Monday, August 27, 2012

The All-White Color Palette -- Is It Alright for Staging?

Photo: Country Living.
Color is a powerful tool. You can use it to draw people in, relax them, excite them, or -- heaven forbid -- send them packing.

What color scheme will you use to stage your home?

I've blogged about choosing a paint color and I've blogged about different colors like periwinkle and cyan, and about specific color schemes like black and white, and blue and white.

But we haven't chatted about the all-white palette.

Does the idea of decorating your home in whites sound crazy impractical or totally boring? Let's look at whether the color white could be the smart choice or the dumb choice for your home.

White's not really a color. It's actually the absence of pigment. Nevertheless, most white paints and white fabrics have some color cast. There are warm whites like cream, ivory, and sandy whites. And there are the cool whites that are very slightly tinted with mauves and blues. The color experts recommend staying in one family -- either the whites with cool undertones, or the whites with warm undertones.

My favorite color consultant Maria Killam goes even further and distinguishes between beige undertones and yellow undertones and pink undertones. If you read her blog, you know that when you get it right, the room looks perfect!

Coastal Living Photo: David Hillegas. Styling: Heather Chadduck.

The photo on the right shows a room decorated with warm whites. The whites in the carpet and the table have brown undertones. The gray/white of the pillows is a warm grey.

Styles that Call For White Decor

Certain architectural styles and certain locales traditionally depend on white furnishings and paint for their uniqueness. How chic would urban chic be without stark white walls? How charming would coastal cottages be without whitewashed floors and white fluffy pillows? How classic would country homes be without those white picket fences? And what shabby chic room is complete without its chippy white furniture?

If your home falls into any of these categories, you'll want to make white an important part of your decorating. Still sound boring? A professionally decorated room is never all white-white. You'll see different hues of white and different textures to keep things lively.

There's no shortage of  textures in this mostly white room by Roughan Interior Design.
A faux fur throw contrasts with the sleek white seating, glass shelves, and silver drum shades.  

What's Great About White

The decorators who love white love it because it's a blank slate, a marvelous foundation for what's to come -- all the fascinating furnishings they can pile on, knowing that white is The Great Unifer. You can use white this way when you are staging your home. If your furniture is a collection of thrift store bargains and hand me downs, painting them white is one simple way to make them match.

White is never dated. White will never go out of style. White will work with all other colors. Simplifies things, doesn't it?

All white paints (and many pastels) have a high light reflectance value (LRV), which means simply that they reflect more light than darker paints, and that translates into rooms that look larger and brighter. When you put your home on the market, you can paint your rooms that are too dark or too small with a bright white paint and they will appear lighter and larger.

However, if your home has interesting architectural features, use a gray-white paint to finish your walls and trim because gray-white paints (like Sherwin Williams Lattice or Moderne White, and Benjamin Moore's Paper White) cast shadows to emphasize the details built into a room. Grays eat up light instead of bouncing it back. Bounced light makes details disappear.

White works well for home sellers also because it reads as a clean color. White is reassuring to people touring your home. White builds trust the way a doctor or pharmacist's jacket does. Bakeries and ice cream parlours, seafood stores and butcher shops typically have white walls. It's the hygiene thing.

White's also a good home staging color because buyers can't be offended by it. They probably won't say, "Too bad they painted the walls white.We'll have to paint them over before we can move in." More than likely they will say, "Our furniture will work with the wall color.We won't have to paint right away."

Buyers expect an almost sanitized look in bathrooms, so staging a bath with white
towels and toiletries is a natural. Go for a variety of textures and off-whites. 


White decorating accessories are easy to find, both in stores and in nature. 
If you don't have an assortment of white props, paint can change that. Kristen Hutchins Design.


What's the Bad News?

The most common argument I hear against using white for decorating is... well, kids, husbands and dogs. Although I have lived with white walls, white carpeting, white tile flooring, white bed covers, and white painted furniture, I have never lived with white slipcovers. But my friend Kristi has, and she swears that washable white slipcovers are easier to maintain than anyone imagines.

If you think white shows the dirt, compare it to dark colors. Have you ever worn your little black dress to a dinner party where the hostess owned white, long haired dogs? Or tried to maintain a spotless look on dark wood floors?

Unlike dark or brightly colored furniture, white painted furniture seems to eat dust. It's very forgiving. Trust me on this.

The other argument I hear about white decor is that white rooms look antiseptic. That's a possibility, but there are easy solutions to the problem. Soft textures, rustic touches, furnishings with patina, distressed furniture finishes, green plants, or spots of color -- any of these additions will minimize or eliminate the sterility of an all-white room.  

This kitchen 's white has a cool cast. The stainless appliances, the metal countertop
and the black shelves are a perfect fit for cool whites. Photo: Aidan Gray Home.



As you can probably detect, I'm partial to whites in staged homes. I don't suggest installing pure 
white wall-to-wall carpeting in order to market your home better, but I can see the value of injecting 
more white into a decorating plan, and possibly staging one bedroom as a white-on-white, show-
stopper retreat. Yummy! 

There are times when an all-white color scheme just isn't right. An historic home like a Craftsman or 
a Victorian begs for colors appropriate to the style. A cookie cutter condo or new starter home might 
look more interesting with some distinctive color on the walls. You'll be the judge. But don't be afraid
of white!

Staging a home around a white palette is very effective. And it's easy. You can find more easy tips
and tutorials in my $5 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar.
You can download it now and start staging today. 



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