• Anna Proctor

A Whiter Shade of Pale

‘If time were a colour, I bet it would be a tasteful off white”. Greg Parrish

Yes I think it probably would be. White is the ultimate classic and timeless choice. It’s far and away the most popular colour when it come to paint. When used well it can look incredibly elegant It is unrivalled in its clarity and purity. Robert Paul, showroom manager of Little Greene in Marylebone, once described white to me as a way of pressing the refresh button. He’s right because with a big dose of natural light I don’t believe there is anything that can invigorate as much as white can. It’s a popular choice with architects (I should know; I’m married to one) as it doesn’t interfere with their designs and expresses the light they have captured so well.

Panelling in French Grey colour scales by Little Greene

However, white sometimes get a bad rep for being a safe choice, a default option for walls in particular. All too often it is and it can look quite drab as a result. It is criticised for being cold and stark, at worst sterile. The key to really making it work is to combine it with tactile layers and materials to avoid any of these negative attributes.

A mix of materials in different shades of white will bring warmth and comfort to rooms. Add vintage furniture or reclaimed materials to bring character. At Nue Ground, a recent opened cafe on Abbeville road in Clapham, the interiors have nailed a sleek but inviting white look. The combination of whitewashed terracotta partitions, off white terrazzo partitions and handmade Zellige tiles along with bamboo pendants is really effective. It’s a fresh and coherent mix of materials that promotes sustainability and reflects an exciting and healthy menu.

Nue Ground cafe

The beauty of whites is that they are a blank canvas on which to layer pops of colour with furniture and accessories. It’s important to choose a white that complements the other colours in the scheme to prevent them from jarring. Whether that’s a white with a hint of grey, or red in it, for example, consider the other elements in the space to give a harmonious look. There are so many white paints out there it can be pretty mind boggling. One colour which is best avoided in the UK, according to colour expert Karen Haller, is brilliant white. This is because it doesn’t exist in nature so we simply can’t relate to it. If a room is bright an airy, white is the best way to capture the feeling of light and space. White walls are natural light reflectors.

For a high impact look that always look stylish go for big contrast with black and white. Sister Kate @thereverendsister has the most fabulous maximalist monochrome home. It’s virtually all black, white and gold and all about statement pieces and luxurious textures. She really shows how to give white rooms oodles of panache and make them far from cold.


Furniture with relief or carved details look really effective in white as the contours really stand out. I have long lusted over the customised white Ikea sideboard that Bianca Hall of French for Pineapple created in her dining area. It’s incredibly chic and looks a million dollars. So clever. It’s the sort of piece that could work in any room scheme and won’t date. The wooden parquet floor of dreams really grounds and warms up the space too.

French for Pineapple's dining area

After watching Little Women last night (the cinematography was just exquisite!!) I’m especially excited about adding some shiplap cladding to our hallway in a crisp white. Nautical but nice. Our house was once described as 'upscale beach', which I thought was marvellous despite being nowhere near the sea! Having toyed with going for bolder colours I like the idea of a fresh pause of white as you transition from the dark exterior of the house.

Rather than a boring choice of colour, a whiter shade of pale could provide just the break your space (and head) needs.

Source book

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