White is a lame excuse for a color.
Sure, scientifically, white light is made by blending all the colors of the spectrum, and artistically, white plays a role in creating volume, perspective and negative space.
But in home decor, white represents a failure of imagination and is often employed by those who timidly refuse to take a leap into the vibrant world of bold and varied color. And the vibe of an all-white space is pretentious and overly fussy, utterly unconducive to everyday life.
Or so I used to think.
^ A tiny gallery collection of white frames disguises my ugly thermostat and lends a light touch to a dark corner of the front hall.
Thankfully, one of my students taught me a few lessons about white.
My schooling began from the moment that I first walked into Katie's family apartment,
The space was a modest modern unit, built within the past decade or so, and utterly lacking in stylish amenities or architectural charm.
But as soon as I dropped my book bag and settled on the simple couch, a profound sense of peace and order settled over me like a dove. I immediately began my search for the mysterious source of this serenity and calm.
^ I die for the cheery yellow of these hexagonal shelves, and find that the simple white objects inside, underscored by the white shelves and little lamp, help calm my eye and redirect my attention to the six-sided shapes.
Several weeks passed by - each session feeling like I was floating on a cloud - until my eye finally perceived what my soul had felt all along.
Katie's entire apartment - every dish, every rug, every inch of furniture - was decorated in nothing but shades of white.
^A collection of mix-and-match white dishes and an elephant teapot bring sass and style to the dining room without overwhelming my eye with clutter.
"Oh, right," Katie laughed when I shared with her my discovery. "My mom loves white. She thinks it's calming."
Well. I couldn't have agreed more. And to be honest, my old preconceptions about color - "the more, the better" was my motto - began to crash around my mind as if blown by the winds of a blizzard.
^ Alright, I'll admit that neutrals and natural textures sometimes creep into my islands of white. But for a person whose favorite color is fire engine red, this still represents major restraint.
As my studies with Katie progressed, so did my newfound obsession with all-white living.
Rather than creating a flat, one-dimensional space, these varied tints and shades came together in a cozy, dynamic and eminently livable room. The signs of use - a tiny ding in the coffee table, a smoky smudge on a sofa pillow - came across as evidence of life well-lived and lent a happy, homey vibe.
Much to my surprise, I began to crave some white space of my own.
^ My cravings for white are often directly related to my stress level. The more crazy my life, the more white I want. This arrangement came together after the wild and woolly holiday season of 2014 and I'm still feeling it.
For a few months, I puzzled over this incongruity. My home has always reflected my obsession with color, bright and bold. As much as I loved Katie's place, I couldn't imagine transitioning my whole house into an Arctic tundra. Where was a happy halfway point?
I stumbled on to the perfect solution by accident.
Islands of white.
Here and there, throughout my colorful house, I've gathered small collections of white objects - books, planters, dishes, frames, vases and furniture. While these spaces don't have quite the same head-to-toe soul-soothing impact as Katie's mom's all-white home, they give my eye a much-appreciated space to land and to rest, amidst the riotous rainbow that most of my house continues to be.
^ I fully admit that this bookcase does not exactly look like an island of white. But you should have seen it before.