5 mistakes to avoid when selecting white

Do you want to know the mistakes to avoid when selecting white?  This is the question I am asked the most, either through this blog, or when I am working with clients – ‘which white should I use?'  Decorating with white colour palettes is very popular for all styles, whichever country you are in.  Whether you prefer an Australian Coastal or Country style, an East Coast American Hamptons look, the ever popular Scandi style or a slick inner city urban look – you will be faced with the same dilemma.  Which white should I choose?

How to avoid selecting the wrong white

I have already written an in-depth article on my blog about how to select the right white but I thought it would be really useful, from the experience that I have, to just list the 5 biggest mistakes to avoid when selecting white.  This beautiful kitchen below from Three Birds Renovations demonstrates how great white looks when you get it right.

5 mistakes to avoid when selecting white
Image – Three Birds Renovations

Mistakes to avoid when choosing white paint

  1. Looking at the white sample in isolation.  You must view your whole colour palette as one. Therefore you should pull together all the finishes that you plan to use for your new scheme.  Start with the floor as this is the base for your scheme.  Then consider your kitchen cabinets – if these are new, are you using a melamine, in which case your selection is a little more limited, or do you have a two pack polyurethane painted finish that can be any colour?  Now consider your benchtop, splashback, pieces of furniture you already have, for example sofas, chair, upholstered bedhead etc.  Consider rugs and accessories that you either have to work around or would like to purchase.  Only make your selection of white paint once you have all of these items together.  It is much easier to see the flow of the palette as a whole, rather than just choosing a white that you have seen work in a friend's house or magazine.
  2. Viewing the sample in a small colour chip.  You really can't see the underlying colour when you view the sample in a small amount.  All neutrals will have a base and you have to see the colour in an A4 size or larger and view this against a pure white background, for example a plain piece of paper, to really appreciate the underlying colour.  You will be surprised how the creamy yellow tones, grey or blue tones etc will jump out at you in a way they wouldn't when viewed as a small paint chip on a colour card.
  3. Using the same white throughout without varying the textural finishes.  This can leave you with a scheme that works together colourwise but doesn't work for the room as it is too flat.  If you use just one colour or tone, ensure that you introduce different finishes.  For example if you have brick feature walls, you can simply paint these white and then use the same white on a plastered wall to great effect. Consider your soft furnishings and rugs and use various layers of texture to create interest.  This way you can have a completely white room that will look great.  With such a simple palette, don't underestimate the impact that introducing another colour will bring.  For example, just a touch of black in a scheme like this can look fantastic as the strong tonal variation is very striking.
  4. Using a cool white palette in an area of your home that tends to be cold and doesn't receive a lot of natural light or a warm palette in a hot and sunny area.  Ensure that you consider the aspect of the space before you select the colour palette – you may love cool, almost grey or blue colour palettes but the effect could be awful if the aspect is not right.  You can still achieve a cool, fresh look, you may just have to adjust the amount of grey.  Don't feel that you have to keep your entire colour palette either warm or cool.  Just go predominantly with one to create a theme but don't be afraid to mix it up a little.  Remember opposites attract but as far as interiors are concerned they are best suited in an 80/20 mix.
  5. Not considering your ceiling colour.  A ceiling white will often include a touch of grey or even blue and I find that this can sometimes throw the entire scheme.  You can follow all the rules above and then ruin it by not considering the ceiling and cornice.  Remember that in addition to your wall colour meeting the ceiling, kitchen cabinets will also often reach to the ceiling too. The white you choose for walls, cabinetry, internal doors and trim therefore must relate to this all important area.

The difference between a cool and a warm white colour palette

5 mistakes to avoid when selecting white

A picture speaks a thousand words and you can see the difference between this cool white palette and the warm colour palette below.  You can also see how beneficial it is to put everything that you plan to use together, including inspiration from magazines of what you would like to achieve for your home.

5 mistakes to avoid when selecting white

Lovers of the modern grey trend can see from this colour palette that although your room aspect may demand a warmer colour palette, you can still introduce some grey.  You just need to ensure that the basics are warm – remember that 80/20 rule for opposites.

For example, a warm timber frame with a lovely warm grey throw balances the scheme nicely.  The benchtop sample too has beautiful warm gold tones running through it but is still essentially grey.

5 mistakes to avoid when selecting white
Image – Elle Decoration

A beautiful cool simple living room scheme.  Slip wash covers that can be removed for washing or dry cleaning are a good idea here!

