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When is White just Right?

By 02/08/2010February 21st, 201752 Comments

I consider white to be just as important as any other colour.

However, I do draw the line at white-on-white walls unless it’s a contemporary space and you plan to repeat the colour in your decorating, see my White is a Snob post for more on that.


Here are my 10 tips on when you should choose white over any other colour:

1. White Textured Towels

Usually the plumbing fixtures [sink/toilet] are white so even if your tiles or the walls are not white, the towels relate to the fixtures which creates a ‘spa’ feeling.


Just make sure they have a texture in them. I have white towels with a daisy texture, stripes and squares, even paisley. They are the only colour I own [besides my favourite Martha Stewart Beach Towels]. Same with the shower curtain, I like it white as well!

2. White Molding in Bathrooms

Even if your woodwork is creamier throughout the house because your colours are richer (which works better with creamier trim) or you have finishes that are cream which dictate the trim, if the plumbing fixtures in your bathroom are white along with the tile, I like the trim painted white. Otherwise the only cream sometimes in a bathroom is the moldings.

Image source

3. White Sheets & Duvet Covers in the Bedroom

I love the hotel look in a bedroom. Upholstered headboard, bed skirt and two decorative pillow shams with a white [cream fits in the white category too] duvet cover.


4. White Vinyl Windows

Generally the ‘standard’ colours for vinyl windows are white or greeny beige (that is the undertone by the way, some people call it tan).

Inside the house you should always choose white or suddenly you are forced to coordinate your moldings and woodwork with a dirty beige window!!

Exterior windows, beige works if you have enough contrast on the exterior colour. Otherwise go with white there too.


5. White Shutters

Any other colour cuts out more light, so unless you have a dark space anyway go with white.

6. White Dishes

Before my designer days I chose white for my wedding china. Today I think they are too traditional for me but I still like them because they are white and go with everything!

Country Living

7. White Kitchens

Well we already know how I feel about White Kitchens!

Image source

8. White + Black

There’s a reason why black and white are always together, because they are both just as crisp.

9. White + Fresh Colour

In January’s Newsletter I wrote about Which Colours you’ll be Decorating with Next. And White is perfect with all of them!

White + Turquoise (credit)

10. If you simply adore White in any shape or form but you have kids and pets? Get the Ektorp sofa from IKEA. It’s an amazing price and the slipcovers alone are under $200.



What about you my lovelies? What do you own that MUST be White (I feel like I’ve missed a few)?

Need help choosing the right white? My White is Complicated: A Decorators Guide to Choosing the Right White eBook will help you get your whites right for your cabinets, trim, ceilings, and walls. This eBook also includes my Bonus book of Whites which will take the guesswork out of your decisions.

You’ll need them both if you have an entire house of whites and neutrals/colours to choose, get them here.

If you would like to transform the way you see colour, become a True Colour Expert.

Related posts:

White Kitchen Cabinets

The Best Trim Colours—NOT Cloud White

5 Steps to a Kitchen you will Love

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  • Kelly, Arte Styling says:

    Too funny – I feel exactly the same regarding white bath towels, duvet covers and dishes. White all the way! And sheets. I love white sheets. I think my attraction to white linens is that you can bleach them, keeping the color crisp for a long time. My experience with "colored" linens is that they always seem to fade.

  • Poindexter says:

    I like keeping either a bright white or a dark white tablecloth on the kitchen table. All the time – makes the table look fresher even if the only adornment is a bowl of apples, a pair of scissors and a notebook computer.

  • Marija says:

    We have the Ikea Karlstad sofa in the attic/kids playroom. Modern and easy to maintain! I, too, would add white sheets to the list. And I love white bookshelves. Nothing better to showcase beautiful books!

  • The Zhush says:

    I had to laugh out loud:"white is a snob", and I am off to read that post next. Reason? I'm a white linen snob myself! My bed is all about the hotel look-white duvet and all, and my towels are all strictly white (with white monograms to boot!). My kitchen is white, white marble, white subway tile, white cabinets…my master bath mostly white, white plumbing, trim, marble with a lovely gray wallpaper….You are speaking my language…as usual!

