There are many ways to maximize small rooms, but there's no question that white makes a little place seem bigger than it is. The challenge is to fashion a white room that is interesting and stylish.
First, mix different textures together in a way that encourages the viewer to unconsciously make comparisons: shiny and dull, transparent and dense, bumpy and smooth. The room shown in the photo (right) uses a sleek, modern floor tile with a highly polished finish paired with the duller white flat weave of the fabric on the sofas. The gossamer white window dressing also serves as a comparative density and texture to the shiny floor.
Next, introduce some accent tones. Here the designer used an espresso tone wood on the low credenza against the wall. The color or tone of the piece of streamlined furniture is repeated very subtly in the organic shapes of the floor-standing vessels in the void where the two sofas meet.
The same tone is repeated on the special accent pillows that are essentially white with a pattern that looks like cowhide. Even the rubber wheels of the simple coffee table are in the range of the neutral dark tone. The reiteration of the accent gives it importance and helps to pull the entire room together visually.
An additional positive idea for an all-white room is to sprinkle in some strong color. This room uses tangerine effectively in a vase of pods on the credenza as well as on the accent chair in the forefront of the shot. But the most dazzling use of color in this room is in the modern art above the longer sofa, with its splashes of white combined with oranges and turquoise blues.
Don't be afraid to call attention to strong colors in white rooms. Just remember that you need to repeat the color in order for it to be effective.
Another way this neutral setting has pizazz is that each piece is low and sleek yet has enough boldness so that it doesn't get lost in the room.
There are also some very important vertical lines established in artful ways. One is the book tower to the left of the low credenza that emphasizes the narrow height of the side window.
Next there are the lanky vessels. Finally, there are dark bamboo sticks arranged in a simple white pot. These three items force your eye to move from the floor upward toward the ceiling.
The out-of-the-ordinary components of this room, including the curly bamboo popped into a highly reflective chrome vase instead of a more traditional ceramic container, keep it from being dull. There is variety that manages to relate each special piece to the other. There is color without allowing the color to become disturbing. And there is order without boredom.
These successes underscore how difficult it can be to create a well-balanced and comfortable all-white place. They also prove that the sophisticated result is worth the effort. *
Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Big Ideas for Small Spaces." Send questions and comments to her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org