On the white track – our guide to decorating with the ultimate neutral

By November 27, 2019 December 3rd, 2019 Design Advice & Inspiration

White paint features in almost every home renovation. It may be the ‘go-to’ neutral, but it is far from basic. Applied well, white can create a chic minimalist dream. Used badly, it conjures offices and operating theatres. Here is our guide to using white in your home.

50 shades of white

By definition, white has no hue. It is ‘achromatic’. A white surface is one that reflects all colours of light-waves equally. All very well in principle, but in practice, ‘white’ paint is formed from pigment just as any other colour is… so there is a huge amount of variation in shades of ‘white’ even before you start considering ‘nearly-white’ (an interesting albeit unverified investigation into the whitest white here)

When choosing the right shade of white, consider;

  • The other colours in the room: for example, a white with red undertones will clash with a grey with green undertones, creating a discomfiting ambience.
  • The natural light in the room: East and North facing rooms tend to receive cooler/ bluer light –a cool shade of white will amplify this.

Top tip; Some paint suppliers group colours which go well together on their paint charts.

APM favourites; we love a nearly-white as a neutral, with bright white woodwork. Try Farrow & Ball Ammonite, Skimming Stone and Strong White, and Little Greene French Grey Mid.

Ammonite – Cool neutral which looks fresh with white joinery
Skimming stone – lovely warm neutral with white joinery
Strong white – a light grey which works brilliantly with these modern finishes

White magic

In a well-designed home, white can be used to create a lovely light, bright space;

  • Luxurious fittings, carefully planned lighting and white marble-effect tiles make this a beautiful bathroom
  • Combined with a warm wooden floor, warm white walls provide a perfect backdrop for mid-century furniture and bold artwork in this living-dining space.
  • White joinery with dark grey inserts ‘pop’ against walls in light grey and green.

White lies

White has been attributed with magical properties – some aren’t true. The biggest myths:

  • Painting a dark room white will make it look light: Good lighting will make a dark room look light(er).  (Some colour contrast helps give the white a ‘lift’ and draw the eye to the lightness.)
  • White walls make rooms look bigger: While light shapes tend to appear larger than dark ones (optical illusion picture), that doesn’t always translate into the room looking bigger. A white wall may look bigger, but it also looks nearer. For many rooms, a combination of white and darker walls will create the best sense of space.
  • A white room is a minimalist room: White is unforgiving of dirt, smudges, uneven wall surfaces, and clutter – all enemies of the minimalist aesthetic. A perfect finish, hidden storage, and a commitment to tidiness are key to achieving this look.
The dark blue feature wall in this living room improves the sense of proportion in the room, and makes the whites look whiter

Just white

If you want to go for a fully white finish, the quality of the finish is vital. Our top tips; 

  • Prepare surfaces thoroughly to help avoid yellowing woodwork and wobbly walls. White shows everything. 
  • Add warmth – use a natural wood floor, and subtle variation of texture & pattern choose furnishing fabric with slight patterning)
  • Include lots of built in storage to keep the space clutter-free & tidy.
  • Invest in good lighting. White will emphasise any colour variation between your light bulbs (read more here) – beware the halogen/ cheap LED pink/green glow.
This beautiful finish is the result of weeks & weeks of sanding…

If you are thinking about renovating your home, get in touch!