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A Thousand Shades of White

Without doubt the majority of colour consulting jobs that I get are in relation to specifying the perfect white or whites for a home. Whether it be the desire for a crisp modern interior, brightening up a period property, or the coastal boho vibe that someone is looking for, the search for that perfect white can sometimes be the hardest for clients. With literally hundreds of shades of whites it is easy to see why it can become a little overwhelming.

I wish I could say that there was a magic one size fits all white but unfortunately that is not really the case, and just because it looked amazing on a photoshoot on Instagram or a friends house, doesn't automatically mean that it is going to work for your space or home.

Why so many whites?

You will hear a lot of talk about the base of the white, this is referring to the tint that is placed in the white. These fall into a couple of categories being "warm whites" which typically have a red or yellow base to them and "cool" whites which have a black, blue base and green bases being somewhere in between depending upon the level of yellow or blue in them. By understanding a few aspects about the space you are painting allows you to cull a few from the deck based on their base and start to narrow it down.


When helping a client to choose a white, there are a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration.

Natural Light ?

Does the room get a lot of sunlight or natural light? what times of day is the sunlight most intense? Is the room dark with little or no daylight? Or is it somewhere in between. If a room is particularly dark and cold then generally speaking a blue base will further accentuate to cold feeling. The opposite is true of a sun drenched room, a red or pick base will further accentuate the heat.

There is also a bit of a myth that a perfect bright white ( usually a black based white) will brighten up a dark room..... be wary of this as it can actually go grey and actually have the opposite effect.

The period of the building or the look you are trying to achieve ?

Always consider the period of the building, more modern spaces go well with cooler base whites where as traditional, heritage homes often hold warmer tones better as they are more about creating a cosy feel.

What flooring, furniture and other fixtures and fittings are either pre-existing or have you chosen?

When choosing a colour it is important to understand how this will interact with the surroundings. This may even be a wall facing in from a neighbouring property. White, especially a more pure white will easily pick up and reflect other colours that are in the room. For example if your child has a pink carpet, curtains or bedspread then this will likely be reflected by the white making it more pinky.

Colours may also inadvertently accentuate a fixture or fitting that you do not really want to be a feature. I recently had clients who have had a slate floor which was just too expensive to upgrade, it had a rusty orange colour running through it. We had to rule out a green base white as this, being the opposite colour to orange in the colour wheel, only served to accentuate the flooring.


Really think about the points I have raised above and if possible get samples of tiles, flooring etc to be able to compare with your chosen white or whites. Even if you have a colour consultant help you these will reduce time needed to be able to put together some colour choices.

Paint samples on to a white card / sheet leaving a white border. Move this around the room at different times of the day and different weather conditions.

Try not to paint directly onto the wall, this is harder to move and your painter will thank you for it as it is hard to cover up all the patches and you can see them coming through the final paint job.

Remember - if the walls are already painted a particular colour this will likely be picked up by the white giving you a not too true understanding of what it will look like. Try and test the colour in a more neutral room with similar natural light.

Don't fall for a trend. With social media abundant with beautiful interiors it is tempting to assume that this will work for your space, by all means use this as your inspiration but this needs to be considered with all the other points.

I always err on the side of caution with colour matching. If you go down this route always colour test first, the original base for each brand is slightly different and can lead to some slight variations which may mean the colour is not what you want. Equally be sure to specify brand and colour to your painter..... some paint companies may have the same name for a completely different shade. For example "China White" in brand x can be completely different to "China White" in brand y.... it has happened ( not to me fortunately!!😊)

It is easy to see why this is so confusing especially if you have a dark modern home but want to create a cool fresh bright look. Call me a little biased but my top tip it is always good to get a qualified colour consultant involved... the investment is minimal to a whole new paint job!!

Need help? Please feel free to contact me for a quick no obligation chat on 0405 340 359.

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