Full disclosure, I’m not a fan of white spaces. I’ve been called into homes to rectify an attempt by a client to create an all-white space. When I asked the client why ‘all white’, their response is usually, ‘because I thought it would be easy’. I can understand why people think that creating an all-white space would be easy, but from my perspective it’s actually really hard to successfully create a white space.
Why it’s hard to get white spaces right
The primary reason it’s hard to get white spaces right is because white is a cold colour. Yes, it’s fresh, crisp, clean but it also has no warmth. The other reason it’s hard to get white spaces right is because there are just so many whites. All with a different undertone; from grey to yellow.
The biggest reason it’s hard to get white spaces right is light. Both natural light and artificial light play a massive role when considering any colour. But light is especially important when considering a white colour scheme. One of the reasons for this is that light reflects off various surfaces.
For example, imagine a space with a white sofa and a white marble coffee table, in this space the light will reflect off the marble making the space brighter and therefore exacerbating the lack of warmth. Think of a hospital environment. In an all-white space there are no colours absorbing the light. In a space where there is light absorption, you don’t have to squint, it’s easier on the eyes and therefore comfortable to be in.
How to successfully create a white space
To make an all-white space work, you need a plan. Firstly, decide what white undertone you want, grey, beige, or yellow undertone. That way all your white selections will be in the same family of whites. This means figuring out what white means to you? Is it ivory, cream, vanilla, chalk etc.
Another way to make a white space work is to add texture. Yes, the textures could still be white but think of a white linen sofa with a white cowhide cushion and a white wool throw with fringe or tassels. Different textures create patterns, which add interest and create warmth.
Try to keep your textures natural, use materials and fabrics such as ceramic, wool, wood, leather linen, jute etc. Natural textures also tend to add warmth.
Pattern is another way to add warmth and succeed at creating a white space. Think about striped cushions, or chunky knit throws or geometric art.
If your white space, feels cold and uncomfortable consider the variety of textures and patterns as your first attempt at redress and then light.
White spaces, whether they’re kitchens, living rooms or master bedrooms can be beautiful, warm, interesting and inviting. But like any space it needs to be created with intention and attention to all the seven elements of interior design to successfully create a white space.