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Whites that work

From the Resene decorating blog

Whether your taste aligns with minimalism, rustic, coastal or country cottage, white will always play a role in your desired look. Evoking freshness and elegance, whites are versatile, working with almost any other hue.

A reading corner painted in fresh whites

The fresh white walls of this reading corner allow the complementary colours to pop crisply. Wall in Resene Half Alabaster, floor in Resene Rakaia, arch screen in Resene Half Alabaster with stripes in Resene Pattens Blue, side table in Resene Code Red and vase in Resene Pale Rose. Lamps from Lighting Plus, artwork by Brenda Clews, curtain from Resene Curtain Collection, candle from Flo & Frankie, olive chair from Contempa, cushion from Adairs, glass vase from Good Thing. Project by Melle van Sambeek, image by Bryce Carleton.

It’s a colour that always feels at calming, relaxing and never goes out of fashion. No wonder whites are such a popular choice among homeowners; the beautiful thing about whites is that there will be a white for you with the multitude of types available.

White can be just as hard, though, if not harder to choose, than a bold colour. The impact of the wrong white can be big, so it’s worth the effort finding one that doesn’t make your home feel sterile or lack in personality.

Resene Colour Consultant Jackie Nicholls celebrates white as a popular trend that is clean and fresh. “Just add your accessories – it sounds simple, doesn’t it? However, so many people fall into the trap of using what seems modern and current, only to find it looks cold and unfriendly in their own place."

"It’s worth having a careful look at the various undertones in the huge range of white shades available,” she says. “They're hard to spot at a glance, but they become obvious when you sit them next to each other. Resene have colour specialists and staff that can help you with this."

The first step is to look at where you want to paint your white. What will it sit beside? White’s nuances are subtle, it is a colour that can change dramatically with the light and the colours surrounding it, be it in furniture, flooring or paint on existing walls. There are elements of colour in your furniture, décor and lighting that can impact the way your swatches appear. A golden wooden floor will warm up a cool white wall with its warm hue during the day. However, at night, the artificial light that comes from the ceiling will make it appear quite different.

"A kitchen is a good place to start when selecting a white," says Jackie, "once you’ve chosen your fittings and surfaces and cabinetry. What undertones exist in these surfaces? Is there greenery outside? What's reflecting into the room? These can all impact the colour of a white room."

The lighter the white the more changeable it is and the more effected it is by these factors especially light, Jackie adds. “If you painted a deep, blue green it won’t change much with the time of day. There is more depth in it, it holds its own.”

Other points to remember, she says, with white is that everyone sees colour differently. “We all have emotional associations with colour. Light has a massive difference, changing at different times of the day – even the corners of a room can differ. Context – what it is sitting next to – and properties – whether it will cover a large or small area – also matters."

It's still important to try and find a white that makes your heart sing. Look at Resene colour swatches and select what you’re attracted to straight away. Paint your Resene testpot onto a large piece of cardboard (A2 size is ideal) leaving an unpainted border around the edge. Once dry, move your samples around your home and analyse how the natural light and surroundings effect the colour.

Whites complement an earthy green colour scheme

The perfect partner for an earthy colour scheme, white adds an element of freshness that enhances its surrounding olive and terracotta tones. Upper wall in Resene Stone Age, lower batten wall in Resene Wilderness, floor in Resene Green White, side tables in Resene Alabaster with ‘marble effect’ in Resene FX Paint Effects Medium coloured with Resene Rolling Stone, cacti plant pot in Resene Celeste, jug vase in Resene Spitfire, tiny vase in Resene Lime White, curvy vase in Resene Lime White, large vase (with greenery) in Resene Beethoven, lidded dish (on table) in Resene Hampton and ball ornament in Resene Half Duck Egg Blue. Bedding from Citta, bottle from Nood, rug, mirror, plants from Freedom Furniture, lamp from The Design Store. Project by Laura Lynn Johnston, image by Wendy Fenwick.

“Don’t place your swatches side by side, Jackie says, as they can fight with each other and you won’t like any of them.” For the same reason don’t paint your test colour directly onto the wall as the existing colour will affect the new colour. Place them in isolation, hold them next to something staying in the room such as a trim, door frame, artwork or curtain. Carry it around and try it in different aspects.”

"Don’t be afraid to have more than one shade in your home, colder rooms will benefit from warmer shades like Resene Cararra or Resene Rice Cake, while a large, sunny space can look good in Resene Half Sea Fog or Resene Quarter White Pointer."

