living with white

by Sharon Santoni

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It must be spring …. First I have the urge to de-clutter and now I found myself looking through pictures of white rooms! White floors, white walls, white upholstery, white bathrooms ……. Longing to let in the spring sunshine, to lighten and brighten my home …..

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Of course, I don’t have the time or energy to repaint my whole house on a whim, but passing moods like this longing for white, can definitely influence the re-do of a room or two.

My spring project is a bathroom, currently dark walls, I’m wondering if I’m brave enough to go from dark to white.

One thing holding me back is that the room, although not small, is north facing, with little natural light. Someone a long time ago told me very gravely that I should never decorate a dark room in light colours and vice versa …. hmmm….

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I wonder if you’d agree with that idea. Have you used lots of white in your home, and if so, have you noticed that it works better in a room with big south facing windows, than in smaller darker parts of the house?

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So do let me know what you think …. and if you all tell me it’s a good idea, then I may well just reach for the paintbrush ………

because , after all, what other reasons could possibly stop me ?!! …….

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50 comments

The Enchanted Home March 3, 2014 - 11:05 pm

There is no room white doesn’t look great in its a natural mood elevator irregardless of direction- you can never go wrong. Just depends on if you go with a creamy warm white or a cooler gray white…happy painting!

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Marcia Peterson March 3, 2014 - 11:21 pm

Thanks for your blog. I have heard the opposite. Dark north facing rooms will be much more pleasant if the walls are a light color. We did our condo in a very very light pink so they glow a little. Friends painted their house that way and nobody notices the slight pink hue. It’s a lot better than the very light beige walls I think.

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Nancy March 3, 2014 - 11:58 pm

Sort of along the same lines as painting in light pink, I’ve heard you should paint your dining room in peachy hues, flattering to everyone in candlelight –

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Madonna/aka/Ms. Lemon March 3, 2014 - 11:22 pm

I was told it is only paint so even if you think it was a mistake it is an easy fix. I am so aware of color. I love all whites with a touch of pastel. I get overstimulated with too much color.

Off topic, but maybe not – I saw an advertisement for a vest for a dog that is called a calming vest. The dog they used to demonstrate/model looked like Ghetto’s cousin — imagine that. πŸ™‚

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Emm March 3, 2014 - 11:46 pm

A friend just passed one of those on to me, after her dog outgrew it. A “thundershirt.” They do work.

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Arleen March 3, 2014 - 11:24 pm

Hi. I didn’t know there were other colors than white. Only kidding. People say white gets dirty faster. Not true. Colors get just as dirty, it’s just that white shows the dirt! For years I wanted white livingroom furniture. Everyone said I was crazy. Well, 2 years ago I got my white furniture and Im a happy camper! White is a wonderful color. DO IT!!

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Mary in Oregon March 3, 2014 - 11:29 pm

When I worked with special needs students, often then would be sporting those “calming” vests (which were weighted down to help them feel like they were “grounded”. That might be a solution for you to aide Ghetto. OR…you would then have both him and the vest to wash regularly!!! He is just a mischievous one, n’est-ce pas?

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Mary in Oregon March 3, 2014 - 11:30 pm

should be “often THEY would”

faux pas

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Kate March 3, 2014 - 11:43 pm

Most definitely white we just changed over our living room North facing and changing furniture to off white. People that have seen it can not believe it is the same room. I love white and add pops of colors for the different seasons.

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Emm March 3, 2014 - 11:49 pm

What wonderful pictures, especially the first and third — love that little footstool.

White, yes, definitely, but because there are a zillion shades of it now it’s best to bring home the color chips, tape them to the wall, look at them in various light conditions.

When I lived in northern New England, I painted everything light colors — even white on the tops of door jambs, to get maximum light reflection.

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david terry March 4, 2014 - 12:25 am

“When I lived in northern New England, I painted everything light colors β€” even white on the tops of door jambs, to get maximum light reflection.”

I just read that, and I thought “Smart lady….”

