The white stuff hasn’t started falling from the sky just yet but white interiors are a definitely a decorating trend right now, and there is a timelessness about these spaces that doesn’t fade with each new paint colour of the year. I’ve always been a proponent for more saturated colour palettes but certainly can appreciate the fresh, airy feeling of a well decorated white interior. And once you delve into the world of white paints you’ll find that it is anything but simple, aptly described here:
“Passionate defenders of white do not consider it to be lacking in colour; they see it instead as an amalgam of all colours, containing every shade and shadow in the world. The subtlety of white, for those who choose to perceive it, is endlessly satisfying.”
Decorating With Colour- The Best of Martha Stewart Living ©2002
There are many interior designers and decorators who work almost exclusively in white. Designer Leanne Ford’s rule when it comes to layering whites is “the more the better. Don’t be shy.” Something that can’t always be said for colour schemes saturated with colour, where too many different hues can be overwhelming. When layering different whites the subtle differences of yellows, blues, and other colours in the paint can instead become quite striking. The same can be said with texture- in a white space, layers of textures brought in with wood paneling, tilework, fabrics, et cetera can do wonders with making the space warm and inviting- such as in the kitchen she designed below where the exposed pipes, hard-edged subway tiles, and woven baskets all add character.
What can be fun about painting in white is that everything else you add will pop. Your home becomes a gallery for favourite art, family photos and mementos- those pieces of sentimental décor that bring the warmth and good vibes into your home, like in this Paris apartment of design dealers Laurence and Patrick Seguin featured in Architectural Digest.
If you want your home to feel like one unified space, try using one shade of white for all the baseboards, trim and ceilings. If you’re having trouble finding a white to suit the colours you already have, opt for one with the same base hue- blue paints with a cool hue, warm browns with a creamy, yellower white and if your colour scheme is already leaning towards neutrals and soft shades (or different colours in every room!) your best match will probably be an almost pure white, without hints of other colours in order to emphasize the dominant hue already present. The bathroom below from HGTV is painted in Mountain Air (SW 6224) by Sherwin-Williams- against the less pigmented trim the blues and grays of Mountain Air are very prominent.
A great tip I came across is to bring a piece of basic white printer paper with you to compare against paint chips to help your eye adjust to the subtle differences in whites and identify the family of colour it belongs to.
Keep in mind that the base hue of the white you choose will play off of the other colours of the room. Once I mixed up the names of a creamy white paint I picked to match a nursery that was already painted in a soft rosy lilac. When I started to paint it on the ceiling, it looked blue! The blue undertones in the white were all you saw against the red undertones in the lilac paint. Lesson learned- always double check your codes before you buy!
If you’re still not sure what white to choose remember to always go back to the basics of colour schemes- all whites have an underlying hue, and your white space is not truly white- cool meditative blues, energetic reds and mellow yellows are ever present, subtly influencing the mood. And if you’d like help navigating through Benjamin Moore’s extensive collection of more than 150 shades of white… you know who to contact to be guided through a colour consultation.