A white room can feel like a haven of simplicity in an otherwise chaotic world. Despite appearances, when it comes to styling chic, inspiring, livable white rooms, the devil is in the details. Keep a white or monochromatic room from feeling sterile with these design touches.
Many people shy away from having all-white walls in their home for fear the rooms will look too sterile and bleak. While a white room can look stark if not decorated, there are several design elements one can bring in to warm up the space—especially if you don’t want to bother painting or you’re renting a place where you’re not allowed to switch up the paint color.
To start, it’s helpful to reframe how you perceive a white space, not “as a static absence of color,” as interior designer Nicole Heininger told Architectural Digest, “but as a starting point for layering a rich range of materials and tones,” it’s not hard to make the space warm and welcoming. Here are some of the best ways to achieve that.
Wood and other natural elements
Incorporating elements inspired by nature, such as wood, leather, rattan, seagrass, wicker, and other woven materials can instantly make a space feel more inviting. There are many styles of wood (from rustic to luxe) and ways to incorporate it; from floors, furniture, and shelves, to mirrors, frames, and accent pieces. Seek to incorporate other natural materials in the form of chairs, poufs, ottomans, and picture frames.
Warm metals such as brass, copper, and brushed gold go a long way towards creating coziness. (Just be careful not to overuse warm metals or you risk jumping the shark into gaudy.)
While your first instinct in a white room may be to stick with the clean lines of roller shades, pleated shades, or blinds, Heininger notes that, “adding soft linen drapes keeps a white room from feeling harsh.” The taller and more flowing, the better.
Having a smattering of antique pieces that harken back to a different time can infuse a space with character. Think: Bureaus, bookcases, mirrors, rugs, and home accents. While not technically “antique,” vintage-inspired furniture, rugs, and artwork create a similar effect.
Incorporating textiles—any material that’s woven or made of fabric—such as blankets, throw pillows, tapestries, and wall art will lend a feeling of charm and comfort. Drape and layer these items over the backs of headboards, chairs, sofas, and the foot of your bed.
Don’t be afraid to mix a variety of textures in your space (so long as they exist in a complimentary color palette). Stone, ceramic, glass, and woven baskets can all peacefully coexist to create a more interesting space.
Whether real or artificial, houseplants, flowers, and small trees convey life—the opposite of sterility. Besides enhancing the appearance of a room, plants have been shown, according to Healthline, to boost productivity, reduce stress, and improve air quality. Even the faux-plants contribute an air of vitality.
Nothing says “cozy” like a bookshelf full of classics (or Oprah’s Book Club selections, who’s going to know?) The point is, shelves of books provide color, texture, that intangible “library” feeling of reverence, and an invitation to snuggle up on the couch and get lost in your imagination for a while. There’s nothing chilly about that.