"A clever way to add interest with white is to consider painting the doors throughout in a soft shade such as Resene Eighth Stonehenge. To give the whole scheme an edge, add in a dark moody feature wall that could be repeated in a bathroom or powder room perhaps, like Resene Half Fuscous Grey from the Karen Walker Paints collection."

The paint finish can also make a difference, Jackie says. "Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen is normally used on walls, but you could consider Resene SpaceCote Flat for a sophisticated finish, especially in a media room or around a fireplace. Resene Enamacyl is a full-gloss option for doors and trims, providingxw a sharp contrast."

Pattern and texture bring interest to a white interior. In a kitchen, blend a marble benchtop and wood stained flooring in Resene Colorwood. In a home with a country cottage feel, vertical tongue-and-groove panelling on the wall can look beautiful with a creamy chalky white for a warm heritage feel.

If you’d like to bring in some subtle colour, there are ways without it popping too much and dominating your white scheme. In an all-white kitchen for instance, in a countertop cabinet that houses your breakfast items, paint the background wall of your cabinet in a gentle hue such as the smoky grey-green of Resene Ash. Coordinate with cabinetry painted in Resene Half Thorndon Cream or Resene Quarter Joanna. Or in an all-white kitchen, bring in a sophisticated grey navy or dark olive green on the cabinet doors or on your kitchen-island panels.

Décor has its place in softening a white scheme and creating depth. By bringing in luscious textiles, such as sheepskin or thick-pile rugs with fringing or tassels, soft throws to snuggle up against and velvet cushions, you’ll create an inviting setting. Flowing curtains will add comfort to your fresh, clean aesthetic too.

When bringing in colour, go slowly and gently. Bring in soft colours that won’t appear too harsh on the eye. Try sunset hues – pinks, corals and taupes for a warming effect, such as Resene Soothe and Resene Soulful. For a more Mediterranean feel go for turquoise, greens and coastal blues, such as Resene Breathless and Resene St Kilda.

Pairing whites and neutrals in a conservatory

Using versatile whites in your home

Conservatory: Bring in a two-toned effect, using white and a neutral, for subtle interest into this conservatory. The addition of a mural provides a sense of movement and texture into such a relaxing scheme. Lamp in Resene Mondo on the base and Resene Half Pravda on the shade, footstool in Half Pravda, vase in Resene Pravda, walls in Resene Half Joanna (bottom), Resene Quarter Alabaster (top) and sideboard in Resene Half Truffle. Chair and globe from French Country, cushion from Collect Living, rug from The Ivy House. Project by Kate Alexander, image by Bryce Carleton.  Hallway: The gently, versatile white of Resene Arrowroot pairs with playful patterns in this hallway to impressive effect. The back wall is in Resene Arrowroot with texture in Resene FX Paint Effects Medium tinted with Resene Half Alabaster, the left wall (with window) is in Resene Explorer, the window trims are in Resene Half Alabaster, the skirting boards are in Resene Half Alabaster, the ‘Tiled’ floor is in Resene Midwinter Mist with ‘grout’ in Resene Stack, the coat rack is in Resene Explorer, the desk is in Resene Explorer, the lamp/vase is in Resene Stack with stripes in Resene French Grey, the low vase is in Resene French Grey, the lidded dish is in Resene Explorer, the picture frame is in Resene Arrowroot and the finial is in Resene Armadillo. Project by Kate Alexander, image by Bryce Carleton.

Beautiful lighting is key to adding another dimension. Table and pendant lights in textured shades or a beachy look or glass, brass shades for a sophisticated feel will add another layer of interest especially if the bulbs reflect a soft, warm glow.

Don’t forget your flooring – a pale Scandi-style option is ideal in a white setting if you’re laying down new flooring. If you’re repurposing existing floorboards, why not paint the floors white or use Resene Colorwood Whitewash for a soft wash of white while still allowing the timber grain to show through? A light-coloured carpet will bring a sense of luxury to a white interior too, adding softness and comfort.

Resene Soulful

January 31, 2021

Get more inspiration from other homeowners who have used whites on their projects. Visit your local Resene ColorShop for all the products and expert advice you need for your decorating projects.

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Colours shown on this website are a representation only. Please refer to the actual paint or product sample. Resene colour charts, testpots and samples are available for ordering online.   See measurements/conversions for more details on how electronic colour values are achieved.

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