The Right Way to Use White

Jennifer goes over the do’s and don’ts of painting with white.  I’ve always thought of white as being plain and boring.  When I moved in to my new home that is exactly what it was, plain.  I thought by adding color to the walls would spice it up a bit.  If only I had watched this video prior to doing all that work myself, I would have saved myself some time and definitely some money.  Having white walls is not a bad idea.  You just simply use décor to spice it up a bit.  For instance in the living room, use throw pillows with vibrant colors and think about an area rug if  you have hard wood floors.  Same thing in a bedroom.  The bed dressing is a good way to bring in colors as well as lampshades and paintings.  Using white on the walls gives it a more clean and modern look.  It always keeps it looking fresh.


Hi, I’m Jennifer Kopf, Homes Editor at Southern Living. White paint is one of the most popular choices in today’s interiors, but it’s often dismissed as boring or cold.  Whether you’re making over an entire room, accenting an architectural element, or redoing a piece of furniture, when white is used smartly and deliberately, it can be the strongest color of all.

Here are some tips on how to decorate with white paint.

Keep architectural elements from becoming distracting and de-emphasize lackluster architecture by painting walls, ceilings, and trim all the same white hue. The result is a blank canvas which allows the eye to gravitate to warm textiles and brighter hues found in furniture and accessories.   Use white to tame strong color and bold motifs. In a colorful room it gives the eye a place to rest.

Brighten a room that has dark wood floors and accents with white walls. Walls painted white recede allowing natural wood to steal the show without becoming overwhelming.

Dress tight quarters in bright white for a more spacious and airy feeling. As the light changes, so will the space’s color and ambiance.

Paint exposed pipes, fence, and electrical outlets the same hue as their surroundings to trick the eye and make utilitarian objects appear less prominent.

A monochromatic white palette allows experimentation with texture. Layer wood, ceramics, and other materials to keep the look of white paint from falling flat.

For classic cottage charm in the kitchen, opt for white on walls, trim, and cabinetry. Without color variation, the eye is forced to focus on details. All white always looks current.

Vary finishes to give emphasis to special architectural elements. Even when the look’s a tone on tone white, eyes will gravitate to glossy patinas.

Use white to warm up stone walls, interior brick work, or other hard surfaces, allowing them to appear approachable and inviting. Without subtle color, a hard surface can come across strictly utilitarian.  A coat of glossy white instantly brings dated brick work up to speed, turning a drab mantle into a focal point.

An all-white backdrop allows accessories to make instant impact. Choose pillows, art, and other accents carefully, because they’ll garner all the attention.  In a monochromatic, all-white space, every element becomes sculptural. Keep the look from becoming predictable by selecting furniture and accessories with interesting profiles.

Consider white walls your easel. Art, photography, or other collections assume greater prominence when placed in a white interior.  Don’t overlook what lies underfoot. For unmatched brilliance, consider coating floors in white, using heavy-duty porch and floor enamel.

White is not just white, and the many choices can be overwhelming. Choose hues with tints of taupe, gray, ivory, tan, or cream to avoid a stark look. If you’re going for a warmer look, choose a white on the creamy side. If you are pairing white with blacks and grays, opt for a hint of blue, taupe, or gray. The overall effect will still read as white, but with a warm and welcome feel.

For more tips and ideas on decorating with white, visit

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