's get real.

Most 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 that 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 personalized recommendation based on your space.

 

Simple guidelines to help you choose the right whites for your home:

1. Figure out your natural light.

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 make the space feel fresh, not dingy. (I've got you covered on choosing greys with this post on the best greys). 

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 a space that gets strong southern sunlight coming in, it can end up feeling over-the-top-bright-white. 

2. Keep trim simple. 

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. 

3. Vary your whites. 

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).  For example, use a brighter neutral white in the main living area, and creamier whites in bathrooms and bedrooms. 

4.  Vary your finishes.

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 architectural interest in the room. 

5. Test it in your space. 

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.

My favourite white and off-white paint colours

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 these beautiful white rooms for inspiration (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

 BM Swiss Coffee by Studio McGee

BM Swiss Coffee by 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

Want a soothing home but with a little more colour? Find out the easy way to choose colour and get painting with my COLOUR GUIDE WORKBOOK. It’s FREE when you subscribe!

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