The do’s and don’ts of decorating with white

Pure white cabinets paired with a white table looks stunning when paired with wood. (Design Recipes)
Pure white cabinets paired with a white table looks stunning when paired with wood. (Design Recipes)

For many, white can be one of the most difficult colors to use.

Unlike many other colors, white literally comes in hundreds of tints and shades. Some shades of white may appear bluer, others grayer, and still other shades of white may appear yellow. White is also a very difficult color to match, and results are unsuccessful. On the other hand, a dominant white, or pure white decor, can appear, fresh, elegant and soothing.

If considering working with white, here are some overall do’s and don’ts.


Pay attention to the colors that will surround your particular shade of white. White is one of those colors that is often impacted by what surrounds it. For example, if a white sofa is placed next to a bright green chair, the sofa may appear to have green undertones.

Experiment with different shades of white during different times of the day. Color is very much impacted by natural light.

Experiment with different materials. You can mix materials in a space such as a wood object painted white with white lacquer cabinets.

Consider a pure white or white-dominated color scheme. It can appear fresh and bright.

Consider styling decorative spaces such as shelves with pure white accents.


Be afraid to mix different shades of white. Just be sure to select shades that complement.

Be afraid to use white floor coverings such as area rugs. They can serve well in special areas or those that don’t get much foot traffic.

Be afraid to mix pure white with cream, tints, tones and shades of white. They can be used successfully in the same space.

Forget to use white decor items such as mirrors, toss pillows and books. These neutral accents will blend well with existing decor.

Ignore that white is a color. From leaving white trims and baseboards to white walls and furniture and furnishings, white can serve as a great accent color.


Cathy Hobbs, based in New York City, is an Emmy Award-winning television host and a nationally known interior design and home staging expert with offices in New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C. Contact her at or visit her website at .