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Why We Love White

Why We Love White

From crisp to creamy, the many moods of this beloved neutral are the subject of Fifi O’Neill’s beautiful book.

Lived-In Style

“White has long inspired visions of serenity and effortless elegance,” says best-selling author Fifi O'Neill, whose decorating books have a sibling, Shades of White. A talented decorator and professional stylist, O’Neill knows well the impact this not-a-color has, whether deftly applied as a backdrop or taking a starring role in a chic white-on-white scheme. “White is magical,” she says. “There are hundreds of shades, each with its own beauty, and it pairs equally well with period or eclectic furnishings and accessories, and easily makes friends with other colors.” She shares a sneak preview of some of the beautiful rooms from her book, along with some helpful notes on what makes white so wonderful.

Kitchen with white walls and rustic white cabinets and center island.

This streamlined kitchen owes its simple beauty to the juxtaposition of modern appliances with vintage items. The antique French baker’s table-turned-work island tempers the sleek style and finish of the stove. A rustic cabinet houses spices and baking items.

Rounded white vintage glass doors act as a room separator.

A neutral palette of cool whites maximizes light and space and, when layered with textures and tone-on-tone hues, creates a cocoon-like canvas, making it effortless to usher in subtle color accents and unify eclectic furniture.

Living room with white walls and rustic wood exposed beams.

In finishes, fabrics, and design elements, textures that beg to be touched play a starring role in keeping whites warm and inviting. Layering textiles, woven rugs, wood, books, organic accessories, architectural items, seagrass, and rattan brings instant interest, heightens the coziness quotient of any room, and contributes calm, serenity, and a warm welcome. Texture is not always about material. Patterns can also add a visual dimension but, as with other decorating components, balance is key.

White bead board in kitchen with wood countertops.

Muted walls are galleries, ready and perfectly suited to show off art like photographs, paintings, canvasses, posters, tapestries, murals, wall hangings, and artful objects of similar value like baskets or platters. Although there are some rules of scale, balance, and proportion, there is no reason to sacrifice using what you love.

White walls and bedding in bright and breezy bedroom.

Neutral rooms are naturally calming, but without the proper accessories they can miss the swoon factor. The right items can set the mood, adding continuity and character to a white scheme and a fashion-forward allure to more laid-back rooms. Accessories can share similar finishes, shapes, or materials, but when it comes to white interiors, keeping a neutral tonality is both stylish and dynamic.

White walls in bathroom with large vintage brass mirror.

The addition of gorgeous, oversized mirrors in this bathroom only emphasizes how white walls create the illusion of bright, endless space. This is especially welcome in a bathroom, where clean and spa-like are always appealing attributes.

Author, stylist and style-maker Fifi O’Neill’s latest book, Small Spaces, Big Appeal is available here.

PHOTOS Mark Lohman