White can be assumed to be the classic fallback paint color, a failsafe default for kitchens, bedrooms, and bathrooms. But choosing the right hue for you and your space’s needs can be shockingly difficult. With so many nuances and undertones available, white isn’t just white anymore: It’s off-white, ecru, cream, ivory...must we go on? And just like every other color, the decision requires special consideration of architectural details, finishes, and lighting.
How to Choose the Perfect White Paint Color
Before you start to browse paint decks and swatch your walls, it’s important to take stock of your space’s qualities, like the amount and direction of light coming into your room. “If it’s a north-facing room, a clean white will feel too chilly, so consider whites that have underlying red or yellow notes through them,” O’Donnell says. On the flip side, whites with cooler undertones will help balance out the intensity of the light in a south-facing room.
Sherwin-Williams Snowbound SW 7004
For a tried-and-true neutral that has chameleon tendencies, you can’t go wrong with Snowbound by Sherwin-Williams. “It’s one of my favorite whites because it’s warm without being too yellow,” explains Amy Leferink of Interior Impressions.
Benjamin Moore Atrium White OC-145
ooking for the perfect pigment for a kid’s space? White may not be the first color that comes to mind, but Benjamin Moore’s Atrium White is designed to appeal to the entire family. “If you want your home to feel really calm and relaxing, I suggest using a white that has a creamy tone to it,” designer Michelle Gerson says. “Benjamin Moore’s Atrium White has a little bit of a peach tone.”
Dunn Edwards Cool December DEW383
There’s a reason why Cool December by Dunn Edwards has been Breegan Jane’s go-to white for 10 years and counting. “[It] strikes the perfect balance and always seems to do the trick for me,” the designer shares. “Plus, it’s touch-up-friendly and works well with Magic Erasers, [which is] important for moms like myself who have active kids.” Icy and bright, this option strikes a happy medium between cool and clinical.
Sherwin-Williams Moderne White SW 6168
White is a foolproof option for your kitchen—and the cool undertones of Moderne White by Sherwin-Williams will look squeaky clean and pure. To keep the look from going too sterile, designers and Moderne White fans Beth Dotolo and Carolina Gentry of Pulp Design Studios recommend pairing it with bolder hues. “We like to add a little twist to our mostly white kitchens, like with a burst of orange on a barstool or a boldly patterned backsplash,” the duo explains.
Benjamin Moore Ivory White 925
Pair your rich, wooden finishes with Benjamin Moore’s Ivory White, a creamy white that designer Christina Kim stands behind. “Sometimes you need a creamy white, which can be tough to get right. It’s easy to veer too yellow, [which is why] I really love Benjamin Moore’s Ivory White,” she says. “This creamy white works best when you envelop the room completely and paint the trim, walls, and ceiling in it.”
Benjamin Moore Ivory White 925
Don’t let its name fool you: Benjamin Moore’s Snowfall White will look good in any type of climate. As a crisp, icy white, this hue will perfectly reflect what’s outside. “For the perfect, crisp, icy white, we used Benjamin Moore Snowfall throughout this sky-high pied à terre,” shares Kendall Wilkinson. “When the signature San Franciscan fog rolls in, you feel like you are floating on a cloud.”
Sherwin-Williams Alabaster SW 7008
For Joelle Smith, the key to finding the perfect white is identifying the mood you want to create. If a cozy, welcoming space is what you’re going for, Alabaster by Sherwin-Williams has you covered. Mimi Meacham of Marian Louise Designs is also a fan: “It’s the perfect fresh, warm white. It doesn’t read too creamy but still falls soft and stays crisp.” Ready to create contrast? Smith loves to pair Alabaster with Naval, which is also from Sherwin-Williams.