Four rules to follow when painting with white

We uncover the secrets to making white interiors work
Styling Allira Bell, image Denise Braki for Temple & Webster.

White interiors can be tricky to work with – they can make a space feel too cold and harsh, or can appear too creamy and look slightly off. Choosing the perfect tone of white can help accentuate natural light and make decor shine. We chat to colour guru and guest expert at Temple & Webster Style School, Christine McCoy, about her tips for designing and styling with white.

Choose the white that works for your space

The key to choosing a white paint is choosing one that works for your space. Every white has an undertone, which is affected by light and the environment they are in. Earthy whites have natural undertones that fit many different situations easily, but sometimes the architecture of a space demands a cooler tone. “For example, if the architecture of the building included a lot of warm finishes like timber or warm light coming into the space that you wanted to balance or counteract, a more cool-toned white would be a good way to achieve this,” Christine explains. A cool white will have a blue or green base. Blue undertones tend to have a more clinical feel and can be tricky to work with while green undertones are more forgiving and are a true neutral that is great for exteriors. Yellow-based whites tend to be quite creamy and aren’t the right fit for a contemporary space but are great in a gloomy or dark zone, while pink-based whites are great for adding warmth, without any yellow and pair beautifully with greys or pinks. Another thing to consider is how it will be used, as one colour may look very different when used inside, outside or in different zones.

Test before you commit

Always test out white paints before committing to them, whether it’s just on a sheet of paper, or you paint part of your wall. Let it dry and then see how the colour looks in the zone. Christina’s top colour picks for an earthy white are Taubmans Aspen Snow or Dulux White Exchange Half, and for a cool white, Dulux Lexicon.

Make your whites work together

If you’re going for the all-white look, once again it’s all about the undertones. If you’ve chosen a white with a warm undertone for the walls, choosing warm-toned neutrals for your flooring, furniture and other finishes will work because they’re all coming from the same tonal family.

Use white to change your space

While there’s a common belief that painting a space white will make the area look bigger, there are other tricks that will help. Manipulate a space into looking wider, bigger or smaller by contrasting white with deeper or bolder colours.

(Credit: Simon Whitbread)

We love the room above as the white walls bring a freshness to the zone which the abundance of natural light enhances. The dining table is a clever meeting point between the crisp walls and timber flooring and helps to bring it all together.

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