  • Just A Girl says:

    Currently obsessed with all the white vases/animal objects at Z Gallerie. Something about having different objects/candleholders/vases in different shapes but all white that is so stunning!

    Almost used the gray and pale yellow pic on my blog today! It is fabulous!

  • DesignTies says:

    For me a must-have are white t-shirts – long, short or no-sleaved. They're a must in my wardrobe!! Of course we're talking about home decor here… I love white towels for the bathroom! I think that's my only "must", though. Sure I'll use white in my rooms, but not as a must… only just because it works.
    P.S. We're having a giveaway over at DesignTies… I hope you'll enter and, better still, share with your readers what we're up to!!

  • Tracy @ Comfort and Luxury says:

    Not just bath towels, but paper towels, paper guest towels, paper napkins and tissues in any form must always be white. If my only choice at the market is a color or (worst of all) a print, I will wait til next time to buy! And while I'm a big fan of colorfully patterned table linens, I keep an all-white set on hand too.

  • Laura [What I Like] says:

    Oh sheets and towels, absolutely! Something pure and clean feeling about using them…

  • This Photographer's Life says:

    I absolutely cannot live without white sheets and towels. How can you tell if they are dirty if they are another color other than white? I HAVE to know my towels and sheets are clean! I bleach them!

  • samia says:

    white towels for sure.. and white coffee set omplete with the saucers and the cups.. or if i may add white lingerie 😉 it is sexy dont you think but it is a complete must have for me..

  • Erin says:

    Great list! I agree with everyone about the white linens…gotta bleach those babies! And the Ektorp sofa is my favorite thing I've bought in the last 2 years…it goes with everything and is so easy to maintain! And you can't beat the price either!

  • Christine B. says:

    I'm sure you are going to laugh at me, but I like to have white faceplates on the plugs and switches. We are just now finishing changing out the old almond colored ones from thirty years ago when the house was built. It's amazing what a difference such a little thing makes. I suppose that means the almond ones will be back in style soon….

    Christine in Alaska

  • Jane says:

    I love white or cream (slipcovered, of course) sofas…and even chairs. I add the color and texture with pillows and throws, paintings and accessories. This way, I can change the "simple" colors all year round. Although I admit, I have been looking at a lime green sofa…

    White towels are a MUST for our master bath. And as I redo the guest bath, I'll move to white there, too. Right now, the walls are painted in a bright sunny yellow with all sorts of creatures, like geckos and frogs, a grass border and the towels are fluffy striped beach towels…something the boys wanted. They're finally gone and it's time to redo (although many friends keep saying that it should remain the same…because it's truly cool!)

    Jane (artfully graced)

  • Janis@White Alder[Home] says:

    I LOVE white!!! I have white dishes, sheets, towels and a wonderful white kitchen. I am also trying to convince the hubs to get the Ektorp sofa, will have to show him your wonderful post.

  • Grace says:

    I'm with you on liking white (or cream) towels, dishes, kitchens, and sheets. I recently bought a fitted sheet for our bed that was on sale and is a medium brown colour – not my favourite as it turns out, because I always feel like I'm sleeping on melted chocolate ice cream.

    As to other things that I like in white – what about white tablecloths so the dishes and food take centre-stage; white vases so the flowers take centre-stage; and white shirts so you take centre-stage.

  • Patricia Torres says:

    Surely.. white towels… sheets, duvets & dishes / plates.. I love these!!

  • Mary says:

    I'm a big fan of white. I like all of my pictures framed in white frames. And I also like white painted furniture. It doesn't show dust. Love that!

  • micah @ the yellow front door says:

    I agree with all your tips… love WHITE!

  • Vanessa says:

    I have a thing for white lamps – white ceramic bases and white/off-white shades. I have had my Ektorp sofa for about 8 years – have 4 slipcovers including 2 white ones!

  • Gwen says:

    I love fluffy white towels and sheets. I am stuck with white walls, but they do make my art pieces pop.

  • mrsben says:

    Definitely white sheets and white Chinaware.

    You mentioned exterior white vinyl window frames. They are something that I just can't get 'my head around' when I see them on a stone clad home. For some reason they just don't seem to appeal to me yet I don't know exactly why.

  • Karena says:

    Maria, you've hit it all! Great image of the turquoise and white bedroom! Love it!

