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Hamptons Life

Jan 7, 2019 1:35 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Making Sure All-White Interiors Don't Fall Flat

Jan 7, 2019 1:42 PM

White is and will likely always be a favorite color for the interiors of East End homes.

It’s an understandably common choice for walls (Decorator’s White, anyone?), upholstery (we all know quite well the iconic Hamptons slipcovered sofa), and so on. But when you take it a step further, and decide to create an interior where virtually all of the pieces at play are in a shade of white, it’s critical to make certain decisions to ensure that you arrive at a completed space to love, and not one to regret.

It’s important to consider the color temperature of the whites, and choose wisely for all components as a whole, and not just one at a time. Decide from the start: are you interested in a warmer white scheme, which generally leans yellow or red, or a cooler white scheme, which tends to lean blue or green? If your home is historic (think Sag Harbor cottage from the 1800s), warmer whites often do well. If your home is newer (think glass and steel oceanfront contemporary on Dune Road), cooler whites often are best. In either case, it is worth checking each selection along the way, to ensure that it fits in your overall scheme. The most cohesive, all-white interiors tend to stick to a range on one side or the other. For contrast, try mixing in shades of white like bone or ivory in the warmer schemes, and light gray or ultra-pale blues in the cooler schemes.

Make sure you have a variety of materials in the space, with different lusters and finishes. For upholstery, cotton and linen are great fabrics for whites of all shades. For stones, try Calacatta marble or travertine to pair with warmer tones, and Carrara marble or white painted concrete for cooler interiors. For woods, go with warm bleached white oak on one end of the spectrum, and cool bleached ash wood on the other. Lighting, whether by the sun or by artificial bulbs, will do a lot of the work for you in respect to differentiating each element.

Practice restraint in the finishing touches like art and accessories. While the more substantial elements like paint, window treatments, furniture, rugs, and lighting can command the most attention, the entire all-white interior relies on all of its elements for success, so be sure to choose wisely. For artwork, since every all-white interior cannot be filled with a series of Robert Rymans, the best course of action is typically to stick with bright, unsaturated tones. For accessories, consider materials that echo the heavier components of other larger pieces throughout, like another note of bleached white oak or Calacatta marble.

Remember that every single element doesn’t necessarily need to be a shade of white, as long as it is complementary, and takes a back seat. It’s probable that a number of semipermanent finishes and fixtures, including flooring and window framing, are not all going to be stark white from the start. Therefore, certain metals, like brass and steel, which are often inherent components in the structures of movable pieces like seating and tables, can work fine, and won’t detract from the monochromatic atmosphere if they mirror the finishes that the room might already have throughout. Other natural materials like rattan, seagrass and leather also exist undyed in off-white adjacent colors that work well in the interest of contrast, and avoid monotony. Perhaps most surprisingly, quiet punches of black can amplify the white all around them.

Finally, intentionally break the mold with transient features such as fresh cut seasonal floral and foliage arrangements. They are a guest in the design by virtue of being impermanent, and therefore don’t have to adhere to the same rules as your furniture. You don’t expect your actual guests to arrive in a strict all-white clothing policy—aside from the annual white party, perhaps. Additionally, bringing the outside in (which is, hopefully, visible through the windows anyway) is never a bad idea, and remains part of the same overall visual landscape.

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