How to Choose the Right White For Your Walls |
How to Choose the Right White For Your Walls

How to Choose the Right White For Your Walls

From vanilla to ivory

Cissy Wang
Written by –
Cissy Wang
on April 7th 2019
Cissy is a fresh graduate from CUHK with a major in English and Comparative Literature. Her writing gears towards the poetics of space in social, cultural and urban spaces. "In libris libertas" has always been her motto.

The color white is simple yet sophisticated. White comes with nuanced tones, ranging from the cool hued whites with blue, green or purple undertones, and the warm-toned whites with a subtle tinge of yellow, orange or even red. It’s an incredibly versatile and timeless design statement that serves as a blank canvas to showcase a riot of color. Just look at the array of white paints out there and you’ll discover! There are some with blues, reds or yellows as undertones and each one can affect the room in different ways. So which one is the right one for your wall?

White Paint Colors: Rustic white living room with minimal farmhouse interior style and organic texture accessories |
image source

Room Orientation

Consider the source of natural light.

Undertones in white paint make wall look different depending on the amount of natural light it receives. The same white might look crisp and fresh or cold and stark under different circumstances. Then how does the direction of light affect the way it looks? Generally speaking, take cues from the room’s orientation to the sun.


If you have a south-facing room which generally receives intense sunlight during the day, you’ll need to compensate for this by choosing a clear, cool white with gray undertones that reduces the glare and counteracts the yellowness of sunshine. On the other hand, north -facing rooms usually have weak, cool natural light, so you may find it helpful to try a warm off-white.

Bedroom painted in white |
image source

Matte or Glossy?

Paint finishes count.

In addition to the nuanced shades related to room orientation, it’s time to take the paint finish into account. As for matte finishes, they provide little or no sheen when dry and absorb much light. It is recommended that you use matte looks in the living room, dining room, bedrooms, ceilings, family room and hallways (and not so much the bathroom, kitchen or a children’s bedroom). They work well to cover imperfections in the surface while holding dirt easily and prove difficult to clean.


Glossy paint delivers a bright sheen when dry and stands up well to moisture, which makes either a great choice for kitchens and bathrooms as well as on trim and molding throughout the house. Keep in mind that the glossier the paint, the more it shows imperfections.

Kitchen painted in white |
image source

Right Lighting, Right Mood

Paint color and lighting conditions go hand in hand.

The amount of lighting that your paint is exposed to and direction of artificial lighting impacts the tone of white paint. The color white tends to achieve better tones in rooms with great lighting conditions than those dimly lit spaces.


Test the paint out in the room in advance before final application. The choice of the right paint is mainly based on the brightness of the lighting it receives in different situations. For instance, Benjamin Moore White Dove is a go-to paint in living rooms or open environments. White Dove reads as a warm neutral with a creamy undertone that brings an inviting and welcoming space for entertaining. It also can be used as a perfect gallery-esque background providing a beautiful setting to present artwork.

Bathroom painted in white |
image source

Our Go-to Picks

Still baffled by which paint to pick up? Ahead, we handpicked examples of good staple favorite white paints.

Warm: White Dove, Benjamin Moore

White Dove counts many designers as fans, consistently ranking as the top-selling hue for the American paint manufacturer. It’s a white with a subtle tint of gray that keeps it from looking too stark. Loved by designers for its versatility to work in various spaces, the shade pairs well with muted blues and is best for living rooms or urban environments such as art galleries as it helps scatter light throughout the interior.


Kitchen in White Dove Paint from Benjamin Moore |
image source

Cold: Strong White, Farrow & Ball

On the cooler side of the color spectrum, Strong White from Farrow & Ball that features crisp, clean, and devoid of tints or hints of other shades is anything but sterile, and in this case, it suits plaster moldings perfectly. The resulting vibe will be a crisp and soothing elegance.

Period property painted in Farrow & Ball's Strong White |
image source

Neutral: Simply White, Benjamin Moore

The “white” white; Simply White was named Color of the Year 2016 by Benjamin Moore. It is the color of the fresh snowfall that looks both cozy and crisp, the true neutral white is always a crowd-pleaser which works extremely well on cabinetry, walls, trim and ceilings.

Staircase painted in Benjamin Moore‘s Simply White |
image source

Now that we’ve cleared things up, what’s your favorite shade of white paint? Let us know in the comments below!


For more color inspiration, check out our color series. From Purple Rose to Greenery and Pastel Blue, you’re sure to find a color to fall in love with! For the daring among you, also see our round up of unexpected color pairings for a truly stylish play on color.


No products in the bag.

Stay Updated
Sign up for our newsletter and get the latest home tours and giveaways.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest home tours and giveaways.