A coat of white paint can do wonders in one room and wreak havoc in another. Here are tips for using the popular hue
But the same white paint that makes one room seem magical can make another look frighteningly chilly. As with all colors, white has an associated temperature, mood, light reflectivity and style, along with maintenance requirements and history. Ignore these elements, and your seemingly fresh, crisp white paint can make your space feel completely off. But worry not. Oftentimes all it takes is just a little addition of another color to warm things up or tone them down. Here’s what to consider before you paint your walls white.
Before painting a room white, identify its orientation. Rooms that face away from the noonday sun receive gray-blue light, which is great for a summer bedroom, a gym or a studio where you want constancy. A clear white paint will optimize the light of these spaces while keeping things cool.
Rooms that do not benefit from sunlight streaming in each day are good candidates. Warm color pigments replicate the heat aspect of sunshine and will increase blood pressure, the level of activity and the positive vibe you want with company. Neuroscience, using MRIs, has documented the physiological effects of color and supported what artists have long held to be true about the power of warm colors to make us feel the heat.
White walls are a good choice to cool these spaces, and the paint can be adjusted with pigmenting options that will address glare. For example, gray softens the reflective quality of white and will help “quiet” the space if there are large windows inundating the living room with strong light.
Know that one color option could not possibly control all diurnal or seasonal light situations. But if you take a look at your use, you will find that there are times of day and certain seasons when your rooms get the most wear.
Decide to use the walls to either radiate or dampen what comes in naturally by adding the conditioning element of color. Benjamin Moore’s Off-White Collection of 140 whites is arranged by hue and can help you select a cool (one with blue, gray or green tones) or a warm white (with red, orange or yellow tones). When using your favorite paint brand, check the fan deck for the white in each color range to see the underlying hue for each option (Benjamin Moore provides this info for its OC White Collection).
Take a look outside the window and decide if the foliage that blocks the light helps or hinders your use of the room. For example, a deciduous tree outside a south-facing (in the Northern Hemisphere) kitchen and family room will condition the house year round for more sunlight in the winter and shade in the summer. This makes it a good idea to add color to the white (known as “dirtying the white”). Gray-green will cut down on the brightness when the tree is without leaves and the angle of the sun is low following the winter solstice. A purer white would excessively bounce the low-angled winter sunlight.