Decorating with white – 10 pure, fresh and oh-so sophisticated ideas

From sharp accents to warming layers of differing tones, our gallery of ideas offers a wealth of decorating possibilities

decorating with white
(Image credit: Future / Michael Sinclair)

Evoking purity and cleanliness alongside confidence and sophistication, white is a wonderfully versatile color for interiors.

But decorating with white can be a minefield. Get it wrong and your rooms will feel cold and impersonal. But get white right – with the help of our tips – and white can feel elegant, timeless, inspiringly light-reflective and space-enhancing.

Inspiring ways to decorate with white

There are so many ways to decorate with white – and many of them are quite surprising. Use these techniques to get your white scheme just right.

Use white as an accent color in a neutral scheme

Decorating with white

(Image credit: Damian Russell)

'Small accents of white are a wonderful way to lift and freshen any color scheme. Accessories made from mother-of-pearl, white candles and white flowers will elevate the whole palette and draw the eye,' says interior designer Katharine Pooley

Pick a bold, contrasting shade to show off against white

Decorating with white

(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

This is an extreme example but it serves the purpose to show that white is much stronger when paired with black and another bold color. The similarly bold flooring really helps to anchor the scheme.

Use white to create a monochrome scheme

Decorating with white

(Image credit: Michael Sinclair)

This is a big interiors trend for the year ahead. 

Monochrome shades and softer muted greys add a sense of refined elegance to a pure white space. Panelled walls painted soft grey provide a sophisticated backdrop for this scheme, which artfully balances black and white upholstered furniture. 

Blocks of pattern, in the form of tailored cushions and artwork, add interest and personality to the modern look.

Combine white with bags of texture

Decorating with white

(Image credit: Future / Alexander James)

White is best when combined with texture to avoid a flat, one-dimensional feel.

‘I love to work with a blend of white and off-white wallcoverings as a foil for richer finishes such as gilt or dark wood. White silk wallpaper or pearlised polished plaster - something I believe we're going to see more of as it gives a subtle richness and texture to walls – are great for bringing a contemporary feel to more traditional interiors,’ explains interior designer Katharine Pooley. 

Use whitewash to soften a scheme

Decorating with white

(Image credit: Simon Bevan)

'A whitewashed finish is a great way to soften the look of wood furniture. Simply dilute Old White chalk paint with a little water and brush across the surface – the ratio of water to paint will increase or decrease the opaqueness,’ explains Annie Sloan, founder and decorative paint expert. 

'Place a sand–blasted textured desk in one corner of the conservatory, away from the glare of the windows, for a light filled home office that is shielded by direct sunlight.'

Go for an all-white kitchen to turn chaos into calm

White kitchen ideas

(Image credit: Future / David Lovatti)

Classic, timeless and, ultimately, saleable when you come to move, white in a kitchen can't fail. Practicality has to reign, though, which means picking white paint colors that can be wiped down so that your space remains consistently sparkling.

Create an oasis of calm withe white and black in a bedroom

Decorating with white

(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

Matching patterns of varying scale with simple, crafted pieces will keep the look relaxed despite the intricate combination of designs. Combine different monochrome patterns with swathes of white to dilute the strength of the look.

See: White bedroom ideas – for a fresh, light and airy feel

Enhance space with an all-white bathroom

Decorating with white

(Image credit: Taran Wilkhu)

'Crisp white works wonderfully in bathrooms. Nothing beats the pure white backdrop achieved with high-grade Calacatta Oro or Statuario marble slabs, which I like to set against chrome taps,' says Katharine Pooley, although we love the trend for gold taps, too. 

'Don't forget about joinery finishes. Crackled gesso, resin and Tabu timber veneers all look terrific in white as the finish is unadulterated by the distraction of color.'

Decorate with white in a hallway to stretch space

Decorating with white

(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

A crisp, stylish wallpaper in contemporary black and white always makes a good pairing with white floors and simple rustic furniture – and in a hallway it's the perfect way to make what can be a dark, narrow space feel larger and brighter.

  • See: Hallway ideas – stylish ways to create a welcoming first impression

Take white decorating ideas outside, too

decorating with white

(Image credit: Neptune)

Decorating with white outdoors makes fantastic sense: it's perfect for showing off planting, it bounces sunlight about efficiently, it looks almost excessively smart, and it will never date. 

Use it for your home's walls, for decking and for patios. And, of course, your front door.