White is classic, and with good reason, but in some cases it can also come across as stark, cold, and uninviting. Going for light and bright is good but hospital chic is probably no one's ultimate design goal. Read on to see some fabulous white rooms and some explanations of how white can be done right.
The Moroccan hotel Riad Mena, shown above, boasts white walls and bedding, but the white is punctuated by an array of other colors. The space is grounded by the colorful rug, and the eye is pulled up toward the ceiling thanks to the accent baskets placed on high shelves, but there's plenty of blank space to let all the color breathe. The repetition of the deep blue gives the room some cohesion, but as you can see, a white room gives you room to play with a varied color palette instead of having to stick too closely to a particular scheme. One of the most important tips to take from this room is how the brown frames break up the expanse of white wall. If the frames had been white, that side of the room would have felt barren compared to all the color on the opposing wall, and by having frames that interrupt the white expanse, the paint color seems like a backdrop rather than a blanket. A successful white space requires balance.
In this Moroccan house available for rental through Air Space, wood and stone warm up the white plaster. If you want to keep white from feeling too austere, bring in natural materials, which will give the space more life. The earthy colors of the tile also add a sense of warmth. Here, the natural elements are more structural- beams, pillars, etc.- but in more common homes, (which aren't always lucky enough to have these earthy structures, bringing in wood accents and warm colors will still help enliven a white room.
In this living room from Elle Decoration, you can see the power of bright light at work. White rooms work best when there is ample natural light. This photo has probably been brightened in Photoshop, but you can still tell that there's light streaming in from windows that aren't in the shot. Because white is a color that reflects light, it loves it when there's plenty of light to reflect. This post by Emily Henderson gives even more proof that white rooms often require plenty of natural light, and she provides some great suggestions as to what you can do when white doesn't work for your room.
In an all-white room, it's easy for things to get boring really fast. So to keep the eye interested, it's important to include a variety of textures and a variety of whites. In this living room by Justin DiPiero of Homepolish, ivory and cream mix with the sharper white tones of the accent chair and coffee table. You might think that cream + white is a no-no, but since the room is decorated entirely in neutrals, the combination actually adds a sense of depth to the decor. It feels variegated and interesting, even though the color palette is fairly restricted. Also, texture is key here. Woven baskets, smooth surfaces, fluffy pillows, breezy curtains, a wooly sheepskin: as with color variations, the differences in texture add more depth to the space so that it reads as nuanced and sophisticated rather than flat. In an all-white room, take your other senses (like touch!) into account.
And of course, having a post about white without mentioning black is like having a blog dedicated to peanut butter without ever mentioning jelly. White is so powerful, in part, because of its ability to form contrast. In this space from Lonny, black windows, cabinets, and chairs all rise to a place of prominence in a predominantly white space. This is a controlled space where the eye goes precisely where the designer wants it to go. White offsets the other, darker elements at play, and gives those objects even more intensity. Notice that even in this, the most contrast-filled of spaces, wood, plants, and brass are necessary to add some warmth. Otherwise, this space would still seem fairly stark.