Using White to Quiet Your Space

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Source: Petra Bindel

Interior designers on TV are constantly encouraging people to paint their walls a color. If all four walls is too much, well, how about an accent wall?

Color is wonderful, and on walls, color is either the background music you subtly notice affecting your mood, or a CPR-like pounding attack on your senses.

However, what if we went with silence? That is, the mother of all colors: white.

White is peaceful, like in the bedroom above, where strong colors might otherwise be too stimulating.

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Source: Fantastic Frank Blog, Interior Stylist: Thomas Lingsell, Photographer: Andy Liffner

Used in a kitchen, white can feel clean and spacious. Notice how the light suffuses both bedroom and kitchen, bouncing off the walls and surfaces in both spaces.

Although I’m also a fan of (painted) white floors, the stained hardwood floors anchor the space; the wooden counter top also adds a punch of natural color to the palette.

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Source: Momtoob

Scandinavian design has elevated the use of white, so that its seeming simplicity doesn’t reflect a lack of imagination or bleakness, but rather a soothing calm and clarity.

Perhaps it reflects the native environment of the designers, and their admiration for the ruggedness and austerity of their landscapes, which translates well into minimalism and modernism.

6 Comments

  1. it is dramatic, and silent. however, i live in a tiny studio apartment that is the ubiquitous white that every owner has painted every apartment i’ve ever lived in. Many, many years ago, the Toyota Corolla had an Eggshell White that I just loved. Is there a shade of white that has some warmth to it without turning into an off-white (which erodes into grey)?

    One thing, though: the white walls really do help lighten up the space.

    1. Hi Shizue!

      Thanks for your comments and question.

      The white of your apartment is most likely the most inexpensive white paint your landlord could find (which is one reason it’s ubiquitous). Sometimes, the grey is part of the paint’s mixture, and sometimes the grey is from the accumulation of dust. Scrubbing the walls can be helpful, but then you’ll probably just have clean, greyish walls.

      (Oh, just so I don’t get you in trouble: many landlords won’t allow you to paint the walls, or they’ll look the other way when you paint so long as you return it to that bland off-white, so check your lease or with your landlord first before going wild with the paintbrush!)

      If you’d like a warm white, I would suggest something with a bit of camel/tan/khaki in it, such as Behr’s Swiss Coffee. The paint’s color will depend on the light in your studio apartment, as well as your furnishings and decorations, so try a sample spot on the wall and check it out during different times of the day with different pieces of furniture and art.

      Check in with your local paint store (or big box store), and ask them about warm white recommendations. Swiss Coffee is a popular one, but there are others you may like better.

      Lastly, remember that it’s just paint. If you don’t like it, you can paint over it. You might be out the money for the paint (buy small samples first), but you’ll be better off when you finally find the color you love.

      Take care,

      Ivan

  2. I think the misconception about a white room feeling “sterile” and uncomfortable is when there is no texture or depth as opposed to the pictures you’ve posted. My favorite room color combo is cream (right before it hits beige) and swiss coffee. I think the ever so slight contrast is beautiful and relaxing. Lots of crown, burlap or creamy upholstery, heavy curtains, hardwood floors (grain), paneled doors. Love Love Love!!!

    1. Yes, exactly! The opportunities with a white room are to focus on texture as well as the subtleties of tone-on-tone, not to mention how it makes colors pop when the colors are used judiciously.

      The combinations you talked about are definitely soothing; natural materials I think have a sensual give to them that’s relaxing (you’ll find this in both Scandinavian and Japanese design).

      Thanks for your comment!

If you talk about it, you'll feel better

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