How to Design with White

written by:
September 27, 2012
While white may be interpreted as an absence of color, it is by no means absent of major impact when used in design. Here, Dwell looks back on some of our favorite homes that center around a white schema to prove that, when done correctly, the lack of color actually translates into an effortless cool.
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  In a combination gallery-and-residence in Antwerp, a pair of artists from Studio Simple assembled a mosaic of white-painted chests and cabinets to create a highly personalized bathroom.  Photo by: Tim Van de Velde

    In a combination gallery-and-residence in Antwerp, a pair of artists from Studio Simple assembled a mosaic of white-painted chests and cabinets to create a highly personalized bathroom.

    Photo by: Tim Van de Velde

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  In the cavernous living room of a converted 17th-century oil mill in Salento, Italy, designers Ludovica+Roberto Palomba used various shades of white to create a light and airy living space.  Photo by: Francesco Bolis

    In the cavernous living room of a converted 17th-century oil mill in Salento, Italy, designers Ludovica+Roberto Palomba used various shades of white to create a light and airy living space.

    Photo by: Francesco Bolis

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  In a Connecticut kitchen renovation where everything is white, from the whitewashed cabinets to the tile backsplash, a set of Pantone mugs constitutes one of the only pops of color.  Photo by: Daniel Shea

    In a Connecticut kitchen renovation where everything is white, from the whitewashed cabinets to the tile backsplash, a set of Pantone mugs constitutes one of the only pops of color.

    Photo by: Daniel Shea

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  A vintage lamp joins a Spool clock and Marshmallow sofa by George Nelson to give a multi-generational California home a clean, white mid-century vibe.  Photo by: Ye Rin Mok

    A vintage lamp joins a Spool clock and Marshmallow sofa by George Nelson to give a multi-generational California home a clean, white mid-century vibe.

    Photo by: Ye Rin Mok

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  The renovation of a midcentury home in Austin, Texas, is particularly striking in the crisp white ktichen. The cooktop, refrigerator, and wall ovens are by Jenn-Air; the sink and faucet are by Kohler; and the countertops are from Caesarstone.  Photo by: Brent Humphreys

    The renovation of a midcentury home in Austin, Texas, is particularly striking in the crisp white ktichen. The cooktop, refrigerator, and wall ovens are by Jenn-Air; the sink and faucet are by Kohler; and the countertops are from Caesarstone.

    Photo by: Brent Humphreys

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  30E Design transformed a hallway in a Boston brownstone from a cold, dank dumping ground into a clean white space that efficiently houses the laundry, furnace, and boiler.  Photo by: Eric Roth

    30E Design transformed a hallway in a Boston brownstone from a cold, dank dumping ground into a clean white space that efficiently houses the laundry, furnace, and boiler.

    Photo by: Eric Roth

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  In the renovated kitchen of a San Francisco home, a high-gloss finish was achieved through a meticulous process. Painters applied multiple layers of white paint, each polished with very high-grit sandpaper, before topping it all off with three coats of clear varnish.  Photo by: Joseph Dominguez Courtesy of: Joseph Dominguez

    In the renovated kitchen of a San Francisco home, a high-gloss finish was achieved through a meticulous process. Painters applied multiple layers of white paint, each polished with very high-grit sandpaper, before topping it all off with three coats of clear varnish.

    Photo by: Joseph Dominguez

    Courtesy of: Joseph Dominguez

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  Barbara Hill designed this modern home in Atlanta, Georgia. Its informal dining space has a slightly rustic feel, sporting bronze and wood in the form of a Lindsey Adams Adelman chandelier for Roll & Hill and a table by Terry Dwan, mixed with folk-art touches like the Eames House Birds and a cuckoo clock from Diamantini & Domeniconi. The PK8 chairs from Republic of Fritz Hansen were designed by Poul Kjærlholm and sourced from Kuhl-Linscomb in Houston, Texas.  Photo by: Gregory Miller

    Barbara Hill designed this modern home in Atlanta, Georgia. Its informal dining space has a slightly rustic feel, sporting bronze and wood in the form of a Lindsey Adams Adelman chandelier for Roll & Hill and a table by Terry Dwan, mixed with folk-art touches like the Eames House Birds and a cuckoo clock from Diamantini & Domeniconi. The PK8 chairs from Republic of Fritz Hansen were designed by Poul Kjærlholm and sourced from Kuhl-Linscomb in Houston, Texas.

