How to decorate with white to create a cosy, stress-free home

17 Nov, 2022 | Home & Lifestyle

Words by Anna-Lisa De’Ath

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Make your home a light, bright haven in the dark days of winter

If you thought white was, well, just white, think again. There are many subtle shades and designer tricks to create a sense of light and space to help us get through the long, dark months of winter. In these chaotic times, an all-white scheme can help to bring peace and calm. Like a freshly fallen layer of snow mutes noises – a room decorated with winter whites will whisper softly to you instead of shouting.

5 things to know before decorating with white

If you’re decorating a white winter room to make it tranquil and peaceful as well as warm and cosy, remember these five things.

1. White and neutral colours will give the room the appearance of being bigger. You are also making your room look clean and fresh. By combining the right tones,choosing your furniture carefully, and adding lots of personal touches you’ll make sure you’ll love it all year round.

2. You want to prevent it from looking bland and flat. To decorate effectively with white, you need to remember three basic rules: layering, texture, and tones. But, before you rush out to buy lots of new accessories, get the main elements of your room right – the floor, the walls and the furniture.

3. A white floor will instantly make your room look larger, but white carpet isn’t practical for most family homes. Consider painting your floorboards white or laying white or pale grey laminate or vinyl flooring. If changing your flooring isn’t an option, plump for a nice big, light-coloured rug instead.

4. When it comes to white walls there are hundreds of subtly different shades to choose from. It makes a big difference if you go for warmer tones or cooler tones of white. The warmer tones look better in winter, but the cooler tones do very well in a white summer home. You can make both work, just be aware of your choice. Whichever one you decide on, make sure it has a scrubbable finish if you have busy family home with kids and pets to contend with.

5. In a white room, bigger furniture looks better. Even if your space is small, choose just a few key pieces of larger-scale furniture but make sure they work hard for you and incorporate plenty of storage, such as a coffee table with shelving below or a sideboard to hide away clutter. Choose furniture in different shades of white and pale neutrals with a subtly reflective surface. This will help bounce light around the space and the larger surfaces making the room feel less busy.

Now that you know the essentials, here are 10 ways to decorate cleverly with white:

1. Make it touchy feely

White can be a great way to enhance the winter sunshine but make sure you use lots of different textures to excite your senses and keep things cosy. The trick is to layer textures – think white pieces in feel-good materials, such as sheepskin, leather, faux fur, velvet, linen and even crisp cottons.

Bedrooms are the ideal place to play with layers of texture. Dress your bed with crisp cotton or linen bedding, then build on this with plush velvet bedspreads, super-soft quilts, lambswool blankets and faux fur throws. A cluster of chunky church candles and pretty chandelier will enhance the mood. This principle also works well in the living room, where you can layer up your sofa or favourite armchair with soft, cosy throws and tactile, squishy cushions.

2. Layers add warmth

When it comes to putting together a successful winter white look, layering and texture are your two best friends. The secret to successful layering when it comes to accessories is making groupings, stacking items together, overlapping objects, and making them look appealing together.

Texture, as we’ve already discussed, is all about using different materials, that have a different feel and look. And when you combine your layering with an extra texture you’ll create styling magic. On this shelf, the basis is all white: a white shelf, white walls and white accessories – but different tones of brown and neutrals have been added to the mix. All the darker tones come from natural materials and they all have texture.

Note how all the accessories are grouped together. There is no colour in this shelving display but the neutral shades makes it work perfectly in winter white room.

3. Add sophisticated sparkle

Injecting a white scheme with some sparkling touches will excite the eye and help bounce winter sunlight around the room. All-white bathrooms can easily look stark and clinical, so consider adding interest with reflective elements such as mirrors, glass accessories and textural splitface tiles juxtaposed with matt flooring, painted cabinets and soft fluffy towels, creating a sumptuous atmosphere.

4. White can be child and pet friendly

If your family includes kids and pets, then an all-white scheme may prove challenging. Instead, layer up your white elements with a palette of off-whites – chalky greiges, taupes and soft, barely-there greys added to a white room makes for both a practical and sophisticated look.

Choose washable throws, rugs and cushion covers than can easily withstand family life and be popped in the washing machine when necessary.

Image @kinga_homeuk

Small round door knobs in Gold, £8 each, Pushka

5. There can be fifty shades of white

When it comes to creating a winter white colour scheme, think about using different tones to add subtle interest and highlight architectural features. All whites have a different undertone. The two most basic undertones are yellow which gives a warm, off-white hue, and blue which gives a cool greyish hue.

Generally, it is best not to combine two whites with a different undertone, so stick to using shades within the same tonal palette. To add depth and interest to the room, consider using one shade in different paint finishes, for example combining one wall in a high sheen or opalescent finish with a flat matt finish on the other walls.

6. Think about shadow play

When designing an all-white scheme, take into consideration where natural light falls from the windows into your room. Take time to see the shadows that are created throughout the day and use these to your advantage. A white interior is neutral and it really benefits from some architectural interest.

If your house doesn’t have beautiful windows, arched doorways, deep alcoves or intricate architraves to create interesting shadows, then make sure the other elements in the room pack a punch. You can still play with light and shade by incorporating furniture, 3D wall art or rugs with sculptural elements, which will create interesting shadows of their own.

Decor Scape rug, from £445 for 140x200cm, The Rug Seller

7. Excite your senses

Scent can play an important part in a winter white scheme, adding an extra element to excite our senses Choose candles, diffusers or wax melts with warming fragrance notes, such as our (borrowed from) The Wild collection, which has warming base notes of amber wood and musk. They will envelop you with a sense of warmth and cosiness as you enter the room and help you relax after a busy day.

8. Put accessories together

To excite the eyes and add interest to a white room, try creating little winter vignettes using different accessories that look good together and make a style statement. Look for vases in which you can display twigs or dried flowers, small sculptures, your favourite framed prints or postcards, a stack of vintage lace, or elements of nature that you’ve foraged on your winter walks.

Add height and a sense of visual rhythm to the display with tall candlesticks, lanterns or even empty antique frames. Try to keep all the elements of your vignette within a calm, natural colour palette, so they work together as a group.

9. Bring the drama

Black is the perfect contrast to white and it instantly adds a sense of drama to a room. Adding a stark contrast to an otherwise white living room will create depth and help ground the room. You don’t need too much. A black lamp, ebony-framed prints or a charcoal grey cushion are all great ways to break up the white and help the eye move around the room.

However, if you don’t want to go down the traditional monochrome route, consider juxtaposing white with more subtle hints of black, such as marble. In the kitchen and dining room, black and white marble creates a dramatic foil for pure white crockery and can make even the most understated tableware look stylishly sculptural.

10. Glow up with soft lighting

Good lighting is important in an all-white scheme to create glowing pools of warm light in the room. Instead of using lamps with bright white bulbs, which can make the space feel cold and stark, switch up your bulbs for ones that give off a soft golden glow which will instantly make your space feel warm and cosy.

Try using smart LED bulbs, which will not only save you money on your energy bills, but can be controlled from your phone or tablet to adjust the hue and tone of the light, meaning you can set them to emit a golden light in winter, then switch them up to a cooler white light in summer.

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