24 white paints to taste – and the one I finally chose

I’m not sure when my year-long quest to find the perfect white paint officially went too far. Was it when I taped 24 different samples to the wall to help “bring down the number” to 20? Was it when I spent a day setting an hourly alarm so I wouldn’t forget to observe how the light changed every hue? Was it when I invited the UPS delivery driver to my house to ask her what she thought of my latest suitors?

“Choosing white paint can be so difficult because it seems like it should be easy,” says design blogger Erin Conway of Kismet House. All I knew was that my search for the perfect shade had somehow gone completely off the rails.

When we moved into our home in downtown Charleston, SC in early 2021, the walls were painted white of the contractor’s choice (since identified as highly reflective white by Sherwin-Williams). Although the selection was clearly designed to make the small space look bigger and brighter, I knew I would change it. “Oh, just put a fresh coat of paint on it,” our realtor said, as if it was going to be that simple.

As I tore through the rest of the house and the landscaping with laser-like focus and determination, the choice of white paint escalated. With each passing week, the flat white walls became dirtier from my toddler’s hands. (Personal note: matte or eggshell finishes are ideal for light-colored walls in homes with children.)

At first, I brought home swatches of paint cans from the store, carefully painting 1′ by 1′ squares of paint, like a patchwork of neutrals all over. Once I ran out of decent wall space, I moved on to single-handedly keeping Samplize in business with peel-and-stick controls. In total, I tried 24 different white paints before seeking professional help.

Now, days away from applying my final selection to the walls, I’m sharing the best tips I’ve received along the way to help you on your painting journey (and yes, it’s a journey) a little easier. Each piece of knowledge comes from a different expert, and each person played an important role in my final decision.

But before I start, here are the 24 colors I started with, in no particular order. (Disclaimer: browse at your own risk: these are all compelling shades that look great on the internet.)

The initial list

Organize ruthlessly

Patrick O’Donnell, color pro and international brand ambassador at Farrow & Ball, told me my first mistake was choosing so many swatches. “I would definitely slap the wrist on anyone who started with 24 white options,” O’Donnell says. (Oops.) “You have to edit from the start, otherwise it will seem impossible to make a decision and you will always feel like you have made a compromise.” But, I complained, isn’t that easier said than done? O’Donnell recommended creating a mood board, physical or digital, and testing the whites in that context before you even sample them, then note, “Try to narrow it down to no more than five white paints that you sample actually in your house.

Become friends with a painting professional

My good friend (and Domino’s associate editor) Julie Vadnal has hundreds of design professionals in her contacts, and she knows a thing or two about bringing in an expert source. She reminded me how important it is to call on the folks at your local paint showroom. Not only is it the easiest and fastest way to compare a wide range of IRL white paints and talk with people who know the ins and outs of every color you’re looking at, but stick around long enough and you’ll be done. by getting VIP treatment. – my local store lent me a book on paint chips, advised me to bring my whole sofa cushion into the store to help reduce it (awesome!), and started hooking me up with coffee free at the back during my visit.

Don’t trust photos on the internet

I repeat: do not trust the photos on the Internet. What looks good in someone else’s bedroom (and looks great in their photos) won’t necessarily work for you, especially when it comes to the subtlety of the white paint, says Laurie Bohler-Park, architect of interior based in Charleston. Everything, including the type of light (natural or artificial), the style of your home, and other colors in the room, will affect the look of your home. “The biggest thing people underestimate when choosing white paint is the color of their floors,” says Bohler-Park. Natural and artificial light reflects off floors and can transform the color of your white walls. Instead, research the type of white you want (warm, cool, gray shades, etc.) to suit your space, then select a few solid representations of which you want to go from.

After taking all of this advice into consideration, I’ve narrowed my whites down considerably to these last five warm whites.

The curated collection

Sample smarter

When it comes time to test your samples directly on a wall, proceed with caution. Professional house painter Raul Ortiz of Real Touch Painting in Charleston warned me that carelessly applied swatches can affect a wall’s final texture, or at least the final price of your paint. “If paint swatches are too thick or have texture from brush marks, a painter will need to fix it with drywall mud,” says Ortiz. Instead, he advises using a fine-finish paint roller to apply swatches of white paint. “Do two coats, enough to get the true color, and that’s it,” he says.

Finally, ignore the advice

I had a hard time balancing the advice of a few close friends (er, and that UPS driver). Likewise, Conway has nearly 500,000 followers on his Instagram account, and there’s no shortage of opinions. It’s okay to be overwhelmed with options, she reassured me, but try to remember that it’s just paint. “You could be wrong, you could hate it, and that’s okay,” she says. “It’s normal to change your mind.” On the other hand, if you end up liking it, stop comparing it with other images in your feed. “You can yearn for someone else’s white paint color and not wish it were yours,” says Conway.

The final decision

Just days away from painting the entire downstairs living room Dove White, my doubts have been minimized and I’m ready for the relief that will come after I make a decision. So no, I will not read the comments, thank you very much.

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