–david terry

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psharpe March 3, 2014 - 11:54 pm

Who has time to paint with Ghetto around? … my, oh, my he has a fun life.
I love living with white/off-white wall and I have it in every facing direction… north, south, east and west… pretty much a glass house. It’s lovely and I think you will find it so refreshing.

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EBeth March 4, 2014 - 12:00 am

I love white! The only room that I have in all white is a south facing bathroom and it looks great. I do occasionally change out the shower curtain to give it a pop of color but it has been 10 years and I am not tired of it! So clean and fresh looking even after all these years…

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Esther George March 4, 2014 - 12:13 am

Hi Sharon I love the colours of the first photograph it looks very elegant and calming. I have always loved the idea of Alabaster or Ivory. My parents ended up painting their home in a very crisp white which looks cold to me and difficult to work with the furniture they have. My home the colour is called Minced Onion it’s a beautiful shade of green everything goes with it, the trimmings are in Clotted Cream. I have no energy to go back to the good old days of painting. Till next time Regards Esther from Sydney. PS love all of the above especially those gorgeous fury friends.

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Linda March 4, 2014 - 12:22 am

I love color. And, I love my white woodwork trim throughout the house. We recently redecorated our north facing master bath with marble…floor, shower floor & walls, tub surround, baseboard. Painted the walls a dark sea blue/green which accentuates the marble and white woodwork. Had the room been painted white, the marble would have disappeared. Such a subjective subject!

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Corinne March 4, 2014 - 12:24 am

No matter where, no matter why, white is always right!

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david terry March 4, 2014 - 12:30 am

I just read “No matter where, no matter why, white is always right!”

I grew up in Mississippi from 1960 -1964……and, afterwards, in our family’s Tennessee home-county until I was bundled off to The Universiry of the South (yes…there is such a place; it’s actually a college owned by the Southern Dioceses of the Episcopal Church).

In any case, I’m so glad (I guess…?) that another of your readers had the nerve to post what I heard on a pretty continual basis when I was growing up…..

That said?……all of my walls, all of my dogs (they’re west highland terriers) and all of me are white……and we’ll probably stay that way for the duration.

—david terry
http://www.davidterryart.com

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david terry March 4, 2014 - 12:38 am

P.S. I just recalled that not everyone who reads this is an American….more specifically, not an American from the 1960’s-1970’s American South …..where, for YEARS, one could readily identify the politics, so to speak, of the guy driving the truck in front of you by reading the bumper sticker, which all too often read “White Is Right!”.

I know, I know….all too Zimbabwe, circa 1970, for words……but it was, indeed, the case.

—-david terry

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lavenderhill March 4, 2014 - 12:47 am

I can confidently say that I painted my bedroom walls & floor Matte white. The floors were brown & with brown furniture did not look right. I used white floor paint & it brightened up the room drastically. To clean is also easy – just mop with a mix of water & diluted bleach & floor cleaner – its immaculate – looks just like your pictures. In the winter, creates a bright light as not much sun to be seen – I say go for it –

I may as well add that on the wall, I painted horizontal stripes across the room in white gloss paint so against the white matte paint – looks quite chic –

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Katherine March 4, 2014 - 1:11 am

One of the successes of decorating with all white is to layer with texture. If all of the elements are flat without various elements the room blends too easily. Using fabrics, finishes and layering elements will bring dimension and life to the space.
My favourite white is Benjamin Moore Oxford White – it holds well in any light, not looking grey, blue or yellow – just pure and calm.

I say go for it and bring various shades of white and texture into the space. It is the perfect backdrop for rich toned antiques and artwork. The pups will love it.

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Linda March 4, 2014 - 1:21 am

Hi Sharon,
I love white as it brightens up most rooms. When visiting friends in Norway I have found that they use white in order to bring light into the rooms in a country where they have long hours of darkness in the winter. It also looks so clean to me. And some of my favorite flowers are white, for the same reason.
Love the photos you posted and the photo of Ghetto and Gibson put a smile on my face for sure. I would love to give both of them a hug!
Linda xx

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Susan March 4, 2014 - 2:04 am

If I may offer a simple solution to try. Since you are Leary of painting, might I suggest you take an old white sheet or a painting tarp ( painted white if necessary)and hang it on your largest wall for a period of 2 weeks. Make sure you view it at all times of day in all lights and in all weather to see if it works for you. Once you have tested the waters then you know if white or a color will look best and if you want it on all walls or not.
Hopefully this will be of some help.
Thank you for your lovely blog!