    Photo by: Gregory Miller

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  Next to a neighboring schoolyard in Nagoya, Japan, this white cube-shaped structure was designed by Japanese architect Makoto Tanijiri. It triples as a flower shop, art gallery, and residence to Yurika and Takuya Ninomiya. Staying true to the house's minimal and white design aesthetic, a stunning steel spiral staircase links all three floors of the home, which is absent of any interior doors. The Japanese home is made complete with a teahouse located behind the house that is lit by Isamu Noguchi's classic Akari 1AS lamp and also serves as an additional art gallery.  Photo by: Takashi Homma

    Next to a neighboring schoolyard in Nagoya, Japan, this white cube-shaped structure was designed by Japanese architect Makoto Tanijiri. It triples as a flower shop, art gallery, and residence to Yurika and Takuya Ninomiya. Staying true to the house's minimal and white design aesthetic, a stunning steel spiral staircase links all three floors of the home, which is absent of any interior doors. The Japanese home is made complete with a teahouse located behind the house that is lit by Isamu Noguchi's classic Akari 1AS lamp and also serves as an additional art gallery.

    Photo by: Takashi Homma

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  Located in New York, the ultramodern interior of  Svetlin Krastev and Dessi Nikolova's apartment  easily houses a family of four. The 620-square-foot home, designed by su11 architecture + design, features a nearly-all white minimal interior that proves to be aesthetically pleasing with pops of color as well as utilitarian with a family room that transforms into the master bedroom. With each piece of furniture performing multiple functions, the secret to the family's minimalist home lies in built-in furniture and hidden storage.  Photo by: David Allee

    Located in New York, the ultramodern interior of Svetlin Krastev and Dessi Nikolova's apartment easily houses a family of four. The 620-square-foot home, designed by su11 architecture + design, features a nearly-all white minimal interior that proves to be aesthetically pleasing with pops of color as well as utilitarian with a family room that transforms into the master bedroom. With each piece of furniture performing multiple functions, the secret to the family's minimalist home lies in built-in furniture and hidden storage.

    Photo by: David Allee

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  Designed by Claesson Koivisto Rune, Plus House is a prefab vision of white that showcases streamlined modern architecture and integrates traditional Swedish roofline design. The home to a family of four boasts an open design, well-thought out design concepts, and plenty of natural lighting.  Photo by: Åke E:son Lindman

    Designed by Claesson Koivisto Rune, Plus House is a prefab vision of white that showcases streamlined modern architecture and integrates traditional Swedish roofline design. The home to a family of four boasts an open design, well-thought out design concepts, and plenty of natural lighting.

    Photo by: Åke E:son Lindman

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  Michael McCarthy and Marcia Meyers took to the internet to find this stunner, a clean combination of white and glass, in Harbor Springs, Michigan. The home--also known as the Douglas House--designed by Richard Meier is tucked away in the hills and provides luxurious views of the turquoise water of Lake Michigan. Meier also designed the optic white sofa in the family's living room that is tied together by a Le Corbusier–designed rug manufactured by Edward Fields. The home offers multiple entryways via footbridge as well as cantilevered stairs.  Photo by: Dean KaufmanCourtesy of: © Dean Kaufman 2011 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

    Michael McCarthy and Marcia Meyers took to the internet to find this stunner, a clean combination of white and glass, in Harbor Springs, Michigan. The home--also known as the Douglas House--designed by Richard Meier is tucked away in the hills and provides luxurious views of the turquoise water of Lake Michigan. Meier also designed the optic white sofa in the family's living room that is tied together by a Le Corbusier–designed rug manufactured by Edward Fields. The home offers multiple entryways via footbridge as well as cantilevered stairs.

