Fresh white paint colours uk: How to choose the best white paint, according to the experts | House & Garden

How to choose the best white paint, according to the experts
| House & Garden


White seems like it should be the simplest paint colour to choose but it’s actually the most complex. To help you decide, we’ve asked stylists, interior designers and colour experts to share their idea of the best white paint

Paul Massey

There’s nothing like choosing between hundreds of shades to choose the best white paint to send even the most seasoned and decisive decorator into a spin. White is such a difficult colour to settle on because there are so many shades of white paint; from grey to pink to buttermilk and everything in between. How colour is perceived is entirely dictated by the light in the room (both natural and artificial) and the other items and colours around it. Then you’ll need to consider the architecture and age of the home or building you’re decorating, and the mood you want to set. These factors all make white one of the hardest paint colours to get exactly right.

Designer Rose Uniacke recently collaborated with natural paint brand Graphenstone on a range of 14 “perfect” paint colours, most of which would be considered off-white. So when the options only seem to be expanding, where do you start? We asked 11 experts to share their ideas on what the best white paint colours are and explain why they work so well.

Nicole Salvesen, interior designer and co-founder at Salvesen Graham

“When choosing white paint, we often turn to Farrow & Ball ‘Pointing’ or ‘Slipper Satin’ as perfect ceiling and woodwork colours that remain warm and gentle. ‘Lime White’ from Farrow & Ball is a more sympathetic white for an older house, but it looks its best when there is a bit of green or yellow used as a decorative detail elsewhere in the room. ‘Slaked Lime’ from Little Greene is a lovely white and can have a similar effect as Lime White in that it’s particularly good when the fabric in the room has a yellow ground colour. If the room you are decorating faces a garden, ‘Clunch’ by Farrow & Ball can work really successfully on the walls, as it really helps to bring out and complement the greens beyond.”

Alex Glover, founder of Austin James fine decorating and colour consultancy

“We’re having a bit of a hiatus from grey at the moment, so any white paints with a grey undertone are off the menu for us. My current favourite shades of white are always off-whites with a yellow or ochre undertone, especially in period properties. Queen Anne or Georgian architecture lend themselves well to something soft and regal and my choice would be ‘Not Totally White’ or ‘Quiet White’ from Papers and Paints. Francesca’s Paint has a wonderful selection of warm whites too: ‘Pithora White’ is our favourite, and being the whimsical colourist she is, she also makes bespoke colours at the drop of a hat.

“For good white paint that’s both practical and affordable, our favourites for high-traffic areas such as a bathroom or kitchen would be ‘White 03’, ‘White 05’ or ‘White 06’, all by Lick.”

Sarah Cole, former Director of Farrow & Ball

“Choosing the perfect off-white paint depends on the type of light the room receives and what direction it’s facing. When decorating north-facing rooms, avoid off-whites with a green or grey base as these will make the room seem darker. Instead, choose yellow-based, creamy neutrals to bounce as much light around the room as possible. Farrow & Ball’s ‘White Tie’ and ‘Tallow’ are perfect tones for this.

“South-facing rooms are a joy to decorate, because the quality of light means you can choose either warm or cool colours. Whites with blue hues such as ‘Blackened’ create a wonderful watery seaside feel, while red-based neutrals such as ‘Joa’s White’ and ‘Dimity’ create a warmer and more sophisticated feel.

“The light in east-facing rooms can appear to be a little blue, so it’s best to work with this rather than against it and choose green or blue tones in your white. To create as much light as possible but still retain some warmth, look at a colour such as ‘James White’. For the beautiful light in west-facing rooms, try ‘Wimborne White’ or ‘Slipper Satin’.”

Pressed flowers and foliage in antique frames are displayed on walls in Farrow & Ball’s ‘Wimborne White’ in this Dorset farmhouse by Samantha Todhunter.

