White is for More Than Winter Wonderlands

The entire Northeast was covered in a blanket of white today.  Backyard and sidewalks are all camouflaged.  Everything looks bright and crisp, while at the same time having softer edges and a unified look.  Wait, that might describe your goals for your next decorating project.  While the trend in today’s homes is definitely toward more color, white still has a place in modern decorating schemes. 

There are many reasons to love white.  A white bathroom or kitchen is easy to clean and can sparkle with little effort.  A base of white finishes, including tile, walls or upholstery, is a great starting point for adding layers of color.  White slipcovers are easy to wash and stand up to even kid traffic.  White can be the canvas on which just one striking color or an arrangement of photos is allowed to shine.  While it may seem like a safe decorating choice, it is also an economical one when outfitting entire spaces or projects, since smaller accent pieces can be swapped with ease.  While colors go in and out of style, white is always in.

Here’s something you may not know.  There are as many shades of white as there are colors.  A true white is very hard to find and almost every white item you’ll fall in love with has a hint of one of the 12 colors we associate with the color wheel.  That means that some whites are “cool” while some are “warm”.  Often, you might find an accessory or paint choice that you think is really white, until you hold it next to its color match, where you see the hue in the white more clearly.  These very light versions of color are called “tints”, which is the term used when white is added to a base color.

Mixing  a very small amount of color to a base can of white paint  is an economical way to get a good match for trim or ceiling paint, if you prefer not to have a bright white ceiling.  Treating a ceiling this way can make an entire room more cozy and intimate in a very subtle way.

Mixing whites is completely acceptable, and even my be appropriate, depending on your decorating goals.  One of my favorite secrets is using painted furniture with a history.  The term used to be shabby chic, but that was overdone with pinks and lace, and now we’re more likely to call a comfortably worn setting vintage.  You can visit one of my favorite places to shop, Vintage Home,  and see what they think about whites. 

When using white in your decorating scheme, remember these tips:

1.  Decide whether white is your base, your accent, or a vehicle to accent some other feature in the room. Allow yourself to bring in colors until you reach the look you want.  Normally we see a bit of white just in the clouds or in flowers, but today white is the star color, completely covering evergreens and entire dark roofs. 

2. A single color (or non-color, as white technically is considered) can unify objects of different sizes and shapes.  Consider painting furniture and accessories the same shade to make them more visually appealing. The entire town looks somehow more calm and unified today, sharing the same blanket of snow.

3.  There is no such thing as too clean.  Some household items never seem clean, but there is no mistaking  sparkling clean white tile, towels or toilets.  It’s easy to love the new-fallen snow, until cars and ploughs gunk up the edges.

4.  White and black can coexist in the same room.  Both are considered neutrals or achromatic choices.  You might notice today that the snow makes certain trees you might never notice stand out from their surroundings. 

5. Finish counts, too.  A glossy finish will have a different appeal than a matte white.  The purpose of the room and the piece will determine the finish.  For example, paint trim a gloss white to make it stand out from matte white ceilings.  It will be a subtle choice that still highlights a feature.  Keep those sunglasses handy, because just a bit of sunshine will reflect more today than we usually see this time of year.  Get outside for a few minutes and see if you can’t get those vitamin D levels up. 

6.  Paint last.  If you are making other updates, such as adding plantation shutters or buying new bedding, be sure to match or coordinate your white paint after you’ve chosen your products.  You can always mix the right shade of white; you can’t easily change the color of a manufactured product.

Enjoy your snow day.