Decorating with white

White colour schemes are timeless and classic, but can easily look stark and unwelcoming if you do not personailse them. Compensate for the lack of colour with a variety of different textures and tones, and you'll create a peaceful haven that is easily adaptable.

More reasons to go white:

  • White never goes out of fashion, so it's ideal for contemporary schemes.
  • White is a reflective, light and airy colour, helping to make smaller rooms feel larger.
  • White has a restful and calming nature, making it a versatile choice for a home office, living room, bedroom or lounge.

White as a colour is far from uniform, and the choice of shade you pick can make the difference between a room feeling warm or cold, modern or old-fashioned. Creamy whites with the subtlest hint of yellow or ochre are warm and work well with schemes that feature wood, antiques or period features. For a crisp modern look, go for a brilliant white or a cooler shade with a blueish tint. This shade will work well with metallic surfaces.

Don't be afraid to combine different shades of white in the same colour scheme. You could do this with a muted wallpaper print that uses two white tones. Alternatively, vertical stripes of different white shades can look effective, or you could stencil an emblem onto the wall in a brighter shade of white than the base colour. In order for the stencil to be visible, you will need to make sure that the two shades are absolutely distinct from one another. You also might try painting in the stencil with a gloss paint against a matt backdrop.

Different textures add interest to a monochrome scheme and prevent it from becoming clinical. Soft textures such as sheepskin rugs or knitted throws will make a white colour scheme homely and inviting, as will a thick pile carpet. For an antique look, use lace, devorée or crushed velvet. Or choose fabrics with a slight sheen or a rougher surface, like linen or corduroy.

Reflective surfaces, such as lacquered furniture and mirrors, bounce light around making the room and will make it appear larger. Glass or clear Perspex furniture looks particularly striking in a white room.

A white scheme is the perfect backdrop to show off art work, photography, sculptures or ceramics. Decorating the walls with one-off items like these will also help personalise your scheme. You could group similar objects like patterned plates or salvaged tiles together, to create in interesting feature wall.

Another way to introduce accent colour is to use a fabric with a subtle pattern on cushions or upholstery. Or go for dram with just one piece of furniture in a vibrant colour against your white backdrop.

If you like to update your interior style frequently, white is the perfect choice as you can completely alter the scheme just by changing the soft furnishings and accessories. You could even alter your scheme with the seasons, opting for pastel accents in the spring and orange or red tones in the autumn.

For more ideas see our white and neutral colour schemes.