I've lived in many homes and apartments over the years, and I've come to realize that the ones that had lots of light and white neutral walls are where I've felt the most at ease. These spaces seemed to welcome me every time I walked in the door, and I not only instantly felt more relaxed but also more energized and uplifted as well. I tend at times toward anxious and depressed moods, but my emotions are consistently the most positive and calm when in light, bright spaces.
I'm not imagining it. Encouraging mental wellness through the use of colour is a practice that has existed in many cultures for centuries. Practitioners of Feng Shui, for example, introduce various colours in the form of gemstones and fabrics to shift the energy in a home. Light spaces, which can be achieved through natural light and white or light neutral walls, amplify a sense of space, harness positive energy, and promote serenity. There's plenty of psychology and wellness research to prove it.
Yet everyone seems to be deathly afraid to choose white. Whether it's fear of choosing the wrong white or off-white and ending up with room that feels cold, or the notion that white is boring, almost every client and friend I know is resistant to white walls.
I'm here to shout out loud: white is not boring and not cold!
It will bring clarity, tranquillity and positive energy to your home. It's flexible - over time you can simply add colour to liven things up, or subtract it to calm things down. And it's durable - you can clean it easily and touch up the walls when needed without it looking obvious. It's classic and timeless and will never go out of style. It's also the perfect clean backdrop to showcase the things that are meaningful to you, like artwork, photos, books and collectibles.
Yes, you have to do a little work to find the right white or light neutral colour for your space, but it's not as complicated as we sometimes make it out to be.
Here are a few simple steps to creating a light and bright home, filled with positive energy, clarity and serenity - by enhancing the light and using white or other light neutral colours.
1. Begin by letting in as much natural light as possible throughout your spaces.
Open heavy curtains and blinds and rehang them outside your window casings if they aren't already. Curtains add texture and softness to a room, but they shouldn't block any of the window itself. Clean your windows inside and out. And knock down any partial walls or heavy furniture that blocks light from flooding the space. Make sure you also have ample light fixtures in the rooms, through a combination of overhead and ambient lighting. Choose LED bulbs that give a daylight feel.
2. Paint all of your trim untinted white.
Yes, many designers will tell you not to use untinted white, but make it simple and just pick up a can of untinted white semi-gloss and freshen up your trim. Letting the true bright white trim shine and reflect the light from your windows and doors will do wonders to brighten up your home and it will add nice contrast to the other off-white colour you put on the walls. If you have wood trim, ok, you may not want to paint it, but consider lightening up just some (perhaps the ceiling moulding) if there is an over-abundance in your home.
3. Determine whether you want a cool or warm feeling in your home.
All whites and neutrals have an undertone - warm (red, yellow, pink, orange) or cool (blues, greens). There are a few pure whites that work either way, but they all tend a little one way or the other. You can and should use different shades of white in your home, but keep them in the same family - either cool or warm.
Warm works well in older historic homes and homes with a lot of wood finishes to complement the style but also brighten it up. If you're going for the romantic Parisian apartment look, tend toward a slightly warm creamy white.
Cool is perfect when you want a beachy, relaxed vibe or a minimal, Scandinavian feel. Cool shades also work well in kitchens and baths with marble countertops.
4. Consider the direction each room faces.
Warm whites will help warm up north and east facing rooms that get only limited sunshine and have shadows. Cool whites will actually keep south-facing rooms cooler.
5. Add layers and texture.
Layer in materials that will warm up the space and make it liveable. Wood pieces like a coffee table, wood blinds and photo frames will look spectacular against white. Area rugs, pillows and drapery add softness, and baskets and trays add dimension. Natural elements like plants and branches or even rocks and shells come alive in white rooms.
That's it. It's really not too hard at all, and spending a little effort to make your home feel as bright and airy as possible will undoubtedly pay off in how good it makes you feel day after day. It's time to lighten up and bring more positive energy into your life, isn't it?
Now check out these inspiring white rooms...click photos for sources.