  • Velvet and Linen says:

    You always pick out the most beautiful images to clarify your points. Thank you for another clearly explained lesson! You really need to write a book!


  • "Yeah, that works..!" says:

    check, check and check – yup – with ya all the way!

  • Annie@A View On Design says:

    mate this is one of my fav posts of yours – really good ideas here – and I just adored the 3rd pic of the bedroom, probably that timber dresser against he white wall – love it! (oh and you'll be glad to know our ensuite towels are all white!)

  • heather @ what's blooming this week says:

    White china always. The first set of china I ever bought was Royal Doulton's Tangier – a modern blue and green pattern. It was stunning but really didn't work for holidays – no red maples leaves and pumpkins at Thanksgiving or red and green at Christmas. So it was slowly replaced with white. And now I use nothing but and use other colours on the accesories on the table. Great tips – going to get those white towels.

  • Angela at Giannetti Home: Design Online says:

    So pretty, so clean, in love!


  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Mrs Ben,
    I mentioned Vinyl windows because they cannot be painted once they are chosen (well I guess they could but that's not the point). Generally they are 30% cheaper than wood and 0 maintenance which is why people buy them.

  • DesignTies says:

    Hmmmm…. other than athletic socks and a few T-shirts, I really can't think of anything I own that must be white. I prefer colour, even on the ceiling and doors 🙂 I do like our white trim and wainscoting, though.

    Love the turquoise & white bedroom. I could do white like that!!


  • C.J. says:

    Maria, thanks so much for visiting my blog! You asked what the colors in the room were,
    BEHR winter glaze- 430E-1 ceiling
    walls Laurel Mist 430E-3
    trim Mystical Sea 430-2, again thanks for the compliment, I wanted a room that was quiet, romantic and relaxing. Take care,

  • mrsben says:

    I just learned something new as I didn't realize vinyl windows were about 30% cheaper. Thanks Maria!

  • Laura Trevey says:

    I LOVE my plantation shutters…. such a beachy feel.

    I agree with the white towels too! I only have white… fresh and clean!

  • Rachel says:

    hm, what do i own that is white? white dishes (hubbie was shocked, but there's just too many opportunities for clashing colors), white diapers (in the near future)…honestly, i'm not too big on stark white. lived in a house with white cabinets and stovetop, and they showed every little speck of dirt. and i loathe our white tiles in the playroom- it always looks dirty! but, there's certainly always a place for white as an -accent-, for sure.

  • Jessica @ says:

    I love the classic white and black combination – opposites really do attract. I also love white when paired with a bold, saturated color like you have shown in number 9. My must have white items are vases and bowls. I love to put bold colored items such as flowers/sticks, painted Styrofoam balls, ornaments, and fruit in them. They stand out against a colorful wall and wood work.

  • AB HOME Interiors says:

    I just love white. White just makes everything look crisp and good.

  • Pam Kersting says:

    You are such a resource! I just love, love, love your blog and can't wait until one day you compile all of this priceless information and put it into a book!

    In the meantime, more kudos to you over at my blog. Take a peek.

    Cheers! Pam

  • You had me at white. I love white but am a colour person at the same time. White is a great way to ground, enhance, freshen, modernize, brighten, etc. a colour scheme. It plays with colour so, so well. White ca so easily be used with colour to make the colours sing. I'm a big fan. White dishes? Yup, with playful, colourful accent bowls, etc., great, ever changing table decorations and linens…yes, yes, yes. I have 2 sets (all I can fit in my kitchen) in different shapes for different moods.
    White towels….love. Just starting to hate the crunchiness after too many bleachings. Pattern and texture is so important for at least some of them. White for the bed…a delicious cloud. For shutters…NO other choice everyone…please! Bathroom trim? Not necessarly…can also use white accents to work with white tiles or fixtures…this is a stylist trick…like the towels, vase, etc. White windows…if it's vinyl it too MUST be white…amen. They can be made to disappear. White kitchens…classic, clean, safe, can't go wrong. Also flexible enough to invest in while allowing you to change things up over time. Only thing to watch is how they look as they open onto or are visible from other spaces. You may need to do something transitional to make the kitchen to living room jump not so harsh, especially in a small space. White and black…crispy and great. Look at white with colour in your #9!!! Need I say more about this power?? I have seen so many all, all, all white spaces and although they are dramatic I just can't emphasize enough that warmth and/or soul can easily be lacking. Use wood, metals, glass, patina & patterns in natural materials and a variety of physical textures to get it right. Maybe even a plant. It will still feel white, honest. Fun post. Take care!

