White living room ideas – 16 expert design tips for a pure and simple scheme
White living room ideas are timeless – add color and texture with your decorating choices for a sophisticated scheme
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If you think white living room ideas are only reserved for ultra-modern homes, think again. Surprisingly, a white living room scheme will work regardless of your style of home.
Evoking purity and cleanliness alongside confidence and sophistication, white is a wonderfully versatile color for the main room in your home. Our white living room ideas (opens in new tab) will give you all the inspiration and advice you could need when decorating with white.
White living room ideas
This versatile neutral is one of the most popular living room paint ideas (opens in new tab) for interiors, and it is easy to see why.
White offers a blank canvas that illuminates dark spaces and can make even small living rooms (opens in new tab) feel spacious, light and bright.
1. Dress a white living room with neutrals
Avoid a white living room looking too clinical or sterile by decorating with neutrals (opens in new tab). One important aspect to consider when decorating with a white color palette is to bring in as much texture as possible as it creates interest and layers – important factors when strong colors are out of the picture.
Consider using raw materials such as natural wooden elements alongside linens, velvets, sheepskins and chunky knits.
2. Go for a black-and-white living room scheme
A black and white decorating scheme is a brave choice, as it requires careful editing and a strong design eye. White, black and also gray living room ideas (opens in new tab) can risk appearing ‘flat’ if you don’t introduce texture and subtle tonal variety. But put together carefully, they are a great way to add drama and style.
A white living room looks elegant and smart decorated in with black accents, but if you are sticking religiously to a monochromatic living room color scheme (opens in new tab), it's really important to ensure that you add plenty of texture into the room to ensure it feels warm and welcoming.
3. Warm up a white space with texture
Texture in interior design (opens in new tab) is vital, especially if you want to avoid a stark or clinical aesthetic. Quite simply, without texture, a white living room space will fall flat. It's crucial to look at the room as a whole and bring an area together with mixed materials for vibrancy and warmth.
'Texture in interior design is all about creating tactile moments that invite touch,' says Tiffany Leigh of Tiffany Leigh Design (opens in new tab). 'It refers to the feel, appearance or consistency of a surface or material. Textures help to keep a space from feeling flat or one dimensional.'
Here, the addition of rough and coarser textures like reclaimed wood, leather and terracotta have 'visual weight' and create a cozy, rustic aesthetic in this otherwise predominantly white living room.
4. Introduce luxury furniture and classic architecture
White living rooms can work equally well in traditional and modern properties. Here, Katie Harbison of property development and design studio Banda (opens in new tab) achieves an elegant mix of classic design and mid-century modern living room (opens in new tab) inspiration in this scheme.
The white paint on the walls allow the room’s beautiful proportions and original mouldings to sing out. Every piece in the room is individual, but together they create a sense of harmony – thanks to the white walls.
5. Open up a small living room with white paint
If your living room is on the small side, then white painted walls may be your best option color-wise. The shiplap walls in this small, narrow room were painted white to create an airy, open and inviting space.
Long living rooms (opens in new tab) can feel cold and disunited – however, plenty of texture in furnishings, furniture and even wall surfaces and flooring, can make the space feel like a comfy, cozy living room (opens in new tab).
6. Take inspiration from Scandinavia
Inspired by the timber-clad summerhouses of Scandinavia and New England, this relaxed decorating scheme, which echoes the delicate shades of nature, has been designed to blur the boundary between indoors and out.
Keep colors cool, but use lashings of natural textures and raw materials for an authentic look and feel.
7. Paint a dark living room in pure white
If you think pure whites are too stark, think again. They work wonderfully in a dark living room (opens in new tab). But what colors should you pair with this clinical color?
The color wheel (opens in new tab) is your friend when it comes to choosing accompanying shades. For a soothing feel, taupe or olive green living room (opens in new tab) colors are perfect partners. Soft brown and beige living room ideas (opens in new tab) add elegance, while dusky pinks will add subtle vibrancy.
8. Embrace white in a country home
Right now, many interior designers are favoring a scheme where white walls are combined with a white ceiling and wooden elements – the perfect canvas for gallery wall ideas (opens in new tab).
But if you need to add warmth, or want to add personality to your space, using timber or flashes of strong color will bring vitality to the look. Despite the pure white paint color, this country home still exudes warmth and comfort.
9. Use white to highlight architectural features
White is a more complex than most people think. As well as providing a clean neutral background, it’s a great color for highlight unusual or visually striking architectural features. As there are no distractions every choice becomes critical.
Unique color combinations can create either a visual tension or harmony – both are equally beautiful. Neutral living room ideas (opens in new tab) don’t have to be boring.
10. Pair white with vibrant colors
White is the perfect option for color enthusiasts – yes, really. White painted walls provide the ideal canvas for a plethora of vivid colors. Go wild!
Here, a colorful combination of pink and white is an inspired choice. This controversial color pairing can actually form a reliable living room scheme that channels anything from a contemporary to a classical country-house spirit, as long as you find the right tone for the space and the light.
‘Color is the spirit of a room, and provides expressive power to transform a space with your personal voice, whether you’re painting all of your walls, or just one,’ says interior designer Kelly Wearstler (opens in new tab).
11. Add structure with architectural features
If you love decorating with white, then introducing architectural features such as alcove shelf ideas into a living room is a great way to add form, depth and interest without relying on color, as demonstrated in this space by Four Brothers Design + Build (opens in new tab).
'White doesn’t have to be boring or sterile. If you have the right mix of textures, shapes and natural light it can feel cozy and inviting. Here I think the structural coffered ceiling and arches help to ground the room and provide a visual scale which can feel much more comfortable than an empty white box,' says Sondra Zabroske, AIA, Architect + Team Leader at Four Brothers Design + Build.
