Are White Walls Right for You? A Helpful Hints Guide

Despite what we see in abundance in photographs, it is not necessarily true that white wall paint will instantly make every room feel bigger and brighter. Photos have the capacity to make a space look ensconced in natural light, which is inherently more attractive. But the photo might not tell the real story. Here are some rules of thumb you’ll want to consider before painting your walls white so you end up with a beautiful space in reality (and not just a look you copied from a photograph).

White wall paired with a yellow door

(Note: The photographic examples provided in this article are examples of white walls done right, even when paired with a paragraph of White Wall Don’ts.)

Need a light? Avoid white.

Need white - avoid white when you decorate

If your room needs artificial light sources during the day, it’s not a good candidate for white walls. This is a good starting indicator of whether or not you should even entertain the thought of white walls in your space.

No natural light? Avoid white.

Avoid white if you dont have natural light

Similarly, if the room has little to no natural light, painting its walls will make the room appear flat and lifeless. Avoid white walls in these spaces, regardless of how much your heart wants them. Remember, you need natural light for vibrant white!

Architecture a fright? Steer clear of white.

Architecture a fright - white walls

In spaces that have architectural flaws or distracting idiosyncrasies, white walls are not the best option. White tends to show, rather than hide or disguise, imperfections.{found on kathleenbost}.

Space dark and tight? Avoid white.

Cozy and calm narrow hallway in white

Although we hear often that white walls make spaces appear brighter and larger, this is only partially true – they appear bright when the room itself already has a great source of natural light. Small, dark spaces should not be painted white. A medium-toned neutral color always works better in small, dark spaces, to add energy and oomph. (Darker colors may be used, but only if you intentionally want the space to feel smaller and cozier.) However,a small space that does have natural light can thrive with white walls.

Naturally bright? Go for white.

Naturaly bright living room

As you likely thoroughly understand by this point, it comes down to this: White walls work best in a naturally bright room, where the light coming in just seems to build on itself by bouncing all around.

Noon sunlight? Use clear white.

Scandinavian decor - in white and pops of black

If your room is oriented away from midday sunlight, a clear white paint will work. This is because white walls will capitalize on the greyish-blue natural light and keep things in balance.

North-facing site? Choose warm white.

Brown wood furniture and white walls

If your room receives light from north-facing windows (in the northern hemisphere), white walls with warm (read: red, yellow, brown) tones will look best.

Focal site? Choose background white.

Focal site bedroom in white

You could paint white walls as the “background” surrounding an accent wall, but only if the room already has plenty of natural light.

Interesting silhou-ite? Show off with white.

Interesting silhou-ite

When it comes to sculptural, textural, and other artistic-type elements displayed in your home, white often provides an excellent backdrop. In a modern, rustic, or industrial space, white walls can excel in showcasing your stuff (like these eco-modern David Nash pieces).

Soft natural sight? Complement with white.

Beach house with soft natural white

White walls look great in a home with a gorgeous natural view, such as the ocean. The color frames and enhances the view itself, rather than distracts from it. However, if the ocean view is stark and harsh, such as that in New England in the winter, white walls might add to the harshness.

Busy-ness plight? Go for white.

Small rooms go for white

Rooms that have lots going on stylistically might thrive with white walls as the foundation and/or “absence” of color. The success of white walls in these instances depends, once again, on the level of natural light that the space receives.{found on hortonandco}.

You choose white? Get tone right!

Right Tone of White for Your Interior Design

If you do decide that white walls are best for you, be sure to choose the right white for your space – blue/grey/green undertones, or red/yellow/brown. There are probably as many shades and tones of “white” as there are actual colors!