You do not live in a padded cell: How to avoid the seduction of a white room

March 27, 2018 by

Public Service Announcement

I have to speak out on something I feel is a public service message, and it has to do with the color white.  I feel like we are at the end of the Poseidon Adventure.  You know the movie where a rogue wave knocks a ship in the ocean upside down and only a few survivors go against their instincts and travel to the bottom of the ship, which actually leads them to the top of the water and to freedom? (DEEP BREATH)

But Everyone’s Going White

That pretty much sums up my feeling about the white room trend.  A few people started posting all white rooms and suddenly it’s all over HGTV.  Did you know that it’s one of the most searched terms on Google?  And, did you also know that companies like The Home Depot and Pottery Barn hire set decorators to design vignettes for them based on these popular Google searches?  That’s why you see them everywhere.

Interior designers in Nashville, TN discuss white rooms and interior design - Eric Ross Interiors

This room is totally devoid of any character, personality, or ambience.

I know what the rebuttal will be.  White rooms are so ethereal.  White rooms are so clean.  White rooms are so easy to look at.  Well, that’s all true, but you’re missing one main problem,

White rooms are so unforgiving.

You can’t live in a white room.  What shows more stains than anything?  White!  Think about when you wear white jeans.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t wear white jeans more than two times before they have to be washed.  And, who wants to have to wash your sofa?  Aren’t clothes and linens enough to have to wash? 

 

Interior designers in Nashville, TN discuss a white room, interior design and visual interest - Eric Ross Interiors

This room could be so cute, but even with a little added color, a mostly white room has zero visual interest.

My main issue with a white room is that everything is very one note.  Like you’re listening to the same note in a song over and over again.  The trick with a room that will keep you interested and engaged over many years, is its adaptability.  Of course, all colors match a white room.  Proponents of the all white room love to change the pillows and voila, new room!  Well, it’s not really; it’s still a white room, but with new pillows.

The challenges of white rooms

Layering of textures becomes so integral in a white room, but you can’t really add in treasures, such as art or a new rug without the new item standing out in the sea of white.  So, this leaves you with little way to maneuver other than working in shades of gray or beige, which I feel get tiresome over time. 

I know this discussion is polarizing.

Many people love a white room.  Let’s face it, you can’t get all white wrong.  It all matches.  But, it does also leave a feeling of coldness or being too sanitized.  This is of course my personal preference showing, but I like to be able to pull out different colors in a rug over time, if I choose to change a scheme.  In our former home we had orange, blue and brown as the colors that I used with our rug.  In our new home, Boxwood Hill, I decided to use all crème with Magnolia leaf green.  And, over time, if I choose, I can add in terra cotta and more blue, because the colors are there to work with.   

Interior design in Nashville, TN, living room by Eric Ross, interior designers.

Living Room at our old house. We used browns and blues to accentuate our antique rug.

Sanctioned uses for White

To me, the only time to use all white is when you want to highlight architecture or if there is no architecture and you are going for a minimal, Miami-Vice-esque statement.  (The latter is not really something anyone should try.)  But, for most homeowners, you need decoration to take your eye off of bad architecture or to de-emphasize improper scale or just bad floors.  Color in a room gives the ability to take the focus off of something bad and highlight something good.

Nashville interior designers discuss sanctioned uses for white in interior design – Eric Ross Interiors

We painted my studio, which is located in our basement, all white in order to create more light and space in an otherwise cavernous space.

Have I mentioned I love wallpaper?

The perfect example for this is wallpaper, which I speak of a lot here and on social media.  Wallpaper covers a multitude of sins in living, delicious color.  Here’s a trick if you are struggling selecting colors for your home:  You can take three colors out of a wallpaper and use it as the color scheme for the entire house. Then pick a room, say the dining room and install the wallpaper.  This gives more visual interest and unifies the spaces.

Master bedroom with color, Nashville interior designers on wallpaper and interior design– Eric Ross Interiors

Our master bedroom’s bedroom color palette is soft, but still has the visual interest that is impossible to achieve in a white room.

Keep the Color Palette Soft

If you love color but just not too much of it, keep the color palette soft. The room will still read as neutral, but it will provide more depth, texture and visual interest than if the room was kept all white. The fact of the matter is simple: color creates ambiance. And if you don’t have color, well, you won’t have the latter either. 

Mountain home interior design, top interior designer in Nashville, TN, Eric Ross used a softer color palette.

In our old mountain home in HIghlands, NC, I painted the walls white, but warmed it up with wood beadboard on the ceilings, and lots of soft-colored textiles.

In conclusion, please don’t send me hate mail.

What are your thoughts on an all white room?  Is it sanitary or sublime, perfect or perfunctory?  Regardless of my design opinions, people will still love white and of course that’s ok.  But if you are looking for some more pizazz, go against the trend toward color.  It can work for you to create a palette and rooms you can love and live in for years to come.