Living Well

White on White and Why it Works

White rooms are fresh, clean, and simple. We spoke with four designers who know how to do white right - in the living room, dining room, kitchen, and bedroom.

A chic living space by Kathie Chrisicos.

Kathie Chrisicos - Boston, Massachusetts

The light and bright white scheme of this sophisticated Boston condo works because we used various shades of white that come together in harmony, making the space seem larger than it actually is. The palette lets the wood finishes take on more importance in the room than they otherwise might if paired with color, and it doesn’t distract from the city view. On a more general note, we love white because it works for both men and women; it’s classic, not trendy, and pieces can be easily transferred to a new home if need be.

"We love white because it works for both men and women; it’s classic, not trendy, and pieces can be easily transferred to a new home if need be."

Designer Kathie Chrisicos on why she is a fan of white

A clean, crisp kitchen by Elisabeth Heier-Werner.

Elisabeth Heier-Werner - Oslo, Norway

This is the kitchen in my former home. I always have the architecture of the house in mind when I plan the interior. In this room, I wanted the beams to stand out. They are very important both structurally and historically, since the building is over a hundred years old. For that reason, I designed a kitchen with horizontals that underline the lines that the beams create. I kept it airy and crisp, like I think a loft should be, and used materials to enhance the Scandinavian feel. Then, I added personal items, which I changed a lot, to make it more interesting.

"I always have the architecture of the house in mind when I plan the interior."

Elisabeth Heier-Werner

A soothing white on white sleep space by Liz Stiving-Nichols.

Liz Stiving-Nichols - Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

 

White is only boring when there’s a shortage of creativity. When you layer various tones of white, you can create a quiet and restful space, one that’s especially perfect for a bedroom. A monochromatic palette welcomes texture. When looking to create a white-on-white palette, pay attention to the values you are working with.  Mixing warm and cool whites can be done, but it is best to view these tones at different hours to see how they respond and change from day to night. White also offers opportunity to highlight a feature that may be important to you, whether it be a favorite piece of art, the view, or a beautiful rug. Think of a white room as a field upon which you can highlight your favorite pieces.

"When you layer various tones of white, you can create a quiet and restful space, one that’s especially perfect for a bedroom."

Liz Stiving-Nichols on how whites can work for any bedroom

A living space by Myra Hoefer fueled by white pieces.

Myra Hoefer - Healdsburg, California

 

White works especially well to showcase art and found objects. We like to mix different materials in white, like plaster, concrete, and various fabrics, to create lots of different texture. Other elements that play into the scheme are scale—you need larger pieces, even in a small room—and light. Even if you have abundant natural light, be sure you add lamps so there is light at eye level too. Finally, when decorating with white, we always recommend using washable fabrics and slipcovers.

"We like to mix different materials in white, like plaster, concrete, and various fabrics, to create lots of different texture."

Myra Hoefer on how she makes white work

[Edited version - originally posted in 2014]

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