Decorating with White

By Kate Riley January 2, 2014

Hello everyone and Happy New Year to you! It’s been a rough few days with an entire family down with the flu, ugh! Luckily I’ve escaped contagion. #fingerscrossed

I thought I’d ease back into blogging with some winter white inspiration today, continuing the color series started last year. When I refer to color I do consider gray, black, and white as part of the decorating mix, they play a powerful role.

White spaces have been popular for years and instead of being trendy are proving to have staying power as we’re influenced more and more by contemporary looks and Scandinavian design. I’m a huge fan of spaces decorated with a white backdrop or furnishings, the palette is uplifting and soothing at the same time. Here’s a peek at a few favorite looks and why they’re so successful.

White is grounded when partnered with wood, and we’ve all fallen in love with rustic surfaces in the past few years, from floors to cabinets to countertops. Go ahead and mix wood tones, no matching required. Take a cue from these spaces that pull it off well.

wood floors white kitchen

muse interiors x base table


white and wood kitchen


white dining room wood floors


wood floors and coffee table

source unknown / muse interiors / nicety / pinterest / nib hjemme


Contrast adds drama to a mostly white space, whether it’s black floors, accessories, picture frames, layers of dark brown or black add a sophisticated touch and break up the brightness.

white sofas and shelves

white living room black and white rug

white living room black floor wood coffee table

ikea ribba frames black and white living room

source unknown / el ramla hamra / atlanta homes mag / lotta agaton


White backdrops work with all styles from cottage to contemporary to transitional, slipcovers are fresh and easy to launder, clean lines in a bathroom give it modern appeal, and wainscoting adds a timeless look to an elegant traditional living room.

cottage style white living space

contemporary white bathroom

traditional white living room

blackstone edge studios / lisa petrole photography / alexander james interior design

Add interest to any white space by mixing metallic sheens such as brass, chrome, pewter, or gold leaf. Mirrored surfaces add glamour and reflect more light around the space.

white bathroom house beautiful

layered black and white bedroom

house beautiful / d magazine


One simple way to decorate with white is to include texture in its various forms from hide and skin rugs to faux fur and organic materials like woven jute or whitewashed wood.

white walls cowhide rug fur pillows


white layered neutral space

white living room wood floors


black white gray living room

toast uk / ellen grasso / skona hem / lisa petrole photography


White spaces form a perfect backdrop for textiles or furniture in vibrant hues or for displaying colorful decor – they allow for changing accessories when the mood strikes.

break up white 1

white living room emily ruddo

house beautiful / armonia decors

I wrote about four more inspiring winter white spaces earlier this week, read the article on Lamps Plus blog.



  1. White surroundings does a soul good–at least it does mine:-). I hope it is timeless because I sure love the light, airy feeling it brings. It’s been my experience that it has the power to transform a space for good like no other color. Sure hope your family has a quick recovery and that you can stay well!!!

  2. Kate, this post as come at the perfect time. I’m looking to paint our new nursery white and I’ve got a lot of inspiration now. Think i’ll utilise both the wood tones and accent colours!

  3. I love the mix of white with rustic wood tones. But I bet a lot of people are sick of white right now with all the snow they are getting in other parts of the country. Happy New Year Kate, my fingers are crossed you don’t get their flu!

  4. I adore the scandinavian influence. I love a pure white backdrop. White is always fresh and airy. My only reservation is with white upholstered furniture. When I lived at the coast everyones home was filled with furniture slip covered in soft and snow whites including my own. We all had the same experience. It looks beautiful – for a minute. The life of a white room can be very short lived and it’s something to keep in mind when making those major purchases.

  5. Beautiful images. The more kids I have, the more I love white. Go figure :)

    Hope your family is feeling better soon! All seven of us had the stomach bug a few weeks ago and it was terrible. Stay well, and happy new year!

  6. I love the white room debate! I think white looks spectacular in photographs and is great in theory, but I always feel like white spaces look and feel cold and unfinished:( I know they are totally on trend right now but I’m just a sucker for rich colorful spaces. I DO, however, love to layer in white furniture and accents for balance. I love the inspiration pics Kate and I hope your family feels better soon.

  7. In the last pic which was also on Houzz, I couldn’t help but think that the only way to watch tv in that room is at the dining table! The whites are gorgeous though!

  8. I love that living room in whites with beige and yellows from Ellen Grasso and Sons. I have an all white office I’m still creating with punches of turquoise, pinks, and other colors mixed in. I find it calming and inspirational to be in. Great color choice to start of the year!

  9. I love this post. White White works in bathrooms and nurseries. In other spaces, the slighly off white, layered look is warm and remains simple and clean. It certainly does photograph well, especially if your house is going on the market soon. Thanks for the inspiriation!

  10. I love white or any version of it! You will never get tired of it it is always clean and fresh and is totally timeless. Beautiful photos!

  11. After living in apartments for many years I developed an aversion towards white. However, these rooms are gorgeous and are making me rethink what I’m missing out on by not bringing white into my home. Thanks for sharing.

  12. I think white is such a versatile and timeless colour. As we see in all of the photos it can be used in any style and creates a calm, clean look and a perfect backdrop for pops of colour!!!!!! I am personally drawn to white paired with beachy natural wood.

  13. I really like this post. I think your blog is great. You are doing wonderful job researching the topics. I really like how you reference other sources. Well done!

  14. Thank you so much for this post, it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for! I especially loved the link on mixing wood tones, as I’m struggling with that particular problem in my kitchen and dining room, where unfortunately I have a lot of yellow and red undertones going on. However, with this inspiration I think I can make it work! Thanks again!

  15. So, is that your secret? Bleach? ;) I have had the WORST time convincing my husband in to a white comforter like yours. I have a light grey and white rug and he whines and whines about it. Nothing a Rug Doctor can’t fix!

  16. When painting chairs and tables white, do you recommend a primer first or do you just paint it white? I always use a primer for darker colors, but wasn’t positive if it would be necessary for white, especially the tables. I love the colors, they really lighten a room up!

  17. We painted our kitchen cabinets white over a year ago and I will never go back to anything else. It seems illogical, but they are easier to keep clean than my old “wood” cabinets. Maybe you catch and clean the messes earlier?

    Any paint color recommendations for white on walls in a room with good light?

  18. Well said Kate! White is so versatile and I love that it can go with everything from a cottage look to a modern look. I would adore a white sofa, but until my 4 and 2 year old are older I am holding out!

  19. All of this pictures are so inspiring and fresh. While browsing, my dear boho grandma came to mind. If she or anyone she knew ended up with a mismatched chair, end table, picture frame, stool, she’d always say, “Give it a couple good coats of white paint and put it anywhere!”. To this day, I am occasionally inclined to do just that and now, I find my 33 yr. old daughter doing the same.

  20. All the white is so refreshing. I love white paneled walls the best… would love to convert our living/dining room to that look. The white hide rugs totally caught my eye too… think I might have to DIY one of those. Thanks for the amazing inspiration.

  21. Kate, best wishes for health to return to your household! The white vignettes are just what the doctor ordered. When the trees are bare, and golden sunlight bounces off every surface, pouring like molten gold into every room — that’s when the color “white” (a thousand different hues by one name) is like sugar, milk, cotton, clouds and down. White is a palette of a thousand colors.

    How lucky we are to see “whites” !!

    Happy New Year!

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