5 mistakes to avoid when selecting white
Image – Arosynote

A gorgeous warm living room scheme – I could quite happily spend an afternoon in this room.  There are the white slip covers again – a must for this type of look!  And remember what I said about varying textures to introduce interest in a simple colour palette – this beautiful image demonstrates the point perfectly.

Remember point 5?  I go into more detail about this here. What colour do I paint my ceiling?

Related: What colour do I paint my skirting boards and architraves?

When considering the mistakes to avoid when selecting white, do not forget your internal doors.  Often these are part of a white colour palette.  Find out how to treat them here.

Point 3 discussed introducing texture.  You can do this by painting your bricks white.

5 mistakes to avoid when selecting white

I hope that by highlighting the 5 biggest mistakes people make when selecting the right white that you now have more confidence when choosing your colour scheme.  Remember not to work against the environment that you have, rather embrace it and find the right white to complement it, so that the space is one that you love to spend time in.

For a more in-depth article you should read the following: How to find the right white

Don't forget the outside – just as important when selecting white paint:

Avoid the mistakes when selecting white by putting together a mood board – I have a FREE e-book for you to download here which tells you all about how to put one together.

Still confused? I have an online colour consultation service where I review your photos and problems on a one-one basis.  Find out more here 


32 thoughts on “5 mistakes to avoid when selecting white

  1. Avatar
    Elaine says:

    Hi I love your ideas! Could you give me some advice about white please? I have white kitchen cabinets with frosty carina bench and splash back and stainless steel appliances and kick boards, and 2 beautiful grey lamps above the breakfast bar from Norman Copenhagen. Now trying to decide on s white for the ceiling , walls and trims. The floor is a warming walnut but not throwing very much red. Do you think that Dulux snowy mountains would be a good pick? In half or quarter? And we have chocolate coloured exposed beams on the raked ceiling , will these match with a ceiling white??? Thankyou for your advice!

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Elaine I like to avoid ceiling white and prefer to go for a quarter strength of what you have on the walls. If you like the Snowy Mountains range then have half strength on the walls and quarter on the trim and ceiling. Make sure you try a sample out next to your white kitchen cabinets though as these could have an underlying colour and you need to ensure it will work with the walls. Good luck! Samantha

  2. Avatar
    Mary says:

    Hi Sam, thanks for being a life saver in this beautiful world of color.
    We are in process of renovating a federation style home with a classic look. We have 2pac white gloss Hampton style kitchen, calacutta classic benchtop and splashback, oak floors. North facing kitchen. Looking to paint Vivid White for ceiling, walls – Antique white USA. Not sure whether doors to paint vivid white (semi gloss) or Antique white USA with trims and skirts (semi gloss) for the contrast.
    With sincere thanks.

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Mary if you choose Vivid White for your trims and internal doors it will make the Antique White appear a little darker and will tie in your kitchen colours into the scheme. If everything is in Antique White, you don’t notice the depth of the AW as much. There isn’t a right or wrong – all in one colour is more subtle but the contrast of Vivid White would give you more of a classic Hamptons look. Good luck Samantha

  3. Avatar
    Mary Sands says:

    Hi Samantha,

    thanks for the article on choosing whites. I’m putting a white kitchen into a new build. Have chosen Lexicon half for the walls. I can’t afford 2-pac to paint the cabinets to match. Do you think Chalk white laminex would be ok? The bench top is Ash concrete by Essastone or similar. Hope you can help me. Thanks,

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Mary Chalk White will be fine with Dulux Lexicon Half – Laminex has put together a range of whites to match the Dulux colours and this is their recommendation. All sounds good – hope you love your new kitchen Samantha

  4. Avatar
    Gordana says:

    Hi Samantha,

    I’m stuck in 2 minds.

    Dulux vivid white- walls, trims, ceilings, doors (everything!!)


    Dulux vivid white ceilings and trims with a warmer white on the walls such a Dulux natural white.

    Your opinion is so so appropriated! Xx

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Gordana It really depends whether you want to see a contrast or not. A very ultra contemporary space would be all in pure white. But if you prefer a slightly more relaxed look then it’s good to have a slight contrast for the walls. Dulux Vivid White doesn’t have much, if any, pigment and therefore it can need a few coats to get the finish right so this may be something to bear in mind too. Think about the overall look and feel that you want and this may help you decide. Good luck Samantha

      • Avatar
        Lisa says:

        Hi Samantha
        Thanks for your insightful article.
        We are wanting to paint for a more hamptons style. I was thinking Vivid White for trims, architraves and ceiling and either grand Piano, hog bristle or white beach quarter or antique white USA for walls. I have a taupe couch with white furniture and a white kitchen in Polytec Oberon in classic white . Your thoughts are appreciated

