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Secrets of the Color White

Eight Ways that White Works

The Modern Color White

Before World War II, the white colors found in homes were quite subdued. The lead used to make most of these early whites was not as bright as the titanium dioxide that replaced it in the 1940s. The whites made with titanium dioxide were brilliantly white. Designers quickly took to these new whites, and a whole new type of interior-design was born.

These new whites not only brightened up rooms, they provided a backdrop for new colors, designs, and styles of décor. The preeminence of white in interior design remains to this day—a fact that can be seen in the abundance of whites available in products for the home.

When it comes to selecting whites for your décor, you have a lot of choices. For example, every type of Bali window treatment includes one or more whites in its color selection (and in most product categories, whites are the top sellers).

Here are eight reasons why white is the go-to color for so many home-decorating tasks

1. The Ideal Backdrop

Bali drapery and roman shades installed in a entertainment room windows and doors

Put up a white wall or a wide field of white drapery and you have a blank canvas on which to present whatever style statement you choose. Art, houseplants, textiles, bold furniture—whatever you place in front of a white background tends to pop. Even light-colored wood takes on a new life when set against a white background.

2. The Illusion of More Space

A room painted white will appear larger than a room painted a darker color. Ceilings painted white appear higher than a ceiling of a darker color. If you’ve ever seen a room clad in gray drywall and then had the opportunity to see it after it received its first coat of white paint, you’ll understand this phenomenon: the now white room seems remarkably more open. That’s why white can be useful when decorating small rooms.

3. It Can Create Strong Feelings

Bali Cellular Shade installed in skylights and bathroom windows

The color white creates a feeling—or a set of feelings. Serene, peaceful, soft, free, clean, pure, joyful—a whole category of positive emotions. Whites can add some of this positivity to a design scheme—or white can become the dominant theme and produce a powerful emotional response.

4. Sophistication

An all-white room can be the height of sophistication. Part of this comes from the fact that white things look clean and spotless—and there is a certain formality in that. White drapery paired with a white cellular shade, a white piano on a white faux-fur rug, or white marble set against a white wall—these all-white design schemes, done properly, exude a very special sophistication.

5. Every Color Contrasts with White

When you’re decorating a room, use white whenever you want to create contrast. Every color pops in the presence of white. The Functional Design style, with its matte finishes and mathematical repetitions, really comes to life with white walls. The different greens of houseplants look beautiful against white shades or blinds. A subtle salmon becomes a bold color statement against a white background.

6. Countless Variety

There is no one single white—no true pure white—despite what a color sample or label might claim. In reality, there are countless varieties of white, from eggshell and ivory to bright whites and cool whites. When different whites are used together, you can add depth to your interior design, highlight certain lines and curves, and create visual interest.

7. It’s Hot Right Now

The color white dominates interior design. That’s no surprise—with its versatility, ability to contrast with so many décor elements, and its positive emotional power, it is a true powerhouse. The color white is everywhere in interior design media and home-improvement entertainment. If you’re looking for ideas for what to do with white, you’ll find them everywhere.

8. It Will Last

Mattes, neutrals, pastels, high-chroma—nearly every color scheme has had its day. But while palette preferences come and go, white remains. The color white—and all its variation—is just too useful and multifaceted. It’s also easy to work around. White walls and drapery can often remain unchanged as other elements get traded out to create a new look. It’s much harder to update a room painted lime green without putting up the painter’s tape and rolling on another wall color. (Hint: white might be a good choice.)

Check out all the options in white and every other color by visiting