Mad About … White Paint

So, having just painted my white kitchen grey, I have decided to be all contrary this week and run a post on the joys of white rooms. Yes I know, but it’s such a calm, restful look and one that I can only aspire to as the owner of two small boys and a cat. And given that it was half term last week, I feel in need of something relaxing to gaze at.

Dulux have also announced the launch of their newest Ultra White this week, which is a tough and bright white so for that reason, this week we are mostly Mad About … White Paint.


Now most people don’t really want an all white room, but take a look at these; the colour comes through the accessories, the textures and the layers that build up in a room.


According to Pantone, you should either use pure white if you crave a really dramatic space, or want to pair it with black or white. Otherwise, if it is a neutral background you want, then go for an off-white. Dulux says it provides a “flawless blank canvas to one-off furniture finds and pops of colour”.

from roomsdecocinobra blog

I like a flat, chalky white paint best. Then layer it up with textiles and soft furnishings. We have painted our floors, walls, skirting boards and ceilings all in Wimborne White by Farrow & Ball and, although it gives a uniform look (some call it the gallery style that I love) you would be surprised at how different it looks in each room as the walls are smooth, the floorboards reclaimed and all react differently according to the time of day and the shadows.

One of my favourite combinations is lots of white with natural wood and metal. It’s very monochrome but easy to dress up with splashes of pink or pattern depending on your taste.

from apartment therapy

I also have a theory that your house is cleaner when it’s white as you can see the dirt and therefore are more likely to clean it up. All those practical colours that don’t show the dirt do make you less inclined to clean it up as you can’t see it.

white rooms from
white panelled walls

Here are a couple of images of the Dulux Ultra White. In the first image, the colours are all more muted and natural.

Dulux ultrawhite with muted accessories
Dulux ultrawhite with muted accessories

In the second, a jolt of cobalt blue has been added. I love the white stripe at the end of the sofa. I think that is an idea I might copy.

Marianne Shillingford, the Creative Director at Dulux, says the new Ultra White reflects more light than ordinary white emulsion. “That adds an extra dimension to the look and feel of an interior space. Use colour sparingly for the most dramatic effect by adding pops in the furniture and accessories.  Black and white are always best friends in any interior design scheme but use it to enhance rather than overpower the crisp purity of this amazing look.”


So there you have it. White paint anyone?



Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. Hi Kate,
    Oh I love these images. We’re just about to redecorate a north/west facing room. Going for Wimborne White. Its a fairly dark room during the day, with not a lot of natural light managing to peak through the tall trees/hedge outside. There is, however, a beautiful Japanese Maple outside the window. Anyway, I’m really struggling to come up with a plan for the floor. My husband is really set on carpet. We live in Scotland, and it is the colder side of the house, so he feels carpet will make it cosy. It’ll be used as an office most evenings and occasionally as a guest room. I’m loving greys, natural wood, whites, textures like baskets, wood, wooly throws, maybe a white or grey daybed/sofa bed. Just not sure about the darkness of the room. Any ideas? Particularly regards to carpet colour and/or whether greys would work with that kind of light? Thanks so much!!

    1. Hi Ash

      It all sounds lovely. My whole house is wimborne white – apart from the Down Pipe. So yes I think greys would work – I like a dark charcoal grey as pale grey carpet can look a bit office. One thing you can do is buy a really large piece that fits about a foot in from all the walls. Then paint the floorboards round the edge in wimborne white lay the carpet like a giant rug. That should give you the warmth but without the look of the fitted carpet. You can have the edges bound in a contrasting colour – pink, green – whatever the sofa is – if you wanted. If you do decide that fitted is better then perhaps try to look for one with a slightly heathery shade to it – that will be warmer in a north-facing room. If you have a base palette of greys and ivories then you can layer up lots of sheepskins and faux fur and knitted cushions and velvet ones and really build up the textures and layers so that it looks warm and cosy. Hang a large mirror with a metallic frame to bounce the light around and a couple of black lampstands or shades to really anchor the design and make everything stand out. You can then add accent colours to this which you can change as the season move around – I would remove the sheepskins in summer for example and perhaps add a cotton throw to lighten everything. The beauty of grey is that it goes with every other colour. I hope this helps, Kate

      1. Hi Kate, thank you soooooo much for taking the time to send such a detailed reply. Feel MUCH better about my choices now. Thank you!!!

  2. Hi Kate
    I’ve followed your blog for a while now and find it full of ideas and inspiration. I just love it. I wondered if you would advise me please. A while ago I ripped up the horrible stair carpet we inherited when we moved in and the stairs are now bare. We’d love a runner but can’t afford to do it right now. Love the spotted runner you chose. Anyway I’d like to paint them and following your advice intend to go for wimborne white. Did you use the f&b base coat? By nature I’m a corner cutter but I really want to do this properly. Think I’ve answered my own question. Many thanks Sarah x

    1. Hi Sarah, I think you have! Stairs take a beating and it’s all in the prep. One thing you could do is paint the edges in wimborne white and paint a runner up the middle in a really strong colour – perhaps one that is echoed through the rest of the house? Dark grey, navy blue, burgundy or olive? That would make the stairs a bit of feature. Very often the staircase is the first thing anyone sees when they come into your house so it’s worth making them a bit of a wow rather than just a practical means of getting up and down. You could also then paint the handrail to match or contrast. Mine is brinjal to match the carpet but you could do dark grey with an orange handrail (downpipe and charlotte’s locks) for example. I pick those colours blind as I have no idea what colours you like but you get the idea. Have fun, Kate x

      1. Thank you for your reply, Kate. A painted runner is such a brilliant idea. It would look fantastic with a dark grey as we have a black, white and grey wallpaper on one wall in the hall. Alas I showed husband and knowing my slapdash ways he laughed. I think I’m going to have to change my ways and prove to him that I can do things properly! Thank you so much for your help and for your fabulous blog. Sarah x

  3. Do you know who the designer of the house, part of the interior of which is shown in your feature on white rooms, which originally featured on the ilovedesignblogspot . It’s the one with the big timber trusses and a fireplace at one end.

  4. Believe it or not I LURVE WHITE 🙂 Fresh and a obviously a great base to play or not play around with colour! Love the images too – instantly felt like I was at the seaside. Have a white resin floor at home (nightmare to keep clean :)) but wouldn’t change it for anything else! Love that blue and white sofa – soo CrushCube 🙂 Thanks for the blog x

  5. Hello Kate,

    Well, since the sixties I have never grown out of white paint. Do you remember ‘A Taste of Honey’ with Rita Tushingham, where she painted the whole flat white. Well maybe you’re too young!! White just feels right. Also we have lots of paintings which look great on a white background. But, when we moved to this house, the guy before had gone for shades of cream…………., or magnolia, or kinds of just off white. And I have to admit, this does work in the bedrooms!! So they stayed that way with cream duvets, pale carpets etc.


  6. Gorgeous collection if shots kate! Looking forward to Dulux on Thursday-ill be there in the morning and have invited Toni @ skandivis before she comes to yours! Would be great to meet you-think our paths have almost crossed with Lizzie Owen and Home Barn! 🙂

  7. All my walls are white, so I can have colour in everything else, but can anyone really live as bleached out as some of these images?
    I want to have a Pollock style paint fight. Or accidentally knock a tin of bright paint off one of those beams – just catching the corner of the L shaped sofa.
    Love the Blue/White sofa.

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