White Walls, a Perfect Blank Canvas
A post-re-modelling party at a friend’s last month got me thinking. The Nordic style décor was inspiring; their goal was to bring the outdoors in; light and airy with white walls and natural colours and textures to add warmth. To my dismay, whilst our hostess was in the kitchen, another guest remarked, “It’s lovely but why didn’t they bother to paint the walls?”
This bothered me. Instead of the plain walls being considered part of the design, they were regarded as an oversight, or even worse – as laziness. Are white walls a design catastrophe? Why are we so afraid of them? Don’t white walls make statement of their own?
Let there be Light
White is often deemed clinical, too stark or austere and often just plain boring. However, it is a typical characteristic of Nordic interior decorating. The long winters and few hours of sunlight inspired Scandinavian designers to create bright, light, environments and that means white walls. In fact, some areas are in total darkness for months, there is an overwhelming need to create light and harness even the faintest rays of sunshine. It’s therefore quite normal to see a whole room painted white; walls, ceilings and even floors.
Back to Basics
Another defining characteristic of Nordic interior design is the use of natural materials and colours, especially wood. After the war, Scandinavians went back to basics. Limited resources meant they resorted to traditional materials like wood, clay and glass. Interior design takes its cues from the neutral colour palette of Scandinavian landscapes. Fabrics and textures are influenced by the natural theme too.
Nordic homes are admired all over the world, this is partly due to the fact they are in-tune with today’s craving for calm, uncluttered spaces that are easy to live in, functional and low maintenance. Its unpretentious, simplicity and understated elegance, makes it a classic choice.
Here’s a quote by designer Lars Bolander, author of The Scandinavian Home which really sums up what to aim for:
“In a Nordic home you will never feel overpowered by scale, suffocated by stuff, or put off by clinical minimalism. You will feel utterly at ease: comforted by sensitive proportions, delighted by thoughtful details, calmed by unfussy decorating, and subtly yet profoundly connected to a larger world. If anything is going to supply drama, it will be nature.”
Showcase Your Art
The Nordic room is especially good as a backdrop for your favourite painting. This is down to the use of light. Most galleries have clean white walls and spot lights that shine on artwork to make it look exalted, more dramatic and compelling. The lighting in a Nordic style lounge will add significantly to your painting’s visual effect. Good lighting can highlight the texture and brush strokes of a painting so you can enjoy it on many levels.
Nordic design draws inspiration from the landscapes of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. Bringing the outdoors in, colours are influenced by the natural abundance of rivers, waterfalls, fjords, glaciers, forests and mountains of Scandinavia. There is no better tribute to this than a landscape painting.
You’ll also notice that almost all Scandinavian homes focus on the hearth or the heart of the home. Every room needs a focal point and nothing will provide a better backdrop to a work of art than a white wall.
If you find these ideas appealing, this blog is great for Nordic inspiration. lovenordic.blogspot.com is dedicated to everything Scandinavian.
A Blank Canvas
The real beauty is that white walls are a blank canvas – primed to add your own personality, colour and style. For an artist a pristine white canvas excites the imagination. In your home, a plain wall offers wonderful design possibilities. So, instead of thinking that white walls are boring, consider them an opportunity to express yourself. Here are some tips when working with white walls.
Pure white can create a dramatic setting and there are some that actually enjoy the starkness and glare it produces. If this is the case go for a semi-gloss finish rather than matte. The chalkier matte absorbs light; the semi-gloss is more reflective. However, the majority do not crave that kind of severity in a place where they want to relax. There are hundreds of shades of white you can choose from some are warmer, with a slightly yellow or green undertones. If you’re worried about your room looking too cold or clinical choose a slightly off white.
Lighting is extremely important in this environment as it creates silhouettes and shadows, which help define the space. Glare can be a problem in white rooms, so much so that the other colours in your interior design may wash out. It can also reveal dirt and imperfections of plasterwork. Clever lighting is essential to avoid the sterile, clinical look too.
Any colour next to white is at its most vibrant, a bold colour will literally jump out of the room at you, so you need to be careful. If you’re looking to add to the drama of the room, you could perhaps go for bold reds or contrasting black accents. This is a more contemporary way to highlight your white walls; just make sure you don’t over-do-it. Natural, more neutral colours will create a cosier, more relaxed space. Pastels also work well complementing the light and airy feel.
Choose accent pieces that are truly worthy of the attention because they will stand out more than ever in a white room. Pure white is most effective as backdrop when there are powerful visual distractions, a large piece of art for instance, will immediately steal the limelight. One or two key pieces such as an interesting painting or a statement fireplace will work best, instantly grabbing your attention.
“Scandinavians live for light. Like air itself, it is critical to their wellbeing and all the more cherished because, for many months, they must make do with very little or none at all.” – Lars Bolander. While we may not suffer months of total darkness, our UK climate does feel gloomy and depressing and it’s no surprise that many of us Brits are drawn to this décor style. It’s great for urban, city areas, creating the illusion of space and offering a light, bright environment. So, ignore any pre-conceived ideas you may have and go white.