Breaking Up with White Walls: I'm Finally Making Friends with Color

Breaking Up with White Walls: I'm Finally Making Friends with Color

Carrie Bluth
May 16, 2017

When we moved into our current house a couple of years ago, I painted everything white for two reasons. First, I'm a fan of Scandinavian-inspired style and I love the simplicity of the look, and second, because I had zero confidence in my ability to get it right when selecting paint color of any sort. These days though, I'm working hard at making friends with color and preparing for some summer paint projects, and here's why.

I like "low maintenance" as much as I like white walls. And while these things are not always mutually exclusive, I've come to find that in my house, in certain high-traffic areas like the entry and hallway, they really are. I have kids, a dog, and a matte finish. You can't clean that. I mean, I've tried, but no. My attempts resulted in a bad to worse scenario where stray pencil and bike tire marks turned to dull gray smudges, and the more I scrubbed, the more my paint starting rubbing away.

I considered keeping the white and just re-painting in a more clean-up friendly eggshell or satin finish, but the thing is I'm not so much interested in a clean-up friendly finish as a "no clean-up necessary" kind of solution.

Ideally, I'd like highly livable walls; like wood floors that develop character over time, or a leather sofa that gets softer and richer looking with use. I want a color or finish that doesn't exactly repel the evidence of our lives, but rather absorbs it instead, beautifully though.

Because of this, I'm eyeing Lime Wash Paint with it's inherently imperfect finish, thinking it might well be the answer. Based on traditional lime wash for plaster and masonry surfaces, new formulations have modernized the treatment for drywall application; though the technique of using a hand-brush instead of a roller is key to the effect which results in a subtle texture and soft patina (I love the laissez-faire finish on the above wall from the Brooklyn home of architect Amee Allsop featured in Kinfolk). The brush work can take more time, but it's also super forgiving, so it feels like a do-able choice for DIY (this tutorial breaks it down if you're interested in learning more).

The thing is though, lime washes and pigmented hues are definitely a distinct style, and I'm not 100 percent decided on the textured wall look. That said, I'm for sure fan-ing on the look of pairing strategic pops of rich color with natural materials and wood elements to warm up my simple Scandi style in a practical and beautiful way. So, to help zero in on a direction, I'm taking color cues from all manner of books as well as the all-knowing Internet. I've been poring through Farrow & Ball's Decorating With Colour for inspiration as of late. The iconic paint line may not be affordable for all, but the book is, and like the enduring appeal of their paint colors, the advice inside is timeless. It offers solid guidance on how to select colors that will best accentuate your specific space considering all the variables that affect how color will look in a given room.

Suffice it to say, I'm feeling so positively charged on the color front that I'm even starting to envision other places in my house (besides the high-traffic entry and hallway) where I might leave white behind.

Here's a run down of the places I've pegged in my own home as "paint possible" so far:

(Image credit: Pierre Verger for Rue)

The Entry

This soft moody gray spotted on Rue seems warm and elemental all at the same time, and would do a great job of masking the scuffs and markings of everyday life.

The Hallway

This deep blue (Benjamin Moore Blue Danube) in the hallway of home blogger Coco Kelley looks like it could also take a lot in without giving too much away.

Below the Kitchen Counter

After the entry and hallway, the underbelly of the counter side of our kitchen island is the most abused place in our house. It's forever marred with grimy shoe marks from my kids kicking it while feasting on sumptuous spaghetti. Painting the lower portion could really help here. Joanna Gaines' new line of chalk style paint has a perfect livable green called Magnolia Green that I can picture here (though paint color in the above image from Design*Sponge is actually Benjamin Moore Cushing Green, lightened with Simply White). The paints are a stain-resistant all in one with primer included (somehow), making it a DIY friendly time-saver too, huzzah!

(Image credit: Sean Santiago for Lonny)

The Ceiling

Purely for the pretty of it…nobody is running their bike tires into the ceiling, but this image from Lonny with the peek of ceiling painted a bright blue is so striking, it's got me thinking about the power of color to ground a room from above.

(Image credit: Chris Loves Julia)

The Wall Behind the Open Shelving

Rich color (a custom mix, which can be found here) provides a stunning backdrop for the wood shelves in the home of Chris Loves Julia. In our great room, we have a white brick fireplace flanked by white open shelving against white walls. Painting the walls behind the shelves would offer some much needed contrast.

The Bathroom

In a house tour interview with Domino, Creative Director Dan Pelosi shared his inspiration for painting his bathroom this flattering shade of soft rosy peach and summed it up like this: "When you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, you're actually glowing." Well, I am nothing if not pro-glow, so this color is officially under consideration for the bathroom. Also, my happy green plants would look sweet as anything against this blush backdrop.

What do you think? Any other ideas for this colorphobe-turned-possible-color-lover? Please leave your comments and ideas below!

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