Whites & neutrals

There’s a fine line between introducing a white palette into your home that conjures a mood of relaxation or refinement, and one that has you thinking you’ve woken up in the middle of a science laboratory…

When it comes to neutrals, the key is in selecting what shade of paint works best for you and your surroundings. Besides cool and warm whites, there are also deeper neutrals to consider, such as biscuits and greys, that can bring depth and atmosphere to a room.

White paint on timber

Timber furniture and floors can also be given the white treatment. A lick of eggshell paint on stripped-back wooden pieces or vintage finds imparts a Scandinavian or French provincial feel (and can be cleaned).

For a white opaque finish on floorboards, Aalto Acrylic Enamel Floor & Paving Low Gloss gives a polished concrete effect and dries in 24 hours. For a softer washed-white that highlights the timber’s grain, check out Porter’s Paints Wood Wash in Paper.

Cool Whites

Cool whites have a blue or black base and work well in rooms that get a lot of sun, as they tend to neutralise bright light. There is also a crispness to these whites that suits a home with modern lines and minimal schemes. If you need to familiarise yourself with cool whites, look at Wattyl Astor White, Aalto Imbue and Porter’s Paints Milk.

Warm Whites

To inject softness into a south-facing room, choose a warm white. Warm whites have yellow, brown or red undertones and ‘project’ into a room, creating a cosy atmosphere. They also work well with earthy, organic shades, so if your furnishings are of natural and warm hues, your paint probably should be, too.

Examples of warm whites include Dulux Chalk USA and Off White, Taubmans Plain Vanilla and Porter’s Paints Long Grain.


Biscuits are both warm and cool neutrals that are deeper than whites, being closer to natural stone hues. These paint colours add depth to interiors yet contain a harmonious presence of their own. However, to prevent a dated feel, avoid biscuit-coloured paints with heavy yellow or pink bases.

These tend to create peach or overly yellow tinges. Brown- and red-undertoned paints are a more contemporary approach to biscuit. Aalto Realise and Illusion and Dulux Russian Toffee and Ecru fall into this range.

Scandi Whites

A rustic Scandinavian white-on-white palette is easy to achieve if you stick to soft whites. Select one family of white, then vary the tones for depth. Play with texture, such as matt finishes and limewashes, and add either soft accents like blue or pink, or lively accents like acid yellow and chartreuse. Try Porter’s Paints Plaster of Paris, Wattyl Plantation White and Murobond Relish.


Cool and warm greys are now standards of the neutral palette. There are many ways grey can be played with and the result can look casual and relaxed, or chic and elegant. Just be wary of opting for greys that are very pale – they can come up looking like dirty white. A mid-toned grey is still soft and works as a neutral backdrop. Try Resene Sea Fog and Double Ash, and Murobond Marle.


For some white interior inspiration, view this gallery:


Want more? Try:
>> top 10 white paints
>> tips on how to make white work
>> white interiors and inspiration
>> DIY painting guide: how-to advice, tips & colour schemes