Think for a moment about the times when a dazzling display of colour hits your eyes and stops you in your tracks: autumn leaves at their peak; a saturated landscape scene when you turn the calendar to a new month; or perhaps the stalls of a farmers’ market overflowing with vividly-hued fruits and vegetables.
When the brilliant colours of nature wash over our souls it stops our minds from incessantly thinking – even if just for a moment. It slows us down and helps us to inherently understand that we are part of a much grander, magnificent whole.
It’s ironic that a display of intense colour gives us what’s often called ‘white space’ – an elusive sense of stillness and clarity and peace in our minds and hearts and souls. It’s a feeling most of us want to access for longer and more frequent periods of time as an antidote to getting caught up in the anxiety, busyness and overwhelming aspects of everyday life (hop over to my post on Becoming Unbusy for ideas to implement on a daily basis to help with this).
But here’s what I’ve learned from years of designing and decorating the environments we live our everyday lives in: colours that shock us into stillness in nature cannot easily be replicated to the same effect in a built environment.
When I’ve tried to bring the brilliant blues, oranges, reds, greens and yellows inside my own homes in the past, they’ve actually stimulated my mind instead of quieting it. They felt out of place and overwhelming on my walls, as if I’ve tried to force what doesn’t belong indoors. Instead of giving me white space, it’s given me a feeling of being scattered, flustered and overpowered.
The use of colour in man-made spaces does indeed play an important role in how we feel, rest, think and act. But there’s no need to get a degree in colour theory to get the benefits of colour in our homes. We just need to keep it simple and begin with what’s already one of the words of what we crave: white space.
White is indeed a colour, and a wonderful one at that. While white can have a reputation as being sterile, cold or boring, it’s actually far from it. It’s the simple and crystal-clear backdrop on which to display and inspire the rest of our colourful lives. Here’s why.
- White promotes clarity and balance and is soothing to the eye
- White walls provide a calming, neutral backdrop on which to display the meaningful things that we really want to look at (instead of the walls): the books, artwork, photos and mementos that remind us of our purpose
- Indoors, the brilliant colours we love are better able to inspire us and still our minds through accessories and artwork with white space between them.
- White walls reflect light, which helps us stay positive and uplifted - with a feeling like we have more room to breathe
- White walls allow the colours of nature to shine through indoors, for example through green plants, wood, natural fibres and of course, the sunshine and view out a window
- In colour theory white is associated with innocence, purity and safety
- In Feng Shui white corresponds to yang energy, meaning it is very expansive and open, thereby boosting creativity and flow
- White is very practical – it’s easy to clean and retouch, with no paint colour to match up or fade out from scrubbing marks off of walls (hello Magic Eraser!)
- White is timeless, meaning no need to repaint every couple of years and unsustainably consume more paint and more of our time.
And so, creating actual white spaces in our homes can also create white space in our lives. Painting walls white to help visually remove clutter and noise allows us to also remove clutter and noise within. And that, as Brian Gardner says, is where the magic happens.
Nature’s display outside my window today is not the colourful exhibit it was a season ago. The pale grey sky and blanket of white snow is calming in a different sort of way. As Robert Frost said, “Nothing gold can stay.” The lesson I take from this is when we attempt to keep a colourful season in our homes on our walls for more than just one season, we become immune to the positive effects of colour. It doesn’t jolt us into awakening as it once did. But white walls as a canvas to a constantly changing life filled with colour at times and grey at others will give us simplicity and presence more often than not.
Have I convinced you?
If so, and you’d like guidance in choosing the right white (or off-white) colour for your walls, download my free Guide to Choosing the Right White Paint. I share in it my favourite go-to white shades that you can't go wrong with!