How to Choose the
Perfect White Paint for Your Home
For a colour that is defined by dictionary.com as “a colour without hue”, there are a lot of variations of white.
I recently discovered this when we chose to give our new home a fresh coat of paint. The original colour was grey with yellow undertones (which I despise) and it made our entire home feel small and dark. Since I love all things white, it took me no time to decide what colour I wanted. Unfortunately, it took me a long time to choose which shade.
Fearing yellow (warm) undertones, I collected a handful of white paint chips with blue (cool) undertones from my local paint store. I narrowed it down to ten options and then went through them with my husband, one by one. We then chose three that we taped on the wall for a few weeks and eventually chose Behr’s Gallery Wall White. No samples, no painting, no fuss - easy, right!? Wrong.
A few days before painting, I read an article about a woman that painted her house white, only to discover that at night, it looked blue. We’re talking baby blue - not just a hint of blue. Until then, I was concerned about white that looked yellow, and I hadn’t even considered the fact that the cool-toned paints would tend to look more blue at night.
I’m a self-admitted perfectionist with “what-if” tendencies, so I cleared my evening and ran to the paint store to consider more paint colours. I quickly realized that I failed to consider all (or most) of my options, so I opened my mind to whites with undertones of red, yellow, green, and even purple. Then I purchased 5 different white paint samples, including my original choice.
My husband and I then went home and painted three walls in our living room with the different shades of white. It was now 48 hours before our home was scheduled to be painted, so I really don’t recommend following this timeline.
We quite literally watched paint dry that night and then I watched the paint the next day as the light in our home changed from dawn to dusk. I was shocked at how different the same colour of paint looks in various lighting, locations, and times of day. The undertones of the paint were most visible at night and among shadows, and this was exactly what I failed to consider.
As it turns out, our original choice of Behr’s Gallery Wall White was what we ended up choosing (the second time's a charm!). I wasn’t surprised; we chose it because it was the only paint colour we found that had a truly grey undertone. While most whites are based on greys, this colour was the only one that didn’t hint blue, yellow, grey, red, or purple. I originally thought my entire freakout was a waste of time, but upon completion of the painting project, I am absolutely sure it wasn't. I will never wonder if we chose the right colour and I learned a heck of a lot. Plus, if I hadn’t put myself through all the last minute chaos, I couldn’t share the following tips with you.
HOW TO CHOOSE WHITE PAINT
- Start by considering all paint options and brands. Even if you want to stick to a certain brand, they can almost always match their competitor’s colours. I had “paint panic” because I chose a colour without really considering all my options. This wouldn’t have happened if I was open to all white paint colours to begin with.
But don’t choose too many options. If you grab every single white available from each paint brand, you’ll make things more confusing than anything. Choose a selection of whites from each available undertone and stick to shades you could truly see yourself using.
Once you’ve chosen a colour, purchase samples and paint multiple walls in your home. Choose walls that get different light throughout the day; we chose to paint a wall that gets direct light, one that is full of shadows most of the day, and another one other that gets a mix of light and dark throughout the day. You’ll be amazed at how different a colour can look during the day versus at night.
Once the paint is on the wall, try not to compare the colours to each other. Look at them individually to see if it’s a colour you can see yourself using. When you compare multiple shades of white, the subtle undertones become very obvious, so it’s important to remember that they won’t be as obvious when your wall is painted a single colour.
Bonus tip - if you’re hiring painters, seek out at least two different quotes. There was almost a $2,000 difference between the two quotes we got. We ended up hiring the less expensive company, and not only did they do a great job, they did way more prep work and cleanup than their competitor.