Decorating with White: A Clean Slate

The following post is from Lindsey Roberts, a freelance writer covering design & décor:

decorating with white

source: whatyayalikes

The maxim goes that we shouldn’t wear white after Labor Day. But the one place I think we might want to wear white—no matter the season—is in our homes.

Buy White, Accent in Color
White is the foundational color that allows you to express your own style the best. If you buy white basics, such as towels, sheets, dishes, and shower curtains, you give yourself the flexibility to accent in whatever color-of-the-moment you so choose—and the accents will pop more than they would if they were the dominating colors.

When I registered for my wedding a year ago, my favorite colors were—and still are—orange and cobalt blue. But I registered for towels, sheets, and dishes in white, because I know that in five or ten years, my favorite colors could be red and camel. I bought dish towels, accent vases, and throw pillows in blue and orange instead.

This strategy even works on your walls: Paint your moulding white, and any color you paint on the walls will look crisper and classier.

white & taupe

source: Apartment Therapy

White Basics, Seasonal Accents
White also allows you to change up your accent pieces seasonally. Friends of ours have decorated mostly in white and taupe, and then change out accent pieces such as decorative plates and tablecloths depending on the season. Even though they don’t change much, brown accents still mark the beginning of fall, blue the beginning of summer.

Matchy-Matchy
White is also the simplest color for matching. If everyone in the house uses white, you don’t have to  wash your daughter’s pink towels and son’s blue towels separately and then walk them to different rooms. (A pile of white towels and sheets also makes for one smart-looking linen closet!)

stack of white towels

source: Colin Davis

White Bright
Are your towels dingy from use or stained by mascara? Wash them with a little bit of bleach and you’ll be back to bright whites. (Make sure to check labels for cleaning instructions before you buy, and before you wash with bleach.) Recently, Martha Stewart shared her top kitchen tips on the Today Show, and I learned that she has a drawer full of white dishcloths. She uses them to wipe up spills, and they’re easy to clean.

Whether you’re starting out in your first apartment, registering for a wedding, or just redecorating, here are whites that I own and can personally recommend:

  • Macy’s Hotel Collection bath towels, Turkish Collection, $12–$64
    These always look fluffy and clean in our small bathroom, and they have stayed absorbent. Investing in little luxuries such as these makes for great starts to our days. In the bathroom, we accent with colorful hand towels.
  • Garnet Hill’s Signature Hemstiched Percale sheets, $20–$65
    Crawling into these smooth, crisp sheets is always a relaxing experience—even if they have already been slept on for two weeks. They haven’t started pilling like another pair of sheets that we’ve had for the same amount of time. They also look classy next to our quilts and duvet comforters, which we change seasonally.
  • Jasper Conran at Wedgwood dinnerware, $15–$350
    Although we were tempted by trendy dinnerware, we now know that buying white everyday dinnerware was one of the smartest decisions we made. White china can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion, and because it’s china, it’s the sturdiest form of dinnerware that we can use every day. That’s good for a clumsy couple like ourselves—only one plate has broken so far, and we know that if the plates had been earthenware, the count would be a lot higher.

A clean palette is a clean slate, and you can let the accent colors change with the seasons and your changes in taste. White is the palette on which you can paint your personality.

Do you use white in your home, or are you afraid to try because of the dirt factor?

Lindsey M. Roberts has covered design, décor, and homes from Washington state to Washington, D.C., writing for publications such as Seattle Homes & Lifestyles, Apartment Therapy, The Washington Post, and Preservation magazine and currently edits publications for Hanley Wood, including Architect magazine.