how to live in a white house

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No, not a handy guide for the new orange leader of the free world – though Lord knows he could probably use it. 

One of the most common questions I get about my interiors, other than ‘where is your bed from?’ (It was custom-built in the house before we bought it, I’m afraid. I just painted it white), is ‘how do you manage with Orla??’. When people find out we have pets (cats, dogs, house chickens, etc) they are even more incredulous. But it’s really honestly super easy!

White interiors are not as difficult to keep clean as you might think. & while toddlers are, I know, a sticky-jammy-chocolate-smeared liability, that doesn’t mean your house has to be.

Keeping a white home clean and bright

Toddler training. Perhaps training is a little strong – I’ve never been a Gina Ford type of mother, and certainly wouldn’t start now – but kids normalise what they see and grow up with. If you’ve already got a gaggle of six boisterous boys, I can’t help you – but if you have white interiors before the kids come along, you’ll find you automatically develop patterns and habits that work for both. Things like only feeding her white food setting rules about where we eat, letting her see us clean off the accidental paint splashes on the walls, being consistent about how much mess is ok. Orla’s never tried to colour in the walls or paint jam on the sofa, but she has painted & coloured the scruffy pine kitchen tabletop, & we’ve never once needed to explain about the difference. Obviously all kids are different, of course. It’s possible I just got quite lucky on this.

Scotchguard. The sofa, the curtains, the rugs, the cat. Scotchguard ALL OF THE THINGS. Hurrah!

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You’re cleaner than you think. Unless you generally leave Nutella on the sofa cushions and mud on the floors indefinitely (& if you do, I aint judging!), then you probably already live clean enough for a white house. Yes, these messes are more noticable against a white interior, but that only means you might do that cleaning a little sooner than you would have done. Plus…

White is the easiest thing to clean! I don’t know why it has this reputation for being a nightmare because white = bleach! I regularly bleach the walls, the cotton sofa covers, the towels, the floorboards, the curtains, the door frames. Add bleach to the pad of the steam mop and make your floors shiny and new! By contrast I find colourful stuff a nightmare, How do you get red wine off a blue wall? How do you get coffee stains out of a multicoloured duvet cover? How do you live without bleach?!

Daylight. The biggest cause of yellowing of white paint is darkness. When I first moved in with R to his Victorian terraced house in Manchester we filled a skip with his ex’s abandoned clutter. We’d move a book or a headless china doll, and find it’s shadow left in a darker tone of white. I immediately stripped away all the old blinds and curtains and let the daylight pour in, and the yellowing white paint brightened up again in a matter of days. Every time we moved a piece of furniture or clutter we’d uncover another patch, and let the sun work its magic. This principle holds true even without the yellow to prove it. Sunlight bleaches. It automatically cleans your white home!

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Still not sold? Check out my post in defence of white paint, aka why I need to live in a bright, sunny space to feel good.
And if you’re the opposite and embrace colour in your home, I’d love to hear about the brilliant advantages of that. Good for you, not for me, amirite? I love our magic kaleidoscope world.

Could you or do you live in a white space? Or is it your idea of hell? Tell me in the comments!

PS – These photos are taken from the shoot that accompany’s my article in the current issue of Open House, photographed by Yanina Shevchenko. Buy it here!

  • Paula Solar

    I want to live in a white house. I can’t live on my own at the moment because I can’t afford it. So I live in a house that isn’t mine. My opinion isn’t taken into account (please never do that to Orla, it feels like you don’t matter and that’s awful) so I have no choice, I can change the decoration of my room but that’s it.

    My walls are yellow… but not a mild yellow, no, a bright almost acid one. And the corridor is green, again almost acid. And it drives me crazy, I hate it more than I can’t tell for it makes me anxious. But one day I swear I will live in a white home, even if the outside is awfully grey and black due to traffic and smoke. Every time you show us a photo of a little corner of your home I think “one day”…

    BTW me and my siblings were never the kind of wall painters children. We were messy enough, but that and touching the electric plugs was something we learnt not to do under any circumstance. I hope Orla isn’t the painter kind, paint on paper little darling! express yourself freely!

    xxxx

  • Fi Cooper

    We are the complete opposite! Our house is ALL THE COLOURS; blue and grey in the ‘music room’ (sounds posh is really storage space for guitars, drum-kit and accordions), dusky pink sitting room, bright blue dining room, yellow kitchen, blue/green hallway, scarlet and cream landing, lilac spare room (the small boy’s room is constantly in flux, he’s after ‘Hogwarts’ for his next theme). It’s a 1960s house – I think we get away with it as the rooms are big enough to take it, and we’re lucky to have lots of outside space with *huge* windows so it’s never gloomy. The only space which is not entirely in colour is our bedroom, just painted a calm palest grey, with new grey wardrobes (but were keeping the red curtains). What I can’t cope with is patterned wallpaper, and I’d have all the carpets out if I could get away with it…

  • white white white all the way! There are so many shades of white… and a room layered with white and natural tones is the best!

  • My husband and I recently moved into a house that is all painted white inside, and I love it! My sister-in-law, when seeing the house, told me the first day “I love to paint, just let me know if you want help!” And I had to tell her, actually, I love the white walls!

    It’s just so simple and clean, and as a clutter-hater, I find that it adds more breathe to the room and subconsciously encourages me to keep things tidy.

  • Hannah Straughan

    Great post Sara. I am a white convert, but I have stretched to a bit of grey in the house, too πŸ˜† One pretty major question though – WHY did R’s ex have a headless china doll? You threw that in casually?! 😱

  • Oh Sara you have sold it to me solely on the cleaning front! I adore your home <3

    Peta

    http://www.pe-ta.com

  • I genuinely hope you occasionally only feed Orla white food……but yes, I totally agree – my home is white and I find it super easy to clean. Bleach, cream bleach…..any type of bleach is my best friend!

  • I’d love to live in a white house- I think they automatically seem much cleaner and, as you say, much easier to clean as you generally don’t have to worry about colour steadfastness!

    http://taradaniella.com/

  • Cariemay

    I don’t think I could ever quite manage without the colour – the cleaning I agree sounds easier but I’d miss the art! On a side note though, I think you could write a genius guide to the orange man for his white house – I wonder how bleach would work on him?!

  • Harp Cottage

    I can only live in a white house.. there’s so much going on in my head that I need the calmness that only a white interior can bring. People have told me I’m daft for also keeping Harp Cottage – a holiday let – white. But like you I can just bung things in the washing machine! The only concession as I do live with two very grubby boys and a water loving very muddy dog and a cat is we now have a charcoal sofa. But that’s also until we have the space for the dog to have her own sofa again! She’s Suluki-cross and can’t entertain the idea that the sofa might not be hers!

  • Mirva

    I do! I mean live in a white house. Our walls are white and/or light grey, are floors are white-washed pine. Our kitchen table has always been white, as had our sofa. Your absolutely right about white being the easiest to clean — I use some pretty heavy (though completely natural) soaps for cleaning the sofa if it does get spilled on, and ad its white, no colour ever comes off the cotton+linen sofa cover when I clean it. Toddler training also helps, as does involving your children in the cleaning process. I couldn’t imagine living in a dark space, especially as it’s so dark here during most of the year. A white home feels so much lighter, like there’s more room to breathe!