        • Samantha Bacon
          Samantha Bacon says:

          Hi Lisa Classic White kitchen cabinets are easy to match so the main thing to bear in mind is the taupe sofa. My pick would probably be White Beach Quarter so perhaps start with a sample of this and check it next to the sofa. Good luck Samantha

  5. Avatar
    Adelle Lacey says:

    Hi Samantha,
    Thank you for your generous insight and experience that you share with us all on your website. I have referred back to your blog a number of times whilst making colour decisions. I have a question that I can’t seem to resolve and so have decided to take an internet leap and ask for your opinion. We are restoring a late 19th century Victorian home in South Aus: pine floors with black japanning, large skirts, cornices and roses, North facing windows in all rooms (except west faced living), very long/wide hallway with no windows (filtered light from front door, back door and respective bedrooms). We get the most beautiful light in this house and deciding on the right whites vs our preference vs what is right for the house has been a challenge. In the end we have gone with the tried and true favourite ‘Dulux Natural White’ for nearly all of the rooms. My Q is, we have bought Vivid White for the trim, however after painting one door I think it is too stark for this Victorian home. Do you have a white for the trim that you would recommend? Or, is it better to stick with Natural at 1/2? Thank you very much for your help!

    PS: We have also gone to the dark side… we will be painting our entire lounge room Porter’s Paint ‘Black Blue’! We were inspired by both what the house is ‘asking’ for as well as your blogs on dark paint/manipulating mood, etc.

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Adelle Yes – I can see from the description of your beautiful home that Vivid White will definitely be too stark. Half strength of Dulux Natural White should work well or try White Polar Quarter which will be similar. Just try a litre of the paint on one door to check you like the effect. I’m so glad you have made the plunge with a dark colour. I lived in a Victorian home in Melbourne for a while and used dark colours in some rooms and it looked amazing. Glad you are finding the blog useful! Hope this helps Samantha

  6. Avatar
    Renee says:

    Deciding to paint interior of house white throughout but not sure what colour white – I have beige/fawn (couch) with beige/black and white cushions – bedroom is white cover with grey / mustard throw rugs black curtains 🙏- please help walls and door frames plus skirtings
    Thanking you ❤️

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Renee You have some nice warm colours – beige and mustard so a warm white would work well and you can just use the same throughout and keep it light and simple. You need to consider how much light the house receives but generally I would recommend a warmer white, particularly with these tones. Either Dulux Natural White or Dulux Whisper White if you want a touch more grey in it. Both lovely whites so try a sample of these and see what you think. Hope this helps Samantha

  7. Avatar
    Glenys MacAskill says:

    Hi Samantha, my husband has painted in our TV room a feature wall of Dulux Metallic Stella Glow. Am trying to find just the right white to paint the rest of the walls so not to clash with this.
    A lot of the whites I tried through yellow or cream and didn’t enhance the Stella Glow. We will be also painting the rest of our house white.
    We have very soft grey/white floor tiles throughout and kitchen bench stone top is similar colour.
    I have narrowed it down to Natural White and Casper White Quarter .??
    Also would appreciate your thoughts and also for window frames and skirting boards.
    Thank you Samantha

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Glenys I think you should opt for Dulux Casper White Quarter with the Metallic Stella Glow and I would just continue this on the architraves and skirting boards but in a semi gloss so that you get a slightly different finish and therefore a touch of contrast. Good luck Samantha

  8. Avatar
    Lyn says:

    I really enjoy your posts. My painter is suggesting lexicon half for the walls, to make my house bright and fresh, however, I’m a bit concerned, my kitchen is warm white cupboards and warm soft green upper cupboards in jute and kitchen tops in Limestone Coupe in gloss. My floor is Queensland spotted gum. My tiles elsewhere are in a soft muted grey. I was thinking more a colour like natural white in half strength. I also want to say that I’m an artist and will feature my artworks on my walls as well as convert my garage into an art gallery. I know that artworks don,t look as good on warmer yellowed tinted walls. Thankyou in advance for your advice.

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Lyn glad you’re enjoying the posts! Dulux Lexicon Half is definitely too cold and blue for your scheme. You could try a sample pot of Dulux White Verdict Quarter, a very neutral pale white which if anything throws green. Hopefully that will work? Good luck Samantha

  9. Avatar
    Lyn says:

    Thankyou so much Samantha. I was going to try Casper White Quarter on the walls before I received your post. I like your suggestion of going 1/2 strength on the ceilings, and gloss on the trims, and full strength on the doors. I will go this afternoon to get a sample pot of Dulux White Verdict Qurter. Many thanks, Lyn

  10. Avatar
    Lyn says:

    That sounds great Samantha, I will get a sample of White Verdict Quarter today. I have agonized over this. I forgot to tell you that my windows are framed in black. I live one street away from the sea, but have alot of greenery and trees surrounding my place. Could you suggest a colour for the ceiling and trims, many thanks again.

