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Decorating in spite of white

June 18, 2013

by Julie Nolta
Julie Nolta Design

If you’re like me and a lot of other people, at some point in your life you’ve probably lived someplace with stark white painted walls. Maybe you’re in an apartment and aren’t allowed to change the paint, or you’re deathly afraid of choosing the wrong color, so you just live with what’s safe.

In either case, don’t fight the white. Make it work for you. The biggest mistake people make is to try to ignore the white walls, but then it becomes the (white) elephant in the room. (Sorry, pun intended!) It draws attention to itself, exactly the thing you were trying NOT to do, and the space doesn’t look pulled together.

Here’s what you need to do: bring more white into the room. Yep, more white. The idea is to make the white look intentional, like you chose it on purpose as part of your design plan. Use it as the dominant “color” throughout the room rather than just in one place (the walls). Choose different textures and shades of white if you want to soften the look, then include whatever accent colors you like. It sounds so simple, but I didn’t figure this out myself for a long time!


Photo from

This room uses a taupe-y white as a neutral, as a backdrop for the colorful accessories. Its dominant items (the walls, ceiling, and furniture) are coordinating shades of white as are many of the basic accessories (lamp shades, picture mats, vases). Any accent color will look good against this neutral, and you can easily change things up with different pillows, artwork, etc. Nothing boring here!



Photo from

If you have the luxury of painting your rooms any color you choose, but still love the clean, airy, freshness of white, use it as an accent color. The turquoise is dominant in this room; and the pops of white furniture and artwork make quite a statement with it. It looks good because it’s used intentionally as part of the color palette and in several places throughout the space.

I can hear many of you saying that so much white isn’t practical, and I could write a few more paragraphs about stain resistant fabrics and carpets, but that’s not nearly as much fun!

Just try some more white for yourself and let me know what you think!

If you have questions or need some one-on-one help with your own white room, you can contact me via my website at

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