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Contessa March 4, 2014 - 2:39 am

I have NO WHITE WALLS……..and love my colored rooms!I agree you can NOT make a dark room light by painting it white…….doesnot work.Just go with the flow and paint it a dark hue such as a forest green.

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Peggy Braswell March 4, 2014 - 2:43 am

as a designer,(humble one) + I usually put up painted boards of different colors in your case it would be different whites, in each direction e, n, s,w so you can view the boards at different times of the day + leave them up for a least a week + gives you an idea of what the room will look like. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

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sally March 4, 2014 - 2:45 am

Id use a trick of the trade Sharon…tone on tone a few whites together.
Using several shades ( ie floor, walls, painted furniture ) gives depth to the ‘all white’ scheme…it will be very fresh spring like with your lovely flowers around
mmm tempting!

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Eliot March 4, 2014 - 2:46 am

Love White!!! Light and bright even on gray days. White is very peaceful.

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sylvia Faye March 4, 2014 - 2:58 am

As a former ‘colour consultant and speaker’ I don’t agree that white is always right as anyone who was in or visted the hospitals of old could tell you that the white was cold and one felt a lack of warm when being there…that is why they began to put colour; especially in the children’s units. Everyone rushed to buy colour TV’s, colour camera film, etc. as colour matters……..white is only one nuteral. I think most homes enjoy white these days as they use so many more assessories and these are usually very colourful.
I am a believer in colour seasons for us and when I helped my clients to know their seasons and then showed them how this also applies to hair, makeup, home, etc. many were so amazed. Too many ladies colour their hair the wrong colour for their colour season. We were not all meant to be blonds nor were/are we all meant to have nothing but white in our homes, n’est ce pas.
As for North/South rooms I am with the person who felt it was the other way around. Use light in North facing (blue seems cold in a north room) where as red or orange or yellow seems warm.
Lovely pictures in your post for viewing. Thank you Sharon.

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Joy March 4, 2014 - 3:36 am

I think white can help to brighten up a room! Good luck painting!

ariarhapsody.blogspot.com

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Kathryn March 4, 2014 - 4:00 am

why would you not, I say? it’s only paint!

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ann pauley March 4, 2014 - 4:41 am

hi sharon!
i thought many french parisians use white, especially in the bedrooms. Pairing white
with gold gilded, framed pictures on the walls is what i’m considering. I’m still stumped
as to what to paint my kitchen. Maybe a creamy white with blue gray molding…
any advice? i have deep blue- gray granite countertops and white ceramic tile with
light blue veining throughout.
thanks,
ann

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laura wilson March 4, 2014 - 4:42 am

I think you should paint it! If you keep reaching for white—then you must want it, crave it, need it. Although some of the rooms in my house are wallpapered and three are painted in colors, the rest of the house is white and I lovvvve it. We had lived in a very dark house for 20 years. I don’t miss it at all but know I would miss this much happier house.

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Jeanne..Collage of Life March 4, 2014 - 4:42 am

Hi Sharon…so enjoyed reading the comments here. I think I am with Peggy, if you can paint up a few boards, leave it for a few days to watch the light come and go, you will have a good idea. I tend to do that with a lot of things…lessons learned the hard way.

This post started me thinking on the last time I painted a room pure white and I do not think I ever have! I seem to always be wrapped in warmth….Chateau Mango is a testament to that. πŸ™‚

I find each country we live in directs the colour of the house and it’s rooms. They all vary so much. I am curious to see which direction I head with Tahilla Farm. Even more so, which direction Mr. H heads. πŸ˜‰

Sending you warm wishes from Saigon Sharon…
xx

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Catherine Lepreux March 4, 2014 - 8:22 am

I live in Scotland and I’m with Sylvia on this one. The light in north facing rooms tends to be much bluer thsn in south facing ones, so if you feel like lightening up the room, go for it!

