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Versatile and multi-faceted: Fifty shades of white

Snow white, ivory white, pearl white…the palette of shades of white seems to be never-ending. In fact, many people only realise just how many versions of this “non-colour” are available when they find themselves standing cluelessly in front of the vast display at the DIY store – because white is actually the most multi-faceted of all the colours.

We often associate white with sterile, austere environments such as hospitals – not exactly the kind of feel we’re going for at home. But white has so much more potential and is anything but boring, when used in the right context.

Depending on how the light enters the space and the shade you choose, white can interact with other elements of the room in a fascinating way. The effects that you can achieve are incredibly diverse: Whether you’re looking for timeless and elegant, pure and minimalist or warm and comforting, the shade of white you choose makes all the difference. If you want to use white in your interior design concept, there are a few basic ground rules you should follow.

Read on for the full low-down on the three key shades of white and find out how to integrate them into your home.

White interior and tonal couches

White, whiter, pure white: A neutral backdrop

Pure white is a classic choice for interior walls. But all too often, this shade is just thrown into the trolley with very little thought, under the misguided assumption that “you can’t go wrong with white”. However, if you don’t use it in the right way, pure white can create a sterile and lifeless atmosphere in a room.

Pure white is ideal for use on walls where you’re planning to display artworks. Any colour on the wall draws attention away from the art itself; this is why galleries often use neutral shades of white behind their displays. This principle also applies if you want your furniture or other design elements in the room to shine in their true colours, without their surroundings affecting how they look: A pure white wall guarantees a neutral backdrop so that other objects in the room can realise their full potential.

Flowers in frames on a white wall

Soft, warm and homely: Create a welcoming atmosphere with cream white

So-called muted or “broken” shades of white – which have some yellow added to the colour base – instantly look more homely and warmer than pure white, making them an ideal choice if you want to create a more welcoming atmosphere in a room. A soft pearl or cream white works particularly well, and harmonises with more rustic styles or shabby chic interiors.

In north-facing rooms with low levels of light, you’re constantly battling nature to create a light and airy atmosphere. Generous use of white will let in the light that you need.

A warm shade of white will create a soft, dreamy atmosphere that would otherwise be impossible to achieve in a naturally darker space.

As off-white tones have more of a presence in a design space than pure white, they are best combined with materials that possess similar character: Wool and leather work well, and warm wood tones are also a great choice. Brown and other natural shades, as well as deep bordeaux reds, are good complementary colour choices.

White interior with a yellow sofa

Polar white – for cool highlights and a clean aesthetic

Shades of white with blue or green elements have a definite cooling effect, so you should think about your choices carefully before taking the plunge. To avoid the room looking too sterile, you can use warmer colours and natural materials such as wood and rattan to create contrast. Fluffy textiles and light-coloured leather furniture are also ideal for adding warmth and comfort to a polar white interior.

The clean look of cool polar white can also be used to create a deliberately minimalist interior design.

When carefully coordinated with its environment, cool white lends an air of contemporary freshness and elegance to a space. Icy whites are particularly well-suited to rooms that you want to look pure, clean and fresh, such as bathrooms.

East-facing rooms are also ideal candidates for a makeover in a cool shade of white with blue tones: These shades harmonise with the colour spectrum of sunlight, adapting perfectly to changing light conditions as the day goes by. Polar white is also a good option for rooms with large windows that let in plenty of light: The green of the trees and foliage outside will naturally balance a cool shade of white.

Versatile and multi-faceted: Fifty shades of white

Regardless of which shade you ultimately choose, all whites will bring peace and clarity to your room and make your space appear larger. If you want to create a completely white room – with white walls and white furniture – use textiles to strike a harmonious balance:

Long curtains, soft cushions and an attractive rug will warm up the space and prevent it from looking too austere.

White walls are also the perfect choice if you want to combine pieces of furniture from different styles. Against a white backdrop, you can pull off combinations that would otherwise be impossible. Try it out and see for yourself!

Which shade of white would make your room shine? Share your ideas in the comments!

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