in defence of white paint

all white paint

Dreams really can come true. I know this, because Tony has finished painting our whole house white, and it’s every bit as lovely as I’d planned.

White walls, white ceilings, white skirting boards and doors. Gone are the greens and the beiges and bakedbean-coloured 70s pine; the bees and the Winnie the Pooh murals and three-tone stars, and in their place, clean, pristine white.

I love white paint so much that a friend once wryly called me a white supremacist. (Is that funny, or just outrageously offensive? I can’t tell.)

My love affair with white paint started in my late teens, when I found an interiors article about a family in an ancient cottage somewhere in the English countryside. With a small budget, the woman, the mother, had bought stacks of cheap, mismatched secondhand furniture and painted everything plain white. The floors and walls were white too, and when she wanted to introduce colour or change things around, she added different coloured curtains & accessories on the cheap.

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It worked perfectly: everything fit, and their low ceilings and tiny leaded windows were balanced out by the extra lightness. I still have a picture from the article somewhere, though sadly containing no details as to the identity of the owner.  I’d dearly love to google her now.

In immediate response, I painted my dark blue childhood bedroom stark white, sanded my floorboards, and hung white voile curtains. & I never looked back.

white paint interiors

When I moved into R’s dubiously decorated red brick Victorian terrace, I repeated my recipe for success. By the time we came to sell it, to move here, it was so light and airy that it triggered a bidding war from buyers, and sold for significantly over its asking price.

Still, I’ve noticed some people have a weird judgemental urge when it comes to an all-white home. Paint a wall burgundy or paper a  ‘feature wall’ in purple brocade above your fireplace & nobody squeaks, but commit wholeheartedly to a Scandinavian style, and people feel inclined to openly opine at you. It’s weird, and unwelcome. If you’re one of those people, please stop it now.

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Anyway, in response to the naysayers, here is my defence. 

Ten reasons I love white paint

  1. It’s cheap. Brilliant White is available in every DIY store in giant vats at budget prices. Perfect for when you buy a three-story house full of random children’s character tableaux.
  2. It always matches. Two tins from two brands? No problem. White is white! The same cannot be said for red, or blue, or even off-white shades. Even different batches of the same shade can vary.
  3. It reflects light. It’s no coincidence  that white interiors are the norm in so many Scandinavian countries – the long dark winter months mean people want to maximise the light that comes into their homes. White reflects the full spectrum of light right back at you. More light = increased feel-good hormones and better instagram photos. Win win.
  4. It’s bleachable. Anyone that says white paint isn’t practical for families has clearly never used Cillit Bang to remove red wine, crayon and coffee stains from ordinary white emulsioned wall. I’d be very nervous about trying that on coloured paint. Also? Super easy to touch up – because #2.
  5. It’s calming. Colour definitely affects our mood – though science is still tossing up how much of this is innate, how much is learned. For me, white is the colour of calm: of pristine spa days, of imagined heavens and cloud naps, of uncluttered, unbusy space. I do my best thinking, sleeping and relaxing in a bright white space.
  6. It’s a blank canvas. Simple white decor shows off your favourite possessions and furniture perfectly, with a simple neutral backdrop. It’s the perfect surround to favourite prints, paintings and art.
  7. It goes with everything. Intensely colourful walls require extra effort to create a stylish interiors – white is always a no brainer, and I like lazy.
  8. It encourages minimalism. White paint might be where minimalism as a style choice and minimalism as a movement meet: when your decor is simple and clean, you suddenly see your clutter all the more clearly. Perhaps it’s all that extra light bouncing around?
  9. It’s very forgiving. All white everything means you don’t need to be all that careful when painting window frames against walls, or where your skirting board joins. While this is technically true of painting universally with any single colour, it’s usually difficult to commit to one colour so strongly without venturing into dodgy terrority, e.g. the purple house.
  10. It’s stylish. I defy anybody to look at my white interiors Pinterest board and say otherwise. White gets more stylish the more you commit to it, in fact! All white errrthang! WHITE WHITE WHITE!

