By Kelly Porter, Houzz

Many homeowners describe their ideal room as being clean and simple — an escape from the 24-hour news cycle and busy work schedules. Creating a space that’s unfussy and free from distractions often means incorporating white or light colors and finishes on our walls and floors. But this approach can leave you with a room that looks plain and sterile — you know, doctor’s-office chic. To help you avoid that, here are seven ideas for using white and light hues to reclaim a room’s serenity without it looking clinical.

1. Look for the undertones. It can be a challenge to create a cozy atmosphere in a room with white walls and high ceilings. The trick is to use a white paint color that leans toward ivory or has subtle peach undertones. These types of whites pair well with honey-toned wood finishes, and together they can add a surprising amount of warmth and calm to a large space.

A paint color to try: Alabaster by Sherwin-Williams

light colors

Christy Drew Designs, original photo on Houzz

2. Warm up unexpected spaces with tints of tan. Foyers and hallways are also ideal spaces for warm and inviting whites. Even with the ornate lighting fixtures in this hallway, the soft wall color and light wood finishes allow the area to remain peaceful.

A paint color to try: Swiss Coffee by Dunn-Edwards

Tip: Light flooring can make a long, narrow hall appear larger.

light colors

Steele Canvas, original photo on Houzz

3. Go slightly gray. This laundry room is a perfect example of how industrial design can look light and fresh. No need for wrought iron and dark finishes here! Get this look with a soft, grayish-white wall color, and natural wood floors and countertops.

The paint color used here is Classic Gray by Benjamin Moore.

light colors

Kimberly Demmy Design, original photo on Houzz

4. Start with a blank canvas. Neutral whites don’t necessarily look warm or cool, so they make an ideal backdrop for dramatic elements. This room shows us that serene spaces need not be boring.

 A paint color to try: Pure White by Sherwin-Williams

Tip: Add architectural interest by installing trim to create a faux coffered ceiling. Use narrow strips of molding in a light finish so that the ceiling won’t overwhelm the rest of the room.


light colors

Spinnaker Development, original photo on Houzz

5. Create a blissful bedroom using similar color tones. In an era of the 24-hour news cycle and endless other distractions, it’s more important than ever to make your bedroom a haven. I encourage my clients to remove the television from their bedroom and to keep the decor simple. You can accomplish the latter with a soft, tone-on-tone color scheme using off-white and varying shades of light brown. For a twist, use a high-gloss finish on the ceiling instead of the floor.

 The wall color in this room is Boutique Beige by Dunn Edwards; the ceiling color is a custom mixed lacquer.


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Rebecca Mitchell Interiors, original photo on Houzz

6. Contrast crisp white and black. I’m really loving black and white these days. You can find this classic color duo in the bathrooms of many homes that were built in the first half of the 20th century. Today’s homeowners often preserve this look when they remodel older homes.

The combo has also gotten a modern makeover in new homes. One easy way to update the look is by adding wood or laminate flooring in a very light or whitewashed finish. Even with all the contrast, the understated flooring will keep the space calm. 

A paint color to try: Decorator’s White by Benjamin Moore

light colors

Traction Architecture, original photo on Houzz

7. Use white as an accent. Accent colors are normally thought to be anything besides white. However, in this bathroom, white plays a supporting role to the bold tile color, therefore becoming the accent. The natural wood finish on the trim and cabinets anchors the entire space. This is a great example of how to incorporate color into a clean-lined, contemporary space.

A paint color to try: Bleached Linen by Behr

Related Links:

More Bright and Beautiful Laundry Room Designs
Pair White With These Neutral Colors for a Gorgeous Combo
Add Pops of White With These Stylish Bathroom Cabinets