Simon Brown

Sarah Peake, interior designer and founder at Studio Peake

“Counterintuitively, whites are not straightforward and if you choose the wrong shade of white, it can really throw a scheme off. To get it right, you have to consider these three things carefully; what other colours are used in the space, what texture or material is the painted surface, plus how will the space be lit (always look at paint samples at different times of the day, to see how they look under both natural and artificial light).

“‘Stone I’ by Paint and Paper Library is often my go-to white – it’s warm and almost putty-like in tone, yet still feels clean and fresh. It’s perfect for anchoring a scheme otherwise bursting with colour. I also love ‘Pearl Colour’ by Edward Bulmer – this has a light creaminess to it that looks beautiful painted on both woodwork as well as walls. For ceilings, it’s often not necessary to spend a lot on expensive paint – time and time again I turn to ‘Timeless’ by Dulux. It does what it says on the tin.”

Brandon Schubert, interior designer

“I don’t use white paint on walls very often but I do regularly use it for skirtings, doors, windows and ceilings. My go-to white paint for skirtings, doors and windows is Farrow & Ball ‘Pointing’, which has just enough warmth in it so that it doesn’t seem so stark against a coloured wall. For ceilings, I regularly use Farrow & Ball ‘Wimborne White’, which has a touch of yellow that gives ceilings a warmer glow than a bright white would.

“If I’m painting walls white, then I look for a white that will work well with the other elements of the room (flooring, curtain fabric, fireplace material, and so on). I like Farrow & Ball ‘Joa’s White’, which is pinkish and warm, making it a great colour to use with darker timber floors and earthy tones. I’m also a fan of the Little Greene paint colour family called ‘White Lead’, which comes in a scale of different depths.

“When using white paint, there are three very important things to bear in mind: first, very few white paints are ‘pure’ white. Instead, they are tinted with other colours to create shades of off-white. So when you choose a white, you have to consider what else is going on in the room. For instance, a blue-tinted white might look great next to blue-veined marble or cool grey stone floors, but it might look far too cold next to a warmer, gold-hued stone or nutty brown timber floor.

“Second, what is ‘white’ in any given room is entirely relative to the colours that are around it? If you have pure white in a room, every other shade of off-white will look dingy next to it. However, you can put that same dingy shade of off-white in another room next to a darker colour, and it will suddenly look bright and fresh. So don’t be put off by whites that look very dark on the paint card because you’re only comparing them to what is above and below.

“The third thing to bear in mind is the lighting in the room. Daylight tends to be forgiving to white walls, but be wary that artificial light can turn an otherwise pleasing room into a nightmare. With modern LED fittings, you get a broad range of quality and light temperatures, so it’s crucial to test your proposed shade of white under the actual fittings that will be used in the room. If you can’t test the colour with the exact light you’ll be using then make sure the LED fittings in the room have a very high CRI (colour-rendition index) and warm colour temperature (like 2700K). If the artificial lighting in the room doesn’t make you feel warm and cosy, then warm up your white paint choice to compensate, so it still looks good after the sun goes down.”

Walls painted in ‘Slate III’ from Paint & Paper Library are combined with paler ‘Slate I’ on the ceiling.

Michael Sinclair

Matilda Goad, homeware designer and creative consultant

“My home is filled with a lot of colour but I’ve just repainted my hallway and stairs from the entrance hall right up to the loft in an off-white. I went on quite a journey searching for the perfect white paint over the last few months and to be honest, I found it really difficult to choose between them. Certain decorators swear by certain whites and I tried so many different colours, but the colour I settled on – and I now absolutely love – is ‘Dimity’ by Farrow & Ball. It’s the whitest pink you can get (or the pinkest white, depending on how you look at it).

“I’m often drawn to pink tones when decorating. Whether it’s a salmon or plaster shade, or more sugary sweet, I think pink always envelopes a room and gives it that underlying warmth. Dimity is white to the eye but if you put it next to a sheet of bright white paper, it’s got a pink hue. I actually chose to paint everything in the same shade; so the skirting, the moulding, the picture rail and cornice, even the ceiling are all in ‘Dimity’. It’s just cosy and I love how the space has now become a blank canvas.”