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photo credits: Abbie Melle

Have I convinced you yet? Can you shed any light on the mysterious motivations of the anti-white-paint brigade?


All the lovely photos in this post were taken by Abbie Melle, who swapped a stay here for photos & lovely Aussie goodies. More on our Stay project here.

  • I dream of the day that I own a house and can paint the whole thing white from top to bottom. So easy. So chic. Your home is beautiful!

    • Yes! So easy, so chic. I should have just written that, as it says it all <3. Hope your dream comes true soon! x

  • I had already fallen in love with your blog – but now I love it even more! I too am a ‘white supremacist’ (that made me laugh) so I can definitely relate! Our entire house is white too (we even re-tiled our kitchen in white this year) – your home is absolutely stunning! xx

    • Oh Esther, I think we might be long lost sisters! πŸ˜€ So glad to find my shared white paint supremacists here online – white tiling our downstairs bathroom is next on my list! Thank you so much xxx

  • Atβ„–67 Concept Store

    This is one of my favourite posts of yours dear Sara.
    I spent the past 3 months painting our little cottage white top to bottom, and so I can relate wholeheartedly. oh, and we stained the floors white too. It took 4-5 coats of white paint and 12 weeks of highs and meltdowns to cover the DARK navy, the disturbing reds and the depressing greens. It’s liberating and invigorating. I’m your fellow white (walls) supremacist, I’m ecstatic to realise I’m not alone and I couldn’t put together a better manifesto.
    If in doubt, paint it white.

    • Yay! White wall supremacists unite! Dark navy, oh my goodness! I can appreciate it in theory, but the idea of living with it on my walls just feels too dark and oppressive. I bet your space feels twice as big and bright now you’ve simplified it all! x
      If in doubt paint it white is one of my original ‘notes for my daughter’ bits of advice. Great minds πŸ˜€ x

  • Rachael Smith

    Love it! And totally agree! We are in the process of moving into our forever home (oh the stress!! But that’s a different story!) but the whole house has been painted white and I love it. People keep saying oh that’s great you can add colour when you’re ready then, and I just smile and nod knowing full well it’s staying white forever!!

    • hooray! I promise, all that nightmare stress and hellish fear will be forgotten once you get your keys and close the door behind you. We were there only a year ago!
      Smiling about your response to the colour – that’s exactly what people say to me, and I do just the same. In the end, even Tony the decorator agreed it had transformed everywhere and was quite sold on the all-white idea… πŸ˜€ x

  • I just finished painting my house white! I do have pops of colour in the form of feature walls in the bedrooms and my kitchen is now a lovely yellow, but everything else is white! I love how bright and fresh everything feels. You have no idea how happy I was to see the dreaded Magnolia go. What is with that colour? LOL it’s awful!

  • katyatapartmentapothecary

    Yes! White everything, always xx

  • Rachelle

    Love love love white along with wood and vintage florals tis a perfect combination x

    • Yes! A match made in heaven – if heaven made three way matches. Which they probably don’t… ? xx

  • I can’t help but feel like you’re maybe fibbing a bit… it’s white, sure, but is it BRILLIANT white? (Really?)

    I had a house covered in Brilliant White and it was miserable, seriously the pits. Couldn’t tell you why but it was just hospital stark I suppose.

    Something like Farrow and Ball “Blackened” or “Strong White” I could probably get on with happily now (having passed through my Abigal Ahern styled phase and wanting to simplify) and look similar to the colours you have in the images above… shed some light (ha!) is it really pure brilliant white and some trick of sunshine in your lovely home that makes the cheapest of paints look beautiful or is it a shade of white?

    Also, that clock = stunner. Just lovely.

