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!