  11. Avatar
    Kelly Wolfert says:

    thank you so much for your articles they are so great. Can I please ask a question. My husband and I are building a modern home with smooth lines, no skirtings cornices, all square stop. In the kitchen we are having polytec polar white cabinetry. I cant decided between lexicon 1/4 strength or white on white for the walls through out the house. What would be your suggestion please? We have lots of windows and in the living area lots of highlight windows in the 3.7 racked ceiling. Thanks so so much

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Kelly Both Dulux Lexicon Quarter and White on White will work with Polytec Polar White as they are all cool. Personally I prefer Lexicon Quarter as it is crisp and cool and will suit your style of home without being too blue. White on White does throw blue and can be very cold so you need to consider where you live and whether you like the idea of the stronger blue undertone of White on White. Hope this helps Samantha

  12. Avatar
    Tina says:

    Hi , I am so confused As to what colour to paint the interior of my whole house . I have quite a lot of dark Balinese furniture and my walls atm are a colour called mini tan . I am looking for an off white that’s not too clinical and also doesn’t throw any yellow or greys . Please help ?

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Tina Dulux White Verdict Quarter is a nice white that doesn’t look grey and is fairly neutral as it has a green base. This might be worth a try in a sample pot. Good luck Samantha

  13. Avatar
    Alison says:

    Hi, I am looking for a white to go in my East facing living room. I have light grey sofa’s and a mid coloured wood floor, was thinking about going with white on white or lexicon Qtr but the samples look too blue in the dark room. Any ideas?

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Alison Dulux White on White has a very definite blue undertone and is a cool white which I donb’t think will suit your east facing room. Dulux Lexicon Quarter is a very crisp contemporary white and the blue is not as obvious but it is still a cool colour. For that aspect room, you should be looking for something warmer and also consider the colours for your ceilings, internal door and trim. Dulux Snowy Mountains Quarter is a nice white which doesn’t have the blue and is a little warmer – perhaps try a sample of that and also remember to consider all the whites in the room.

  14. Avatar
    Jaja says:

    Hi Samantha,
    Great articles! Got hooked!
    Would appreciate your advice, as torn between silver tea set and terrace white for walls. We have chosen vivid white for ceiling, skirts, internal doors and windows. Lights are cool white instead of warm. Thanks.

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Jaja glad you’re enjoying the articles. Silver Tea Set is a softer and warmer grey with warm lavender undertones while Terrace White is a cool blue pale grey – both are lovely so you need to consider the other furnishings in the room and also the mood and feel you want to create with either a warm or a cool grey. Good luck Samantha

  15. Avatar
    Elizabeth says:

    I have south-west facing kitchen and living room and ikea kitchen off – white cabinets, neutral light gray sofa, high ceilings and lot of light. Which white or gray would match? I want white ceilings and some matching color for the walls. Thank you for your advice.

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Elizabeth you need to take the kitchen cabinetry as your reference point as the white you use will need to match that. Most of the Ikea white cabinets tend to be a warmer creamy white. You will need to collect some white samples from the paint store and put them next to the cupboards to see which one has the right undertone to match or tie in with the cupboards. This is really important for finding a white to match. The same is true for the grey and you should use your reference point of your sofa – it may be a blue grey or a warm pink grey. By collecting some grey paint samples and holding them against the sofa it will help you to identify those undertones. Hope this helps Samantha

  16. Avatar
    Amanda says:

    Hi Samantha,
    Completely at a loss in regard to choosing a white bench top for our kitchen. We have shaker style 2 pac matt 1/2 strength Lexicon colour cabintry, warm wood floors, wood louvers, and a lot of wood features near the kitchen. We wanted to keep it white so it is timeless. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

    • Samantha Bacon
      Samantha Bacon says:

      Hi Amanda With Dulux Lexicon half strength you need to consider that it has a slight blue undertone so don’t opt for a white benchtop with a creamy base. You also need to consider if you want it plain white or with some veins through the design. It’s difficult to say for sure but if you visit the kitchen store with a large sample of the joinery colour then you will easily be able to see the undertones in the stone. Hope this helps Samantha

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