8 March 2015

choosing the right white


Refreshed Designs: choosing the right white paint

It's funny, isn't it, that the colour that stresses us out the most when choosing paint for our homes is the most neutral of all colours: white. It can be tricky choosing the right white - which most times is actually an off-white - as there are so many possible options. It also looks different depending on the amount of light coming in, on the direction a room faces and even the geographical area you live in.

choosing the right white paint
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I love whites and off-whites because they're calming and lift my mood at the same time, and they also play so well with natural textures, materials and d├ęcor (which of course I love). Not to mention that they are a sustainable choice, since they are timeless and will likely last longer than walls painted richer colours that we tire of more quickly.

choosing the right off whites for your home
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So, as is my motto for most things, keep it simple! You could straightforwardly go for pure white all throughout the room if you like the minimalist Scandinavian trend.  You pretty much can't go wrong there.

pure white walls
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But if you'd like to go for a clean look but with a little more interest, there are some tricks to make choosing off-whites a little easier.

warm up a white room
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1.  Determine whether you want a cool or warm feeling in your home. You can use several different whites in the same room or througout your house (in fact it is usually recommend to keep from feeling cold and dull), but keep them in the same family - either cool or warm.

One nice neutral white that work either way is CIL's White on White - it's just a slight touch warmer than untinted white, and reflects light a little better.

mixing warm whites with wood
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2. Check and see the undertones - is it pink, green, blue, yellow? Compare it to a pure un-tinted white. You can see more easily how far away from pure white your colour sample is when next to each other. Cool undertones are greens and blues; warm undertones are pinks, reds, oranges, and yellows.

Hint: stay away from pink undertones if you have yellow based flooring or cabinets. And forgo peachy colours altogether - they rarely look good. Greens are also tough to do well - a white that leans toward turquoise (hence green undertones) will also emphasize the yellow in birch or oak floors, for example.

Another hint: you'll want your trim (in most cases, unless you have very deep rich coloured walls) to be pure white or just a touch creamier than pure white (like Behr's Ultra Pure White). So your wall colour should be slightly distinctive from this for architectural interest.

choosing the right white paint
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3. Check your lighting- are you south facing with lots of windows to allow for sunshine? Or is your room more limited to natural light? Some spaces in your home often have different lighting coming from a multitude of directions, so you need to consider this when choosing a colour. Also, try to switch to LED light bulbs (both because they give a more natural light and are eco-friendly). Unnatural incandescent or fluorescent lighting will make your white shades seem off.

Hint: north facing rooms with lower light will cast shadows, so I like going with warm neutrals with yellow undertones that make the room feel more welcoming. Stay away from green undertones for north facing rooms. East facing rooms often have blueish light, so blue and green undertones work well here for a brightening effect. However, these rooms obviously have more light in the morning that in the afternoon and evening, so if the space is used a lot later on in the day, you may want to consider a warmer palette to balance the lack of natural light.

cool tones for bathroom
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4. Create contrast using finishes. Flat goes on the ceiling, eggshell or satin usually works well for walls, and semi gloss or gloss enhances trim. Just this little bit of variation is quite pleasing to the eye.

different finishes for white paints in your room
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5. Finally, and most importantly, the best way to know if your paint colour is right is to bring home a sample and paint a big swatch on your walls, then observe it at different times of day. Research can help, but this is truly the best (only?) way to know if the white you choose will work for you.

choosing the right off white paint
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I hope this helps you choose the best off-whites for your home - it's confusing, I know! My simplest piece of advice? Go with:

- a true neutral such as BM Simply White or CIL White on White,
- a slightly warmer white such as BM Winds Breath or CIL Wedding White
- a light cool grey-white like BM Gray Owl or CIL Song Porcelain 

Happy painting!

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