Using a neutral palette doesn’t have to be boring 

Story by MEREDITH COOPMAN
If you had told me a few years ago that I would want to paint the inside of my house white, I would have called you crazy. Every room in my house is painted one color or another. Ask my husband and he will tell you the paint on our living room walls is a half-inch thick with all of the colors we’ve tried. But lately, while I do find inspiration in color, there is just something about the white-on-white look that really does it for me. White can suit any taste or style, whether yours is traditional, modern, or somewhere in between.

White can make your interiors versatile year-round and create a canvas for you to decorate in different ways for every season. In the spring, a white room with a bright bouquet of freshly picked flowers can be romantic, bold, or just plain pretty. An all-white interior is cool and refreshing in the hot summer months. Autumn allows you to decorate with gorgeous rustic tones of red, yellow and orange. In the dead of winter when we haven’t seen the sun for days, I would have argued that we need color inside because during the winter months it’s so drab outside. However, a white room remains cheery and bright. Swap out accent rugs, throw pillows, bedding, or change an art piece to create a seasonal space that is flexible and welcoming all year round.

A white room accentuates all of the color coming in from outside. No matter where you are in the Flathead Valley, there is something beautiful to look at. That’s why we live here. Whether it’s the snowcapped mountains, the evening alpenglow, the lakes, the forests, the big blue sky, imagine white walls framing your favorite view. White is a beautiful canvas to use as a backdrop for your dazzling vistas. Traditionally, home décor in Montana is dark and heavy; I’m suggesting we lighten things up. Use white to complement, rather than compete with, nature’s palette. Make the most of a room with a striking outdoor view.

The usual complaints about white being boring, sterile or hard to maintain may have more to do with limited imaginations. The sky is the limit with white. One of the greatest assets of working with white is the ability to showcase your own personality and style without having to compete with the color on the walls, furniture and décor. Decorating with white walls, furniture, even floors, brightens a room, creates the illusion of a larger space, and highlights everything around it. White walls reflect daylight directly, saturating an interior with a cozy glow. Paint a room white, and you have a blank canvas for anything. Start with bold wallpaper, and you’re already committed. Beige can be boring, but not white. It’s a very dramatic color.

Don’t think white is a color? Ask Sherwin Williams or Farrow & Ball. White is indeed a color with lots of range. Benjamin Moore alone offers more than 200 different shades. You can go terribly wrong by choosing the wrong shade or undertone, and which one you choose can make all the difference. Warm whites soften areas and add a sense of comfort, while bright whites give a modern, minimalist impression. There truly is an art to going all white. If done well, there is nothing so dramatically stunning. You can’t just paint the walls white, add some white furnishings and attain a magnificent look. Layering and texture become artistic imperatives in a good white space.

Traditionally, home décor in Montana is dark and heavy; I’m suggesting we lighten things up. Use white to complement,
rather than compete with, nature’s palette.

Another reason I’d have called you crazy is because I have two young kids and two big dogs. Dogs are, without a doubt, part of our culture in this valley. We see them in the back of every other pickup truck in the Home Depot parking lot, hiking the trails, first mates on the lake, faithful companions in every sense of the word, but to bring muddy paws into a white interior … And what about the little people? My kids seem to be covered in one thing or another at any given time and even getting my husband to take his shoes off can be a chore. Believe it or not, white can be practical. It actually washes easily and, in fact, hides architectural flaws. There are options for white upholstery, such as using outdoor fabrics inside and slipcovers that can easily be washed, and faux leathers and suedes are very forgiving.

A simple, safe, and often “go-to” hue for the color-phobics and designers alike, white is appealing to the masses for good reason. The qualities of freshness, cleanliness and timelessness will always make white reliable. And there are endless ways to incorporate white’s unique qualities into any design configuration. White harmonizes space and establishes continuity from one room to another. It encourages flow, whereas an abrupt color change can make a space feel disjointed.

White is classic, timeless and never goes out of style – sort of like a plain white T-shirt, an essential item in any wardrobe. No other short-sleeve shirt style is as comfortable or as functional as the basic tee, and it’s always in fashion, continuously relevant in current trends that transcend both age and gender. While some of us are drawn to white’s allusions of purity and innocence, others see it as the ultimate depiction of chic. However you define your love of white, one thing is for sure, it works in any environment, period, or style. It’s just too bad it doesn’t hold up to red wine better. And kids. And dogs.

Meredith Coopman of Meredith Coopman Design Studio lives in the Flathead Valley. She has a background in architecture and interior design. You can reach her at meredith@meredithcoopmandesign.com.