    Photo by: Dean Kaufman

    Courtesy of: © Dean Kaufman 2011 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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  Growing tired of Manhattan, Kathleen Triem and Peter Franck sought out to build a house of their own in Omi, New York. The two-story 3,000-square-foot home—a nod to Richard Serra's sculpture 4-5-6—features high ceilings and heated stone floors. The natural elements and white palette are balanced by wooden stairs, while an exterior entry ramp leads into the open living room and dining space with O chairs by Karim Rashid surrounding the table.  Photo by: Barbel Miebach

    Growing tired of Manhattan, Kathleen Triem and Peter Franck sought out to build a house of their own in Omi, New York. The two-story 3,000-square-foot home—a nod to Richard Serra's sculpture 4-5-6—features high ceilings and heated stone floors. The natural elements and white palette are balanced by wooden stairs, while an exterior entry ramp leads into the open living room and dining space with O chairs by Karim Rashid surrounding the table.

    Photo by: Barbel Miebach

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  This grand penthouse in Vienna, Austria, was designed by Delugan Meissl. The kitchen of the expansive apartment is illuminated by Guzzini's recessed lighting and brought to life by hi-fi speakers. The stainless-steel kitchen equipment, like the faucet by Dornbract, offsets the white palette of the futuristic penthouse.  Photo by: Hertha Hurnaus

    This grand penthouse in Vienna, Austria, was designed by Delugan Meissl. The kitchen of the expansive apartment is illuminated by Guzzini's recessed lighting and brought to life by hi-fi speakers. The stainless-steel kitchen equipment, like the faucet by Dornbract, offsets the white palette of the futuristic penthouse.

    Photo by: Hertha Hurnaus

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  This former fishermen's cottage, designed by Norm. Architects in Vedbaek, Denmark, offers a rustic yet modern charm in unison with floor-to-ceiling white interior. The simplicity of the white color scheme translates into the conversion of the adjacent storehouse into a guest room with a direct entryway into the home's dining room.  Photo by: Jonas Bjerre-Polsen

    This former fishermen's cottage, designed by Norm. Architects in Vedbaek, Denmark, offers a rustic yet modern charm in unison with floor-to-ceiling white interior. The simplicity of the white color scheme translates into the conversion of the adjacent storehouse into a guest room with a direct entryway into the home's dining room.

    Photo by: Jonas Bjerre-Polsen

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  Armed with a DIY spirit and tight budget, designers Susanna and Jussi Vento sought to renovate their 660-square-foot Helsinki apartment into a cozy home packed with quirky charm. Their white interior palette, complemented by black accents, serves as the perfect starting point for Susanna to display her attention to crafty details. The hints of neon accentuate the clean glow of the white master bedroom furnished with a trestle desk built with Ikea legs, a rocking horse found on huuto.net, and a bed that doubles as a couch.

    Armed with a DIY spirit and tight budget, designers Susanna and Jussi Vento sought to renovate their 660-square-foot Helsinki apartment into a cozy home packed with quirky charm. Their white interior palette, complemented by black accents, serves as the perfect starting point for Susanna to display her attention to crafty details. The hints of neon accentuate the clean glow of the white master bedroom furnished with a trestle desk built with Ikea legs, a rocking horse found on huuto.net, and a bed that doubles as a couch.

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  Sandwiched between terra-cotta-colored roofs, the modern block-like Town House, with a glass door offering a glimpse of the inside, is designed by Elding Oscarson and home to Johnny Lokaas and Conny Ahlgren. The optic white office space is outfitted with desks from Ikea and framed artwork.  Photo by: Mark Seelen

    Sandwiched between terra-cotta-colored roofs, the modern block-like Town House, with a glass door offering a glimpse of the inside, is designed by Elding Oscarson and home to Johnny Lokaas and Conny Ahlgren. The optic white office space is outfitted with desks from Ikea and framed artwork.

    Photo by: Mark Seelen

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