Christian Bense, interior designer

“Controversially, I’m a non-believer in the whole north- or south-facing debacle when choosing white paint and the reason is ‘Slate I’ or ‘Slate II’ by Paint and Paper Library work literally everywhere. I’ve used paints from their Slate range more than any other. It’s bright when it needs to be bright, moody when it needs to be moody, so you can save yourself the worry about warm or cool tones because I’ve used Slate in every London project I’ve worked on – all entirely different – and it always looks good. In fact, I’m such a fan of these paints that I’ve previously written an ode to them on my design blog. ‘Slate I’ has the crispness of white without the flat coldness, so it’s the ideal choice for ceilings, skirting, architraves and doors. ‘Slate II’ and ‘Slate III’ are perfect everyday shades of grey-leaning white for walls. Slate III is my favourite of the two, as it has a little more depth and works so well with Slate I accents but go with II if you’re feeling less confident and want something a bit lighter.

The walls are in Paint & Paper Library’s ‘Slate III’, the cornice is two shades lighter than the walls in Paint & Paper Library’s ‘Slate I’, and the ceiling is in Dulux’s ‘Pure Brilliant White’.

Twig Hutchinson, art director, brand consultant and Minford Journal founder

“My go-to white paint is always Farrow & Ball ‘Strong White’. I’ve used it in the summerhouse at home which is south-facing, but also in our kitchen which is north-facing. Like most people on their search for the perfect shade of white, I tried millions of testers from different brands and ‘Strong White’ was my favourite. I come back to it time and time again and I’ve recommended it to lots of my clients because it’s neither too warm nor too cold. For me, it is the perfect neutral white.”

Ruth Sleightholme,

House & Garden Decoration Editor

“When choosing white paint for a home that has any sort of age to it, particularly a country house or characterful cottage, my ultimate favourite shade is ‘Off White’ by Farrow & Ball. It’s one of their early colours before they introduced an abundance of white paints. On the card, it looks very off-white, like an aged bone or an old bit of whitened wood; it feels so natural-world that it works as the perfect off-white with neutrals of any hue, or any soft, natural-toned, or dark-toned fabrics or wallpaper. Essentially, ‘Off White’ is wonderful paired with anything other than vibrant or clean and bright colour. It’s one of those classy shades that, when used in this kind of gentle context, you don’t even read it as being a modern choice – it’s really convincing in a historical interior.

“As for clean whites, I love both ‘Stucco White’ by Designers Guild and ‘Snowy Owl’ by Sanderson. They are both almost white but with a hint of warmth that makes them just a little bit softer than pure white. It is that subtle cream – which I would perhaps pin down as the slightest touch of pink – which makes them more pleasant and easy to live with than stark white.

“Personally, I am not a pure brilliant white person. I think it’s fine for an art gallery, but I don’t want to live in a space that feels that chilly in tone. I also feel like the ‘brilliance’ soon wears off and after a scuff or two, looks much worse than a warm white, which might stand occasional knocks more often. As a side note, I would completely dodge white paint on the outside of buildings if you live in an urban, traffic-filled area. The grime builds up on it so quickly!”

A picture ‘pyramid’ was created in this hallway with a set of early-eighteenth-century prints, for which Farrow & Ball’s ‘Off White’ and ‘Old White’ provide the perfect backdrop.

Simon Upton

Susie Atkinson, interior designer

“There are so many shades of white to choose from but I love Papers and Paints’ ‘SC292’ as it’s a true neutral. A lot of neutrals can lean towards being slightly pink, green, or yellow, whereas SC292 doesn’t and is therefore endlessly versatile and looks good with anything you pair it with.

“‘Wimborne White’ by Farrow & Ball is a timeless classic that we use often! It’s one shade away from pure white, but with a slightly warm undertone – this makes it flexible and great for ceilings et cetera as it’s bright but also soft. Another Farrow & Ball shade we love to use is ‘Slipper Satin’, which is a great, slightly chalkier neutral and it pairs really well with off-white woodwork.”

