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White Rooms


All the homes of my childhood had white walls which wasn’t because we were too lazy to paint or couldn’t agree on a colour; white walls are a common, wanted thing in Scandinavia like coffee at 10PM. White reflects light and makes everything seem brighter which is a plus for the long, dark days that winter brings. It also shows off artwork and food the best – and Danes area always about design and presentation.

I was in-love with white walls until my mid-teens when I began to experiment with wall colour. Both my mum and I went through some strange phase where she painted the dining room a two-toned jewel colour that scared everyone but us and my room had a dramatic burgundy shade with border. Then, later on, I was all about floral wall paper because when I lived in England the home had this all over with matching curtains and chaise. It was incredible (if you see the movie Atonement, you’ll understand exactly).

Being a vagabond and drifting from place to place I gave up on caring about white walls or painted, wallpaper or plain. I wasn’t living for decor, I was just living out of a suitcase! When I immigrated to America a few years ago, Seattle caught me off guard with it’s very cold, uncosy type days. I began to really think about home because I ended up spending so much time inside (and even more once I began to work for myself). So paint came out and every room received colour (a striking red, a cosy orange, a calming grey, a rich green).

However, when I moved to the beach town of Santa Monica California – home of Rachel Ashwell and her first Shabby Chic store – the rich, dark colours of the Pacific Northwest didn’t seem appropriate with the cool, easy going town. So I kept the white walls, got more white furniture, and loved the bright, breezy rooms I was creating.

It wasn’t until my current flat when my mum came to visit did she remark how Scandinavian it was. I was thinking it was very French Country meets Shabby Chic meets LA. But then I saw the white walls, the artwork and books and realised I’d come full circle.

I’m taking on a cottage in a seaside town for January and am in-love with the space and the view. What I’m not in-love with is the colour of the walls – that “safe” taupey beige everyone tells you to paint a home for it to be the most appealing.

It doesn’t appeal to me and in fact, makes some of the rooms seem darker than they are instead of the light, ocean cottage style in which they sit.

So yes, I am going to paint my walls white. This would have seemed ridiculous to me awhile ago but now I just can’t imagine not having white walls (and when I look at Holly’s White Collection on Flickr, I want them even more).

But what white? I know it has to be eco-friendly paint (low VOC) but the colour, flat, glossy, that I don’t know.

If you do, I’d love some help!



  1. December 11, 2007 / 7:34 PM

    My personal favorite white is Super White by Benjamin Moore but I have not yet matched that same white to a low-VOC paint yet, although BM may be able to match in their Affinity colors (which are low-VOC I think). Super White is crisp and works well with both cool and warm accents.

  2. December 11, 2007 / 7:54 PM

    While glossy reflects the most light, I prefer and love the flat whites that almost look and feel like chalk or pastels. Especially for a scandinavian feel…

  3. December 11, 2007 / 11:44 PM

    White walls rule. I hear about BMoore “Decorator White” all the time. I like this page about the different kinds of undertones in white paints:

  4. LisaNo Gravatar
    December 12, 2007 / 11:21 PM

    My first two apartments both had starkly painted white walls, and even though I longed for the freedom to paint whatever color I wanted, they had so much character that I could imagine I was living in a quirky Parisian flat instead of dreary Tacoma. (There are pictures here if you’re interested:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/luludynamite/sets/555593/ )

    Then my last apartment was the incredibly boring taupey beige you referred to, which initially excited me (since it wasn’t white) but soon came to feel like I was living in a lodge. Now I’m in a house with the freedom to paint whatever color I want for the first time in my life, and all I can think to use is…white. At first I felt pretty sheepish about it, especially after receiving flack from friends and family for being too “safe”, but I miss the versatility and lightness having white walls afforded.

    I tried finding some of the low-VOC ‘Mystic’ paint advertised in Martha Stewart magazines, but haven’t had much luck, so I look forward to reading about what you find.

  5. December 13, 2007 / 5:54 PM

    I’m smitten with Yolo’s whites. I’ve used Air 01, Air 02,and Air 03 in flat, eggshell, and semi-gloss in two houses now, and for being a no-VOC paint, it has held up very well, even on kitchen cabinets. The colors on Yolo’s website are not very accurate, so I would suggest looking for a store in your area that carries the brand or ordering samples.


    To see two shades in my former kitchen (with north facing light): http://www.foldedspace.org/cornertable/2007/05/19/already-missing-my-kitchen/

  6. ChristineNo Gravatar
    December 15, 2007 / 3:14 PM

    Hi – I don’t know if you can get Devine Paints in Soutern California but they meet the low VOC requirements. They have 3 pretty decent whites – icing, whip or pique. BM Aura collection doesn’t have a good white.

    Good luck