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Expert Tips on How to Style White Rooms

Secrets to Creating a Warm and Inviting White Room

Expert Tips on How to Style White Rooms

A white room can feel like a haven of simplicity in an otherwise chaotic world. Despite appearances, when it comes to styling chic, inspiring, livable white rooms, the devil is in the details. Here’s how committing to a white palette allows you to get creative by mixing materials, styles and textures; maximizing light with mirrors and metallics; and grounding an otherwise ethereal space with natural or graphic elements.

Vary Finishes and Materials

Whether you’re renovating a new home or decorating a rental, choose varied finishes and materials in shades of white to keep it interesting. To create a modern rustic bathroom, mix marble floors, classic subway tile and a wall of shiplap. Complement the matte white walls and wood floor that came with your rental apartment with a textured bouclé sofa, a glossy white lacquered dining table and Scandinavian painted wood chairs. Cozy up the white brick of a converted loft bedroom with a painted antique wood bed frame, white linen sheets and a fluffy flokati rug.

Mix Furniture Styles and Periods

A white room furnished exclusively in one style or period of furniture can end up feeling cold and flat. Sticking to a white palette allows you to effortlessly mix furniture periods and styles, from contemporary pieces to mid-century modern classics, vintage items and antiques. In shades of white, a mid-century rocking chair, a contemporary white pendant light and vintage painted metal bar stools can happily co-exist, giving your room a timeless, nuanced and dimensional look.

Accessorize with Multiple Textures

To create an inviting space, choose accessories with multiple textures. Accessorize a sleek white leather couch with Moroccan wedding blanket pillows woven with sequins and tassels and a chunky giant knit wool or faux fur throw. Embellish white walls with a whimsical feather juju hat or a vintage white painted mirror with a weathered patina. Create a serene bedroom with airy white curtains, linen bedding in shades of white and cream and white orchids or flowering branches. Don’t be shy when it comes to layering textures; the white palette will ensure a cohesive look.

Warm It Up with Wood or Rattan

Instantly warm up a white room with natural materials like wood or rattan. White walls allow mid-century pieces to shine. A contemporary white apartment with no architectural details can make an ideal blank canvas for a pale Scandinavian wood table or dark wood antiques inherited from your grandparents or picked up at a thrift shop or yard sale. Or try using a tripod lamp with a laser-thin wood veneer shade for a lighter touch.

Add Sparkle and Shine with Metallics or Mirrors

Warm metallics like bronze, gold and copper will catch the light and add glimmers of interest to a white room. Mirrors placed opposite windows, in dead spaces and lost corners will bounce the light and create depth and perspectives that will enliven the room. Mirrored furniture like Hollywood Regency style bedside tables add sparkle without taking up visual space.

Bring in Greenery, Real or Faux

Indoor plants are having a moment, and there is no better backdrop for fiddle leaf fern trees, cacti, terrariums, kitchen herb gardens and living walls than a crisp white room. If you don’t have a green thumb or are looking for something more low maintenance, incorporate throw pillows, bedding and other textiles decorated with banana leaves or palm trees and wallpaper or art with whimsical jungle scenes. Or bring in a rotating supply of fresh eucalyptus leaves (which dry out naturally and keep for months) or fresh flowers. The eco-conscious or those who grow stressed watching cut flowers wilt might opt for preserved moss wall art or a growing trend of designer dried flowers that are nothing like your granny’s old-fashioned dried flower arrangements.

Use Graphic Black Accents

Use black to create graphic accents that give definition to a white room. For a dramatic look, anchor a white space with one statement piece of bold black furniture, like a contemporary canopy bed frame. Or scatter black accents throughout, such as framed black and white sketches, industrial black lighting fixtures or patterned tiles and accent pillows with touches of black. If black feels too stark, use dark gray, which will have a similar if softer effect.

Consider Geometry

In addition to varying finishes, materials and textures, think about using a variety of shapes when choosing furniture, accessories, objects and art for a white room. Curvy furniture and objects—whether it’s a round table or a sofa with rounded corners or an oversized round mirror—balance a boxy room. Mix circles, squares, rectangles, triangles, hexagons, ovals and organic shapes like a cowhide rug to create a sculptural quality that brings a white room to life.

Choose Warm Lighting

One of the joys of a white room is how beautifully it reflects natural light. But your white space should be just as inviting at night. A minimalist white cool-toned room might look bright and airy in daylight, but a little stark at night. Choose bedside table lamps with cotton or silk shades that will produce a warm, flattering light; a raft of LED candles on a fireplace mantle; an antique pair of sconces; or exposed Edison bulb fixtures hanging from the ceiling. A room decorated in warmer shades of cream will look sleek and serene accented with cooler globe lights that glow like mini moons after dark.