I’d try white with just a touch of pink in it to warm the white up. Anything with blue or green tones will make the room feel very cold and unwelcoming.

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Garden, Home and Party March 4, 2014 - 1:53 pm

Hi Sharon,
I’ll weigh in but I love your taste and style and am confident you’ll choose something wonderful no matter what…I am drawn to white rooms, my files are filled with images where white dominates. But (you knew there was a but coming) I prefer just a shade or two darker from the basic white. Lately, I’ve been painting rooms that are a subtle shade of taupe/gray. The Benjamin Moore paints have so many soft and pretty colors to choose from that aren’t “white” but almost. Caution: advice I read from Joan of for the love of a house…don’t start by reading the names of the color, pick the color first. Trust me, the names are so romantic and wonderful you’ll be swayed whether its a color you love or not! πŸ™‚
Good luck and I hope you’ll share some details as they come along.
Karen

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Nancy March 4, 2014 - 2:02 pm

When we moved into our house, I painted everything white, white, white. But I chose a sterile cold white. hated it. Our house now has color…soft gray or in others beige. I do believe that some rooms do better with darker colors, some with lighter.
If you go for white, it should have a touch of a color in it, so it isn’t sterile.
Although overall, when you have shown pictures of your house, it seems perfect!
I agree with the others, put a sample board up and live with that for a while……
Nancy
wildoakdesigns.blogspot.com

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Nib's End March 4, 2014 - 6:56 pm

I will jump on the bandwagon of “white if you love light”. I have always painted my bathrooms white because it feels so clean. And clean is what I want to feel when I walk into those rooms. In my experience, a little chiaroscuro in the details sidesteps sterility. I love how acountryfarmhouse.blogspot.com accomplishes this in her home(s).

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Kris March 4, 2014 - 7:41 pm

Just painted my combination LR/DR white (White Dove by Ben Moore) and I love it! My husband looked funny at me when I said ‘white’ to his question of what color, but even he loves it. It makes the seasonal changes of color both inside and out really pop. My kids said it looked ‘fresh’. Do it!

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Michelle - Germany March 4, 2014 - 9:58 pm

White is just always right and classic…so so happy I went with my gut feeling 23 years ago. NEVER regretted it…and you can warm it up with touches of colour in the furnishings etc. We have a lot of watercolours and paintings so it had to be the choice for us really…and the bathroom too! Warm it up with towels etc. I only wish I had bought white porcelain dinner service too! It never dates and one never tires of it…..I adore the dogs! <3

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Oscar from Mexico March 5, 2014 - 1:54 am

You may play with white washed tones. Then add some accesories with your favorite colors. Always add a black item to add drama: picture frames, a vase, or a small sculpture.
Good luck in all your endeavours.

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Janette March 5, 2014 - 4:29 am

Love White… it is a pallet always waiting for new splashes of white or color or texture. It is inviting and fresh, Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall. It is cozy and quiet. As far as those two cutie pies you referred to as possible deterrents… make it washable and the two of them will be the best accessories.
Thank you for your wonderful blog, beautiful ideas and pictures. Tres jolie!

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Gabi March 5, 2014 - 4:49 am

My whole house is almost all decorated in white–living room, family room, morning room, master bedroom, kitchen. I have had 4 cats- 1 1grey, 2 black and 1 orange tabby, (although sadly only one black one is still with us) and 1 husband and 1 teenager. I wouldn’t change a thing! Personally, I think white is a brightener for any room, be it north, south, east or west exposure. Each exposure allows the white to create it’s own “shade”. I say go for painting that dark room white!

