One could argue that the chicest new color in home interiors is in fact not new, nor is it a color at all: It’s white, and it’s white hot. In fact, shades of white were chosen as the color of the year for 2016 by the color trend forecasters of two paint industry powerhouses: Sherwin Williams, which selected Alabaster — described by the company’s director of color marketing, Jackie Jordan, as having “a beautiful but understated neutral warmth that lends itself to so many decorating styles” — and Benjamin Moore, which chose Simply White (the name says it all).
White’s neutral versatility has long made it a mainstay in home interiors. But what’s elevating white from a classic backdrop to center stage this year is a combination of cultural forces. The first is fashion: Whites are a natural progression from recent color trends, allowing for effortless updates that complement what’s already in the home. “I think whites work with the trend of last year with the grays and blues,” says Abby Stein of Abby Suzanne Interiors in Dix Hills. “And it plays really well with the Pantone colors of the year,” which are Rose Quartz, a mineral pink, and Serenity, a tranquil blue.
And some see it as a reflection of the times. When so much of the news is dark and unsettling, people want the home to be a place of brightness and peace, says Carmela Acerra Posillico of AMI Design in Huntington. “It’s nice to be able to have a color that represents tranquillity and a sanctuary,” she says.
Designers offer these tips for incorporating shades of white into your home interior.
Dix Hills designer Abby Stein says she likes to layer whites to create a space that feels simultaneously established yet fresh. In this Upper Brookville bath, contrasting accents and rustic touches play off the different shades of white to create a farm country bath.Photo Credit: Abby Stein/John Bessler
“Look at the white you choose at all different times of day,” says Annette Jaffe of MSM Interiors in Port Washington. “Natural light moves and changes with the day and with the season.”
If you have furnishings that are on the warm side of the spectrum, such as browns, beige, red, yellow and orange, look for creamy or buttery whites, says Jordan. “Cool whites work well with gray, blue, aqua and violet, and usually have undertones in those color families.”
Layer shades and textures
“The trick of decorating with white is to use different textures and hues of white, so it can come off clean and modern and also cozy and chic,” says Quogue designer Amy Hill. “Mix those together, and that will give you a more comfortable feel, and not such a sterile feel.”
Add a little shine
Interior designer Rachel Florez, of Vintage Interior Design,used a custom built black and white vanity, with oak stained black, with the black, white and gray Corian marble mosaic tile floor.Photo Credit: Heather Walsh
“I’ll use a lacquer finish, or something glass or reflective. I try to use things that are going to be reflective within that space,” says Hill. “It just kind of opens up the space, and yet gives it dimension at the same time, so it’s not just a flat space and it makes it more inviting.”
Read on to learn how the pros designed with white in these Long Island homes.
Going all-white in this Southampton living room wasn’t so much a single decision as an evolution that began with the architectural features, says designer Amy Hill. Once she and the homeowner stood in the room, taking in the bright, light feeling created by the white fireplace Hill designed, the white walls and the white-stained floors, the choice was made.
“Using different hues of white and the reflective elements — the glass table, the mirrors — you can see it just brings dimension to the space and makes it more inviting,” says Hill. Rougher touches such as pieces of driftwood showcased in two lightboxes, and the whitewashed wood of the coffee table, offset the smooth surfaces while creating a visual link to nature.
While tradition would have white serve as a backdrop on which to add pops of color, Bellmore designer Rachel Florez of Vintage Interior Design, Inc. flipped the script in this Old Westbury playroom, with a mod-style white game table and chairs serving as the pop, atop a colorful background, the contemporary rug.Photo Credit: Heather Walsh
Playful rec room
While tradition would have white serve as a backdrop on which to add pops of color, Bellmore designer Rachel Florez of Vintage Interior Design Inc. flipped the script in this Old Westbury playroom, with a mod-style white game table and chairs serving as the pop, atop a colorful background, the contemporary rug. “The curves of the chairs contrast the geometric pattern of the carpet and TV wall,” says Florez.
The white chairs are formed plastic with black seat cushions; the table has a white lacquered round surface with a tapered base. “I chose them because of their sleek style and playful curves,” Florez says. “In addition, they are very practical for the space; they are easy to clean, the ergonomic shape is comfortable, and the swivel allows them to stay where they’re placed next to the table.”
