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I’m spotting gorgeous white rooms everywhere I look these days. Maybe it’s a January thing – fresh new beginnings and all that. But these snowy palettes are definitely speaking to me. Here are three of the very best – each of them illustrates perfectly how to keep a whiter-than-white space from looking like the inside of a refrigerator.

Wood tones and textures

A live edge coffee table, squashy leather chair and patterned rug (is that hide patchwork?) signal lived-in comfort against that white backdrop. By designer Kelly Behun via Desire to Inspire.

Glamorous gold

Gold is a great way to warm up white – yet it still reads as a neutral. More to the point, though, an utterly glamorous ceiling takes any chill out of the white. Ornate crown molding, wallpaper or a darker shade of paint on the ceiling would achieve a similar, if less dramatic, effect. Via Residence Magazine.

Brick and stone

Raw brick and polished concrete are all this black and white kitchen need to feel characterful. Of course, it’s not an easy to replicate if your place doesn’t already have these features. But a stone tiled floor or even wall with lots of texture can achieve the same effect. The lighting in the recess above the stove helps too – pools of light seem so much more inviting that a completely even glow. By photographer Stuart McIntyre.

Three gorgeous spaces – I’d live in any of them.

With their intricate tilework, scalloped arches, hammered silver lanterns and cool courtyards, Moroccan riads are a decorator’s idea of pure escapism. Not many urban homes can get away with these features, but that doesn’t mean we can’t admire them and draw inspiration. I particularly like these more muted black and white riads, not only because they exude calm, but also because they allow the details to really stand out.

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What do you think? How would you incorporate Moroccan style into a home?

1. Hotel Dixneuf La Ksour

2. Via Simply Home Designs

3. Via The Style Files

4. Via Design Crisis

After the florals and frills of the last few posts, I’m feeling the need to highlight some rooms with a more edgy aesthetic. (Maybe it’s the nesting instinct that’s drawing me to clean-lined, minimal spaces!?) Luckily, I came across this stunning house by designer Nacho Polo on Vintage + Chic, which fits the bill entirely. Cool, calm, collected and utterly stylish. Not sure I could live in it, but I sure wish I had the discipline to create something this stunning.

This is my favorite room. I love those dining chairs.

Interesting use of contrasting shapes here. It makes the simple color scheme more exciting.

Clever to use the all-white frames as a form of art in itself.

Love that black chandelier and rococo wallpaper in an otherwise modern minimalist bathroom.

Even if you can’t handle black and white in every room, I think it’s perfect for making the most of a small bathroom.

What do you think? Could you live here? And even if not, wouldn’t you love to visit?

There have been literally thousands of articles written about how to decorate with white. Given that it is the most frequently used – and often deemed safest – color for interiors, why is it so hard to get right? Perhaps it’s precisely because white is so ubiquitous that its risks are under-estimated.

I know that when I use white, it takes several attempts and a lot of tinkering before I’m truly happy with the effect. And yet, most of my favorite interior images are predominantly white. So I decided to tackle the problem head on and devise some easy-to-follow rules for using the interior decorator’s most faithful hue.

White on white

Via This is Glamorous.

I think this is the easiest way to use white – IF you follow the rule to the letter. To work, this look requires a strict palette of different whites (all cool or all warm) and, at most, neutrals like grays or beiges.

Via Peacock Feathers.

Via Decor8.

This look is fantastic with lots of natural textures like grainy woods, leather, stone, rough linens and soft wool.

Via Pure Style Home.

Painted surfaces can be chipped, scuffed or weathered for even more texture.

Via Remodelista.

Alternatively, you can go for high gloss white and glass, metallics and mirrors or sequins.

(Photo by Marc Gerritson via Desire to Inspire)

A combination of both rustic and sparkly looks great too. And don’t forget about shapes – using a combination of curvy, boxy and star-like pieces can keep the interest level up.

Via Bochenko Artdeco.

Photo by Anna Kern via Beauty Comma.

Via Decorology.

White with pastels

Via Peacock Feathers.

This is a really pretty, feminine look and a relatively easy way to use white. Combining white with one pastel, like rose pink or mint green is the safest option. I like to paint walls in a pastel and then use white for all the furniture, fabrics and flooring – again using a variety of textures and styles.

Via Canadian House and Home.

But you can also mix a few different pastels with white, providing they’re all of the same intensity.

Via Simplified Bee.

Or, ensuring that they all have the same amount of gray in them also helps.

Via Bochenko Artdeco.

For a more harmonious look, I would choose pastels that are closer together on the color wheel – blue, gray and green for example, or pink, peach and yellow.

White and one other color

Another good option is to use white with a single other color. Blue and white is a traditional example.

By Feldman Architecture via Houzz.

You can combine lots of different patterns small and large, if they stick to this same time-honored palette. Try to use similar blues, though, unless you are very confident in your color skills. Or, if you want variety, go with a very pale blue and a very dark blue like navy, along with the white. That will prevent conflict between the various shades.

Via Desire to Inspire.