    • No fibs! I asked for Brilliant White & Tony went off and bought it, so unless he secretly bought F&B & only charged me for B&Q, I’m pretty sure it’s the real deal! ?
      Perhaps it’s the sunshine, or the warmth of the pine floors and furniture? Or perhaps it’s the filter Abbie used! You’ll have to come and judge for yourself over a bottle of vino.
      The clock is R’s family heirloom. It doesn’t work any more, but occasionally starts chiming spookily to itself. Love it. x

      • A-mazing! I think our house gets too much light for brilliant white is the issue, it was dazzlingly headache bright but cold as the heat had all been reflected out, bit counter productive really and I’ll take dull and warm I think. One day I will find a house that is the perfect balance of everything, and then I will wake up.

        Vino sounds good. Lets sort a date. x

  • your house is lovely, you have a great taste. i too like white walls. the type of white that isn’t really white. i live in Norway. scandinavian “white” is seldom really white. It is variuos shades of creamy. one of the most sold color of paint i believe was something called “eggwhite” which is really light creamy color. if we’d paint walls white here, it will look purple-ish or blue-ish in the greyish light we usually have here due to clouds and rain. white looks also very cold and this is not the effect we’d love to in these parts of the world. scandinavian white is variuos shades of warm creamy colors with yellow tint to balance out the coldness and grey light.

    • Thank you Kristina! This is really interesting, as it’s something I’ve googled more times than I can say, & never really found an answer before. It makes sense though, because there really is a differently quality and tone to the light over where you are – totally see what you mean about purple/blue tinges, and needing something warmer.
      At our old place we had some things in an off white shade called ‘timeless’, and brought some items painted in this to the new house, but they look yellow and nicotine-stained next to the new white paint. I think the light here in the hills is quite different to in the city! S xx

  • xantheberkeley

    Even for a colour lover like myself, we have mostly all white walls – it’s the best canvas. If the floorboards and carpets were mine, they would be white too.
    Your home is delightful! xxx

    • Yay! I totally agree! It makes for easier indoor photos too, for sure! πŸ˜‰ Thanks Xanthe. Need to get you up here at some point for our little film project! x

  • Lou | Littlegreenshed

    gah! I need to come and stay! Perhaps we need to chat me you and camilla re a sheffield sisterhood!

  • Many a time we have tried to stray into colour and we always come back (after wasting a few testers) and white out everything – for all 10 of these reasons LOVE IT too! A white office floor is the latest addition! πŸ™‚

  • I’m a huge white fan too. We painted our last house entirely white and I’m just building up the strength to paint this one too, for all the reasons you mention πŸ™‚ The icing on the cake would be to have white floors – I *will* make this happen one day. In the meantime, I’ll keep pinning πŸ™‚

  • Carole Rennison

    Very inspiring ! … I’m going to start with the kitchen!

  • Sue

    My first house was a workers cottage in Saltaire and I painted all the walls in brilliant white. It was cheap and it made the place feel clean and bright – the windows weren’t huge. I remember someone saying that they couldn’t do that paint the house white as it was too clinical until they came in to my little cottage – I brought the colours in via the furnishings. I ventured in to a yellow once … but not for long and went back to brilliant white.

  • I am aaaall about the white look. I bought special light reflecting white paint (sure, that’s a thing – or at least the marketing people made me *think* it’s a thing) for our teeny tiny flat and it’s brilliant. Everything feels bigger and cleaner and brighter. It’s like white magic.

    • What? Special light reflecting paint?! I must call Tony back and repaint the house immediately. I don’t care if it’s real or not, I must have it. White magic! Genius. I’m stealing that in future, if you don’t mind xx

      • Steal away. All the world should have light reflecting paint. And cake.

  • Celia

    I’m not anti-white and your styling looks so beautiful in your photos. I just can’t see me living in a white environment. Is it cheeky to hope that Orla insists that her room is painted pink and purple and covers the walls with cheesy film posters?

  • You didn’t need to convince me. This is completely our plan with the decor in the house we are in the middle of buying πŸ™‚ white white white with the colour in the to rooms coming from art, fabrics, rugs etc. I’m sooo excited as we live in quite dull rented accommodation right now with magnolia walls..yuk!

  • We’ve been glaring at our grey living room walls since reading this…

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