Smart Solutions: White brightens up a home’s color palette

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

 Even with all the color that surrounds us this season, there’s no escaping the undeniable power of white. This soothing hue can highlight everything from the features in your rooms to the food on your plate.

Colorful pillows perk up a white slipcovered sofa from Pier 1 Imports.

When it’s time to dine, decorative dishes can be tempting with their pretty patterns. But  when you want the food to be the focus, like the colorful bounty from your local farmer’s market, there’s nothing like a classic white platform.

Maybe that’s why restaurants tend to stick with the basics. For a change of pace, they often feature white pieces with unique shapes, like oval bowls and rectangular platters.

White dishes also make a statement when artfully arranged in a grouping on a wall like the distinctive display at the new Art Van location in Canton.

For those who prefer bolder tones in their homes, a touch of white can provide a visual break from all that color or pattern in the form of molding and trim.

Despite all the colorful kitchen and bathroom trends, nothing beats the timeless feel of white. Whether you choose it for countertops, cabinets or simply sinks, there’s always room for this neutral hue.

In my own home, the recent addition of white furniture was never intentional. Instead, it happened when inheriting my mother’s furniture upon her return to Florida following a brief stay in Michigan. When a friend said she liked my daughter’s white bedroom set, I told her the items didn’t come together.

In this case, the soothing shade helps the disparate pieces feel more cohesive.

Contrast can be another advantage that brings out the best of both colors, whether it’s a combination of black and white or any other dramatic palette. Even more subtle tones, like gray and beige, get a quick pick-me-up when paired with white.

A similar effect happens when you give your art a starring role against a white wall, while a brick fireplace façade takes on a new persona with heat-resistant white paint.

The same visual applies to dated wood paneling that can be costly to remove or replace with another material. Painting it white will brighten up a dark basement, lending a new look to an old space.

Dark furniture comes to life when paired with white accent pieces, while a faux sheepskin rug can revive tired floors.

Simple window treatments, from shutters to sheers, look cleaner in white. The same can be said for towels and sheets.

At Pier 1 Imports, slipcovered sofas with white fabric are shown with colorful pillows for a tasteful look that’s easy to tweak.

Even a white mat makes a picture pop in a contrasting frame, while white blooms, like orchids, tone down an ornate vase.

Interior doors look more current with a fresh coat of white paint, while light fixtures and ceiling fans with neutral finishes recede against a white ceiling.

Outside, you can’t go wrong with some good old-fashioned classics like white wicker patio furniture or exterior paint.

The next time you want to give your interiors a visual boost, try injecting a little white into any color scheme.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at