Pulling Off White Walls

By Kate Riley January 16, 2018

We’ve seen them in magazines and all over blogs for years now. The white walls trend is still going strong. Although when I look at them I don’t believe they’re much of a trend anymore, rather painting walls white is a calculated design choice to establish a calm backdrop so that the other elements in the room take the spotlight.

I painted the walls of my Las Vegas investment property a bright white several years ago, and I’ve always loved how fresh it feels. You can see several of those white walls on display in this older post about the DIY wood and white console. I also recently painted my living room white in my California home so that the artwork would stand out more.

The allure of the white walled room comes from our desire for natural light, it feels clean and pure. It’s also because of our repeated exposure to Scandinavian design (and IKEA) that we’ve wholly embraced here in the US. We definitely love the look of spaces with a white backdrop because we keep doing it.

This particular scene we’ve seen quite a lot: white curtains, basic gray sofa, mixed accent tables and throw pillows, white green plant, and area rug. It’s Scandinavian 101.

planete-deco

 

daily dream decor

As we head into 2018, is the design community as a whole over white walls yet? Nope. While we’re embracing warmer tones (that’s a separate post) we’re still just as crazy about our white walls. So what’s the trick to actually pulling them off? What is it that makes a white room work so that it doesn’t come across as stark and hospitalish?

It’s an analytical process. Simply study designers who’ve pulled it off well, and notice in particular the elements used in these spaces to make them feel inviting.

 

Textural Accents

Wood furniture and woven accents are key to any white space and provide necessary texture. Accent furniture that possess woven materials or wood finishes prevents a white painted room from falling flat.

 

houzz

 

three birds renovations

 

souk shop

 

Metals Make a Difference

Brass and chrome are always gorgeous, but black iron or dark bronze look especially amazing in white walled interiors and add much desired contrast.

 

target

 

coats homes

Hang Some Art.

Whether you arrange a gallery wall or choose a singular large scale piece, art is a necessary component to a white walled room. Not only does art personalize a space, art serves as an interruption to the vast amount of whiteness.

 

kvarteret makleri

 

transitoinicial

 

three birds renovations

Luxe Leather

File this under the desirable texture category: rich leather furniture really stands out in a space with white walls.

 

front + main

 

the nest

Colorize with Textiles & Furnishings

 

three birds renovations

 

vogue

 

the glitter guide

Preserve Wood Details

White surfaces serve as a perfect complement to wood, the details are better appreciated. Instead of painting wood accents, maintain the character of wood doors, molding, floors, beams, and window trim by staining or leaving wood in its raw state.

 

cup of jo

 

magnolia market

 

vogue

Don’t Forget Botanicals

Green plants are another necessary ingredient to a white walled room (or any room in my opinion). Organic elements remove the starkness that white walls convey without them.

 

h&m

 

martin cederblad

 

Add Dimension

Kick it up a notch by adding molding or planks or any other architectural detail painted the same color.

 

neiman marcus

 

coats homes

For those of you who are on board, what tricks have you used to pull off your white walled room?

9 comments

  1. The entire house that I recently purchased has been painted white. I used the white straight from the can, no mixing. With the dark hardwood floors, I’m really loving the look. Because I love colour, my rooms have more colour in them than the ones you’ve shown here.

    • I love color too Wendy, especially blues so I use a lot of those hues in my decorating!

  2. Our house too has white walls with dark hardwood floors. Color is added with art on the walls, and in the common living areas with greenery from the yard in vases and fruit on display.
    Angelica
    mydearirene.com

  3. Thanks so much for this great analysis and reminders! I am in the middle of redoing a white room – it’s going from a small conference room to a lounge. I need to keep the walls white and plan on adding warmth and texture with furnishings and accessories just as you suggest. I was getting a little lost and this post helped get me back on track. Thanks so much!

  4. I choked on a laugh when I read “white curtains, basic gray sofa, mixed accent tables and throw pillows, green plant, and area rug. It’s Scandinavian 101.” I honestly did not know that and yet it’s what I’ve painstakingly cobbled together after hours on pinterest as I figure out my new house! Seriously though, white + wood + black + touches of your favorite colors is a wonderful formula.

    We moved from a sweet cottage with paned windows, separated rooms etc to a 70’s vaulted open plan ranch. I’ve painted all the open, sunny spaces white and really appreciate that I have black steel frame windows, a black firebox, and a black TV on the wall (LOL) to add contrast and make it more masculine, a vibe I like. I love natural, textural items but because our floors are medium brown hardwood rather than something pale, I’m finding I also need bits of white throughout the rooms to relate to the walls and make it all look intentional. Because I have young ones, that means the white goes on wipeable accent tables, washable pillow covers, and small accessories rather than white furniture since I am not into spot cleaning upholstery. Our boldest color is in our artwork, with a bit of navy and green in the furnishings.

    It’s still coming together but after the initial shock I really prefer all this sunshine and white to the more intimate, more beige cottage we started in.

  5. After many years of avoiding white, I am actually considering it as the top choice for my bedroom redesign. I love color, but tend to go a little overboard with it at times. Since the room will lean in a mid century modern direction, I am playing with the idea of a deep colored accent wall, but keep waffling. What are your thoughts? I keep seeing three white walls combined with a deep teal. Love the look, but don’t want to get tired of it quickly.

  6. Most of my walls are in Ben Moore Simply White which is a warm white. I have to have the ‘warm’ element as I live in the Northeast and pure white just feels too chilly. Whites are so good for people who love color as it highlights them so well.

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