Is White Really White-Hot When It Comes to Decorating Your Home?

Deciphering the trend for white paint, furnishings and just about anything in between.

U.S. News & World Report

Is White Really White-Hot When It Comes to Decorating Your Home?

Modern white and clean kitchen interior with stools at counter

You don't have to banish color from your home to embrace the white trend while your decorate and update your home.(Getty Images)

Benjamin Moore selected Simply White OC-117 as its color of the year for 2016.

Sherwin Williams, its staunchest competitor, selected Alabaster (SW 7008). In fact, white paints make up 30 percent of that company’s sales of paint, in gallons, according to a July 2016 article in The Wall Street Journal.

There is no doubt that for a clean, simplistic look, a version of white would seem the obvious choice. But is it the best color for walls?

Simplistic it isn’t – it is extremely difficult to pick the best white. Benjamin Moore sells well over 250 shades of white. Each shade casts a slightly different color, and the color changes nearly every hour depending on the rising and setting of the sun. Add to that the direction your room faces, and the color of your lightbulbs.

With so many variables effecting your decision, how do you make your choice?

A June 2016 survey by Zillow Digs was done to determine the saleability of certain homes based on their wall colors. Ironically, the color white was not the most popular in any category. The study showed that kitchens with white walls actually sold for less money than other color choices – as much as $1,400 less than yellow walls in kitchens.

So how does one utilize the trend? The starkness of white walls can be cold, and they can turn furnishings and accessories into unpleasant silhouettes. Instead of looking clean, furniture can look jumbled, and the accessories can look busy rather than enhance the surroundings. But white furnishings, fittings and accessories can be an effective way to embrace the trend beyond your walls.

The Kitchen

Nothing looks cleaner than white kitchen cabinets. With so many whites to choose from, you can easily avoid looking like inexpensive stock cabinets. Many interior design clients prefer white with subtle tones of gray.

Some great options are Benjamin Moore’s Swiss Coffee OC-45 and Pale Oak OC-20. Both have subtle undertones of gray and green to add warmth, and to keep them from looking too stark. For kitchens that are large enough to incorporate an island, these whites on the perimeter cabinets allow for a pop of color for the island.

For a sophisticated look that will remain timeless, choose a white countertop as well. Carrara marble and absolute blanc quartzite incorporate the warm undertones in the cabinet paint, and swirl them throughout, creating a subtle landscape of whites and grays on the countertops.

If you’re concerned about staining the marble, you can choose from a number of offerings of engineered quartz from Caesarstone, which emulate the look of granite and marble. Finish it off with a white farmhouse sink and a crystal chandelier.

The Living Areas

The white sofa slipcover is like the little black dress every woman has. It covers a multitude of sins, provided you’re prepared to keep it clean. If your furniture is starting to look tired, freshen it up with a white slipcover.

To keep it from looking sterile, layer in a multitude of textures in the form of furry pillows, cable knit throws, and gauzy linen drapes. The palette is clean and fresh, and changeable for the seasons.

If your accent furniture is a collection of unmatched items, consider unifying them by painting them white and apply a glaze or wax to give them more character. If you’re in the market for a new desk or étagère, consider white lacquer for a dramatic and luxe look.

Break up some of the white by adding in metal and glass accents. White furniture is versatile enough to enhance any tone of metal. Finish off the look with white accessories. Increasing in popularity are white ceramic ram’s heads, unusual vases, battery operated candles, and white lacquer trays. Bring in accents of white birch to add a natural juxtaposition to the mix.

The Bathroom

White is far from utilitarian in the bathroom. Instead, it opens up a wide variety of opportunity. White tile is available in every price category, size, and shape. Depending on your budget, there are many ways to make white tile special. It mixes easily with more expensive marble, limestone and quartz.

Use a white subway tile in a more unusual size, like 3 inches by 8 inches, and accent it with a colored grout to look more high-end. Use a variety of sizes and shapes. Consider tiling the bottom half of your shower in a typical brick pattern, cap that portion with a marble trim piece, and complete the top half with the same tile in a herringbone pattern for a completely custom look.

White sinks are available in many more shapes and sizes – rectangular is a less-common but attractive option. Consider bordering the floor in a more expensive and unusual material since you will be able to save on the budget-friendly white tile.

The Exterior and Millwork

There is no doubt that a white exterior on a home looks fresh and stately. If the architecture is on point, a white exterior can show off the well-thought-out lines and balance of materials.

In this case, I suggest using a different white for the body of the house than the trim. If you use Benjamin Moore’s Simply White for the trim, paint the body a warmer white, like Benjamin Moore’s Acadia White OC-38, for example.

For interior trim, ceilings and millwork, you can never go wrong with white. Avoid using ceiling white and instead opt to match the color of your trim for a warmer, more cohesive look.

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