White Hot Design
It’s a hard scheme to pull off, but when it’s done right, a white, monochromatic space looks simply stunning. It requires thoughtful planning, integration of texture and perfect undertones, smart fabric choices… not exactly an easy feat, but if you’re brave enough to take the plunge, here are a few things you need to know to make your spaces sizzle in white…
TONE ON TONE
The ultimate rule of doing a white room: Layer. Use varying shades of white, cream, platinum, pearl, and linen. If you don’t layer your white tones, you may end up with a hospital room for a living space. Rooms that lack dimension in the form of tone-on-tone layering often feel stark, harsh, and institutional – so unless you’re aiming for an ultra-pure and minimal aesthetic, don’t get too matchy with your materials and finishes.
Crucial in almost every environment (not just the white ones), texture is a perfect way to add depth and interest to your monochromatic palette. Play up combinations of glossy, ruddy, knubby, sleek, watery, shimmery, organic, leathery, woody, knotty, and cozy for a warm and inviting atmosphere… vital again when trying to avoid stark and cold design.
THE PERFECT WHITES
I have a go-to white I use in almost all of my spaces that require a soft, pure shade: OC-65 Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore is a design favourite across the board, and it’s no secret why. When paired with other colours, it still retains its ‘whiteness’, while melding softly into the colour scheme. When used in contrast with other finishes, OC-60 will act as the perfect backdrop. Another few favourites you’ll often see in magazines are:
- OC-17 White Dove (Benjamin Moore)
- Swiss Coffee 1812 (Behr)
- Powderface CLW 1034W (General Paint)
- Antique White (CIL RM 43YY 78/053)
NOT EXACTLY KID FRIENDLY
Sadly, there is a catch 22. Children — as lovable and adorable as they are — do not make great low-maintenance accessories to the all-white room. So for those of you eyeing the cotton duck sofa or pearly cashmere pillows, perhaps it might be wise to consider a slightly warmer or darker option. I love beautiful looking spaces, but it’s not all that fair to constantly be hawking and keeping your kids out of any space in your home for the sake of its design integrity. Something to definitely consider… decide on warmer and more texturized pieces (so wear and tear over time is camouflaged best), or wait until university.
You can’t pull this look off if you only go half way with it… otherwise you might end up with a confusing mess of a colour scheme. If you want to add some pops of colour here and there absolutely do so, but stick to the 80:20 ratio: 80 per cent white and tones of white, and 20 per cent accent colour(s). Take the white throughout for walls, furniture, drapes, and maybe even flooring if you’re feeling brave, but you can then add in a hit of colour with the odd pillow, frame, throw, lamp shade, or small decor item. I once test-painted a large blob of off-white paint over the existing living room wall colour (which happened to be a golden wheat colour at the time we moved in), just to see if I could handle the huge change from dark to light. It’s a major jump to instantly go from what you’ve been comfortable with to something you think you want…
- paint a few test patches and see them at different times of the day first, then commit, sometimes you just have to dive right in!