Sunday, April 29, 2012

On White.

I have recently created some Colour Ideabooks in my Houzz profile, to collect beautiful images gathered by Colour families. Today I'll begin showcasing White.

Traditionally used in neutral colour schemes, the use of whites was a predominant trend  in the 20 th. Century, between the 50's and the 70's. Considered by some to represent purity and cleanliness  and thought to be an ideal background to colourful decorating items and effects by many Interior Designers, Colour Expert Frank Mahnke devoted a chapter to White in his book "Color and Light in man-made Environment". The Chapter's title was "The Case Against White". There Mahnke argues why, "on a psychological basis, white is sterile" and is not recommended in Hospitals and Old-age Institutions. It seems that we humans need sensory variety in our homes and this can be introduced with the help of colour and the use of texture and patterns (wallpapers, textiles). On the contrary, the predominance of white can become boring and tedious in the end.

There are other issues with white: in contrast with bold colours, it can lead to eye strain, as it requires  "extreme adaptative changes from light to dark".

Being highly light reflectant, too bright whites can cause a distressing glare. This is why, according to Mahnke, white should not be used as a predominant colour in Interiors:

On the other hand, Design Writer Linda O'Keefe has devoted a book to White in Design. There she states that "White has the ability to pull everything together in a way that is kind of seductive". A timeless colour, it endures Seasons and Trend changes and never dates. As she says "all begins and ends with white"...

What do you think on this Colour Trend?
And if I can help you in some way, please contact me!

Isabel de Yzaguirre,
La Colorista.


  1. Isabel, I used to strongly not like all white rooms, maybe because of the thought to keep it as crisp as day one? I do think it is timeless and the many soft variations can help clients incorporate it into a space without going beige or gray for neutral. Great post!

    1. Hi, Jill: thank you for reading and posting coment!!!

      I confess we have had too much white here for many years and I'm eager for colour, but I admit white is timeless, specially in kitchens and bathrooms, also in vacation locations.

      I try to incorporate some knowledge in my posts, as I mean to translate them into Spanish and Catalan. There are some factors studied by Franck Mahnke that are not well know here...

  2. I live in a part of N. America where the shelter magazines plug white rooms relentlessly...Toronto, Canada.
    When I work with my clients to develope a colour palette 99% of them want a WARM feeling. White is a COOL colour, so where is the solution? On the rare occasion that I do a white environment, I certainly look for the warmest whites I can find.
    Farrow & Ball and Benjamin Moore both have a great selection of whites. Canada's Para Paints 'Wild Phlox' is....GORGEOUS!'

  3. Hi, Sylvia:

    this is the same here. We have been under the Bauhaus and Italian Design influence so many years! In spite of being in Spain -which explains white in exterior walls- I love colour and want to help people LOVE it! I will look for this white you mention!

    I understand your clients want a warm feeling, it's so natural!

  4. Stunning pictures, lovely blog. Actually I love using white ironically because I love colour so much. White allows me to introduce lots of coloured accessories and coloured artwork.

    1. Is white the Undefined Colour to make other colours pop? Welcome, Undefined Space.