You’re in one of two camps. The first one thinks that all white paint is the same. The second is drowning in samples of about 3 million white paint colours trying to spot the difference...
We’re going to bust both of those myths right now, with our guide on choosing the best white paint for your space. With a few easy questions, and some expert advice from minimalist interiors guru Katie Seidler, you’ll get there - promise.
TL;DR? Get £1 white paint swatches.
Pampas by @hello_haus on Insta
Is there a right or wrong shade of white for your space?
You're probably tired of hearing the phrase 'white is just white', right? It's often thought that you can't go wrong with white paint but when you make that trip down to the DIY store it's daunting the amount of options out there. It's no wonder white is the go-to colour as it can make even the smallest of rooms feel spacious and airy but with 'warm-off-white', 'pure white' and 'pale stone' tones, where do you start? Don't worry, we've got you covered, and our colour experts are always here to help if you do have any questions after reading this blog.
What are undertones in white paint?
Pure white, technically, isn’t a colour. It’s the absence of colour. But most white paint colours on the market have a bit of something else in - which are often called the undertones.
Undertones come from blending more than one colour together, like blue with a green tint to create turquoise, or yellow with a red tint to create orange.
Pampas by @hello_haus on Insta
Most white shades have just a very small amount of colour to create a subtle off-white paint. The overtone (main colour you see) is still white, and the undertones (colour you don’t immediately see) can be anything - which is what makes the range of white paints available pretty huge!
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How to choose the right white paint
There are two killer questions to ask when it comes to choosing the right white paint...
Firstly, what direction does the room face? Get the compass out on your phone and check. In all cases, North-facing rooms have a cooler and less intense light, and South-facing rooms are naturally brighter and warmer.
Pampas & Screenshot by @two_men_and_a_semi via Insta
So the best white paint for a north facing room is a white with yellow or brown undertones - a bit creamier or earthier, like ‘Pampas’ - to help neutralise the cooler Northern light. If you’re blessed with a sun-filler South-facing room then you can go bright white if you like, or choose something that’s very slightly grey like ‘Sweatpants’ to knock-out the yellow light and create a more balanced white.
Sweatpants by @the_brixton_home_boys via Insta
The second question to ask is how you want to feel in the space. Bright white like ‘Screenshot’ is naturally quite stark unless you soften it with furnishings, whereas creamier whites are warmer but not quite as crisp. A nice mid-point could be a very pale Greige like ‘Mindful’ which has greyish-brown notes that add an earthiness to the white without it feeling magnolia.
Expert designer tips for choosing white paint
We asked Japandi-minimal Katie Seidler of @hello_haus how she approaches white in her own home and for clients.
Pampas by @hello_haus via Insta
“Firstly, I would always start with a few questions. What feeling are you trying to create? Warm, cosy or bright and airy?” says Katie.
“For North facing rooms you want to balance out the cool, blue/grey light by picking a white with warm yellow or red undertones. My top pick would be Pampas from COAT to create a warmer cosy feel".
Pampas by @hello_haus via Insta
For South facing rooms, it's the opposite. You'll typically have warm, sunlight in here all day so it will need pairing back. A white with cooler undertones (blue/grey) will kick out the natural yellow appearance in the room and create a balanced white. Screenshot or Sweatpants from COAT are great options here for creating that minimal and airy look” says Katie.
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The best ‘all-rounder’ white paints
Pure brilliant white wall paint rarely works well unless you’re in a heavily glazed museum. In very bright rooms at home it can be blinding and a bit yellow-y, and in darker rooms it feels cold and dingy. So ideally stay away from any white paint called “brilliant”.
The most popular white paint shades for COAT are Low Salt, Mindful and Pampas. All beautiful but subtly different, and designed for different spaces.
Low Salt, grey off-white @marciahoganwilliams via Insta
Low Salt has grey undertones, so works perfectly in brighter spaces to balance the rays. Mindful has greige (brown-y beige) undertones, so it’s a really earthy neutral that warms up small or dimly lit rooms.
Mindful, Greige off-white
And Pampas has a creamy undertone that knocks out the dullness of north facing rooms so they never feel chilly.
@yas.wyatt.home via Insta, with Pampas
Best white paint for walls
You’ll want to choose a white water-based emulsion paint, probably in a flat matt finish, this is the best white paint for interior walls. White paint is available in big old tubs for not very much money, but avoid this low-quality stuff if you can. It’s bright white and usually used for public spaces or in trade.
Choose a high-quality white paint for walls to get the coverage and colour nuances that you want. Water-based, low-voc and low-odour are must haves - which naturally all COAT paint can boast.
@charlotteasquith with Pampas
Best white paint for ceilings
Water-based emulsion will work just fine on the ceiling too and it’s the default choice - but how about this. Choose a white Soft Sheen emulsion paint for the ceiling which has a subtle shine to it and can be really effective at bouncing light around the room. It’s not for everyone, but it can look super effective especially in low lit spaces or at night with lamps.
@charlotteasquith via Insta, with Pampas
So what next?
We’ve made it pretty easy to try different white shades at home, with COAT Peel & Stick Swatches. We’ve got 6 whites, not 6,000 so it’s not too tricky.
Choose a few and stick them in different places around your room. Check at different times of day, and see how the shade changes in different lights. No need to search 'best white paint for walls UK', our curated range was designed to make your life easier, and there's no better test than picking a few swatches to try at home.
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