Monday, March 23, 2009

White Girl

Who hasn't lived with white walls? White is so light and clean and practical. It matches everything. A couple of coats of white paint on my New York apartment walls always worked.

City life in caverns and canyons created by tall buildings is often dark, and white rooms offered luminosity.

White could be decorated any way, from modern to vintage.

The white comfort zone followed the city weary Manhattanite to their beach or country getaways. So is it any wonder that for years I thought it was "me" to have white walls?

I ventured away from those white walls a couple of times. English style had me wallpaper everything.

Before that I had a deep purple bedroom, a color that turned out to be very restful and sexy.

But once transplanted for a short time in California, I reverted back to what I had come to believe as a classic, white walls again.

For the most part, white was the way to go. Who could argue with white?
While I'm not against some white, all over white has become another story. White isn't about matching everything. It can be about being afraid of risk, experimentation, change.

When it came time to choose colors for our New Orleans house, I decided not to accept the image of myself I always had. I decided to change the recipe in this house. I wanted to be more daring. I wondered what effect other colors would have on me. Paint is cheap, a little goes along way.

White is neutral. Harmless. Safe. But color is inspiring. It's emotional. It takes you places.

And that's what your house should do. It should transport you to a place of peace and contentment.
And so what colors did I choose?

The kitchen was the first - I wanted a mustard color, something I had seen in Provence.

Next was my office. And I knew it would be red. It took a couple of tries to find the right one, which turned out to be a coral based red.

Then it was the master bedroom. I had never had a blue room, so I chose a gray blue, and it is the most pleasing restful pretty color.

The guest room got a gray beige, the most neutral color, but still some color.

The living room deep brown.

The bathrooms are white, a throwback to my old habits, as is the walk in closet, mainly to enhance the light in there, so we don't go out with mismatched clothes ha ha.

It's been four years since I dipped into the paint pot, and I am not bored with all the color. The value and saturation is similar from one color to the next, so the rooms look linked and cohesive. When people first see the house, they always remark how New Orleans it looks because of the color. I do think geography can determine color.

Painting the walls of your home makes them a part of your home rather than a generic container in which all of your stuff floats, unattached.

Color grounds you. It's an investment in your environment. It's warmer and more homey.

photos from Google Images


Mrs. G said...

I'm with you. I love all the white, crisp, clean rooms that I see all over blog land but cannot get away from my love of color which I never tire of either.

Julia @ Hooked on Houses said...

I just loved this post! Not only the beautiful photos but the words that went with it. :-)

I like this line: "Color grounds you. It's an investment in your environment." So true!

Things That Inspire said...

I think the biggest takeaway from this is paint is cheap. People fret and fret about picking a paint color - I just went through this when taking down the wallpaper in my kitchen - I was just spinning my wheels, until the painter told me he was coming the next day and I had to make a decision.

Alas, I made the wrong decision (if Joni reads this, please do not say I told you so). I went with F&B clunch, which looks fabulous in my dining room, but looks terrible in my kitchen (which has lots and lots of wall space because of the deep shape of the room, and my large casual dining area). But paint is cheap, and I have very inexpensive professional painters (who would love the work). I am going to wait until my husband is on a several day business trip, and have the room painted green (OK, Joni, now you can say I told you so). I miss the green wallpaper. The green made me feel happy.

Reading your blog is design therapy for me, VV.

pve design said...

My husband and I always love color and always pick colors for those that live with white walls. We always feel that we need to make our "mark" or color our world. I do think white in certain spots work, places like "Greece" - I love white with neutrals or with color.
Great post!

Linda Merrill said...

Having just painted my downstairs hall dark red which merges into a darkish green stairwell, pale peach bedroom, pale green office and dark green bathroom - I say "here here" to color!! Great post as always V*V!

Anonymous said...

Lovely post. Lovely pictures.
I adore colour and there is not a single white wall in my house!

Fifi Flowers said...

GREAT post... I adore many of those bedrooms! The first is soooooo romantic and I'm not a white decor person at all... I ADORE colour!

Karen said...

A very wise friend ( A. H. T.) once told me not to worry about having ALL the walls in my newly constructed (1983) home a lovely shade of off -white. His take, as an architect and artist, was that you don't even know how you feel about a room until you live in it. If you paint before you even spend time there, you are just guessing. And he was SO right! After all the Fisher-Price dings on the woodwork and walls, I finally decided on color and went wild. What I knew then was how the morning sun hit the walls; what I felt when I sat in a room at 5:00 pm; how the sun bounced off the ceiling as it went down in the winter; and most importantly, how I wanted to feel in each room. I tell everyone this every chance I get. A.H.T. was an architect, an artist, a genius, a friend, and a caring individual who always knew what was what. I miss him even now.