  • Marlo says:

    I agree with your white list – some I have, some I don't but one day I will!

    I've fallen in love with white over the past year – for furniture and clothes.

    The one white/cream thing I would be so happy to have right now is a dining room buffet. I've been having trouble finding one that I love and when I do – I will jump for joy!!!

  • Debra Phillips says:

    love this list! and ditto on the book idea maria. what comes to mind……….napkins, toilet paper, paper towels…..can you tell i am in a cocktail lounge in nashville 🙂

  • Haidy says:

    White is my favourite colour!! Towels, plates and sheets always look nice in white and they work so well with lots of different looks. I think you need to know when there is enough white in a space or it can look cold and empty in some cases. Thanks for the post 🙂

  • Ariel says:

    I LOVE this post. New subject + concise + related photos = perfect. Thank you!

  • pve design says:

    The saying goes, if all is well, leave it alone, like salt.
    Could you imagine another color or salt?
    I love white-

  • Ruthie's Renewed Treasures says:

    I love filling glass jars with white lima beans. Their simplicity and color speak volumes in a space.

    Great post Maria!


  • Between you, me and the Fencepost says:

    I've decided when thinking about white that bathrooms and kitchens must be white. Always. Usually in decorating magazines white is the dominant colour in both rooms. I believe it's because white is associated with cleanliness and who wants a dirty bathroom (yuck) or a messy, dirty kitchen where we prepare our food and eat? White is a snob and it's a clean snob because you can see every speck of hair, dirt or ickyiness that must be wiped up or seen as a stain on the snobby white.

  • The Blasphemous Fiendess says:

    I'm likely to choose cream over white or at the very least a warm white and I like the two mixed together. My bedsheets must be white-although again preferably a warm or creamy white. My dishes are also creamy white. It isn't suited to my house but if I had a summer cottage it would be a white and creamy combo with rustic wood-some left natural and some with distressed white paint. I love that because for me it warms up the white.

  • IslandHome says:

    Great post! I often hear people say 'we'll paint it white to start with then decide on colour later'. Leave it white! I'm a just about white everything girl – have been known to change the bed at 2am when I tried to vary things and bought coloured sheets. I'm sure the colour was keeping me awake! A friend has everything but white in her house – for me her home lacks the calm, fresh crispness that only white can bring. The only thing I'll never have white again is the kitchen floor (oh the joys of a rented house!)

  • Elie's Papel says:

    Great tips… i love white as the perfect canvas for great spaces… have a nice weekend

  • Annie, bossy color says:

    This is such a great list, Maria! I wish I could have made crisp white work in my LR, but everything just looked too cold. (It's a North-facing room; I probably didn't have the right lighting). But I just love it when it works!

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks for all these great tips. Was just wondering – we are doing White Dove for kitchen cabinets and trim throughout our house. I was wondering if you thought that Navajo White is too close for a wall color with that trim. I've looked at it on the walls and in good light it looks great, when it's dark/artificial light it's harder to see the contrast. I also looked at Natural Wicker but felt it was a bit too brown/dark. Any thoughts? Thanks!

  • millie says:

    I love this post! People around me(in Montenegro) are generally afraid of white,it makes them think of pharmacy or hospitals…
    Everybody's painting shutters and window trim dark brown or bordo. I'm the only one in my area with white shutters and windows,can you imagine?
    I also love white mirror and picture frames, together with everything you listed above,except white towels…

  • Kim says:

    I agree! White bathrooms, trim, doors (except on the front door I love colors), definitely trim, sheets, towels, washcloths. I also have only white dish towels, oh and what about our robes?!, have to add white cotton panties( when we’re not dressing for something special). And my boyfriend whose a chef only wants white dishes, but for the aesthetic of food presentation. One more… White muslin curtains all throughout my house! Thanks for a great post Maria, now I know it’s not only me!

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