Color, Design Tips

How to Choose the Perfect White Paint

Design by Marcia Moore | Photo by Suzy Gorman


“White is not a mere absence of colour; it is a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black.” — G.K. Chesterson, Atlanta Bartlett’s At Home with White

Beautiful on brides and equally wonderful on walls, white has been a design darling since almost forever. The use of white in interiors is deeply rooted in the past and is globally-inspired. You need look no farther than beautiful Greek, Japanese and Scandinavian interiors (among others) to appreciate the sense of clean minimalism that white walls impart. And yet there is nothing more traditional than an all white kitchen or bathroom.

Despite its seeming simplicity, however, white is actually quite complex, which you know if you’ve ever stared glassy-eyed at 150 shades of white at the paint store. The world of white is a vast and often confusing place to be. French impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir once said, “white does not exist in nature.” Thankfully it does exist in thousands of variations of paint!

With a multitude of moods that range from warm and luminous to cool and crisp, many with subtle undertones of various colors, such as grey, blue, green, pink, peach and yellow, choosing the perfect white can be difficult but makes all the difference in a room when it’s done right.

To show you what I mean, I’ve gathered six white paints, each from Ralph Lauren. They are all “white,” but just look at the difference! Each has a secret underlying color that distinguishes it from the others. Can you guess the undertone in each of these whites?

*Computer screens are notoriously not color-calibrated, so please bring color swatches home with you before choosing the perfect white for your walls.

Chalk White

Lattice White

Picket Fence

White Heron

White Cap


Brilliant White


So Which White is Right?

When choosing a white paint, it’s important to keep in mind the amount of natural light in the room, your furnishings, texture of the walls, the nuances or undertones in the paint color and the finish of the paint (matte, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss or high-gloss). The following rooms are great examples of white done right.

White walls anchored by a dark wood floor is a classic and dramatic combo.

This gorgeous white on white bedroom by Victoria Hagan is truly at one with its surroundings.

White, either bright or creamy, is a gorgeous choice for high gloss, and not just on the walls. Look how stunning this built-in bar is, and that creamy ceiling is so dreamy.

How well do you know your paint finishes?

When choosing a white paint for your room, it’s important to take into consideration the finish you plan to use. Here’s a little brush-up on the types of finishes and how to best use them:

FLAT: Flat finishes have more pigment than any other finish. Non-reflective, they soak up the light, which makes them ideal for hiding imperfections. That being said, a flat finish is the most difficult to clean, so don’t use it in a high-traffic area.

EGGSHELL: The most popular finish, eggshell doesn’t have a noticeable sheen, but it’s not totally matte, either. It hides imperfections better than a glossier finish and is easier to clean than flat finishes. Use it on walls in high traffic areas.

SATIN: Smack dab in the middle of the sheen spectrum, a satin finish reflects more light than eggshell without being too glossy. Use it in areas that don’t get much natural light, such as a bathroom or basement. It’s also a natural for furniture, cabinetry and trim.

SEMI-GLOSS: Known for its radiance, semi-gloss is often chosen for doors and trim. Glossier than satin, it pairs well with other finishes when used as an accent. Because of its heightened sheen, however, it doesn’t hide imperfections as well as eggshell or satin finishes.

HIGH-GLOSS: Super reflective, high gloss definitely makes a glamorous statement. Considered a specialty finish by many designers, high-gloss will show imperfections, so beware. It’s perfect for doors and trim. Although their names are often used interchangeably, a high-gloss sheen is not exactly the same as lacquered finish. Lacquer is made from a blend of resins and solvents that dries quickly creating an extremely durable, hard shiny surface similar to that of a baby grand piano. (CLICK HERE to read more about lacquer).

Black is a natural complement to a white interior.

Design by Marcia Moore | Photo by Alise O’Brien


Like a blank canvas, white forms a beautifully neutral backdrop for artwork, bold hues and rich textiles.

Design by Marcia Moore | Photo by Suzy Gorman

The allure of the white kitchen remains, even with color trending in 2020. White kitchens are classic. They’re bright, happy and clean and won’t feel dated in a few years. Plus, they work with any design style. What’s not to love?

Design by Marcia Moore | Photo by Michael Jacob


The same holds true for bathrooms.

Carol Egan Interiors | Architecture by Greg Tankersley


Design by Anne Sage


What do you think about using white in your home? Love it or leave it? Does white speak to you, but you’re totally confused on how to choose the “just right” white (or any color) for your home? Give us a call at 314.395.1114 or CLICK HERE to contact us. We’ll take the stress out of creating a palette that is perfect for you.

P.S. CLICK HERE to check out our portfolio. We recently uploaded several new projects that we’re super excited about.

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When I decided to create my blog, “all the best, m”, I envisioned a creative space that really pushed the design envelope and offered aspirational and inspirational content you wouldn’t find anywhere else.

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