How to Choose the Right White via Oh, I Design Blog
Photography by Tessa Neustandt, Interior Design by Emily Henderson

Hi guys – I am really excited for this post today because I am handing over the microphone to Sophie Macaulay of CertaPro Painters (South Shore + Boston). I wrote a post a few months back about my go-to white paint colors, but I wanted to take it a step further and get a professional to give you more tips for selecting the right white.

Alright, Sophie, take it away…

When Jessica mentioned that one of her most FAQs is “How do I choose the right white?” I thought I’d weigh in. Because white is “on trend”, many of our customers at CertaPro Painters have been asking us the same question, and it’s really a lot simpler than it seems. When chosen successfully, white paint can completely transform an interior space. This seems easy enough – it’s just white, right? – but there are a few tips that will help you pick a white that doesn’t leave you feeling cold.

How to Choose the Right White via Oh, I Design Blog
Sarah Sherman Samuel via MyDomaine

Whites can have different undertones and reflect light in distinct ways. Because of this, there are three main things to consider when choosing your white:

one. The mood and purpose of the space (“sleek kitchen” vs. “cozy den”)

two. The elements of the space itself (furnishings, floor coverings, etc.

three. The amount of natural light in the space

How to Choose the Right White via Oh, I Design Blog
Photography by New Darlings via a Beautiful Mess

First, think about the mood you want your room to have. Do you want it to be warm and comforting? If so, go for a warmer white – one with undertones of red or orange – for a homey, relaxing feel. This works well for spaces like bedrooms and living rooms. Large rooms such as kitchens, might enjoy a cooler white. Whites with undertones of blue or green are energizing. White can also offer a feeling of openness to a cramped space.

How to Choose the Right White via Oh, I Design Blog
Photography by Claire Esparros via Oracle Fox

Next consider your style; traditional decor looks best with a warmer white and modern or sleek spaces are best complimented by cooler shades. In addition, consider the other colors, materials and furniture in the room. White reflects other colors, so keep this in mind when looking out for undertones. Choose shades that compliment the other elements of the space.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is essential to consider all light sources in the space. For example, if you have a lot of natural light in a room, stay away from a stark white – it will look too glaring. If though there is  a lot of yellow-toned artificial light, you can consider a crisper white so the room doesn’t turn orange. If you are dealing with fluorescent lighting, which tends to be harsh, you’ll need a warmer white, or else the space will feel like a hospital room.

How to Choose the Right White via Oh, I Design Blog
photography by Sabra Lattos Photography via My Domaine

So now that you have narrowed down your choices, what’s next? Consider your white paint choices during various times of the day. White will look completely different at 10am than it does at 10pm. Our painters usually paint large swatches of paint on the wall so our clients can live with the color for a couple of days, but you can do the same thing using large poster boards painted in your various choices of white. Another tips is to gather 10 of the small color chips you can get for free at the paint store and tape them together to form a larger paint chip. This will give you a large color sample at no cost and little effort. Consider the white at different times of the day from different spots in the room. How does this white “feel” to you? You’ll be able to eliminate some obvious ones instantly, and narrow it down to just a couple possibilities. Feel free to play around with our Color Helper online by uploading a photo of your room and “painting” the room different whites.

Once you have chosen your white, keep a sample of it in your bag or car. That way, you’ll have the exact color with you for that quick trip to Homegoods or a yard sale find. White the right white depends on the style, purpose and light of the room, it most strongly depends on how it feels to you in your space.

Written by: Sophie Macaulay

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Thank you for the helpful tips when choosing a white paint color! I have updated my favorite white paints and added a few of CertaPro’s favorites. white-paint-colors-via-ohidesignblog


Great ideas and advice here! As a local Utah painter ( ) I definitely concur that the largest factor to consider when choosing a shade/sheen of white is to consider the lighting. Is it natural full-spectrum or a incandescent yellow? White has a shade because of the spectrums of light reflected by it. The shades of the white can be ‘cancelled’ out based on the spectrum of light being shined onto the white. If you want to eliminate blues, use yellow shade of white and vice versa.
The key thing to do is the paint on a sample and experience it for yourself before deciding.