Home decor: A guide to all-white rooms
When touring a designers' show house in Southampton, N.Y., one summer, I was amazed to overhear the diverse reactions to an all-white living room. One visitor found the room "sterile and antiseptic"; another remarked on the "purity of vision and lack of artifice." Some found the room warm, but many commented that it felt cold. How is it that one colour (or, rather, absence of colour) can elicit such a dichotomy of opinions? Often it's assumed that white is a "standard" one-tone-fits-all, especially when it comes to wall colour. But in fact, white is as diverse as every other colour in the spectrum. Below are some of my favourite whites, plus a little guidance on how you might use them.
In an ultramodern loft or condo, nothing defines the space like a crisp white. But modern white isn't restricted to such uses; white is often used to play off traditional materials and cabinetry.
• Kimberley's perfect pairing: Modern white Silvery blue
Farrow & Ball's All White 2005 is pure, bright and summery. Combine this cool, contemporary white with silvery blues to fashion a relaxing south-facing bedroom or decorate a sunny living room.
Envision a Swedish manor house with northern light streaming through the windows or flea market finds in shades of chalky grey. Romantic whites are grey based, bringing a dreamy, ethereal presence to walls. This range of whites works in both traditional and contemporary interiors.
• Kimberley's perfect pairing: Romantic white Putty
Benjamin Moore's Ballet White OC-9 is what I often use for trim, especially when I want contrast with taupe or putty walls. The combination creates soothing old-world elegance, and is ideally suited to showcasing painted furnishings and medium-tone woods like pale oak. Combine with playful checks and, of course, natural linens.
Nothing better enhances the look and feel of a room graced with fine antique furnishings and old wood floors than a mellow, yellow white. The whites in this spectrum are reliable, providing sunny warmth to northern interiors.
• Kimberley's perfect pairing: Antique white Parchment
Para Paints' Notepaper P834-4 is a finely aged white that takes on the soft appearance of parchment paper, providing the ideal backdrop for antiques and rich wood tones. Look to Europe for historic examples of softly yellowed white for walls and trim. This choice works best where there's some sunlight present. It plays off lively raspberry, grassy green and lavender beautifully.
With a mere suggestion of rose beneath the surface, this variation is lusty and youthful -- and flatters nearly all skin tones. Although blush whites have a touch of femininity, when paired with strong neutrals like chocolate brown, charcoal grey and black, they make a handsome masculine statement.
• Kimberley's perfect pairing: Blush white Mink
Farrow & Ball's Dimity 2008 provides a hint of blush. White strikes
a feminine pose when pink is just below the surface. Oyster white is ideal
for powder rooms and bedrooms as it flatters most skin tones. Or for drama, play matchmaker with a soft pinkish white plus mink or charcoal.