Design Dilemma: Choosing the “Right” White
There’s no task that strikes more fear in the heart of a decorator than choosing the right paint color. And even trickier —Â choosing the right white.
There are actually hundreds ofÂ shades of white, each with a very specific feeling.Â There’s Alpine White and Easter Lily. There’s Decorator’s White and China White.Â The listÂ goes on and on. Some whites haveÂ hints of green or blue. Others hints of gray, red or yellow.Â Some whites feel traditional, others feel hard-edged and modern. So how to choose?
1.) Choose a white according to your furniture style. Very bright pure whites (like Benjamin Moore’s Super White) tend to work best in minimal interiors with very modern furniture. Traditional furniture incorporating dark antique woods often looks out of place in bright white interiors but looks harmonious when pared with creamier whites (Linen White) with a hint of yellow, gold or taupe.
2.) Avoid white in rooms that are basic boxes. White looks fantastic in rooms with high ceilings, mouldings andÂ large windows, but can seem very bland in new construction with no architectural details. If you use white in these circumstances, consider an accent wall of color or use colorful artÂ to lend the room more interest.
3.) ChooseÂ a white with the color of your furniture in mind. White walls will reflect colorful furniture. A red couch will turn walls pinkish. A green couch will lend the walls a greenish cast. Choose a white keeping in mind how it will look when reflecting large colorful pieces. For example, if you’ve got a green couch, you might use a pinkish white to offset the color cast.
4.) Keep in mind where the light comes from. Where the windows face in a room can have a profound effect on the tone a white takes. Northfacing windows can make a white room appear grayish. Eastfacing light can lend a room a pink or lilac cast. Westfacing rooms may have an orange-gold cast, and southfacing rooms receive intense sunlight that can drain out color. Keep these color tones in mind by choosing a white that will help balance outÂ color reflected by natural light.Â For example, you might use a white with a pink or yellow undertone for a northfacing room. You might choose a white with blue or green undertones for an eastfacing or southfacing room. If a room receives primarily artificial incandescent light, choose a warmer white, as a cool white with hints of blue can seem drab.
5.) Don’t paint high-traffic areas white. If you do choose white for areas that get a lot of use, be sure to choose a washable paint that can be wiped down often.
6.) Choose a warmer white to keep rooms from feeling sterile. Cool whites are much harder to pull off, and never feel cozy.
7.) Invest in a color wheel of white. Because there are so many shades of white, it makes sense to see the whole spectrum at once. Study the wheel, choose three or four to sample, andÂ compare themÂ by painting patches of your wall.
8.) Check out the favorites. Every designer seems to have a favorite white. These are some oft-cited favorites from Benjamin Moore: Decorator’s white, White Dove, Moonlight Night, Super White, Linen White, Cloud White, China White.