Linda/"Mom" said...

*** Great read (!) ~ & some interesting responses, too! (And, I like commenting "early", then I have time to read a few comments & that's always fun!). After 38 years of military housing, I S-W-O-R-E (for "the last 36 of them"!) that I would have never have white walls once DH left the military!(To "enhance" our white-walled spaces, I always had mannnny lamps~~~). While I have stayed true to that, I find myself falling more & more in love w/ an "almost-white", sooo beauuuuutiful, soft, grey-beige-cream color I saw, but only once (!) & haven't seen'found it since... BUT I loved it & THINK I could PROBABLY "do it" & be VERY happy!!! (BUT just O-N-E room, I suspect! I loooove the ambiance of warmer colors in the evenings, especially with candles! And the CANDLES are always white, "cream", black or brown, as the late, great Billy Baldwin once advised!)~~~ Thanks so much! Linda

red ticking said...

so pretty... thank you for all of these wonderful photos... aaaahhhhh

Anonymous said...

This almost makes me want to face the challenges of painting and re-do my dining room.

Renee Finberg said...

the only time i was ever a 'white girl,' was the first 2 years i lived in manhattan, in my 1st apartment.

i don't know....when ever i am in a white room or just looks to me like you could pick up, and be gone in the morning.

and the new tenants will be moving in after a thorough cleaning ....

xxxxxxxxxxx i love the busy, colorful rooms.

and wha's up with those coral sconces ?? wild & gorgeous !!

big hug xxx
hope your co-worker/friend is better and in one piece.

Renae said...

I love all the brings warmth and personality and you do it very well!

Visual Vamp said...

From my friend who can't figure out how to comment on blogs:

Vamp, you color my world thru your blog posts. It is totally delightful to read your posts and be filled with inspiration and joy, to be a part of your design world. My hat is off to you and your incredible ventures. Linda

Visual Vamp said...

Thanks all you colorful vamps out there for reading and for the great comments!
Renee, the super fab coral sconces are in Marlie Matlin and James Carvel's home in Washington DC, and the photo is from Arch Digest.
xo xo

Anonymous said...

Desiree Rogers got a nice write-up in the LA Times today:,0,6237564.story


Sarah's Fab Day said...

I completely agree location and color go hand in hand.

Colour Me Happy said...

I loved this post! It's wonderful, I loved your argument for both sides, no colour and colour! And the images you've found are so great!

Laura [What I Like] said...

You've got me all excited about a purple bedroom! I've always coveted a deep, blood red walk in closet as well...

gatherings home said...

For so many years white was it. I am so glad that people are getting braver when it comes to color. It is so true that color can evokes so many feelings and really...paint is the cheapest way to give yourself a lift. Great post! Can always count on you for beautiful pics too!!!

Love Where You Live said...

I love all of these rooms but especially the peaceful bedroom. The bedframe is gorgeous. Nice roundups. I could feel at home in any of them! cheers, -susan

B said...

I still like how serene a white room looks, but the truth is it only stays serene and nice in the magazines, not in real life (at least, not my real life). I used to have a purple bedroom too! And I loved it!

Anonymous said...

Loved this post! I wish I owned my building b/c I would be painting my wood floors white and making the whole thing airy and clean! Cleaning what I already have would be a start!
Amanda Talley

Anonymous said...

In my lower middle-class, rural childhood of the 60's and 70's, all of the rooms in our house (and everyone else's) had color. Back then the wood trim was the exact same color as the walls, only in oil based gloss. My mom's room was still dark gray leftover from the 1950's when it was her room as a teen. But somewhere in the early 80's all the walls became white and/or cream in her house and in mine.

It wasn't until I took a Design I (basic principles of design) college class in 2001 that I re-considered color. There was a portion of the class where we mixed our own paint colors using magenta, cyan, yellow, black and white - Something I'd never done before. I remember plopping blobs of paint into a cup and then mixing. I was not prepared for the deep response I would have to watching those new colors appear before my eyes. From then on I was hooked, totally enchanted by the magic of color. We had an exercise in class where we mixed lots of different browns; 4 months later I had a dark brown bedroom, and I still do. Even orange, which I shunned from childhood, was beginning to capture me. I never cared for orange until I mixed my own. Now I see orange everywhere and often love it.

Having said that, I still love whites and creams, even when the entire room and all its contents are white. However, the key is having lots of texture and shape throughout. The other thing about an "all white" interior is that the architecture has to be right for it to truly succeed. If you look at all the magazines, the best "all whites" are in very old spaces with wonderful architectural details. You're just not going to get that same look in a boxy tract home (like mine). I also agree with some of the other comments that location, climate, culture, geography should usually be considered.

What a wonderful post!