Red and white is a good alternative to this recipe. Turquoise, emerald and orange also work well in isolation with white. Whichever you choose, though, try to use the colors in slightly different proportions: a room that has exactly the same quantities of red and white, say, just looks contrived. And you might want to throw in a few elements of black or dark brown to anchor the whole thing and stop it from looking to matchy-matchy.

White and black

Now established as a firm favorite for many of us, this bold combination would have required a bit of courage a couple of years back. That said, it’s relatively easy look to pull off. Again, think about proportion and try not to have each color in equal measure.

Via A Room Somewhere.

Think about texture, pattern and style and mix things up to keep the look interesting.

Via Slipcover Your Life.

Via Casapinka.

If you get the urge for a splash of color, temporary accents like flowers are the best bet or the whole effect will be diluted.

Via Desire to Inspire.

That said, I do like seeing the odd splash of yellow, pink or red in a black and white room – and gray-blue works well as a backdrop for spaces accessorized in only black and white.

White and brights

You’d think this would be easy – a safe white background should allow you to use whatever combination of brights you like, right? Wrong. Of course, you should do what you love and feel right living with. But my point is that it’s hard to feel comfortable with this look unless you get it right. In my experience, the use of several brights can just make the white elements look dull and boring – like a non-choice. The key is in the proportions. Either go for a predominantly white room with a few accents of brights (lime green pillows, a vase of pink peonies and a splash of yellow and turquoise art, for example).

Via Kika Reichart.

Via Coco + Kelley.

Via Ill Seen, Ill Said.

Or, really layer in the brights and use the white for negative space only (which means you probably don’t want any white next to white unless it’s a different texture.

Via Peacock Feathers.

Again, sticking to bright colors close to each other on the color wheel (pinks, purples, reds for example) helps pull it all together.

Via Beauty Comma.

What’s your experience of using white? Do you agree with these guidelines or do you have better suggestions? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ve made enough mistakes with white and know plenty of others who’ve done the same so some simple rules would save us all a lot of heartache!

(First image: source unknown)

Bathroom, lavatory, loo, toilet, powder room, cloakroom – whatever you call it, decorating the smallest room in the house is not exactly the most romantic of design projects. Unless you live in the SF decorator showcase that is, and can powder your nose in this delightful space:

(Photograph by Elizabeth Fall)

In our case, our downstairs bathroom is not only the smallest room in the house but probably also the smallest room in the world. It’s billed as a quarter bath, which means it has nothing but a toilet in it. There isn’t even room for a washbasin (before you exclaim in horror, we wash our hands in the kitchen sink). Just to get into it, close the door and sit down, you have to perform a complicated maneuver, which requires practice. To make matters worse, the ceilings are so high that the space seems even narrower – a bit like being in a large vertical coffin. And it has no heating so feels like a Victorian outhouse in the middle of a British winter.

So why bother decorating it at all, you ask? Well, remodeling the layout is not an option at the moment, so I decided to make the best of the situation. If we can’t have a spacious bathroom with wide washbasins, fluffy towels and glamorous mosaic flooring, then we can at least have a space that doesn’t look like it should have strips of newspaper instead of bath tissue. This is how it turned out.

I chose the Bindweed wallpaper from Ferm Living for the walls above the dado rail. The bold black and white design brightens the space immensely and the pattern even makes the room seem larger. My husband spent the best part of a day putting the paper up, only to run out half way through the last wall. It was two days before Christmas so we had some shipped overnight (thanks to the very helpful folks at Branch) and he finished up the job on Christmas Eve. Now that’s true love: spending the day before Christmas in a freezing 5′ x 3′ space, suspended over the toilet bowl, wrestling with soggy wallpaper.

The lower walls show traces of one day being tiled but have been covered in layers of paint in varying shades of avocado and magnolia, so we just painted them white. The light fitting (this one from Lamps Plus) seems a particularly perfect match – it echoes the shape of the flowers in the wallpaper and, when lit, gives off a lovely dappled light (making it tolerable to spend more than five seconds in there).

Finally, the mirror is from the West Elm sale. We joke that it suits the room perfectly because it is probably the smallest mirror in the world. The actual glass is just about big enough for powdering your nose (because your nose is all you can see). But I like it so it has stayed.

So that, in a nutshell, is how we converted our ‘loo’ into a space to be proud of (well, not ashamed of at least). Fortunately, 2010 will bring some more ambitious and exciting decorating projects, details of which I’ll share very shortly…

I’ve been posting a few pics from my husband’s experiments in macro photography (here and here). It’s not directly interior-design-related, but the pictures are so interesting. This latest is the most surprising of all.

chesspiece

It’s a chess piece and board from a set we purchased in Vietnam several years ago. The piece here, a pawn, is tiny in reality, no more than an inch tall. As a result, I’d never really looked at it in detail. This close up, I’m surprised to find it almost seems to have a personality! It’s actually a bit eery. I like the way the chessboard becomes a vast landscape extending all the way to the horizon.

The design discoveries and dilemmas of a Brit in San Francisco as she turns a house into a home.
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