The decision that is white…

So you want white?
Simple…not really.

Go ahead and check out the world of white paint colors and you’ll soon see that it’s not an easy decision. There’s pure white, bright white, snow white, dover white, simple white, incredible white…well you get the point. Let’s talk about how to make that now complicated decision a bit less scary to that average person like me and you!

When I think of white I think of the color of this blog page. It’s a bright white. When you look at whites in the world of paint from any company you’ll see something similar to this…

Whites (Sherwin Williams)

Sherwin Williams

When I look at that picture above I see a lot of colors but not white. I see one that kind of looks like white (towards the top left corner) but it looks more like off white to me. That color is actually “High Reflective White” which is definitely not how I would have described it. All whites have different undertones. There are whites with red undertones, yellow undertones, brown undertones, green undertones, grey, and blue. I’m going to talk about how you can narrow it down and actually choose one.

My dilemma:
I’m buying a house and the living room happens to be one of my least favorite colors (pink) and a bit dirty. So I made what I thought would be an easy decision to paint the living room white. I was graciously given a couch I want to DIY reupholster to be emerald green and that project isn’t the first thing on my to-do list. In the mean time I’d like everything to look like it belongs. White was an easy choice until I saw my options, left baffled I came to these questions. I hope will help guide you.

1. Why white?
– I want white for simplicity and it looks great with black (I love black)

*This means I can’t and don’t want to go too far off from a visually bright white because I want that black and white effect


2. What do I want white to match? (Sounds silly but it matters)
– I want an emerald green couch and black accessories in the room

*This means for me I wanted a white with maybe a little grey undertone to match with the black


3. What is the room lighting like?
– It’s on the East side of the house (the sun hits it first thing in the morning but the room darkens as it sets)

*Natural light I feel is the best light but sometimes if you put a very bright white in a room with a lot of natural light it may feel too stark

*Lamp light (artificial light) can sometimes cast a yellowing effect on whites so anything with yellow undertones you’ll really notice that yellow in it. Also with pink or red undertones it may look peachy (for some people’s room schemes either of these may make a good direction to go in but for my desired black, white, and emerald room it won’t work)

Incandescent bulbs: These generate yellow light that intensifies warm colors but tends to dull cooler colors.
LED bulbs: These bulbs produce brighter light while using less wattage. They come in different colors and those effect your wall color. If you want to know more click on the photo below

Light Bulbs and Wall Color


4. When do I spend the most time in that room?
– I work from home so I have and will see this color all day in natural light then by lamp light at night

*This means both of the above lighting will affect me so I want to make sure the whit I choose will go with my theme in both situations (If you work from an office all day, come home to you living room at night, and spend weekends mostly out of the house you may decide to go with a very bright white. This is because the bright natural light won’t make it feel stark to you since you don’t see your room like that most of the time)


5. What can I eliminate?
– Yellow/gold undertones, red/pink undertones, and brown/tan undertones (because I want it to match black and I don’t have black & brown as part of my desired look)


6. What’s left?
– Grey undertones, blue undertones, and green undertones


7. What do I want to lean towards?
-I decided to lean towards a white with blue and grey undertones because of the yellowing light effect. I didn’t want the green undertones to be greenish yellow with the lighting.



A common debate: What color cabinets?
Below you can see the difference between the paint sample and the actual white cabinet colors. The lighting in each room affects the paint colors differently. Eastman St Woodworks has four shades of white cabinets to pick from there’s pure white, dover white, heron plume, and navajo white, each are a bit different. Pure white is what it sounds like a crisp white color with a slight grey undertone. Dover white is a more creamy white with yellow/tan undertones. Heron plume has a grey/tan undertone. Navajo White has orange undertones.

Pure WhiteView More:
Notice how pure white with natural light looks very bright and clean.
Dover WhiteDover White Kitchen
Dover white where the natural light is coming through looks more like pure white. Above the hood where the incandescent lights are it brings out that yellow and creamy tone. 
Heron PlumeHeron Plume Kitchen2 (5)
Here the heron plume color paired with the blue walls accentuate the grey undertones. Also take note how the lighting in the room affects the cabinet and wall color.
Navajo WhiteNavajo Kitchen
The navajo white color in bright natural light looks like a great buttercream color. You can see up by the shelves how he darker orange tones come through.


Good luck in your hunt for the perfect white!


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