White will always be the most popular choice for painting walls. It is considered a safe, neutral background that will accept any style. But when we say white or see white, it is not just a singular colour. There are hundreds of variations. If you examine the lineup of whites at the paint store, or the bolts of white cotton, linen and synthetics at a fabric store, you will see that this common colour is really very complex.
Imagine an all-white bathroom. The shiny or matte surface of the tiles, the fluffy tufted bath linens, the fixtures and the walls will each have a slightly different hue. It’s not only because the manufacturers of the tiles, toilets and towels have all chosen slightly different shades of white. The sheen and texture of the elements affect the way we read colour. It’s what makes decorating so interesting. This added dimension is what makes your rooms come alive.
Whether your home wears the distinctive stamp of urban sleek living, has a rural, countrified style, or is designed with the pure lines of classical architecture, the many shades of white available in paints, fabrics and furnishings will enhance the mood you want to create.
Be aware that light colours magnify imperfections on a surface, so cracks, nail holes and paint drips will be more visible. Repair and sand before you paint. Use a semi-gloss sheen on doors and woodwork. It looks better and is easier to clean. White paint in a matte or satin sheen will lift your ceilings and make your rooms feel larger. With fabrics as well as paint, the glossier the sheen, the darker the colour will look.
Made For Modern
It’s hard to imagine a contemporary space without white walls. If you crave the minimal look of clean lines and uncluttered freedom, then it’s your best bet. But it’s not necessary to go stark. Add a few drops of colour from the cool palettes such as stone gray, lavender, or pistachio to make a pastel shade with a thoroughly modern personality. Apply these almost whites in a satin sheen, either solid or in alternating blocks or panels. They are guaranteed to soothe.
Take your cue from nature to create a tranquil space. Introduce the look and sound of a riverbed with glass-top tables, shiny surfaces, pebbled patterns, tones of sand or stone, and an indoor fountain.
Either the pure or parchment white of Japanese paper shades are a perfect complement for lighting. Add some floor lighting – it’s an instant mood enhancer.
Black balances white like yin and yang. A touch of black always grounds a space, and can be incorporated into your design in a lamp base, a wrought iron table, a line of shelving, a floor or carpet border or within a painting or poster.
Washed In Country
While country décor may be synonymous with cheerful florals and calico prints, there is a simple, pared down approach that loves basic white. But this is a rustic white that has a little of the earth in it, or an old white that has been weathered by time and the elements. Rather than applying solid colour to these walls, use a wash of paint or stain. If the walls are wood planks, brush the white stain or watered down paint in the direction of the grain. If you have drywall, you can create a colour-washed effect by applying a base coat of light woody brown and then washing diluted white paint over this. Use a wide bristle brush, and brush the paint on in one direction only, either vertically or horizontally, as real boards would run.
Natural materials are right at home here; wood, wicker, sisal, unbleached cotton and linens. Choose furniture with a hand-hewn touch. It could be a rough and ready barn board table or golden pine polished with beeswax. Rattan is popular for garden rooms and cottages and is appealing in its natural colour or painted white. If you want to renew a wicker piece with paint, begin by giving it a good cleaning with a wire brush and use a just damp cloth to wipe away any loose residue. (Never soak wood or wicker as it is porous and your piece could warp.) Use a course bristle paintbrush so that you can work the paint in and around the spaces, and apply two very thin coats to prevent drips.
Country floors are low maintenance. The homespun appeal of rag rugs, hardwearing sisal carpets, and fanciful floor cloths are all easy ways to add colour and warmth underfoot.
Frame or cover the windows with simple fabric panels in lightweight, breezy white cottons or sheers. Attach the curtains to a slim rod with clips and rings. White at the windows will always keep a room fresh.
In a home rich in architectural details such as high walls adorned with carved moldings and deep baseboards, ceiling medallions, grand windows and doors, these gracious curves and shapes speak for themselves. The lightest shade of white, from plaster to cream is the best choice to show off the elegant lines quietly, with sophistication. Apply a satin sheen to the walls, and use semi-gloss paint on the detail work.
White will illuminate any colours that are present in the room as it reflects natural and artificial light so well. The mood of your room will change subtly as the light changes from bright sunlight to evening lamplight. These classical rooms are never cold. The wood tones of hardwood floors, a jewel-toned carpet, or a simple strip of fabric at the windows will tint the white walls with their individual colour strength.
White walls make a perfect neutral backdrop for collections of art. A special painting or a series of framed photographs will become the focal point as intended, not fighting for attention with a dark colour or paint finish.