The Power of White

Create a peaceful palette with this classic shade.
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Benjamin Moore Paper White
Benjamin Moore “Paper White” – Photography courtesy Benjamin Moore.

Though color trends may come and go, white remains a top contender. The neutral hue is easy on the eyes and plays well with others wherever it lands, from your bedding to your kitchen countertops.

White transcends trend, said Susan Monroe, president of Three Chairs Co. in Ann Arbor and Holland (threechairs.com), which offers modern home furnishings and design services. It skips the annual color forecast and makes a classic statement that’s timeless. 

“That’s why it has such staying power,” said Monroe, citing white furniture that isn’t limited to one style; you can have a traditional Louis XIV chair, a contemporary slipcovered sofa or a leather Eames lounge chair.

Room showing how styling with white can be done in many ways
Styling with white can be done in many ways, including white furniture, wall color, fabrics, flooring and more – Photography courtesy Three Chairs Co.

White also makes a space feel bigger and more open and airier. “In a condo or a second home, white can be expansive,” she said. “It also relates to our lake scene here. We like white with watery interiors. A white slipcover is fun to sit on in a bathing suit. You can throw them in the washer with a little bleach and welcome your next round of guests; it has real cottage appeal.”

While today’s performance fabrics make white upholstery a more practical option, when you choose white for your furniture, you should repeat it somewhere else. For instance, you might add white woodwork or window treatments. As Monroe explained, you should integrate white into a room.

White accents like lighting can impact a space. “We don’t have as much sun in Michigan, so we want that glow from a lampshade to get as much warmth and light as we can,” she added.

The soothing shade provides the perfect backdrop for entertaining. “If your interiors are quiet, it makes people more important,” Monroe said. “When you have white walls and a guest walks in wearing a pink sweater, she stays pretty important.”

Benjamin Moore "Ballet White" shown in Aura Bath & Spa
Benjamin Moore “Ballet White” shown in Aura Bath & Spa – Photography courtesy Benjamin Moore.
Getting it white

According to Andrea Magno, director of color marketing and development at Benjamin Moore (benjaminmoore.com), white might be the most versatile yet surprisingly complicated color to select. Benjamin Moore offers more than 150 paint colors in its Off-White Collection. Depending on the undertone, some may be more soothing or energizing. Layering one shade on top of another will help bring out their unique qualities.

When selecting a white, you should determine whether a warm or cool tone will work best. For instance, if most colors in the space are warm, a white with a warm cast may be a good fit.

Judd House Lounge Kitchen
Judd House Lounge Kitchen – Photography courtesy Herman Miller.

If you have millwork or trim, white can highlight these architectural details. While a crisp white such as Decorator’s White creates a classic look, an off-white can play off the wall color. For example, if the walls are painted in a warm gray such as Silver Fox, trim in Balboa Mist provides a soft contrast.

White can pop with dramatic shades like black, and it also can revive tired features from a brick fireplace to kitchen cabinets. “Adding white on trim such as molding and millwork can act as a detail or highlight, framing another white option or a stronger color,” Magno said. Even a vintage chair feels renewed with this restrained shade.

– Jeanine Matlow, Michigan BLUE Magazine.

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