Updating the South One Space at a TimeUpdating the South One Space at a Time

Are We Psychotic Over Our Love for White?

October 24, 2019

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White is everywhere. White cabinets, white countertops, white paint colors, fabrics, and tile.  We have a love affair with all things white and it does not seem to be going anywhere any time soon.

The Psychology of Color

Colors mean things. At least this is what is taught in color theory class in design school. Yes, I am digging deep and going way back for this one. 

Color psychology teaches us that color has an effect on people. Humans are drawn to certain colors for a variety of reasons. Some are physical reasons, emotional, cultural and spiritual reasons. It's a fascinating science and interesting study.

Color psychology is most obvious in advertising. To simplify the point, it's a great industry to pick on. For instance, the banking industry will often use blue which represents trust. Financial  companies often go with green which is calming and reminds us of, you guessed it, money! Fast food companies will use orange and red which is said to stimulate appetite. They want you to buy the supersized fries right? Creatives and spirituals are drawn to purple. These are a few examples and an interesting study if you're up for it!

White is defined as the absence of color. So what does that say about white? I returned to my design school  text book. “People with certain mental illnesses--- particularly schizophrenia-- show a preference for non chromatic, neutral colors (white, black, brown, gray) while “normal” people and manic depressants generally prefer chromatic hues.” Well then, call me crazy because I love my whites! Truthfully I have never seen a color I do not love if properly used!

White Is NOT  Really White

All of the swatches above have "white" in their name from Benjamin Moore!

In the world of interior design true, stark white is not used as much as you may think. Rather the “whites” seen in most finishes or fabrics are the very lightest values of primary, (Red-Yellow-Blue) and secondary (Orange-Green-Violet) colors. This means unless you are very good at reading color, whites can be really tricky! Especially when working with the very lightest values of a color. These base colors are called undertones. Undertones can be difficult for some people to see and can make or break a good design. 

Whites are influenced by the color of light and other colors that may surround them. I had former client that insisted her room looked too blue. Located just outside the door was a large swimming pool. It was a sunny day so I closed the drapes, problem solved. The pool was reflecting blue onto her lovely white walls. Consideration needs to be taken if you have a lot of trees outside or if you have warm or cool lighting. All of these factors will react with your whites.

But is White Still In Style?

As an interior designer and kitchen and bath specialist,  this is my most asked question. Being in a coastal community, people love their whites! White is our best neutral and is timeless. Sure, the popularity of certain colors and finishes sometimes dominates the industry for awhile but these are design trends. We always come back to white.

I will confess right now that over 80 percent of my new cabinet installations over the past several years have been white. Even though design trends are going towards muted wood finishes again and also colors such as grey, black, blue and even greens, people still want their whites!

I am also seeing many clients shy away from wall color in favor of a neutral white. White walls show artwork off in a big way. White walls also bring light into a space and work well with a variety of interior styles.

 No where is it more important to select the correct undertones of your whites than with wall color. A small paint chip in hand can take on a whole new life when you actually get the color on the wall. Selecting the proper white for wall color can be one of the trickiest decisions you will make. If you are not well versed in color I would recommend the help of a pro so you are not disappointed! No one likes to paint twice, right?

With the creation of performance fabrics such as Crypton and Revolution even white upholstery is no longer for adults only. These fabrics are so amazing spills bead up on them and you no longer need to worry about your sofa looking shabby after a few parties and a couple of toddlers!

So in answer to the original question, no we are not crazy over white. It’s a wonderful color to use in your home. Light, fresh and crisp and always in style! This especially holds true if you are in a coastal region. Whatever your personal style there is a perfect white for your decor!


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