Is It Practical To Use White in Home Décor?

Recently we had a client in Oakville, ON, who has three young children and a black Labrador dog. Everything, so far with this story is just fine. The trouble is that this client loves the look of all white rooms. Many people love the look of white in interior design. It has such a crisp look and often makes formal contemporary interiors really pop, especially when used with crystal lighting in contemporary styles. Many of our clients are busy young families with young children or older clients who want their homes to look good but also want easy care. Often, they have seen beautiful white rooms in home décor magazines and enjoy the look. Really, white doesn’t stand much of a chance against real life with kids and pets. No matter how  regularly you vacuum and scrub, the fact remains that furnishings used in homes with small children and lots of guests need to be carefully chosen. Technology in fabric design has made amazing strides, but not always enough to combat the debris of daily living with children and pets and still come up looking good.

white living room with ornate mirror and large white artwork  kid with dirty feet on a swingrelaxed dog in a leather chair longitudinal contemporary fireplace with tall white mantel and clean lined furniture

One of our Mississauga clients had two small children, and a very busy lifestyle. They very much wanted that fresh, light look that white furnishings lend to room decor. We were able to use a lot of white in the home, but avoided it on the furnishings, aside from a couple of toss cushions which had zippers and could be gently washed. After washing even once, beautiful fabrics are never quite the same…just cleaner looking. Furniture used for everyday family seating is likely not an option in white, even if you like to redecorate often. As well, people who love the look of white in interior design often are drawn to a more formal style of décor. Before they have children, they may be well able to maintain this look. Not so much once the children arrive. What to do?

white display shelves with varying walpaper backing

There are several practical ways that easy going families can have beautiful rooms with the light look that they crave. The walls are a significant portion of the surface area of the room, so that is the first area where white or cream can be introduced. The draperies used in many rooms of the home can also be white or cream, unless the children are actively playing near them on a regular basis. Fling rods or traversing hardware should be used to operate light coloured draperies, even if only adults will be doing it. By avoiding hand contact with the fabric, the fresh look can be maintained for years. It goes without saying that smoking or oil heating systems will discolour light coloured fabrics over time.

charming casual white dining room with paired white artworks and slip covered dining chairs

If nothing but a light colour palette will make you happy, there are some relatively simple compromises that can be made. Very light coloured area carpets and broadloom can be used in many homes because we normally do not wear shoes inside the home. Armchairs and sofas can be slip covered in light, washable fabrics. This solution is not always a happy solution for the client who likes a crisp, tailored look because slip covers have a wrinkled look and, the more often they are washed, the more worn they will look. The slip covered look suits a client who is very casual and likes and easy-going life style. As much as this type of client is happy with this look, they often do not enjoy having to wrestle slip covers on and off the furniture on a regular basis for cleaning. Families with small children often do not have the time or energy to spend keeping slip covers looking clean. White or cream leather furniture can stand up to dirt and wear and tear much better than a regular fabric sofa, and will be able to be cleaned easily. There are many faux leathers now that are very effective at fooling the eye. They are very cleanable and look great. A fabric sofa in a more practical colour than white or light beige will hide dirt. No matter how regularly you wash a slip cover, it always looks a little sad. The sofa below, right looks so much better than the slip covered option. The colour palette is still light, but there is a much greater chance that the room design can continue to look nice after significant use.

ill-fitting slipcover on a sofa make the room look intidy relaxed small upscale living room with small sectional sofa, round coffee table and custom draperies

Toss cushions are more easily dealt with, though, so they are a means to introducing a touch of white or cream into the room. It’s not much work to zip the covers off for cleaning and then putting them back on. This regular cleaning does make the cushions look worn over time, though.  Recently, we had a client in Mississauga whose children were grown but who regularly entertained a wide circle of friends and relatives. They wanted an updated look, but wanted to keep some older pieces for sentimental reasons. The solution was to purchase comfortable furniture in an easy care fabric in a shade that had a touch of grey. This gave a light look on a large percentage of the room. We reupholstered the older pieces so that they had pride of place alongside the newer items.  The window treatments added drama and picked up one of the shades in the new area carpet. The overall look is now modern, upbeat, and easy care. The eye is drawn to the dramatic pattern of the hard wearing area carpet, then upward due to the draperies. In the photo, below right, the white wall covering has a vinyl coating which protects it from soiling and allows it to be cleaned. The vanity and countertop are also durable, washable surfaces, so this white room is easy care.

white bathroom with large bevelled mirror and tree motif wall covering

Wallpaper is enjoying a huge increase in popularity these days. Long gone are the annoying florals that turned us away from the use of wall coverings. Grass cloth is a very user friendly and beautiful look, as are pale, formal damasks of all description. Contemporary wallpaper patterns are often light and subtle, as well. Another new trend is toward the use of wallpaper murals which lend tremendous impact to any space. dynamic gold and white geometric wallpaper in a small living room with a tan leather bench

Accessories, large and small can certainly be white or cram and they are usually easy to keep looking good with little care. Artwork can be light coloured while the walls are a darker shade. Very large pieces will cover a significant portion of the wall, bringing lightness into the room.

clean lined dining room with simple white wall panelling, console table, and line art abstract artwork

A bit of sparkle can add lightness to a décor scheme. Innovations in manufacturing has resulted in wonderful options for tiles to use on fireplace mantels, kitchen backsplashes, and in bathrooms. Tile is, of course, easily cleanable.

traditional white fireplace mantel with white mother of pearl mosaic tile border  white mother of pearl shell tile mosaic in herring bone pattern

Window seats and the cushions on them can be light coloured if children don’t use them. Towels and shower curtains are easily maintained in bright, light shades, and adjacent light coloured artwork could back up the look. Fabrics, artwork, and wall coverings should not be overly patterned in order to maintain this light fresh look.

reading nook with leaded glass windows and striped seat cushion

Artwork and patterned carpets and can add interest  to the design of the room (some photos courtesy of Better homes). If white has been used as the backdrop flowing through the home from room to room, darker, more practical and easy colours, such as light, blueish grey, can be used in the décor, while maintaining a light look and a sense of flow. Drama can be achieved through the artwork and accessories, lighting, architectural features such as coffered ceilings,  as well as the use of a dramatically coloured feature wall or piece of furniture. There is no need to be a slave to impractical furnishings in pursuit of a certain design look.

cool and serene condo living room in soft grey and white with open shelving and sectional sofa

White and cream do not have to be boring, although, used without thought, they often are. They have been over-used in a thoughtless manner in home décor for years. Let them have some fun. Call Mulberry Interiors now at (905) 849-6423 to book a consultation. We not only specialize in colour, but space planning and fine furniture, as well. We look forward to working with you to increase your enjoyment of your home.

 

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