4 Surprising Things White Paint Can Do for Your Space

We'll give you four reasons why this popular paint shade is anything but vanilla.

White paint is having a years-long moment in the spotlight, and its popularity might just keep going—but this paint option isn't just pretty. Though it's hard to know exactly why, white paint does a few things for its surroundings that other paint colors don't. These superpowers are likely why white paint has been popular for so long.

Paint colors are pretty subjective, so white paint might not be right for your space or lifestyle; plenty of dark paint colors are just as beautiful on walls, trim, and ceilings. But if you're considering white walls, these extra benefits might just push you closer to making that decision. Leigh Spicher, the national director of design studios for the homebuilder Ashton Woods offers some smart design facts about why painting with white is the right choice.

It's Sneakily Complex

Anyone who's tried to buy basic white paint knows this already: Over 150 shades make up the vast spectrum of the color white. Most of them have an undertone that puts them in one of two categories: cool white and warm white.

This complexity of options bespeaks the many ways that white paint can affect a room. Cool white paint, which has a blue, green, or gray undertone, can make a room feel brighter. Warm white, which has an undertone of yellow or red, can make a room feel cozier.  

To identify the undertone of your white paint swatch, hold it up against a sheet of white paper. If you see hints of gray, this is a cool white. Hints of yellow? It's warm. You can actually set the emotional tone of your room by choosing white paint! Who knew?

It's a Blank Slate

In the absence of color, white serves as a blank slate. Spicher uses it in her studio as a foundation because it makes it easier to choose other colors for décor, furnishings, and more. In a room with white walls, picking complementary colors for the other items in the space is a little bit easier than it might be in, say, a room with pink walls. Starting with white walls might make it a little easier if you struggle to pull a room together.

It Offers an Illusion of Space

Many people use white paint to create the illusion of space, Spicher says. "If you're working in a smaller space, [white paint] immediately will make it feel larger," she says. "If you're working in a large space, it will open it up even more." That's because darker colors absorb light, while white paint reflects light, making the walls appear to be receding.

It Makes Us Feel Good

Maybe this should have been white paint superpower number one: Who doesn't want to feel good, after all? White paint can elevate your mood. "White just clears your mind," Spicher says. "It makes you a little bit more relaxed and gives you a little space in your mind to make good choices."

Picture the white flag, the white wedding dress, and the white dove. In the psychology of color, white symbolizes peace and purity–feelings most people are drawn to, Spicher says.

"People might not cognitively realize that white is actually the presence of light," she says. "White gives us a lot of light in our homes, and that makes us feel good."

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can painting my bedroom white help me to sleep?

    Yes, white paint's "clean slate" quality can benefit the mind when you're winding down for sleep. Unlike brighter colors, white doesn't stimulate the brain and has a tranquil effect. It can also serve as a backdrop for bedding and curtains in soothing colors like pale blue or gray.

  • Are white walls hard to clean?

    Scuff marks and fingerprints appear on white more readily than on darker-colored walls. That said, using a high-gloss or semi-gloss paint sheen will make them easier to clean. Wipe off smudges with a sponge, warm water solution, and dish soap. Or use a Magic Eraser.

  • What color trim goes with white walls?

    There are no hard and fast rules about trim color with white walls. You can paint the trim white as well for a cohesive look. Or you can choose another color, like gray. Just make sure that the undertones match. Avoid pairing a cool white with a warm color, and vice versa.

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