20 Tips for Decorating with White to Brighten Up Any Aesthetic

white shiplap living room
Photo: Edmund Barr

Nothing says bright, fresh, and clean like white. This versatile neutral works well in a variety of color schemes and design styles, and it's hardly sterile or boring. Read on for inspiring ways to decorate right with white.

01 of 20

Layered Look

white living room with patterned chairs
David Tsay

The more neutrals you add to your white base, the more collected and layered your look becomes. Here, many shades of brown play together in the curtains, upholstery, wood furniture, and natural rug, creating a relaxed feel, while shots of black give the room an upscale edge. Multicolored accessories keep the feel solidly casual.

02 of 20

White Clouds

White beige bedding striped comforter
Helen Norman

Create the feeling of sleeping in a cloud with an all-white bedroom. This one stays true to the theme with decorations that are either white or off-white with beige accents throughout. It's easy to adjust the look ever so slightly by swapping out pillows and throws.

03 of 20

Pretty with Pink

living room furniture with pink front doors
Paul Costello

Soften the feel of a predominately white color scheme with pastels. Express your style in a big way with a blush pink front door. You can also add subtle touches of color with throw pillows and blankets in subdued watery blue tones. Fresh flowers and potted plants contribute a natural feel that breaks up expanses of white.

04 of 20

Casual Polish

white kitchen with red stools
David Tsay

White's association with fresh and clean is an especially good thing to have in a kitchen. Here, white curtains, cabinets, walls, tile, and countertops all mingle nicely (and that last one's not as difficult to keep clean as you might think). A natural rug and baskets, plus sassy red stools help create a fun and totally livable quality.

05 of 20

White Paint Colors for Cabinets

Give your kitchen a timeless update by painting your cabinets white. Here are our favorite paint picks.

06 of 20

Punch It Up

Interior of sitting room with houseplant by furniture and framed buffalo artwork
Kim Cornelison

It's easy to get swept up in the sophisticated modern look of a black, white, and gray color combo. But remember to bring a little personality into the room. Add a delightful dose of yellow or lime green to energize a neutral palette. A little color goes a long way: think throw pillows or an accent chair. Incorporate patterns to punch up the this-is-me style of your living room.

07 of 20

Create a Foundation

white and pastel colored sitting room
Kim Cornelison

White walls and furnishings serve as the perfect backdrop for experimenting with your style. Swap out patterned rugs, throw pillows, wall art, and accessories to find a look you love. Having a hearty helping of white in your color scheme gives you the freedom to pull together an eclectic look from your travels—or your online shopping.

08 of 20

White and Bright

fireplace in living room
Anthony Masterson

Have a room that feels hijacked by a brick fireplace or wall whose color you don't even like? Here's an easy solution: Paint it white! It's an instant room-brightener. It feels especially modern in this room, when paired with lots of gold, midcentury furnishings, and dashes of black.

09 of 20

Comfortable Conversation

white shiplap living room
Edmund Barr

In a white room, placing all color squarely in the center creates maximum coziness right at the room's heart. Here, the dark, wispy overhead light fixture, a light blue rug, matching blue pillows, and a table just big enough for drinks make for a nice, comfortable seating grouping. The red brick fireplace adds visual variation to a sea of white, but whitewashing tones down the brick color, so the fireplace doesn't stick out awkwardly.

10 of 20

Partner Up

white kitchen green tile backsplash
Adam Albright

White cabinetry works well with a high-energy backsplash—or heavily-veined granite countertops. Allow patterns and head-turning features, such as a sculptural range hood, to get the attention they deserve. White cabinetry offers a stylish way to create a visual break in a busy kitchen.

11 of 20

Home Gallery

dining room with fireplace
Edmund Barr

There's a reason art gallery walls are generally white: They ensure that the artwork remains the focus. You can do the same if you have a piece or grouping of pieces you'd like to command the room. Add somewhat less magnetic splashes of color—like this straightforward rug and the small-print fireplace tile—to keep things cozy enough to welcome everyday life.

12 of 20

Rest Up

bedroom with gallery wall
Joe Schmelzer 

Using white sparingly can be using white right. In this bedroom, the pale wall color stops just short of gray. Add textured flooring, wall art in many-colored frames and a variety of throw pillows, and the true white that does exist in the room—in the trim, bedside table, comforter background, and curtains—gives the eye a perfect little rest.

13 of 20

Base of White

white living room with double doors
Brie Williams 

In this living room, white creates a solid base, followed by a lighter application of natural woods and fibers, as seen in the floor, raw beam, rug, framed mirror, and more. With these two constants in place, the eclectic variety of colors, metals, and finishes sprinkled throughout play together with casual ease. The crisp white also brings a modern edge to the room's vintage stylings.

14 of 20

Slipcover Smarts

white living room with rug
Edmund Barr 

White sofas aren't as scary as you might think. As long as they come in slipcover form, it's easy to treat and wash spills and spots. Here, white walls and curtains make the room feel bright and clean, while dark wire tables, rugged layered rugs and the textured shades and lamp keep it from feeling too pristine.

15 of 20

Variety Is the Spice

Artistic tile in bathroom
John Bessler

When you decorate with all white, you need something besides color to keep things from looking too boring and clinical. The secret to success in this all-white bathroom, for example, is bold texture, as seen in the vanity and wall treatment, which doubles as art.

16 of 20

Lovely and Lived-In

white living room with cabinet
Paul Dyer

Use a variety of shades of white in the room to help it feel comfortable and fresh, rather than rigid and sterile. In this living room, white shifts from the palest of grays on the walls, to a warmer white on the loveseat slipcovers and into creamery tones on the woven basket coffee table and other accents. Corralling color to a few small, choice accessories lets the white scheme take center stage.

17 of 20

No Gray Area

white bathroom with black patterned walls
Emily Followill

White is one-half of the simple recipe to easy elegance—just add black. In this bathroom, bold large-print black-and-white wallpaper is the only decoration necessary when set against white cabinetry, trim, and tile. When the mood strikes, a little bit of one bright color makes a big impact, as this yellow tray and bunch of tulips demonstrate.

18 of 20

Space-Expanding Color

narrow white kitchen
James Yochum 

A small, narrow space always looks bigger and more open when painted white. Here, the dark wood floor topped in white all the way to the ceiling keeps the eye moving up. Lots of long vertical and horizontal lines—in the rug, on the cabinetry, along the subway tile and on the ceiling—is another visual room-extending trick.

19 of 20

Shelving Choices

white bedroom with canopy
Kim Cornelison 

Paint's an instant room-freshener, as is white, so white paint is a double whammy, but don't limit its application to walls. The bedframe, furniture, and antique picture frames in this room all got a lift with white. Gauzy white curtains and a canopy, plus barely blush accents in the throw pillows and antique glass, keep the room sweet and dreamy.

20 of 20

Neutral Territory

white living room with teal chairs
Anthony Masterson

A room wrapped in white is the perfect foundation for a two-neutral mix, plus a dose of color. In this living room, cream and brown introduce variation to the neutral side of the color palette, which is tied together by the abstract zebra print rug. Dusty aqua club chairs really stand out in the light-filled and neutral space.

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