Bring Some Winter White into Your Decorating Scheme

Not only is white transforming the outdoor landscape in many parts of the country at this time of year, but it can also become a wonderfully flexible color for breathing new life into your indoor design. Now is the perfect time to take a second look at the simplistic beauty of white.

Decorating colors are as changeable as the season or the current fashion fad. In recent years, the popularity of the "green" movement translated into numerous earthy decorating schemes. Retro color palettes also found their way into many homes. Other designers have played with chocolate-pink or black-gray color combinations. However, if you look closely, you'll see that white has never totally vanished from the scene, and now, it appears to be regaining some of its status both as a powerful neutral and as an exciting, energizing accent color.

Pantone may have just recently announced Emerald as its new color for 2013, but Benjamin Moore is offering more than 200 shades of white paint to suit every taste. Traditional best sellers such as Navajo White (PM-29), Linen White (PM-28), and Ivory White (925) are being joined by three new popular shades: Simply White (2143-70), Moonlight White (2143-60), and China White (PM-20). Why so many variations? Today’s white paint colors can include a hint of green, pink, or blue undertones for the perfect match to the rest of your decorating scheme.

White walls take a step backwards to make small rooms seem lighter, larger and airier. When balanced with wicker and rich wood tones, the result is a Zen-like quality of peaceful tropical luxury. White is also the perfect choice for those who have filled their home with antiques and treasures from long ago. Heirlooms seem to take on more distinction when they are contrasted with pristine white walls. Darryl Carter, author of "The New Traditional," suggests that "White makes old things seem more current."

For those who are afraid that too much white will cause a room to feel cold and sterile, adding pops of color and textured materials such as fluffy rugs and pillows will create that cozy, cottage feeling. A "countrified" alternative is to mix a softer white with neutral grays and browns. White kitchens sparkle with an atmosphere of clean, precise efficiency. When appliances, furniture and walls are monochromatic, adding a pop of a favorite color is an easy and inexpensive decorating trick. The same principle holds true for the living room, dining room, bathroom and bedroom. Small bursts of color scattered purposefully around the room can create a huge impact. Better yet, they can be switched out seasonally or as often as your mood changes, without breaking the bank.

White is particularly useful in older homes or apartments that have unusual architectural features. That old stove pipe or sealed door seems to disappear when it becomes part of an all-white landscape. Rooms are unified as similarly painted walls or floors carry guests from one space to the next. Furthermore, moving furniture from one room to another works easily when the background is a consistent white.

While white may be one of the most versatile of paint colors, take time to find exactly the right shade for your decorating projects. Consider using it to freshen unsightly furniture. If you have young children or pets, slip-cover your outdated sofa and chairs in easy-care, washable white fabrics. White is a practical, functional color with the potential to be a blank canvas for dramatic settings. Unlike Pantone’s Emerald, which will be popular this year and gone the next, white will be around forever.