Getting it white: decorating your home to enhance the light

White can be used creatively to transform homes with modern and minimalist designs. We take a look at the many different ways you can use white to revive your home.
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Colour-blinded by paint charts, many of us are tempted to "paint it all white" in desperation. But trendsetters take a more positive approach, adoring and exploring white's many moods and facets.

Decorating your home with white
Aspen dining table, £250, with Tallow stackable dining chairs, £135 each, and Wilson stackable dining chairs(with chrome steel legs), £70 each. All available at

Creative paints
More than a quarter of all UK paint sales are white. Creative director at paint maker Dulux, Marianne Shillingford, said white is "fluid and versatile and some lucky Londoners have homes under the huge skies of the river plain, with the river also reflecting light". The plethora of new high-rise glass-clad buildings in the capital does the same.

White enhances the light, added Shillingford. Dulux ultra-white emulsion is crammed with "Lumitech" particles which double light reflection compared with standard paint, and, says the company, is 20 times more hardwearing (£24.99 for 2.5 litres;

Decorating your home with white
© Philip Vile
Don't just paint your walls white - create a Nordic inspired design with white floorboards, radiators, ceiling and window frames

Different shades of white
Farrow & Ball has 36 whites comedian Ruby Wax once joked that choosing one put her in The Priory. They range from Pointing and All White to London Stone and Smoked Trout, but they all have different "undertones", explained director Sarah Cole (

For warmth, choose Great White, which has pink undertones, or Joa's White, which is a little hotter. Cabbage White, with blue undertones, is cooler. There's even a new white on offer. "People are moving towards a grey-based palette," said Cole. "Wevet is delicate and fresh with just a hint of grey." The name comes from West Country spiders' webs.

"White is a necessity," said Polly Dickens, creative director at Habitat. "It creates that clean, clear backdrop into which you can introduce splashes of colour." Habitat has lots of white for winter, including a high-gloss dinner table for £250, and stacking chairs, from £70 each.

For white on a budget, Ikea is selling "clean white" for next year in the catalogue just launched. A simple Klippan sofa is £180, and the white Bjursta table complete with four chairs is £290.

Decorating your home with white
Dulux offers "fluid and versatile" white shades, including an ultra-white ultra-white paint with Lumitech particles said to double light reflection compared with standard paint, and to be far more hardwearing

Decorating all aspects of a room in white
A refurb by London architect Thomas Griem gives a great lesson in how to get white right (; call 020 7636 3838). A Norwegian client declared her modern terrace house on a private estate in Highgate, north London, dark and soulless. She wanted natural light, and white, white, white all the way. "We all know how cool and impersonal minimalism can be," said Griem.

"And here only one non-colour was allowed. It was the hardest thing to do." But the new design oozes Nordic chic. A minimalist staircase with glass balustrades and pale wood treads links the opened-up six half-levels.

Walls are matt white, with reflective white stone in the kitchen. Floorboards are soft and organic white-stained. There is soft white linen and cloudy, see-through white curtains. Furniture and accessories are in white natural wood and glass.

"White is of course perfect for dark little rooms," added Griem. "But actually, best for white is lots of space and light." White can be practical, too. "Dust, hair etc shows up less."

Decorating your home with white
© Philip Vile
Architect Thomas Griem introduced Nordic chic at this once-dark Highgate home for a white-loving client

Top tips on using white in your home
* Don't be afraid of white.
* Don't wimp out with just white walls go for it with white floorboards, radiators, ceiling and window frames.
* Have white fabrics and furniture, too, with luxurious surface textures.
* Up-light white and the light will bounce back into the room.
* Go for simple blinds, loads of fabric, voiles or shutters.
* Layer lighting and control with dimmer switches.

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