Cassandra Ellis, founder of Atelier Ellis paints

“Choosing from our own range of paints (naturally), my new favourite shade of white is called ‘Cloth’. It positively glows in almost any setting and it has plenty of pigment, which makes it feel substantial and it really does bring joy to both rooms and people.

“‘Warm White’ or ‘Triple Warm White’ are our go-to whites for low-lit spaces – they make cool rooms feel lifted and positive, which is always good. In sunny rooms, we think you can approach them in a couple of ways; own the sunshine and make it bright with ‘Tabula Rasa’ or ‘Foundation’, or add a more substantial white like ‘Khadi’ or even a selection of whites to provide nuance and feeling. Before any of this though, start by defining how you want the room to feel. Bright, cosy, spare, heady? Then the colour choice becomes much easier.

Farrow and Ball paint colours in real homes

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    Gestrichen in School House White No.291 und Wimborne White No.239 in Estate Eggshell

    Unsere klassische Farbpalette umfasst mehr als 20 Weißtöne. Damit können Sie diesen unkompliziertesten aller Neutraltöne auf vielfältige Weise nutzen: Durch seine verschiedenen Untertöne entstehen ganz unterschiedliche Effekte. Zum Glück heißt das im Umkehrschluss nicht, dass es schwierig ist, die Nuance zu finden, die aus Ihren Räumen das Beste macht: Unsere Kombinationsempfehlungen, die Tipps zum Umgang mit verschiedenen Lichtsituationen und andere praktische Hinweise helfen Ihnen dabei, den richtigen Ton für Ihr Zuhause zu finden.

    Gräuliches Weiß

    Eine matte weiße Farbe wie unsere Estate Emulsion oder die abwischbare Modern Emulsion lässt in jeden Raum eine angenehme Frische einziehen. Dieser Effekt wird bei den gräulichen Weißtönen am deutlichsten spürbar. Blackened ist unsere kühlste Nuance in dieser Gruppe. Sie passt in minimalistisch gestaltete Räume und zum Industrial Style am besten. Das fein und zart schimmernde Weiß Wevet bringt eine Ahnung von durchscheinender Transparenz mit. Wenn Sie unsicher sind, ob ein gräulicher Weißton nicht zu kühl wirkt, dann reservieren Sie die kühleren Weißnuancen für Südzimmer oder testen Sie einen wärmeren Ton wie Skimming Stone.

    Wevet No.273 in Modern Emulsion

    Bild aus Recipes for Decorating

    Strong White No.2001 in Estate Emulsion; Worsted No.284 in
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    Bild aus Recipes for Decorating

    Grünliche Weißtöne

    Mit nur einer ganz kleinen Menge Grün gewinnen Weißtöne eine besondere Weichheit, die Räume zum Relaxen kreieren. Von diesen sanften Weißtönen ist das kreidige Slipper Satin der vielseitigste Ton, wohingegen Lime White und Off White etwas traditioneller wirken, sie verkörpern echt englisches Understatement. Um die grünlichen Untertöne schön zu betonen, setzen Sie diese Nuancen am besten in Räumen mit Nordausrichtung ein. Das kühlere Licht dort passt auch besonders gut zum dunkleren Old White oder klaren James White.

    Lime White No.1 in Modern Emulsion

    Bild aus Recipes for Decorating

    Slipper Satin No.2004 in Modern Emulsion

    Bild aus Recipes for Decorating

    Rötliche Weißtöne

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    Dead Salmon No.28 in Estate Emulsion; Joa’s White No.226 in Estate Eggshell

    Bild von Recipes for Decorating

    Pointing No.2003 in Modern Emulsion

    Bild aus Recipes for Decorating

    Gebrochenes Weiß mit gelblichen Untertönen

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    Wimborne White No.239 in Estate Emulsion und Estate Eggshell

    Bild aus Recipes for Decorating

    Wimborne White No.239 in Exterior Eggshell

    Weißtöne richtig kombinieren

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