Dix Hills designer Abby Stein likes to layer whites to create a space that feels simultaneously established yet fresh. “It’s not an instant room — it looks created over time,” she says. In this Upper Brookville bath, contrasting accents and charming rustic touches play off the different shades of white to create “a timeless farm country bath,” Stein says.
Interior designer Rachel Florez, of Vintage Interior Design, Inc. uses a the color white to accent the décor in the bedroom of this Old Westbury home.Photo Credit: Heather Walsh
Instead of painting the moldings white, Stein chose Sag Harbor Grey. “It just makes the white pop a bit, and adds a little more character to the space. The walls are Simply White, another favorite. It’s a crisp, clean white. To add warmth, the wainscoting was painted Timid White, which is a creamy white.”
“We went with one-inch white matte hexagonal tiles in the floor . . . and every fourth tile, there’s a black tile popped in. It created a pattern that anchored that space.” Black accents, such as the trim on the light fixtures, the monogramming on the towels, and the butterfly artwork complete the look.
“I think what’s great about using white is that the room becomes a sanctuary,” says Carmela Acerra Posillico of AMI Design in Huntington. “It’s relaxing, almost spalike. It just creates tranquillity in the space. . . . This is the ultimate relaxing type of bedroom.”
That’s especially true when white becomes the backdrop to a gorgeous water view, like the one visible from the window of this Southampton bedroom. “The beautiful blue water is almost like a painting in the room,” she says.
In the entertainment room of this Old Westbury home, interior designer Rachel Florez, of Vintage Interior Design used a white mod lacquered table, with a round tapered base, in front of a custom built three-dimensional white panel that divides the rooms while adding a place for a large television.Photo Credit: Heather Walsh
But here, white is more than just a blank canvas — Poscillico brought in tons of visual interest with textures such as starburst fabric on the headboard, the shag rug, the rock fireplace and the detailing of the wood cabinetry, and by varying the shades of white. “Mixing the grayer white with the taupe white, they all work really well together. Even though it’s one color, it’s really many colors.”
Annette Jaffe wanted to honor this Sands Point home’s early 20th century roots while giving the kitchen a 21st century makeover. “It was an older home from the 1920s, and we wanted it to feel original,” Jaffe says. White cabinetry made perfect sense in that context, she says. “To harken back to the original period of the house, kitchens were always white. The concept of having a colored kitchen is relatively recent. They were wood and then they were white.”
Thanks to the versatility of white, updated pieces look right at home in the classic setting. “It has a very modern faucet, modern hood, full stainless panel fridge, yet there is a quality to the cabinets that feels very, very authentic.”
She made sure the white surfaces were easy to clean — the countertops are white quartz; the chairs are slipcovered. “It looks like you couldn’t get it dirty but you can, it’s going to clean very easily. There’s something very sparkling and fresh about the room.”
Interior designer Rachel Florez, of Vintage Interior Design, Inc. uses the color white to accent the décor in the interior of this Old Westbury home.Photo Credit: Heather Walsh
The architecture speaks for itself in this striking Syosset foyer by John Cristando, who used custom nine-foot-high panels to emphasize the soaring height of the entryway and lead the eye all the way up the wall. White moldings frame a gray ceiling panel, reflecting the gray tones in the white Carrara porcelain floor.
“All the moldings were done in semi-gloss white, and all the inside panels were done in a flat white to make the molding pop out a little bit more and give it some substance,” says Cristando. “I wanted the molding to be the thing, the excitement,” he says.
Cristando accessorized sparingly — for now, a single grouping of vibrant blue vases is the only color in the room. “One season you can do beautiful blue vases, the next season you might do red. . . . That will change the whole feel of the foyer when you walk in.”
Cozy family room
"The design goal was a contemporary, playful entertainment room for the kids and family to relax and have fun," says interior designer Rachel Florez, of Vintage Interior Design, Inc. of the white-accented entertainment room of this Old Westbury home.Photo Credit: Heather Walsh
Abby Stein of Abby Suzanne Interiors in Dix Hills designed this room in Upper Brookville as a space for her own family to come together and relax. “We’re a family, with children and dogs, and I wanted to use white in a warm way,” says Stein. “A lot of people tend to shy away from white when they have young children. With slipcovers, I take the covers off and throw them in my washing machine — it’s so simple and easy — then throw it back on and it looks brand new.”
To create this layered look, she used a variety of fabrics, shades and textures. The sofa is white denim, and the two chairs flanking the table are white linen swivel chairs. A cream and gray rug anchors the space, and velvet green pillows give the eye a resting place.