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. Nothing wrong with that idea either. We know we’ve seen many magazine images of beautiful white rooms. The catch is that the rooms in those photos only have to look good until the photographer leaves. White 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 the beautiful white rooms in home décor magazines and enjoy the look and want it in their homes. Really, white doesn’t stand much of a chance against real life with kids and pets. Actually, it doesn’t even stand much chance with a couple of perfectly nice adults who ever where denim jeans. 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. Indigo dye in denim rubs off on furniture. That’s just a fact. Technology in fabric design has made amazing strides, but not always enough to combat the  dirt and debris of daily living with children and pets and still come up looking good.kid with dirty feet on a swingOne 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? 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. Even then, with kids and dogs running around, it is challenging to keep white walls looking pristine. The paint, however should be of excellent quality and in a formulation that can stand up to gentle scrubbing. Marguerite Roberts of Mulberry Interiors is a Colour and Design Specialist. When doing paint colour consultations for clients, Benjamin Moore Aura in a matte sheen is the paint of choice for walls. it is gently washable even with the low sheen, and the Color Lock Technology holds the pigment molecules tightly so that your walls still look great years later. Aura is also “self-levelling” so it tends to create a smoother finish that will minimize minor flaws in your wall surfaces. Low quality paints will develop an unattractive sheen where they have been washed. Lower quality paints also have a chalky finish rather than a smooth finish.

cartoon image of painter judging high and low quality paints

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. Custom made draperies look better for many more years if they are only vacuumed, rather than dry cleaned. In a home with children or other family members touching light coloured draperies, professional cleaning may be unavoidable. Always use a dry cleaner that specializes in cleaning draperies. Once damaged by rough cleaning, beautiful draperies will never hang as nicely as they did when first installed. charming casual white dining room with paired white artworks and slip covered dining chairsIf 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 an easy-going life style. This client may not mind the work that must go into maintaining very light surfaces. That, however, is not really a casual lifestyle, what with regular laundering of slip covers. White slip covers must be laundered and put back on very frequently. 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, just so they can have white decor. White or cream leather or faux 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 better. No matter how regularly you wash a slip cover, it always looks a little sad and rumpled. The textured light grey sofa below 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.casual and comfortable living room with light grey sectional sofa, weathered ladder bookcase, and light, neutral accessoriesThe slip covered sofa below has been recently laundered. For all the  work that went into this look, perhaps it might be better to instead have a dark coloured sofa. We commend the home owner that got this sofa looking this good. It was a lot of work. It also took time.The dark sofa choice will still need cleaning, but the dirt will not be as obvious as soon, with children and dogs in the home. For all the work that went into the room below, there is likely a very tired person who may be wondering what the advantage of a light sofa actually is.ill-fitting slipcover on a sofa make the room look intidyToss 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 in 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.small child and happy dog messy from baking with flourThe contemporary style room below is clean lined and light in feeling due to the very light grey wall colour and white shelving. The artwork matting is wide and in white, and the funky retro lamp is white, as is the coffee table. The black accents in the artwork framing, books and accessories lend weight and a touch of drama and contrast. The nubbly area rug is light overall, easily washable, and will not show the dirt, and it is on a white tile floor, which is easily washable. . The textured fabric on the sofa will not show dirt. This is a beautiful version of the desired scenario, but it is practical and has plenty of design flair. You can just relax in this easy care, light but not necessarily white room.small contemporary living room with grey sectional sofa, lambskin throw, gold brass accents, and grey area carpetThe room design below makes use of an upscale white leather sectional sofa, light area carpet, glass and wood coffee table and white walls in most of the space, with a dramatic deep slate blue feature wall. The fireplace wall is painted in slate blue to suit this individual home owner, and add a bit of relief to the white decor. For a client who loves an all white interior, even the feature wall could be white, as well. A white stone or an interesting textured wallpaper could be applied to the fireplace wall to make it look much more interesting. There are glasses of red wine in this room. Sometimes this scenario does not play out well with white fabrics.wide view of clean lined contemporary living room with white leather sofa, longitudinal gas fireplace, shag area rug, and blue wall colourIn the photo below, the white wall paneling lends a more formal touch and is more interesting than a plain white wall. The console table could be swapped for a white one, and the shutters could be done in white  to create a higher percentage of white in the home. The shutter colour would need to be consistent throughout the home, and not just in this area alone.clean lined dining room with simple white wall panelling, custom window shutters in brown wood tone, console table, and line art abstract artwork Wallpaper is enjoying a huge increase in popularity these days. Long gone are the annoying limp 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, and available in beautiful textural finishes. Another new trend is toward the use of wallpaper murals which lend tremendous impact to any space. A geode stone mural would be stunningly contemporary in this space. a mural in a closeup of peeling paint or corrosion would be funky and fun.contemporary living with winter scene wallpaper mural, hanging drum light and light furnitureAccessories, 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. 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. 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.  Artwork and patterned carpets and can add interest  to the design of the room. 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.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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