White – make it work in your home

Fancy your place as a white wonderland but not sure how to make it work with family life? Here’s how
If you are drawn to the immaculate, pristine perfection of white interiors, you’re not alone. Architects and interior advice4-1designers and artists love it. But can the rest of us live with white, without having the bleach permanently on hand or a bag of salt for those nasty red wine stains?

Yes, and no, says interior designer and colour expert Sarah Kerr. “I adore crisp whites with timber, in an old-meets-new combination typical of a New York-style loft,” she says. “My studio/office is painted white. It’s a former bakery built of brick in the 1860s, with wide-plank floors and exposed rafters. The white walls and ceilings look fabulous and I’ve added contrast with an oversized neutral rug.”

Using white-on-white with concrete and steel can be too minimal, Kerr believes – she prefers wood for a warmer contrast.

As for practicalities, white is perfect for making small spaces expand visually, but rugrats – animals or pets – will quickly trash a white carpet or sofa.

“White leather sofas offer the best of both worlds,” she says. “They wear well, add lightness to a room and shrug off jammy fingerprints in one wipe.”

The trick with all-white is to mix textures: leather sofa, linen curtains, marble fire surround, fur throw. But that’s not quite enough. You might end up with a room that’s flat and lifeless.

“White lovers should allow a rich colour such as chocolate into the scene,” says Kerr. You’ll create a delicious contrast that makes the decor sing.

White looks thoroughly modern teamed with see-through furniture and accessories, such as crystal chandeliers and Perspex or glass furniture. Finish a room with white stone vases, whitewashed tall candle stands and textured neutral rugs. Sublime.

Choosing the right white paint from the hundreds on offer comes down to working out what base colour will go best in your home. Does the white paint have yellow, grey or brown undertones so you can match it to other shades in the room?

“Cool whites such as Resene Black Haze, Resene Sea Fog and Taubman’s Ashwood contain a hint of blue, grey or green; warm whites (Resene Pearl Lusta, Resene Spanish White) contain cream, amber or peach,” says Kerr.

“The rule of thumb for any monochromatic scheme is to use it full strength on the walls, half strength on the ceilings and quarter strength on the doors, skirting, trims and architraves.”

People who like white are usually well-balanced, self-contained and charismatic, she says. White is elegant and chic, but also comforting and soothing. White is the colour of purity. It’s an all-round colour of protection, bringing peace and comfort, alleviating emotional shock and despair and helping inner cleansing of the emotions, thoughts and spirit.

How to make white work in your home:
If you need time to reflect, white gives a feeling of freedom and uncluttered openness. Too much white, however, can be cold and isolating.
“I’ve always thought white goes best with black, or strong colours such as red, hot pink, orange and lime. Scatter cushions on the bed and candles on the bedside table for a contemporary look.”

In the bedroom you can get away with almost anything “so indulge white whimsically,” says Kerr. “What’s hot right now is pairing white with metallics. Try a statement wall in wallpaper with a delicate stylised floral pattern in white with silver or gold.”

In the bathroom, if you use white tiles, choose a light grey grout “to add definition and so you don’t spend a lifetime cleaning.”

In the kitchen, white can look ultra modern. Choose your benchtop material first then match cabinetry in either a two-pot lacquer semi-gloss finish or white melamine, depending on your budget.

White can work in your home, it’s just a matter of striking the balance between reality and pristine perfection.