As an avid browser of interiors and architecture, it is likely that you will stumble upon interiors sporting the white-on-white style. Whether it’s the Scandinavian minimalist interiors, the country white linens, or the crisp white lines seen in modern design, you can’t miss it. There is something kind of dreamy about a white interior, something that makes you wish your home could look that way. Maybe it’s the clean look seen in the styled photographs, or maybe it’s the fresh feel to a room created through the light colouring, or maybe it’s the lack of clutter. Whatever it is, I definitely feel the urge to create an all-white (or mostly white) home.
The trick is to avoid creating the feel of a hospital or science lab. And to avoid this involves knowing what whites will and won’t work, and what to do with whites to ensure your home feels like a home.
Generally whites are divided into two categories: cool whites and warm whites. Cool whites have a blue or black base and they work well in rooms that get a lot of sun as they tend to neutralise bright light. Cool whites also work well in modern and minimal interiors due to their crispness. Some examples of cool white paints include Porter’s Paints Milk, and Wattyl Astor White.
Warm whites have a yellow, brown or red undertone and inject softness into a room. Warm whites are often used in country homes to create a cosy feel. To see some examples of warm whites try Porter’s Paints Long Grain or Taubmans Plain Vanilla.
Apart from cool and warm whites, there are also deeper neutrals or whites that can create depth and atmosphere within a room.
‘Biscuits’ are both warm and cool neutrals that are deeper than whites, like the colour of white in shade. A more contemporary take on biscuits are ones with a brown or red undertone, where as yellow or pink bases tend to date. Examples of biscuit paints include Dulux Russian Toffee and Wattyl Chalk Beige.
Scandinavian whites are achieved through the use of a palette of soft whites with varying tones. Be sure to only use one ‘family’ of whites (eg. cool whites) and create depth through variation of tone and texture. Examples of Scandi white paints include Porter’s Paints Plaster of Paris or Murobond Relish.
Whites that work
Through the layering of different whites, shadows become colours and textures become the focal point. White rooms are appealing in that their beauty changes in response to different lighting. Designer Tori Golub states that “white is a limitless tool of design, classic and contemporary, tranquil and vivacious… White is never simply white”.
White flooring is often overlooked as difficult to clean and too clinical. However, with the right flooring (and the motivation to keep up with cleaning it), white floors can create a bright and fresh interior, giving the illusion of more space and making furniture look as if it’s floating. Architect David Ling refers to white as the modern-day silver due to the fact that yes, it does need to be cleaned, but the purity created through white is both physical and psychological.
To create a cosy white room avoid hard, modern pieces of furniture and instead use soft and distressed finishes, emphasising the warmth created through texture. Linens in both the bedroom and lounge room are the perfect material. Linen lounge and chair slipcovers mean that washing is easy and they look great crumpled, therefore saving you from ironing.
Other practical white upholstery fabrics include faux leathers and suedes and outdoor fabrics. These allow for easy cleaning while not sacrificing the white-on-white style.
White interiors demand accessorising. If you are going for the white look, don’t avoid accessories. You can still stick to the minimal style, but a white room needs layers to create textures and shadows, otherwise your space will look clinical. Choosing textured furnishings and decorative objects in several tonal variations is the key to making your interior feel warm and tranquil.
With all this in mind, go for it! And if you are stuck for where to start, white walls are so easy.