Creating A Colorful Home With White Walls

Decorating Around Your White Walls...

By Jill M. Banks
Happily Better After Room Redesign & Home Staging


When you rent an apartment or house, you’re often stuck with white walls. Leases often stipulate that the walls can’t be painted, or if they are, they must be repainted white before you vacate.  When you move around a lot (or in a hurry) due to new orders or a deployment, you barely have time to get packed and to your next destination, much less re-paint the walls of the place you’re leaving. But what can you do to make where you’re living feel like home if painting the walls isn’t an option?

Just because the walls are white doesn’t mean you can’t have a home that reflects your personality and color preferences.  There are ways to "fake it" without painting; if you do it right, you won’t even notice the white walls! The first step is to choose a color scheme. An easy way is to create a coordinated color scheme is to find an item (e.g., window treatments, picture, fabric, rug, etc.) that has a pattern with colors you like, and use it as a guide. Pick three colors from it; choose one as the main color (try to use it about 60% of the time) and two others as accent colors (use them 30% and 10% of the time, respectively).

Once you’ve decided on a color scheme, the key to creating a colorful room with white walls is to make sure the color flows throughout the entire room. This can be accomplished by using your chosen colors in the room’s vertical elements (walls, windows, bookshelves), and repeating those colors on the horizontal surfaces (tabletops, seating, floor). Don’t try to match the colors of each item exactly; slight variations within the same color family make for a more interesting mix. Here are some basic guidelines to get you started:

Vertical Elements
The vertical elements in the room have the biggest impact when injecting color into a room with white walls. These are the best places to incorporate the colors in your color scheme. Go for patterned, rather than solid, window treatments (curtains, roman shades); and be sure the pattern has some white in it to help it relate to the white walls, so the introduction of color isn’t too jarring.  Next, add wall art (framed posters or prints, canvases, vintage signs, etc.) that features some of the same colors in your window treatments to reinforce the color scheme. Mirrors and wall sculptures can be used too, and they should contain at least one of the colors from your color scheme.  If you have a tall entertainment unit, dresser, or bookcases, add accents (vases, statues, picture frames, candleholders, etc.) to the shelves that feature one or more of the colors in your color scheme. Lamps are another vertical element that can add a pop of color; if the lamp’s body is plain, pick a colorful shade, and if the lamp body is colorful, keep the shade neutral.

Horizontal Surfaces
Now that the vertical surfaces are done, start incorporating color into the horizontal ones. An area rug covers a large part of the floor, so it is a great way to continue your color scheme. Either a solid or patterned rug is okay, as long as it relates to your scheme. Try using accent furniture (chests, ottomans, chairs, and tables) in one of your scheme colors or with painted details, decals, or inlays to further distribute color throughout the room.  On your sofa and chairs, add pillows and throws to provide the final big pops of color and pattern to the room, and use tabletop accents and floral arrangements to fill in those spots where color may be missing.
By following these guidelines, your rooms can be full of color  without applying a drop of paint to those white walls!
Happy decorating!

Jill M. Banks is the owner of Happily Better After Room Redesign & Home Staging (www.happilybetterafter.com), an award-winning firm specializing in home staging, room makeover, and professional organizing services. Since 2009, she has helped clients throughout southern NJ reveal the fabulous potential in their homes and offices, whether they plan to sell or stay. Her expert advice has been featured in Burlington County Woman and Camden County Woman magazines, "The Joyful Organizer" podcast, MSN Real Estate, AOL Real Estate, BHG.com, and several decorating blogs and websites. She is one of the expert panelists for eLocal’s Home Expert Network, and writes on interior decorating topics for Examiner.com.