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Should I paint with warm or cool white?

Should I paint with warm or cool white?

Deciding whether to paint your walls with a warm white or cool white can be challenging. The terms “warm white” and “cool white” refer to undertones in white paint colors. Warm whites have yellow, peach or red undertones, which can make a room feel cozy and inviting. Cool whites have blue, green or purple undertones, creating a crisp, clean look.

When choosing between warm and cool whites, consider the room’s size, natural light, furnishings and your color preferences. Warm white paint colors tend to complement wooden furniture and rugs, while cool whites pair nicely with grays and stainless steel. The undertones will also interact with the natural lighting, so test paint swatches at different times of day.

Here are some key factors to help you decide whether warm white or cool white is best for your space:

Lighting in the Room

The existing lighting in a room can impact how warm and cool paint colors are perceived. Here’s how different light conditions may influence your choice:

– North-facing rooms with cool, blue natural light may benefit from warm white paint colors to balance out the space. A warm white will reflect and maximize the cooler light.

– South-facing rooms with warm natural light may look better with a cool white paint. The cooler tone balances the warm sunlight.

– Artificial lighting can also skew warm or cool. Fluorescent lighting reads bluer, while incandescent bulbs cast a warmer glow. Choose a white paint undertone that will complement the room’s primary light source.

– Dimly lit rooms may look better with warm white paints. The subtle peach and yellow undertones add warmth and feel cozy.

Consider when the room gets used – daytime or nighttime – and how much natural light fills the space at those times. Then you can select a warm or cool white accordingly.

Furniture and Decor

The furnishings and decor in the room can provide visual cues as to whether warm white or cool white paint will look best.

Warm white paint colors tend to work well with:

– Wood furniture – the warm wood tones are enhanced by peach, yellow or red undertones

– Neutral color palettes – layering warm white with tans, browns, taupes and creamy whites pulls the scheme together

– Rugs and soft fabrics – warm white paint ties nicely into wool, jute or cotton textiles

– Metals like brass, copper and bronze

Cool whites complement these types of decor:

– Gray, black or white color schemes – cool whites enhance monochromatic palettes

– Stainless steel and chrome finishes

– Leather or vinyl furniture and hard surfaces like tile and glass

– Glossy fabrics like satin and silk

Take a look at the existing furnishings. If your decor has a lot of wood, neutrals and soft textures, a warm white may be the better choice to match the overall aesthetic. Cool white paint tends to suit sleek, contemporary spaces with grays and minimalist decor.

Room Size

Larger rooms can handle bold, bright white paint colors. But smaller spaces may benefit from softer warm whites. Here are some typical room size guidelines:

– Warm white for bedrooms, as the cozier tones make these intimate spaces feel relaxed and inviting.

– Cool white for bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms and utility spaces where you want a clean, bright feel.

– Warm whites for narrow hallways or small rooms to avoid an overwhelming sterile feel. The subtle warmth makes small spaces cozier.

– Cool whites for open concept living spaces and loft-style rooms. The crisp tone keeps cavernous spaces feeling airy instead of cave-like.

Bigger rooms can go either way depending on your preference. Paint large sample swatches on the wall and view them at different times before deciding between warm white and cool white.

Personal Preference

Beyond the physical factors in your space, your personal taste should play a pivotal role in choosing warm or cool white paint. Decide which undertones appeal most to your aesthetic vision:

– Warm white paint colors have an antique, farmhouse or Mediterranean feel

– Cool whites read as more modern, Scandinavian and streamlined

You’ll be seeing this shade every day on your walls, so be sure to pick a tone you find beautiful, calming and inspiring. The trendiness of warm versus cool matters less than choosing a white you love for your home.


When trying to choose between warm white and cool white paint colors, consider the room’s natural light, furnishings, size and purpose. Warm white paint with faint yellow, peach or red undertones tends to suit smaller, intimate spaces with wood accents and neutral decor. Cool whites with hints of green, blue or purple work well in rooms with plenty of natural light, gray tones and hard, sleek surfaces.

Most importantly, go with your personal preference. Look at large painted samples on the walls at different times of day. The right warm or cool white shade will make your space look light, airy and beautiful.

Summary Table

Factor Best Suited for Warm White Best Suited for Cool White
Room lighting North-facing rooms, dim lighting South-facing rooms, fluorescent lighting
Furniture and decor Wood, neutrals, soft textiles Grays, sleek surfaces, minimalism
Room size Small, narrow spaces Large open concept, bathrooms, kitchens
Personal preference Cozy farmhouse aesthetic Crisp, modern, Scandinavian aesthetic