white and colors

the allure of white walls

More than ever, our homes are critically important to our sense of comfort and well being where we build our own personal nests. The act of decorating our homes is the catalyst that sparks our creativity, providing that special environment that helps us and those who live with us thrive. Color is one of the most important elements in feathering our nests.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, painting the walls pure white is anything but neutral. Pure whites are dazzling and appear brilliant to the human eye. The only place where pure whites can be used effectively is as background where there are strong visual distractions, such as large pieces of art that capture the eye quickly. And these pieces should be either vibrant primary colors or classic black and white. This makes for a super-dramatic setting where pure white becomes a part of the drama. And there are some people who are devout minimalists who want nothing more than the starkness (and visual glare) of black and pure white.

But in actual life settings, most people do not crave that kind of starkness. For decorating purposes it is best to add a touch of another shade or tint to pure white to create an off-white, such as turning a Snow White into a Whisper White. Off-whites are much more effective as neutral backgrounds.

Because it is so highly reflective, especially on fabrics with a sheen, Pristine White acts as a mirror as it reflects the color used immediately next to it. For example, if you use a repeating orange pattern on a white background, the white will warm up slightly, because the orange is so very warm (it is actually perceived as the hottest of all hues). Bright colors generally appear slightly dulled next to pure white.

Mixing whites doesn’t work. Off-whites will look dull and dingy next to pure white. Antique lace curtains will look yellowed and faded next to a pure white shade. Super-sheer white fabrics disclose the color behind them, so they appear less white than a heavier texture. There are also bluish whites and cool greenish whites, but they have to be handled with care as they can get too sterile and glare just as pure white does. Then there are the rosy whites, peachy whites and creamy whites that are friendlier because of their inherent warmth. Any shade of white reflects into adjacent areas, which makes it excellent to use near darkened spaces.

Color usage should always be thought of in context of the area you are using it in and, most importantly, the mood you want to create. Some helpful tips for the usage of certain whites are;

If you want your bedroom to be a quiet and restful sanctuary, try a slightly tinged bluish white, like Bit of Blue or Barely Blue. As their names suggest, there is a mere touch of blue as an undertone as you don’t want the atmosphere to get too cold or sterile.

In the bathroom, the off whites with a hint of rose, such as Shell, or a dollop of peach, as in Ecru, are very flattering to skin tones.

To make an entry way more inviting and welcoming, try a warm of- white like Dawn.

If you love the thought of being surrounded by sunlight, yet do not want to be overwhelmed by yellow, experience the softest rays of sunshine as in Alabaster Sheen.

For a subtle bit of deliciousness in the kitchen that will literally tempt everyone’s taste buds, try a very creamy Crème Brulee.

Painting a ceiling white or off white will always give the illusion of more height to a space.

White trim in a room always adds clean, enhancing and defining touches.

Should you want another option to replace the usual grays, taupes or beiges, try one of mother nature’s favorite neutrals: Whisper Green.

Portions reproduced from “COLORS FOR YOUR EVERY MOOD” with the permission of Leatrice Eiseman.

additional color tips from pantone