Because of the popularity of white interior walls, and white backgrounds in general on blogs and social media posts, we have grown accustomed to thinking of white as a go-to backdrop for many of our interior spaces. White is familiar, bright and offers a clean background for highlighting home furnishings and features. The fresh, clean background is why most museums and galleries use white walls to showcase artwork. White can be a great choice for traditional and contemporary spaces. But to some people, white can come off as cold, boring and sterile and overdone.
Choosing a white is not as "black and white" as you might think. There are hundreds of shades of white. You’ve got to put some thought into selecting the right white for your spaces. Although your eye may be drawn to the the purest, whitest white, be careful, because the whitest white can look, well, kinda like primer. Many times a cool white or a warm white is a better choice. A cool white is one with blue, gray or green undertones and a warm white has brown, red, orange, yellow or pink undertones.
PROS OF WHITE INTERIOR WALLS
1. White goes with everything! White walls allow you to select and readily change the color palette of your furniture, rugs, window treatments, accessories and artwork without having to worry about walls clashing or competing with your other colors. If you’re someone who likes to switch up your decor seasonally, or even just occasionally, white walls will accommodate most any color palette.
2. White walls reflect light instead of absorbing it, making rooms look and feel light and bright. This is an especially good thing in living areas, kitchens, bathrooms and even bedrooms. And according to The Better Sleep Council : painting a bedroom a soft white can help you relax and wind down for bed.
3. And if you paint your walls white and hate it, it’s an easy fix. White is one of the easiest colors to paint over.
Speaking of easy fixes...
4. White is probably the easiest color to patch, spackle or touch-up. If you and your family are prone to dings on your interior walls, consider white walls. A painter once told me that the simplest and most effective way to touch-up a small area on a painted wall is spackle and sand, if needed, and then do the paint touch-up with your finger. No brush, just your finger.
5. It’s easier to keep white wall clean than it is to keep white or light ulpostery clean. If you want a light, bright space, you can do that with light furniture and/or light or white walls. Although it’s true that white walls require more upkeep than darker walls do (we’ll talk about that in just a second), it’s also true that it is generally easier to clean walls as compared to cleaning furniture. If bright is what you’re going for, light, bright walls are easier to maintain than light bright furniture is.
CONS OF WHITE WALLS
1. White paint can be high maintenance. When hands and pets repeatedly touch white walls, you’re gonna see evidence of that, especially where walls are touched often, like near light switches and doors. And if you have a small children, brace yourself for even more scrubbing and touch-ups. Use a semi-gloss or gloss finish to make cleaning easier. But realize the glossier the paint, the more wall surface imperfections it will reflect.
Quick tip for removing scuffs and marks from white or light colored walls is the use baby wipes, wet ones or other wet towelettes, or magic erasers. Just test a small area before you go all out with those products. Baby wipes and wet ones, by the way, are also good for taking make-up and a few other stains, out of clothing and furniture and car upholstery.
2. If you select the wrong white, your room could look unflatteringly cold, or glaringly bright. The type of light that you get in the room is perhaps the biggest factor in determining the shade of white paint you should choose. Rooms with north-facing windows have the advantage of getting a consistent amount and hue of natural light throughout the day. But that light has a grayish-blue tinge. As such, northern light can make a room feel cold. So adding a cool white to an already cool room can give the space an even colder, drabber appearance. Instead, balance the cool tones from the natural, northern sunlight with warm whites that have warm taupe, red or pink undertones. Those warm whites will make the room feel more cozy and less drab.
The opposite is true for spaces with south-facing windows. Those rooms will get lots of warm, bright sun. A cooler white with a hint of gray or blue is likely to work better to balance and ground the bright, warm sunlight in that space.
If you have a room with both north and south-facing windows, consider a neutral, pure white with minimal or absent undertones. If the neutral, pure white doesn’t work, select a warm white because, in general, it’s better for a room to be a bit too warm and cozy than too cold and sterile.
If you only want to choose one white shade to go on the walls throughout your house, a neutral, pure white could again be the best option. Test paint colors in your rooms with the most amount of natural light, and rooms with the least amount of natural light. Then choose the white that looks best in the rooms you use the most, like the living room, kitchen and master bedroom. Pure, neutral white paint also works well if you have a lot of artwork you want do display. By the way, painters will often charge you less the fewer paint colors you select for your house.
You may also want to use neutral white lightbulbs so your white paint doesn’t change color or character at night when you have to turn on your lights.
Since east and west-facing windows let in direct light for a shorter period of the day, focus on choosing whites that compliment your north and south-facing rooms most, unless, of course, your main living areas are west or east.
Look at the different whites in your actual space at different times of the day and night. You can paint a white poster board with your different options and move it around the house at different times of day. Some paint companies now even have prepainted swatches in different shades that you can stick to your walls to test out colors.
3. White walls can look boring and sterile. If you are going with white walls, it's important to add texture, pattern, and/or color in your rooms so they have some visual interest and dimension. And you don’t have to choose bright pops of color and bold patterns, if you don’t want to. Even neutral colors and subtle patterns pop against white walls.
Those were some pros and cons of choosing white walls. Interestingly, there is almost no controversy about painting trim and molding white, but there is always some debate about white walls. As always, do what you love and can live with.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete and it’s subject to change, so it may not apply to your project. In addition, building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you learned as much as I did.