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Whiter than white; colour advice from the experts

While some homeowners shy away from decorating their home in white (cue the wine spilling on the white couch and kids putting their paint-laden hands right on the fabulous white rug you got on sale at that sweet furniture and home accessories store). But design powerhouse Colin and Justin tell us how we can decorate in white!

Livingetc: one of Europe’s most popular style mags.  Launched 18 years past in Britain, the glossy title graces newsstands worldwide, illuminating those who can’t get enough of its no-nonsense approach to home design.  Do we sound biased?  Well, with good cause.

When Livingetc launched, we were hired as Celebrity Homes Editors, to report upon famous style setters in their natural habitat.  During our tenure, we interviewed Jasper Conran and the late couturier Joseph Ettedgui, not to mention a stellar cast of design juggernauts like Kelly Hoppen and Ben De Lisi.  And a zillion others…

Back then, we espied in these luminaries a common denominator; a fondness for white, and its tone on tone paint chart neighbours.  White is a hue that goes with pretty much everything, though in certain quarters it’s considered somewhat cold and sterile.  Yet to others, it’s fresh and welcoming.  Let’s break it down…

Understanding the whiter than white palette

Purest white is merely a starting point.  Check out Benjamin Moore and prepare to be soothed by apple and linen white tones, as well as bone, pebble and countless others.  Indeed ‘Simply White 0C-117’ is this year’s Benjamin Moore Colour of The Year.  And take it from us: it’s infinitely more relevant than dowdy Marsala, Pantone’s colour choice for 2015, or ‘Rose Quartz’ and ‘Serenity’ (pink and blue, respectively) the institute’s twin color choices for 2016.  Each, whilst pretty, may be hard to work into existing schemes.

Source: Benjamin Moore.

Source: Benjamin Moore.

Is white for you?white tiles

If you have pets, or small children, white can be tricky, unless you’re prepared to be on perpetual standby with a mop and bucket.  Sometimes you’ll need to exercise a little designer flexibility: perhaps you long for a creamy hued carpet but maybe a happy compromise would be a white tiled floor and a washable rug.  N’est pas?

Texture is king

Attending to schematic touchy feely aspects will help ‘pull focus’ and solidify your efforts.  A linen sofa played against a white washed wood chest – or a cut crystal lamp teamed with an open weave natural shade – may share similar colouration, but it’s their various textures that add perceived depth.

Pure white

Many moons ago, we decorated a guest room in pneumatic white.  From floor paint to linens, light fixtures and artwork it looked sublime, but guests complained of snow blindness as they staggered into our hallway, post slumber.  Fifteen years later, we’ve honed our craft and recognize that different rooms need different whites as moderation.  In a north facing room, white can appear grey and listless, whereas the same shade in south facing application can energize.  In short?  Brighten specifications where natural light is limited and restrain where illumination is strong.  Mother nature will do the rest.

Barely there

Off whites, variously, have cool and warm undertones.  Delicate whites – with a suspicion of yellow – will relax atmosphere and work particularly well when played alongside natural wood finishes.  Whites with a beige undertone evoke a cozy feel, while those with hints of blue freshen proceedings, especially in bathrooms.  Those with a whisper of grey work well in kitchens where they compliment stainless steel, shiny ceramics and glass.

HXWALLS_ Simply White OC-117, Aura, Matte

Mix and match

When pairing whites, consider the ‘whisper’.  If a particular coupling doesn’t appear comfortable, chances are it’s because the undertones aren’t similar or complimentary.  The simplest way to assure yourself of ‘whisper’ (in an apparently white accessory or paint chip) is to hold it against a piece of pure white art store paper: this will reveal hidden undertones.  NB: the paper you have at home (while it may appear white) may not actually be purest white, which can result in inconclusive matching.


Sunlight emits brighter tones during the first part of the day and cooler hues by lunchtime, even though literal temperatures may have risen.  If your room faces north, light will be bluish, but slightly red if it faces south.  Rooms that face east will impart a yellow tone (especially before noon) whereas those that face west will display pinkish tones at the same time of day.

As far as artificial light is concerned, incandescent globes generate a yellow hue, halogen bulbs a fresher white light, and fluorescent a range of cool blues.  Before choosing paint and finishes, view everything under all applicable light forms to properly understand what you have.

Whichever way you decide to go – and however much white you decide to include in your pale faced domestic landscape – one thing’s certain: played properly, your ‘all white on the night’ scheme will work well at any time of the day.  It’s just a matter of balance.

Love the white look? Enlist in the help of an interior designer to help you execute the look you want. Then, head over to your nearest furniture and home accessories store. With the right tools, your home will look exactly the way you want it!

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