50 Shades of Off White

It turns out some interior designers’ favorite color sort of isn’t one

If you still think of white as the absence of color, think again. Not only are not-all-whites created equal, but for some, it’s the “absence” that creates the most breathtaking effect. There’s a reason it’s known to be the color of purity and perfection.

 

Whether you think of white as a bright addition or a blank canvas, three designers—from London, Sydney and Bogota—show us how this one-time neutral makes a statement all its own, as well as the surprisingly sustainability benefits, and what it actually takes to achieve that incredible all white wood floor.

 

 

 

Catherine White

Catherine White Interiors, London, England

catherinewhiteinteriors.com

 

 

The, for this article, ironically named Catherine White is an Interior Designer with global projects ranging from homes to shops and hotels.  She loves working with clients looking to push boundaries, and has a passion for new materials and finishes, to help create exciting and hard-working spaces.

 

 

How do you use white in your designs? Have you ever designed in all white?

 

I usually use white to create contrast. So, either the walls will be white, allowing for the finishes to look very exciting next to it (stone, timber, etc.), or I might use a strong color on the walls and joinery, and look for white to create definition in the furniture or details, such as a door handle or frame.  I’ve not designed all in white, but I wouldn’t rule it out!  

 

 

 

Are all whites created equal?   

 

White is white! But seriously, the light creams and light greys people call “off white” should be chosen carefully. Also, I find that in different climates (i.e., Spain vs the UK) the color of the light differs, and would affect which white works best. Greys and blues work very well in northern countries, whereas warmer whites work well in countries a bit further south.

 

 

Can whites be mixed and matched?  

 

Yes. If you want to create definition, you can paint flat walls a slightly different contrast to the architraves, window alcoves, etc.  This can highlight different planes, which can make a space more exciting.

 

 

What’s most difficult with white?  

 

I suppose longevity. I like to design projects which are long lasting, so if the space is a high traffic area, or subject to handprints (i.e., toddlers) this might not be a great option.

 

Eat clean with a white kitchen***Catherine White***

 

 

What would you say to someone who tells you, “White is boring!”?

 

It depends how you use it.  Don’t choose a boring designer!

 

 

What are some surprising benefits creating a white interior?

 

Using a lot of white in your project might be a really great way of lowering your carbon footprint.  There is a fantastic product of vinyl woven carpet that can be used in offices and even homes, Bolon.  If you use the white option, you can leave the lights switched off less, as the white bounces the daylight around the room, providing a much more pleasant environment for your employees or family.

 

 

 

Jane Brown

Jane Brown Interiors, Sydney, Australia

janebrowninteriors.com

 

 

Jane learned the art of styling growing up in a family where her parents traveled the world for business, importing antique furniture and silver. Today, Jane’s life experience has become her passion, as she brings her natural gifts and talent to the homes and offices of her clients to create amazing transformations in their lives.

 

 

What excites you most about creating a white interior?

 

Let’s start with the foundation. whether using paint or wallpaper to decorate with white. I love to use both, as white wallpapers are some of the most interesting and special around at the moment. White wallpaper with crushed miniscule crystals from the mills in Italy are exquisite to use. They bring texture, luxe and movement, all in the most subtle of ways. Then there’s the ability to use white on white, let’s say with stripes, or white embossed, or details in velvet on a paper that is all white, or a marbled look on white. Again, a thousand choices — how anyone could think white is just WHITE!

 

I love mixing textures and elements of white: soft, hard, raw, uneven, new, modern, old, clean, beautiful, weathered. I always have pure white bedrooms. I feel like I am floating on a cloud, it’s heavenly.

 

A small room looks much larger and brighter with whites***Jane Brown***

 

 

Are all whites created equal?

 

No, which is why it’s so delightful to work with. With paint, there are over 200 whites to choose from. Blue whites, pink whites, yellow whites, grey whites – the possibilities are almost limitless. We haven’t even begun to talk textures and textiles. Have you grasped yet that I LOVE white?

 

 

Can whites be mixed and matched?

 

Absolutely. Let’s talk paint, from crisp cool white trims, to graduating to white that has a slight blush—perhaps pink, blue, lavender—on the walls and then perhaps adding that deeper hue to the ceiling with a black tint in the white. Or a marbled look.

 

A white room can enhance natural light***Jane Brown***

 

 

What’s the most difficult part of decorating with white?

 

It’s very dependent on the amount of light that in the room and how the whites either suck in or throw color and light. A white that appears clean white may appear yellow white with its surroundings, this includes anything from the natural light that the room receives to the artificial through electric lighting. Furniture will also play a huge part in decorating, not only the style and the design but the sheer shape, size and scope of the pieces.

 

 

Any “decorating with white” cautionary tales?

Painting wood floors white. This is my biggest white headache, yet utterly worth it! It takes a minimum of four coats and sometimes 6. It shows real imperfections at the beginning so clients are incredibly critical, because that’s all they are looking at – a massive white expanse. Once the furniture and rugs are in they are thrilled. White floors show lots of dirt and hide lots of dirt; it is a fascinating anomaly, depending on how the light bounces of it. I have to brief my clients extensively when using this finish. The usual refrain “what about when I drop red wine?” Let’s face it – red wine is going to be a mess wherever it’s dropped!

 

 

What would you say to someone who says, “White is boring!”?

 

Simply: NEVER. It allows for a palette of personality and splashes of beauty to be utterly showcased. In saying that, it has to be the right white and you have to be clever and just as adventurous how you use it. White textures are unlimited, white thick shag rugs, white velvet cushions, crisp white cotton sheets, white metals, woods, plastics, ceramics, tiles, stone, etc. There is so much scope and beauty.

 

 

 

***Marisa Gomez***

Marisa Gomez

Ecologik, Bogota, Colombia

ecologik.com.co

 

 

Marisa is an Architect and Interior Designer who started in NYC, where she lived and worked for almost a decade. She is now partner in Ecologik, a company based in Colombia, specializing in hospitality and residential projects, including the extraordinary Hotel Exe Bacata, in Bogota.

 

 

How do you use white in your designs?

 

I usually use white when I want to create a space that is fresh and clean, also when I want the space to look bigger than it actually is. White creates a canvas for you to decorate in different ways. You can have a white room and change the accents and the room will look completely different. White can make your interiors versatile.

 

 

Can whites be mixed and matched?

 

Absolutely. You can always layer tone-on- tone whites for a warm, cozy room, or also for a fresh clean space. It depends on how you mix it and where you put each tone.

 

 

What’s most difficult?

 

I don’t think is difficult. Actually, I think it’s one of the easiest ways to decorate and get a perfect, clean look.

 

 

Does being from Colombia affect your design aesthetic in any way?

 

Sometimes it is challenging, because here in Colombia we don’t have the variety of materials, finishes and fabrics as in the USA, and is not always easy to ship them, but I work with what I have, and I don’t think it changes the aesthetics.

 

I learned all about decorating with white at BNO Design in New York. Benjamin, the Interior Designer, loved white. He used it in every project, either the whole space, or as an accent, and created always beautiful, fresh, clean and glamorous rooms.

 

Marina View lobby in Santa Marta***Marisa Gomez***

 

 

What would you say to someone who tells you, “White is boring!”?

 

Not at all. If you are tired of the colors in your room, you should try whites. Layer whites in similar shades. Use patterns, textures and varying materials in similar whites and you will create a very interesting room that you’ll never get bored of.