12. Less is more
To keep white living rooms feeling bright and airy, interior designer Genna Margolis of Shapeside (opens in new tab) channels the less is more philosophy, an approach which works particularly well if you're trying to create a Scandinavian look.
'The best way to brighten up your living room is firstly to use a cool color scheme (whites, gray, light woods, silvery/blue tones) and secondly to remember less is more. You don’t want furniture that is going to fill the entire space. You want pieces that that still leave a lot of room so size of pieces should be a little bit smaller than usual to get the look.'
'For wall décor do not over do it. Again you want to have décor on the wall without over covering the wall space,' adds Genna Margolis.
13. Decorate with art and sculptural pieces
As spaces in frequent use and in which we entertain guests, living and family room ideas make a brilliant place for decorating with art, and keeping the foundation white is a great way to showcase colorful, statement pieces.
'If you have a large sofa with a blank wall behind it, then think about hanging a large landscape artwork as this can add height, depth and a focal point to the room,' suggests Helen Armon-Jones, founder, The Art Buyer (opens in new tab). 'For rooms with very high ceilings, try hanging portrait format works, ideally as a pair or even a triptych. Not only will this draw the eye up, but it'll help to ground the space whilst adding that all-important balance and a sense of scale to the room.'
White living rooms are also wonderful spaces to furnish with sculptural pieces. In this scheme a bespoke Lohja pendant light by Cameron Design House forms a piece of functional art which pops against the white walls, while a curvaceous sofa and shapely 637 Utrecht chairs create sculptural focal points beneath.
'This season we’ve seen a growing trend for oversized fixtures and fittings, particularly pendants and lamps. Statement lighting adds a wow factor and in the case of pendant lights, helps to draw the eye up to create a feeling of space and luxury,' says Helen Pett, design ambassador at Arteriors Home (opens in new tab).
14. Choose a pale sofa
Large sofas can look heavy and dominating if covered in dark fabrics, so if you want to keep a light living room feeling bright and open, consider choosing a pale fabric for upholstery as interior designer Julia Dempster has done in this Pacific Palisades home.
'In this living space it was easy as there was a wealth a light from three large windows which allowed the light to flood into the room,' says Julia Dempster. 'The neutral palette was key in making the area feel larger as the space was not broken up by large contrasting pieces of furniture. The punctuation was an accent of cool pale grey and most of the large bulky furniture items were off white/natural, so soothing to the eye.'
15. Combine different shades of white
If you're planning on having an all-white living room then be sure to combine different tones of white, using a single tone can leave rooms feeling cold and clinical.
'Many people perceive white as the ‘safe option’ because they know it goes with everything. But pure white can be hard to live with, so it is important to introduce shade and tone,' says Simon Temprell, Interior Design manager at Neptune (opens in new tab).
'Study the architecture of the room, particularly the way that the light falls against each wall and ceiling, as this will help you design a creative neutral palette for your room. You can create monochromatic harmony by choosing three shades from the same family or you could add a subtle contrast to energize things.'
16. Choose the right shade of white
There's an enormous array of whites, from bright brilliant whites to warmer shades, plus they will look different depending on the light and orientation of the room, so be sure to take this into account advise when choosing white paint for a living room say the experts at Mylands Paints (opens in new tab).
'South facing rooms with plenty of light can take cooler whites with their undertones of blue or green, like Greenwich Time™ No. 8, but we recommend warmer whites for darker, north-facing rooms. We always advise testing paint choices in situ first to see how they appear in different lights throughout the day,' says director Dominic Myland.
When it came to choosing paint for her own living room, Julia Lindquist, head of brand and marketing at Mylands explains how she wanted 'a simple, calm look,' so opted for Maugham White No.2 – a soft white which 'works well with lots of different colors but feels slightly greyer in the evenings.'
'Some people think that any white is white, but that’s definitely not the case – at Mylands we have so many shades to choose from and the variation of it can make a huge difference to the space depending on the play of the light,’ adds Lindquist.
What color goes with a white living room?
The beauty of white is that it will go with just about anything – and everything.
There are a few things to consider before painting your living room white, which could prove vital in helping you choose which of the many white paints on offer to go for.
A south-facing room gets a lot of natural daylight and can often be bathed in golden sunshine for a lot of the day, which means any underlying warm tones in a white paint – like yellow, red or brown – will be amplified, making a seemingly innocuous pale ivory white suddenly look decidedly yellow once on the walls.
North-facing rooms tend to get a lot less sun throughout the day, so are naturally darker and prone to shadows. This means they can reflect back a greater amount of blue and grey tones, so using a pure white or cool-toned white paint can result in the shade looking a lot darker when it’s on the walls – and potentially a bit dismal.
Is white a good color for a living room?
If you're debating whether a white living room is a good idea, a key selling point is its timeless and versatile nature.
The biggest plus point is that white will act as a blank canvas for elsewhere in the living room, enabling splashes of color to be added, perhaps in the form of a couch or soft furnishings – making it easy to incorporate a mix of materials.
How do you style a white living room?
As interior designers know, a white room painted entirely in one solid shade can look flat and featureless. Instead try combining subtle variations on walls, woodwork, cornicing and ceilings to enhance the proportions of a room. Use the brightest white on the ceiling to give an impression of height, and slightly darker shades to pick out interesting details.
‘Identify which colors you are drawn to, then simply work your way up your chosen palette to find an off white tone with a hint of your chosen shade,’ advises Jenny Luck, color consultant at Little Greene. ‘This will give contrast to the wall color whilst having a soft transition from the walls onto woodwork and ceilings. It is also much softer and easier on the eye.’
Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.
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