Your Guide to Decorating without Color: All-White, Done Right!

An all white room sounds so easy.
It's all one color, so how could you go wrong...right? 

Creating a successful all white room requires a little more thought and effort than just painting the walls white and making sure all of the furniture and accessories are the same. You still need to give the room some life; to achieve elegance such as you see below, you will have "mixed it up a bit" with varying shades of white, textures, finishes, and accessories.

My husband always tells me I should never even wear white; inevitably I end up with paint or coffee on it - I'd like to play defense and say he exaggerates but shamefully, I must admit, its true - either that or I end up looking like confetti, covered with tiny shots of color and threads from all the fabric samples I lug around and projects I am working on that day.  So when it comes to my suggestion for white in our living room, you can imagine his response.  Still, I love all-white done right and admire those who are able to keep it looking just so...

So how about you? Can you handle it... can you maintain the pristine elegance and dare to decorate in the absence of color?  If yes and going all white is in the cards for you, here are a few tips to guide you in doing it right!

 Photo: Country Living 
Think beyond white as a simple color.  Within this one color there are a variety of shades and hues.  There are grayish whites, yellowed whites, blue whites, and beige whites.  There are cool whites and warm whites.  White has the same diversity that any other color has.  Think about the range from light pink to crimson red... white has that same range, albeit in a more subtle way. 

Use these different whites in everything from the walls to the bedding to the upholstery.  Imagine that the distinctions amongst the different whites is the same as the distinction between a yellow and a blue, for example, and use your whites accordingly.  Two different tones of white mix beautifully when combined in a tone on tone stripe or damask wallpaper.  Add interest to your walls by using these different whites in paint and wallpaper.

Texture is possibly the most important aspect in putting together an all white room!  The fabrics, linens, upholstery, and window treatments in an all white room must be different enough that it does not look as if you have draped the entire room in a white sheet. 

Texture is the key to achieving a different look in every piece.  A knubby knit throw on the sofa, voile sheers on the windows, a rugged leather on an ottoman... each piece represents a different textural element in the room that will distinguish all of the whites from each other. 

A white matelasse or textured coverlet is the perfect foil to a sea of embroidered and ruffled accent pillows.  

    A textural linen blend upholstery on a sofa contrasts beautifully with smooth silk accent pillows. Use the different characteristics of fabrics and materials to create a landscape of textures.

    The finishes you choose to use in the furnishings and accessories in an all white room will also bring an element of interest and diversity to the sea of white.  A glass lamp base, a lucite chair, a metallic coffee table... these clear and silver or gold elements add a touch of glamor and contemporary style. 

    Add a romantic, cottage look with whitewashed wood and crystal accessories.  White porcelain sculptures of quirky animals (think Jonathan Adler) or handmade white pottery adds a youthful touch.  Incorporate finishes and moldings into your woodwork.  Bead board, wide plank flooring, and driftwood all look beachy and natural when done in white or whitewash. 

    Photo: Country Living via Apartment Therapy

    Use light woods to create an airy look and dark wood to tone down the starkness of a pure white, glossy, white lacquer on chairs or tables or a mirrored chest or nightstand to add elegance.   Remember, its all about creating depth and interest. Vary your shades, shapes and textures to add visual interest, personality, and style to your all-white, done right room.  
    I continue to dream that one day - perhaps upon retirement when I drink less coffee and am less likely to be covered with threads - that I too will be enjoying an all-white room of my own!
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