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You’re not wrong to wonder. White rooms are hard to pull off, making the desired look a slippery slope from “superstylish den” to “dentist’s office.” (Sorry, dentists.)

Knowing all that, why do we covet them so much? Fresh and sophisticated, a white space offers a respite from our increasingly busy lives and a place to rest the eyes and the mind. Entering a white room is like hitting a visual “mute” button. I can’t tell you how many designers have confided that after days of looking at bright paint samples and patterned fabrics, they just want to come home to pure, white walls and simple white-slipcovered furniture.

Look closer at the all-white rooms you admire – whether it’s a living room, kitchen, bedroom or bathroom – and I bet you’ll notice that the best ones are rarely one-level white. Not only do the white tones veer from clean to creamy, expertly placed textures and anchor points of black or colour pull everything together and inject subtle warmth.

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Starting with the walls, ceiling and trim, I suggest a white with yellow undertones to give you that cozy mood you’re craving. Think clotted cream, parchment and unbleached muslin as your reference points. Some of my favourite white paints are White Dove by Benjamin Moore, Lime White or Pointing by Farrow & Ball, and Alabaster by Sherwin-Williams. If you want to go beyond plain walls, one technique with dramatic results is adding shadow and dimension with white-painted shiplap or applied moulding, or tone-on-tone wallpaper.

When it comes to decorating, the very best way to make a white space homey and comfortable is with texture and natural tones. Pile up a sofa with linen or velvet cushions, place a fluffy flokati or Moroccan rug on the floor and toss a nubbly, wooly throw atop a bed or armchair. Try bamboo window shades, wicker baskets or rattan trays and small doses of wooden furniture, such as a bench or side tables.

Plants are another great way to add colour without adding colour per se, bringing life and energy to a neutral space.

If your white room’s still feeling a little too cool (and not in a good way), bring on the colour! A bold piece of art, colour-blocked bookshelf, or pair of upholstered chairs in look-at-me shades of yellow, pink or blue should give the space some zing without disturbing your Zen.

Need some advice about interior design and decor? Send your questions to personaldesigner@globeandmail.com.

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