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Isabelle B March 5, 2014 - 10:13 am

I am with the dark colours for dark rooms brigade I’m afraid…only because I also had heard about that rule too. I have two north east facing bedrooms and I painted one a dark burgundy red and the other a very soft pale colour, I have to say the burgundy works better as it looks deep and rich and inviting both day and night and makes for a cosy bedroom. The very pale colour is pretty but it loses some of its quality with it being a poorly lit room. However I have a very similar palest blue in my sittingroom which has a huge bay window and the room is bright aqnd sparkly when the sun shines and is soft and luminous when its duller weather. Sooooo I’d say that that rule, as boring as it may be to follow them, does ring true. However, as others have said white is used in the northern countries to pull in the light! I just find it can look cold with our Scottish skies, here in Edinburgh. But the softer French light might work a treat πŸ™‚

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Nancy March 5, 2014 - 4:11 pm

I could never do dark colors, they are just not me. I have a north facing kitchen with an overhang that keeps it from getting direct sun all day. I have it painted a Martha Stewart blue (it was sold by Kmart) pale but with different undertones and it always looks amazing. This is my 3rd kitchen that I have painted this color, one of the others was west facing…it looked great in all but I actually like it best in this kitchen. I have learned to follow my heart and not guidelines. I have always like guidelines though, because it gives me a starting point…I just tend to veer off-course most of the time. I also paint the ceiling with a satin paint to get some reflection, as well (an apparent no-no) but I hate flat paint. On another note, I have a large bonus room that is a catch all for everything as well as our tv room…the color is hideous but because of the size, I only want to paint it once. Eight years later, I haven’t picked a color yet (I have considered white)!

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Eliza Beth March 5, 2014 - 5:30 pm

Any room looks good in white/neutral colors. it’s having the theme flow that matters.
A north facing room NEEDS the light – be it from sunlight or the way you decorate. Now it can be warm tones or cool tones, but either way, it’s better than feeling like a dark dungeon.

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burnside March 6, 2014 - 10:29 am

I’m finding that I’ve gently taken up white, ivory and silver rather more as the years go by and the uses of the place shift a little with time. I think, though, there are a number of moments – arrivals, dinners, a great read – calling for more richness.

The layers of thoughtfulness which make up a family home are more beautiful, really.

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thundershirt for barking March 6, 2014 - 6:55 pm

Heya i am for the primary time here. I found this board and I find It really helpful & it helped me out a lot. I am hoping to provide something back and aid others such as you helped me.

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Holly March 9, 2014 - 12:09 am

I love white! My husband and I are in the process of building a modern/barn/farmhouse. (We don’t know what to call it really). It is going to be painted white inside and out. Except for the kids room. (They get freedom of paint in their rooms). White is soooo peaceful! Those photos are lovely.

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carolina elizabeth March 9, 2014 - 1:36 pm

White rooms I believe to be glorious and perfect for allowing those beautiful treasures you’ve collected to be the star of the show. I find that white walls softens everything; and if you don’t like it, it’s the easiest paint color to paint over.
I wish you a beautiful Spring.
-Carolina Elizabeth

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Colleen Taylor March 13, 2014 - 4:16 am

I’m late here for your “what colour to paint party” but I say go with white! When in doubt, I purchase a sample of the colour of choice, paint it on several walls or large sample boards & then decide. White does not have to look sterile or clinical any longer. I saw a warm white.

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edith November 9, 2014 - 7:17 pm

I’ve used & loved several different whites. Benjamin Moore’s Cloud White is a very successful white for northern exposures or windowless rooms. It has a touch of warmth to it but reads white. Oxford White is also good. Decorators White is too stark but White Dove is a creamier white, a little richer than the first 2but still reads white.

Paint a large test square on each wall of the room. Live with it a few days in different lights. Use tests of each one you like. Paint changes according to the light and something that looks great in the store or a friends living room may look awful at home.

Paint also reflects any major colour from floors, carpet, drapes etc.

The joy of pale neutrals like white or my current fave Tapestry Beige is that you can pull intense rich colours into the room in slipcovers, rugs, drapes, cushion covers, art & accents. When you tire of the scheme or need a seasonal change you can quickly freshen it up without the hassle of redecorating.

My home changes with the seasons from warm rich reds in winter to sunny chartreuse in spring, then greyed out aquas for summer and lively bronzes for fall.

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