White walls -- you either love 'em or hate 'em. Because it goes with anything, white has come to be seen as the safe choice for houses going on the market and for apartments. It's that unimaginative overuse of white that has led to the color's reputation as boring and sterile. But it doesn't have to be that way.
White brings in the light; it's airy, clean, serene, and contemplative. It's the perfect backdrop for bold artwork and contemporary furniture. (That's why the walls are always white in contemporary art museums.)
And white has more personality than you think. Paint companies offer collections of whites that range in tone from coffee-with-cream to mint, pink, and violet. The paint chips by themselves appear to be pastels or various shades of beige (except for a few pure whites), but when you get them on the wall, the overall effect is white -- with an undertone that's either cool or warm.
As with any color, painting or staining the doors, door frames, window frames, and any other trim a contrasting color can enhance the white on the walls, bringing out the undertones.
Bright white trim will make beige-white walls appear slightly darker by contrast, while cool whites will appear clear and fresh when outlined with bright white. Be cautious about pairing bright white with antique or creamy white, because the latter may look dirty by contrast. Test poster-size swatches before committing to paint on the walls.
Continued on page 2: Layering and Texture