Are People Really Painting Their Walls White For Insta-Stardom?

Are People Really Painting Their Walls White For Insta-Stardom?

Tess Wilson
Oct 12, 2017

The Wall Street Journal recently published a story with a simple yet shocking premise: "To make their home interiors look better on Instagram and amass more followers, millennials and social-media mavens are painting their walls white." What do you think of that? What do we think of that? Let's explore...

In "Why White Walls Are Instagram Gold" (behind a paywall unfortunately), The Wall Street Journal dives into the world of Instagrammers who apparently make major life decisions based on what will please their followers and gain them new ones. It's really just an additional step in the home decor arithmetic: paint your walls a color that makes you happy becomes paint your walls a color that gets you more followers because more Instagram followers make you happy.

Happiness that doesn't hurt anyone is a precious commodity, and we could all use more of it! But is the thrill of the "like" worth repainting your entire home—a serious undertaking requiring considerable money and/or time—white? And is your Instagram account important enough to the people you live with to make it worth it for them? If so, go forth and paint, but be sure you're making yourself—and your loved ones—happy, not just your followers.

What's that now?

There are some interesting quotes by design insiders and Instagram enthusiasts in the article, as well as a few throwaway lines that raised my eyebrows:

Cleveland-based Sherwin Williams carries more than 100 shades of white and boasts more than 100,000 Instagram followers.

Are the two halves of that sentence related?

White can look institutional and cold without warm textures and accessories... The wrong shade can make a space look institutional.

I suppose white can look institutional, but it would never occur to me to worry about it. Snow is white! Clouds are white! If you like the coldest, most Wite-Out white, go for it! Your home won't look institutional because it's your home, not an institution.

Inspired by hundreds of Instagram screenshots of minimal Nordic design and plant-filled white living rooms, she was determined to make her décor stand out to Instagram followers.

Wouldn't that make your decor not stand out? "Tons of other people are doing this, so to stand out, I need to do the same thing?" I am not bashing white walls or people who love them (I am one!), but that is an odd conclusion.

"I can confidently say that unless my walls had some insanely cool wallpaper on them…if they weren't white,' she said in an email, "I would not have been featured by Apartment Therapy, nor increased my followers to almost 1,200 in three days."

It would be fascinating to have some data-based research on this, such as posting identical rooms with only the wall color changed and seeing if the engagement level was affected. That seems like a lot of work, but it would be cool to see if the white walls are what make the difference, or if it's the overall style, care, and/or some other ineffable quality.


Last year, Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge wrote The White Wall Controversy: How the All-White Aesthetic Has Affected Design, in which she relayed this astounding stat:

At least 90% of the homes we see every month (we reach out to and get submissions from hundreds of people around the globe on a regular basis) have "that" look: white walls, a mix of vintage Kilim rugs, lots of house plants and a carefully curated selection of found/salvaged objects.

90+% of the homes they see have white walls! What is your estimate, based on the homes you've lived in and visited? Do you feel like each place looks the same, or do the different aesthetics overwhelm the similarity in wall color?