Interior Designer Melbourne

Choose the Right White Paint

Recently I helped a neighbour choose the right white paint colour for the walls of their holiday home.  With the thousands of white paint colour options available and with a number of paint brands to choose from, and don’t forget the impact that natural and artificial light has on a colour and a space, it’s easy to realise why choosing which white paint colour for your space (or any colour for that matter) is one of the hardest decisions to make, especially as painting is a time consuming and expensive exercise you don’t want to repeat if you make a mistake.

Usually people will go to Bunnings and pick several whites they like, they will take the paper sample, then buy a sample pot, then paint a sample on the actual wall/s they want to paint, they will look at the number of paint swatches on their wall and most likely get confused, not sure which to choose but frustratingly making a selection anyway, hoping to get it right.

But there is a lot more to choosing the right white for your space than this, any interior designer, architect, even builder would agree and that’s why Dulux charge clients $175 p/hour for their specialist colour consultants, colour is a highly specialised area.  So, I wanted to share my technique for choosing the right white for your walls.

What’s Your Interior Style Preference

First and foremost, it’s important to know your interior style preference, and establish a colour direction that suits this style.  For example, if you like industrial style your colour scheme might be black, white, grey and feature materials such as brick, concrete and wood.  But if you like a coastal style the colour scheme might be white, blue, yellow.  In both these styles the white will be different.

If you don’t know your style preferences you can take our a quiz and receive a sample moodboard.

Choose Your Colour Scheme

After you’ve selected the interior style for your space, the next step is to establish a colour scheme.  A good colour scheme starts with 3 colours following the 3 colour rule.  This is a basic rule that a space should contain 60% of a primary colour, 30% of a complementary colour and 10% of an accent colour. 

For example if your preferred colour scheme is white, blue, yellow, then 60% of the volume of the space, that is the walls, will be white, 30% of the volume of the space, that is the sofa will be blue and then 10% of the volume of the space will be yellow, that is the cushions and/or throw.

This is a basic example and generally colour schemes are more nuanced and interesting, but this is a good starting point.  Inspiration for your 3 colours can come from anywhere, a favourite colour, a favourite piece of furniture, or a colour that lends itself well to your preferred interior design style.

Selecting 3 White Samples Only

Depending on your preferred paint brand, I prefer Dulux, there will be many tools available for you to help you select the right white, but the reason why I like Dulux is because they have a brochure that breaks down their tops whites into warm whites and cool whites.

This is a good starting point because warm white have yellow/red/orange undertones and cool whites have blue/grey undertones.

This is important to know for 2 reasons; firstly you may be drawn to warm whites but applied in a north facing room will impact the temperature of the space and secondly; if you’re drawn to cool whites and your space doesn’t get a lot of sunlight, your space might just appear grey.

Which is why it’s important to test your samples under different light conditions.

With your colour scheme in mind, at this point it’s a good idea to have paper samples of the colours in your scheme to place next to a few white samples to get a feel for which white works best.  Then select just 3 whites, you could for example choose a warm white, a cool white and a white that you just like and are a drawn to.

Painting Samples in the Space

This next step is important, I usually paint a sizeable piece of white paper (never paint directly on the wall), two coats of paint, with each colour and blue tack to a wall in the space.  Review these pieces of paper throughout the day and night, with different light sources the colour will look different.  I also take pictures of the samples under different light sources just to have a record and remind myself how different they look.

Don’t decide immediately, as well as understanding how your white samples perform under different light conditions, you also want to get a feel for the colour, how it impacts your mood.  Colour is very powerful this way and this is generally a gut feel but there are some technical aspects to choosing a white paint colour as well. 

Keep in mind that the colour will look different in each space depending on the light, furniture and furnishings so pick a colour with the room that receives the most and least light.  You can move your painted paper samples around to different rooms as well to see the difference.

Which Finish for your Paint Colour

Once you’ve chosen which white, you need to decide on the finish.  There are four different finishes; flat, matt, low sheen, semi gloss and gloss.  You will also need to consider the ceiling and the trims.  The ceiling can be painted the same white colour as the walls unless you have a period property with a feature such as a ceiling rose that you may want to paint a different colour to highlight this feature. 

Some people choose a complimentary colour for the trims or use the same colour as the wall but use a different finish.  The finish you choose can depend on the interior design style you’ve chosen or the actual colour itself.

Given that your walls make up such a large part of your home, you want to get the colour and finish right.  We offer a colour consultation for just $600.  This includes;

  • Defining your interior style preference
  • Choose a basic colour scheme
  • Choosing 3 whites to sample
  • Testing these whites under different light conditions
  • Writing a rationale and recommendation on which white and finish.

This is a fail-safe way of using an interior designer’s expertise to make one of the biggest decisions for your home in choosing a white paint colour.  It’s a stress free, time saving service that previous clients have really valued.  Bearing in mind all the implications of choosing the right colour has on your entire home, don’t hesitate to make contact us to find out more.