Choosing a white colour scheme may seem like the safe option, but there’s a world of difference between a winning look and a bland space. We asked the experts to share their dos and don’ts when it comes to styling with white.
“DO explore all the tones of that family when decorating with white,” is the favourite tip of stylist and photographer Kara Rosenlund, whose own home is a study in whites. “It’s not actually a colour but a tone, and what strengthens the power of white is to work with slightly different shades to create a sophisticated interior. This could be through the accessories, furnishings or accenting paint schemes.”
DON’T go to extremes when painting with warm and cool whites, adds Kara: “Too warm and it will look very 90s soft yellow, too cool and it will look like a soft purple.”
“DO introduce different textures to a white room – a textured rug, a linen cushion, a wool throw – to add an element of warmth so it doesn’t feel to sterile,” recommends Lucy Sutherland, general manager of the International School of Colour and Design (ISCD). Adds Temple & Webster’s Head of Styling Jessica Bellef: “Create a heavenly white bed by layering quilts, throws and cushions in a mix of waffle weave, linen, wool and velvet.”
DON’T go all-white in high-traffic areas if you have kids or pets. “If you do want the white look, choose pieces with slip covers that you can wash when things start to look less than crisp,” suggests Jess. “Even though white upholstery hides no sins, there is an upside – it doesn’t fade either!”
DO use white to unify a space – if you have mismatching elements in a room, or architectural details you want to draw attention away from, paint everything white to bring it all together.
DON’T be too perfect – working with white it’s good to keep your styling loose and relaxed, for example choose mismatching dining chairs knowing that the colour will make sense of the look.
“DO add warmth and definition to all-white bathrooms and kitchens by using touches of timber or metallic hardware in brass and copper,” says Jess.
DON’T paint your floorboards white and expect them to stay pristine. You can start with a good floor paint and even add a topcoat for protection, but a few scuffs and imperfections are all part of the look.
“DO warm up a cool, dark room by choosing a warm white paint, or opt for a cool white in a sunny space for a contemporary edge,” says Lucy. “The best way is to compare a selection of swatches together. You will quickly be able to see what the undertones are and whether a white is cool or warm.”
“DON’T mix your warm, creamy whites with cool, icy tones,” suggests T&W Head of Production and colour consultant Cathy Leighton. The latter will make the former look dirty, and the creamy tones will make the cool ones look sterile and clinical.