A Trend to End The Whiteout

Jan 31, 2022 | Interior Design

Every year in January we get inundated with information from designers in fashion, beauty, and, yes, interior design with their list of trends for the new year. I’ll let you in on a secret. This actually makes me cringe. True beauty and style should not be a trend, but should actually transcend trends. My grandmother used to always tell me that if I bought simple classic pieces then they would never go out of style. It took me several decades to understand what she meant, but now I couldn’t agree more. So to start off 2022 on the right foot, let’s talk about a trend that I think really needs to go out of style… The Whiteout.

I had an interesting conversation with my Realtor recently. We were looking at potential homes for me to buy and, of course, the older and more work it needs the better, as far as I’m concerned. As we perused MLS we found that the homes sitting on the market were the ones that were really stuck in the 90s, ie, the decade of beige. He jokingly made the comment to me that if they’d just go in and paint everything white they could add a $100,000 to the asking price and it would sell right away. Hmmm, I thought. He’s actually right.

Image courtesy of A Simple Creative Life

I get it. White is the ultimate neutral color. It’s safe. It’s noncommittal. If you are selling your home, it appeals to the masses. It definitely is simple and doesn’t take much effort or creativity to assemble. Paint the walls and cabinets white and slap on a white marble patterned quartz countertop and Bam! you’re done. There are definitely designers who make white look great. But is it stylish? Let’s look at some examples.

One of my favorite designers for fashion and home is Jenni Kanye. She takes white to a whole new level. Let’s look at some of her latest designs.

At first glance everything looks white and clean. But really, is it the white that makes it special? In my opinion it’s actually the shading she uses, and the scaling of white to browns and greys. And then if you look carefully, there’s usually a pop of color, like the green tree in the living room, or the green of nature out the window behind the model. Jenni’s calming, neutral style is actually a background to invite in the colors of nature and inspires the laid-back California indoor-outdoor lifestyle perfectly.

Her Lake Arrowhead House is the perfect example. Just look at the view from the family room. She’s literally framed nature with the window. The white neutrality of the room draws the eye to the actual showstopper on display – the lake, not the room. There’s a purpose to the white, as opposed to, well…just being white. Genius.

Images courtesy of Jenni Kanye

Jenni Kanye’s Lake Arrowhead House

Image courtesy of Jenni Kanye

The same concept is exemplified in her own home. On the surface it’s easy to say she lives in a white home. But again, I would argue that she’s using a whole range of neutral colors in a subdued way to highlight the true beauty that exist outside the window. I mean look at that view.

Image courtesy of Architectural Digest

Amber Lewis (you know I love me some Amber) is another designer who understands that neutral creamy whites are simply the foundation for the real color and design in a room. 

Image courtesy of Amber Interiors

The base of her design in these pictures is as white as it gets. But Amber also often takes her color cues from nature and adds the next layer of greens and reds and autumn browns with rugs and pillows and plants. The white tub is a showstopper, but when it’s paired with the beauty of the vibrant reds of this antique rug, and the luscious bright green of the fig tree it makes you want to soak in that tub for hours on end.

Image courtesy of Amber Interiors

Image courtesy of Amber Interiors

The bubblegum pink in the young girl’s bedroom could scream Pepto Bismol, but instead Amber’s restrained use of pink against the soothing white backdrop makes it not only palatable, but enviable, for adults and kids alike. Amber’s designs are like the best appetizer being paired with the perfect aperitif.

As of late, however, I believe even Amber Lewis has grown tired of the whiteout trend and taken her love of neutrals to a whole new level. In her new book  Made for Living she devotes a whole chapter to all shades of neutral. Just look at some of her more recent designs and evolution out of the whiteout, as if she’s saying, “Don’t go into the light.” (okay you have to be old enough to have seen Poltergeist to get that reference). Her whites are less bright white and instead the neutral colors in Amber’s designs has become warmer, creamier, with more depth, more expression, more emotion; venturing into the “dark side” with the use of  browns, greys and blacks.

Images courtesy of Amber Interiors

Image courtesy of Amber Interiors

So, how does one achieve this perfect blend of white and color without your house looking like a whiteout? Here are a few designer tips to get you started.

Creamy is Dreamy

Start with a creamy white. Don’t paint your house stark white. If you go to your local paint store you will quickly find out there are hundreds, if not thousands, of shades of white paint. When I first started designing my own home twenty plus years ago I told the painter I wanted all the trim to be white and I pulled out a Dunn Edwards paint swatch of pure white. He quickly directed me to some other shades of white that I actually thought looked beige. But, fortunately, I took his advice and it turned out perfect. Remember, looking at a small swatch is not the same as looking at paint on walls, doors and trim. Some whites are cool like a snowstorm and some are warm like homemade vanilla ice cream. To be sure what looks best in your space, invest in a small sample can of paint and paint a 1-2 foot square in different areas of the room. Watch it throughout the day and into the night to see how the light affects it throughout the space. You might be surprised to see your “white” paint look cream or beige with more or less light. Here are a few recommendations from two top interior designers.

Add Layers of Color

Then, what next? Layer in textiles like lamps, pillows and throws that actually add color and don’t just look like a greyer shade of white. Here are some simple, beautiful examples to amp up your white. In The Cloisters Project, I used a creamy white paint color knowing I wanted to add lots of color with the furniture and accessories.

Image courtesy of A Simple Creative Life

Image courtesy of A Simple Creative Life

Image courtesy of A Simple Creative Life

The same was true of the Oregon Avenue Two Project, where I used Dunn Edwards Blue December paint color with the neutral greys of the finishes to compliment the more colorful accessories throughout the space.

Image courtesy of A Simple Creative Life

Images courtesy of A Simple Creative Life

Look to Nature for Inspiration

If your favorite color is chartreuse green or florescent orange you may need to look elsewhere for inspiration in your home. I have whole Pinterest boards dedicated to different colors, and I try to look for colors formed in nature.

A Simple Creative Life on Pinterest

Some of the most beautiful and simple colors come from looking right outside your door. Greens, yellows, blues and reds, are growing in the trees and flowers and show up in the sky. No one ever tires of a Carolina blue sky with wispy white clouds or the rich navy of the night sky dotted with stars. Take some time to actually look at the leaves on a tree and notice how many different shades of green actually exist on one leaf on one tree. While you’re at it, have a picnic, take a walk, hold someone’s hand. Enjoy all the colors the world has to offer and use them to inspire color in your home.


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