Hands down, the number one question I get asked as a Colour Consultant is, “I need a white for my room – can you help me?” I get the frustration. Before I learned the language of colour, my levels of overwhelm were over the roof! There are blue-whites, whites with pink, green undertones whites and, whooaaa even black whites? One paint company has a whooping 200 whites to choose from. No wonder everyone is left scratching their head! In this post, I will break down the complexity of white and show you how you can get white right every time.
Here are my five rules for white rooms:
1. Is white even right for your room?
Our social media feeds are bombarded with those perfect white dreamy rooms. As a budding photographer, I can to tell you that these white rooms have been edited within an inch of their lives. Nine times out of ten, these photographs have been blown out with their exposures which means for us normal folk recreating this look is unrealistic. That is unless your room is flooded with natural light. As a general rule of thumb, if you don’t have natural light pouring in through your windows, or your room has at least two windows on each side of your room, maybe your best option isn’t a white but a timeless complex cream (the palest of beiges) or a classic greige, (the softest of greys).
Remember, paint can only do so much work. It cannot make a dark room come to life.
2. Setting the foundation
When you look around your room, are you leaning towards an earthy/traditional colour scheme filled with warm beiges, muted colours, creams, or beiges? If this is the case, you will be looking at off-whites and creams to complete your look.
However, if your room is more modern and fresher with clean, cool colours, art gallery whites, lighter neutrals, greys or blacks, you will be veering towards cool whites or true whites. If you are building from scratch, this is your ideal time to choose a warm or cool colour scheme. This leads me to point three.
3. The four categories of white
It was not until I completed my training with Killam Colour Academy that my colour stars started aligning. Maria Killam taught us about undertones and the four gradients of white. In a nutshell, there are many whites you could consider, but these four categories of whites are the only ones you will ever need.
If you are building new, you will first select your hard finishes, such as your flooring, benchtops, cabinets, tiles, and soft furnishings. You should always pick your wall colour last.
Your cool or warm colour scheme will dictate what white you choose for your trim, ceiling, cabinets, and walls. If you have to work around your current colour scheme, look to see if you fall in the cool or warm white category.
4. Test your whites
I’m always amazed when I make a colour recommendation in-store, emphasising testing your paint before buying; how many people bypass this stage. Not even a seasoned colour expert would commit to two litres of paint without testing first. There are too many considerations to factor in before anyone can roll out a standard white for the masses. These factors include reflections from your landscaping, the shadow from your overhang outside your window, the afternoon sun, and even your current furnishings can impact the undertones you see on the walls.
How to test your paints:
A. Paint an A3 board with your test paint. You will need to place a plain white piece of paper behind it (or leave a white boarder when you are painting). This is so you don’t compare to the colour already on the wall.
B. Hold the board vertically if you are painting the walls.
C. If you are painting the kitchen cabinets or floor, place the board horizontally.
*Whatever way the paint is applied, hold your boards in this direction*.
Even better, if you can test a small wall first – floor to ceiling, it must be primed first to see any undertones that exist.
5. Pulling your white room together
To achieve that ethereal white room that everyone has been saving on their Pinterest boards, you may or may not notice that these rooms have also been successfully pulled together through their decor. Maria Killam says that the key to a polished white room is repeating the tone of white, whether it’s blue-white, true-white, off-white, or cream in your fabric, furniture, décor, and hard finishes at least twice.
There is no magic wand when picking the perfect white, but if you follow these rules, and test your whites, you are well on your way to creating the perfect white room, we are all longing for.