Far from clinical, the right shade of white will provide the perfect backdrop for a statement scheme.
The master of transcending trends and time, white is the colour that designers seek out when they want to introduce a sense of calm. It’s practical, too: the most light-reflecting colour on the spectrum, white makes small spaces look and feel bigger than they are.
Considering its popularity, it’s surprising that white is not easy to get right. When used in large quantities, for example, it can look cold. What’s more, picking the perfect white isn’t easy. ‘There is the “right” white for each space; you just have to find the one that works best for your interior,’ says Helen Shaw, marketing director at Benjamin Moore. ‘Get a sample, paint it on the wall and look at it at three different times of day to see how your room changes.’ Cooler whites tend to work in sunny, south-facing rooms, while warm whites suit north-facing spaces.
White falls into the achromatic – meaning free from colour – family, so it’s a great blank canvas to start the base of any design scheme. ‘Make white the backdrop and bring in some graphic statements, such as bold, colourful artwork or key pieces of furniture like a bright velvet sofa,’ suggests interior designer Natalia Miyar. ‘White will never look cold or boring when used in direct contrast to bright colour.’
Not a fan of bold colour but still want to make a statement? Create drama by splashing white across walls and the ceiling. Then select white furniture and soft furnishings to layer in texture. ‘This will certainly create a one-of-a-kind space,’ says Natalia.
For those who subscribe to the ‘less is more’ school of thought, Donna Taylor, principal technical colour consultant for Johnstone’s, suggests a sprinkling of white. ‘Using dark colours on larger walls while picture framing these with crisp white woodwork works a treat,’ she says. ‘Think white doors and window frames or skirting. This is popular in historical and traditional design.’
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If you use the same shade of white on all surfaces in a space, it has no visual perspective and can look boring,’ says Donna Taylor, principal technical colour consultant at Johnstone’s. ‘To create a dramatic impact when using white on its own, introduce contrasting textures and surface finishes, such as matt, mid-sheen, glossy, rough, smooth and metallic.’
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‘I love the pale and interesting look, where you use lots of white to create a Scandinavian feel,’ says interior designer Laura Butler-Madden. ‘Add interest with textures, such as sheepskins, pale woods, wool and linens. Alternatively, you can use white to contrast with another much stronger colour to create a striking look. Go for dark blue or black with white to create a dramatic scheme.’
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‘The versatility of white allows you to mix it with anything – from bold colours to neutral shades or even create a luxurious feel by mixing it with silver,’ saysVanessa Brady, founder and CEO of the SBID Colour Council. ‘Going into 2020, colours are becoming more subdued. The favourites of the season are forecast to be dusty greens and blues.’
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‘White holds everything together, directs the eye and showcases other colours and textures in a space beautifully,’ says Helen Shaw, marketing director at Benjamin Moore.‘It’s not trendy or dated. It can be layered to create a soft, comforting effect, or can be used in stark contrasts to create a more contemporary and slick feel.’
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‘In small spaces with little natural light, try not to fight nature,’ says Jenny Weiss, co-founder of Hill House Interiors. ‘Instead, embrace the darkness and create a dramatic and cocooning interior. Little Greene’s Slaked Lime 105 introduces depth with its warm and restful white tone, bringing a sense of intimacy in a dark space.’
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