Day three of snowy weather has me contemplating the allure of white rooms. A few years back I had a client with a three year old who wanted an all-white living room. Imagining pudding stains and crayola shenanigans, I lobbied for something less pristine. We compromised on bright sand; cream tones seemed dirty to her eyes.
As impractical as it is, I have to say I get it. Like a blank canvas, the white room is pleasingly simple. The people who visit it bring the color in their garb; vibrant brush strokes that come and go at our invitation.
However, on a day to day basis, the all white room may be more satisfying in theory than in practice. Humans like to be stimulated visually. What I have learned is that we use color to make space more engaging and interesting. When we edit it from the space, the forms and textures that remain have to be all the more dynamic to fill the aesthetic gap. The photo below, from House Beautiful, is a good example of how to keep a white space soft, warm and compelling. This is a crisp, romantic take on the all white room.
- This is not a ‘color pop’ kind of space; it’s more delicate and soft and less about mod vibrancy. Using black and white art instead of color [the collection on the wall to the left] and eschewing patterned rugs is a subtle but excellent commitment to detail. The Lesson: Keep the concept focused.
- Dynamic installations provide the drama that we otherwise find in color. The sheer size of the rough hewn door to the rear creates a focal point in a space that’s been blown open architecturally. The Lesson: Up the ante on accents and installations for drama, but make sure they’re used to enhance the bones of the room.
- Form and composition are building blocks to good design. The massive potted plant and spherical chandelier in this space establish a rhythm of mass that prevents our gaze from getting stuck on the over-scaled central column. This open space soars when the eye is not grounded in just one area. The Lesson: Without color to tell the eye where to roam, it’s more important than ever to get the styling right.
- This room is well-edited and interesting, mixing refined and primitive elements equally. The whiteness provides punctuation between each piece and the collection finds unity by virtue of its setting. This is not unlike the art of gallery curating. The Lesson: Embrace the innate gift of a white space: that it allows and even demands a diverse mix.
- Texture, texture, texture. The primitive table in the foreground, the dappled painting over the bombe chest and the organic tangle of branches are all fantastic use of texture to add depth to this design. Replace the table with its sleek lacquered sister and swap out the art for a gleaming mirror and the room instantly grows colder. The vase of branches reminds us of nature and is a peaceful connection. The Lesson: Grainy woods, coarse finishes and natural elements offset the pristine elegance of white and keep spaces feeling friendly.