By Christina Bruce, originally published in the March-April Issue of Portfolio Magazine.

White, which in interior design is often called the “ultimate neutral”, can also be the ultimate pain when it comes to selecting the right shade. Anyone who has ever tried to pick a white paint color and ended up wanting to bludgeon themselves with a paint deck knows this pain. White walls give us the light and airy Florida feel that we’ve come to love here in Vero Beach. White makes a room feel larger, and look brighter. But, because each white can have its own subtle hue, it can be challenging to pick the “right” white.

The easiest way to spot the subtle undertones in a white paint sample, and also a great party trick, is to hold it up next to a solid white piece of paper. You’ll be amazed how quickly the distinctive undertones pop out. It is also important to hold the sample up to the different fabrics or finishes that you have in the room and see how the colors affect one another. And of course, don’t forget to look at your choice in a large swatch (the bigger the better) during different times of the day. I recommend looking in the later morning, midafternoon, and under artificial light at nighttime.

If you want a creamier color to accent rooms using red, orange or taupe, try using a warmer toned white. A couple favorites are Benjamin Moore’s “White Dove” or Sherwin William’s “Aesthetic White”. For a cooler-toned white, try Benjamin Moore’s “Paper White” or Sherwin William’s “Eider White”. Use these colors when you want a white that leans more toward cool blue or grey to accent similar colors. For a simple, bright white that contains fewer subtle undertones try Benjamin Moore’s “Decorators White” or Sherwin Williams “High Reflective White”. These are especially nice when used on trim with the previously mentioned warm or cool whites on the walls. While it might take some perseverance and patience to pick the right white for you, I believe that having a white painted interior can give you a great blank canvas to build a beautiful room.