7 Things You Need to Know Before Painting Your Walls White

The easy elegance of a white room is part of the enduring appeal of this decorating style. Finding the right shade of white, however, is anything but simple. With countless paint colors to choose from and numerous factors affecting the hue's appearance once it's up on the wall, homeowners are understandably unsure where to begin the search. We spoke with paint experts and interior designers to demystify the process. Read on for their time-tested advice.

By Marie Proeller Hueston | Updated Nov 19, 2020 11:01 AM

Getting Warmer

Warm White vs Cool White

Cool whites with undertones of blue and gray appear clean and crisp, while warm whites with undertones of red and yellow look soft and relaxed. Which will be best for your home? Personal preference certainly comes into play, but another good rule of thumb is to consider the region you live in, suggests Rebecca Ralich Spak, Director of Color Marketing and Design Services for Sherwin-Williams. "If you get natural light throughout the year, you might opt for a cooler shade; but if you have a lot of cold, gray weather, you might like a warmer shade."

Related:  21 Expert Picks for Fail-Safe Colors


Always Be Prepared

Paint Ideas

White walls are unforgiving, exposing every tiny dent or smudge. Be sure to patch any holes or imperfections with a skim coat and sand as necessary. If there are considerable stains, use a stain-blocking primer before applying your top coat. "Preparation by far is the key to a successful finish," says Rebecca Ralich Spak of Sherwin-Williams.

Related:  The Only 7 Tools You Need to Paint Any Room


Get a pro to do it for you
Receive free, no-commitment estimates from pro painters near you.

Think About Lighting

White Bedroom

In rooms with abundant natural light, white paint can appear different throughout the day. Be sure to try a sample of any color you're considering to see how it looks in morning, afternoon, and late-day light. To brighten low-light spaces, consider a cooler shade of white that will reflect ambient light from lamps and overhead fixtures.

Related:  8 Bright Ideas to Boost Natural Light


Work with Accents

Accent Wall

Many homeowners love the look of a single wall of color in an otherwise all-white space. If this is something you're considering, be sure the shade of white on the other walls complements the accent color. Interior designer Julia Mack of Brooklyn, NY, relies on a trio of Benjamin Moore colors when decorating with white: "I like Super White with bright accent walls, Decorators White with tonal grays and taupes, and Silver Satin for large spaces."

Related:  Awesome Accents—17 Ways to Make Any Space Pop with Color

Zillow Digs home in Studio City, CA

Let There Be Layers

Bohemian Bedroom Ideas

"Whenever you are decorating with predominantly one color, like white, you run the risk of the space becoming boring," says Amy Spearing, principal of Amy Spearing Interiors, in Richmond, VA. To prevent this, Spearing advises, "use a variety of different textures in your furnishings, pillows, fabrics, rugs, and accessories."

Related:  10 Simple Ingredients for a Very Comfortable Bed


Find a Favorite

Modern Kitchen

Once you identify a shade of white you love, do what many interior designers do and call upon that color time and again for a variety of settings. For New York City interior designer Brad Ford, that shade is Farrow & Ball's All White. "It's like an old friend," he told ELLE Decor. "It stays consistent in any light, but in the afternoon it can really make a room feel like it's glowing."

Related:  Hanging by a Thread—9 Inventive Ways to Hang Pendant Lights


For More...

Get a pro to do it for you
Receive free, no-commitment estimates from pro painters near you.

Don't Miss!


Believe it or not, even with the vast number of paint color options available, a select handful of hues surpass all the others in popularity. We spoke with industry experts to uncover their best sellers. Click to view now!