If you have painted as many rooms as I have then you may not give much thought to this topic. But if you’re not the most visual person or are new to the rainbow of whites, it may be helpful to think more deeply about how they vary. Cool and warm whites can change a room’s mood in a dramatic or subtle manner, and there isn’t a single mood that is the right mood, only a mood that is the right one for your room and your desires. We’ll explore the qualities of whites with different temperatures and supply a host of paint color ideas for you to sample.
Cool and Warm Whites: How Do They Change a Room’s Mood?
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How Does a Cool Paint Color Influence a Room’s Mood?
If you know you’re after a cool white paint color, see THIS for some great contenders.
Psst. Eider White is a rather new to me white that we have on our kitchen and laundry room walls. Even though the swatch may look light grey, it’s an interesting color that in my lighting has a pink or mauve coming forward that I love. Even a touch of pink as an undertone can balance out a too-gray white. In a different lighting situation, it could read TOO pink. So it helps to sample!
Cool Whites Can Impart a Relaxing Calm Mood
Cool white paint colors often are tinted with undertones of grey, blue, or green. These cool undertones are often associated with serenity, quiet, contemplation, and peacefulness.
As a result, these whites are an obvious choice when you are pulling together a tranquil bedroom or bath. But don’t rule out cool whites for more rooms in a home.
When I found the perfect cool white for my own modern rustic cottage in the woods, I used it everywhere.
A calm kitchen is underrated! But do think about the time of day a room will be used most often. If you only use your dining room after dark, think about whether a warmer white will be appropriate for cozy evenings.
Cool Whites Can Feel Elegant and Sophisticated
Cool whites often lend an air of sophistication and reserve to an interior.
In a similar way that elegant light blue-grays create a feeling of modern elegance, cool whites can feel atmospheric or add a touch of formality.
Sometimes this is the vibe you’re after for a formal living room or entry.
Whites With Cool Undertones Can Feel Expansive
Cool colors tend to recede visually, and this can cause a room to appear larger. This quality of spaciousness is especially a bonus in small spaces with low ceilings where you want to create an illusion of airy expansiveness.
Clean, Energizing & Refreshing
I love using a cool white to create a sense of cleanliness and freshness.
No wonder so many folks love working and cooking in white kitchens. With the higher light reflectance value of these whites (LRV), a ton of light is reflected back into the space.
(Some whites don’t clearly fall on the cool or warm side. Is that why a color like BM White Dove is so wildly popular? It works across so many different lighting situations!)
You can see what you’re doing. Hence, cool whites can work well in kitchens and bathrooms, where that hygienic environment is desirable or essential.
Let’s face it. Cool white colors pair well with a bunch of various other colors whether they are warm or cool!
You know that tired criticism we hear constantly about white paint…that it is just too safe? I find that judgment misguided.
There’s quite enough chaos, edginess, and uncertainty beyond my walls. Safe is not at all undesirable in my world. (And if you love color, cool whites are a blessedly neutral backdrop for colorful accents and furnishings.)
Before we continue with a gallery of warm whites, could you use a little warming up? How about a bit of English countryside wintry warmth? I love this so much:
Warm Paint Colors: How They Contribute to an Interior’s Mood
Find a gallery of beautiful warm white paint color ideas in THIS.
Cozy and Inviting
To understand how warm whites create a mood different from cool ones, think about how warm colors in general feel cozier than cool colors.
(And like BM White Dove, SW Alabaster is a creamy white that straddles cool and warm and works for a ton of people so definitely put it on your list of contenders!)
Reds, oranges, and yellows typically feel welcoming and snug, and the same dynamic is in effect when those tones are undertones in white paint colors. They turn up a room’s temperature and feel comforting in living spaces and family rooms.
Another quality warm undertones in warm whites offer is a sense of vibrancy and energy stimulation in a room.
When you want to encourage or promote socializing, warm whites support that goal. As a result, warm tones work well in gathering spots like dining rooms and kitchens.
Intimacy and Comfort
Warm white colors are also often associated with a cocoon-ish sense of intimacy and comfort. This can be especially true in cold seasons when the colors in nature outside are cool and grey.
Entering into warmth from the elements is a wonderful contrast. Warm whites are pretty perfect for bedrooms and dens to create a snug and comforting environment.
Rich and Luxurious
Since deep warm colors, such as burgundy or deep gold, can lend a feeling of opulence and luxury to a room, whites with these undertones also suggest such richness.
Perhaps that is why they feel so suitable for dining rooms, foyers, and home offices. But what about kitchens? How do warm whites vary from cool whites in a kitchen?
In addition to offering contrast for brighter whites (i.e. crisp white cabinetry or trim), a warm color on kitchen walls can feel cozier and less utilitarian.
In the French country home we built years ago, a warm white on the walls made the very spacious kitchen feel sunny and warm even on the coldest days. The fact that the warm color didn’t reflect as much light back in the room as a cooler white was desirable since there was an abundance of natural light streaming into the space. In contrast, our next home featured a kitchen one third the size and very little natural light. The cool white I chose kept it feeling bright and spacious.
Warmth from whites with warm undertones can draw attention to specific areas or elements in a room. In this kitchen, you can see how the warm white sets off crisp white trim:
Here’s an example where a warm white paint chosen for cabinetry accentuates cool marble and white subway tile.
Complementary to Cool Colors
Warm and cool white paint colors can work well together when used in harmony.
Combining warm and cool colors in a room brings balance and adds visually interest and dimension.
An important consideration is understanding how a specific shade of white and the intensity of its undertones impacts the atmosphere. When a warm white has intense yellow undertones, it may seem more yellow than white. (And yellows can be tricky to live with. Designers have known for years that you paint a guest room yellow when you don’t want them to linger!)
Additionally, both personal preferences, the amount of natural light in a space, and even age of the occupant should also be considered when choosing between cool and warm whites. As we age, we see more yellow. That means, a cooler white may not seem “too cool” for my old eyes even though your young eyes perceive the same white paint as blue-ish!
Most of the time, we’re not even aware of how colors in a given space are affecting us on subconscious levels. Once you start becoming more aware and noticing, the points I make above may become more clear. And the quickest way to learn about how warm and cool whites differ and impact a room’s mood? Sample a range of whites in a room and notice them throughout the day…it can be eye opening.
Peace to you right where you are.
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