Interior Style

How to use white to give your home a refresh – and not be safe or boring

From all-out alabaster to pops of pearl, this handy guide will help you rethink basic blanc. Here are three ways to make white work in your home

The obsession with white interiors continues. Not only does white provide the ultimate backdrop to showcase personal style, it always manages to look fresh and modern and will add a simple, spacious feeling to any room. Pearly whites go with almost everything, they’re hard to tire of, and a pale paint job can be a cheap and easy way to make over a room – or an entire house.

Yet white doesn’t have to be boring or safe. Not only are there hundreds of shades, you can use texture, shape and layers to create different looks. There are a number of ways to work with it, from freshening up with a few cushions, to painting an entire room, floor and all. Here we show you how to get white right, whether you want to go full-immersion or just dip your toes in.

1. Going all-white

If you’re planning to create a cohesive all-white look, from floor to ceiling to furniture, you’ll need to add texture and shape to keep things from feeling too clinical. Use a mix of different materials and layer them to create depth. Natural textures such as linen, cotton and wool have their own unique shades and weights which can complement each other.

Sheepskins or shaggy rugs and cushions can be used on flooring or seating to add texture. Using white paint on unexpected surfaces, such as brick, tongue and groove, textured wallpaper, pressed-tin panels or floorboards, can have a similar effect. A variety of shapes will also keep things interesting, so add a curved piece of furniture or an organically shaped rug.

Don’t settle for just one shade or finish, combine different whites, and matte or gloss finishes, to get a three-dimensional look. Find one element to tie the shades together, such as a cushion or artwork that combines two or more whites, and aim for a number of repetitions of each shade so it doesn’t appear accidental. If you’re using a variety of whites in a room, it’s best to make sure they are all either warm or cool tones.

You can also use lighting and shadow to create a sense of life and movement. The beauty of a white interior is that it highlights the interplay of light in a room as well as the building’s natural features. Light-filtering blinds or room dividers are an inexpensive way to play with shadows.


2. Using it as a base shade

If all-white is not your style, you can still make the most of the shade’s minimal feel by using white as a base. This allows colourful artworks and statement furniture to pop. Before you paint your walls or floorboards white, though, you’ll need to decide which shade will work for your room. This depends on the feel you are going for, the furnishings and flooring you will be using, the size of the room and the amount of natural and artificial light.

According to Dulux colour specialist Davina Harper, cool whites, such as Dulux Mt Aspiring and Dulux Okarito, make a space appear larger. They work well in rooms with lots of natural light, and suit contemporary, minimal furnishings and colours with similar cool undertones. Warmer whites, such as Dulux Sandfly Point and Dulux Cardrona, make a room feel smaller, sunnier and cosier. These have brown, yellow or red undertones which pair well with golden or red-toned floorboards and cream or sandy carpet.

Tip: Resene’s Karen warman suggests Using a half or quarter strength of your white wall colour on the ceiling to ensure the two are well balanced.

3. White as an accent

Perhaps you’re renting and are unable to add a fresh coat of paint right now – or you have a darker colour palette which you want to brighten with white additions. White and off-white accessories and furnishings will add a light, spacious feeling to a dark space. Try anchoring your room with a white rug, adding a pale linen sofa, or whitewashing an antique table or bookcase.

Something as simple as creating a gallery wall using white frames, adding a neutral pendant light, hanging gauzy white curtains, or incorporating some pale, textured cushions into your bedroom or living room will help, too. Another way to add a pearly pop is by making over a feature such as a brick fireplace, or bringing in ivory hues with natural surfaces such as marble tiles or a stone table. White trims paired with a darker wallpaper can also be effective.

Tip: Mix shapes, textures and shades of white and black to create visual interest against a dark wall.

Words by: Fiona Ralph. Photography by: Bauer Syndication.

This article was first published in Your Home and Garden. Follow YHG on Instagram, Facebook and sign up to the fortnightly email for inspiration between the issues.

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