Design Chick  

White hot interior design

t's a hard scheme to pull off, but when it's done right, a white, monochromatic space looks simply stunning.

It requires thoughtful planning, integration of texture and perfect undertones, smart fabric choices… not exactly an easy feat, but if you're brave enough to take the plunge, here are a few things you need to know to make your spaces sizzle in white...


The ultimate rule of doing a white room: Layer. Use varying shades of white, cream, platinum, pearl, and linen. If you don't layer your white tones, you may end up with a hospital room for a living space.

Rooms that lack dimension in the form of tone-on-tone layering often feel stark, harsh, and institutional - so unless you're aiming for an ultra-pure and minimal aesthetic, don't get too matchy with your materials and finishes.


Crucial in almost every environment (not just the white ones), texture is a perfect way to add depth and interest to your monochromatic palette. Play up combinations of glossy, ruddy, knubby, sleek, watery, shimmery, organic, leathery, woody, knotty, and cozy for a warm and inviting atmosphere... vital again when trying to avoid stark and cold design.


I have a go-to white I use in almost all of my spaces that require a soft, pure shade: OC-65 Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore is a design favourite across the board, and it's no secret why.

When paired with other colours, it still retains its 'whiteness', while melding softly into the colour scheme. When used in contrast with other finishes, OC-60 will act as the perfect backdrop.

Another few favourites you'll often see in magazines are:

  • OC-17 White Dove (Benjamin Moore),
  • Swiss Coffee 1812 (Behr)
  • Powderface CLW 1034W (General Paint),
  • Antique White (CIL RM 43YY 78/053).


Sadly, there is a catch 22. Children — as loveable and adorable as they are — do not make great low-maintenance accessories to the all-white room. So for those of you eyeing the cotton duck sofa or pearly cashmere pillows, perhaps it might be wise to consider a slightly warmer or darker option.

I love beautiful looking spaces, but it's not all that fair to constantly be hawking and keeping your kids out of any space in your home for the sake of its design integrity. Something to definitely consider... decide on warmer and more texturized pieces (so wear and tear over time is camouflaged best), or wait until university.


You can't pull this look off if you only go half way with it... otherwise you might end up with a confusing mess of a colour scheme. If you want to add some pops of colour here and there absolutely do so, but stick to the 80:20 ratio: 80 per cent white and tones of white, and 20 per cent accent colour(s).

Take the white throughout for walls, furniture, drapes, and maybe even flooring if you’re feeling brave, but you can then add in a hit of colour with the odd pillow, frame, throw, lamp shade, or small decor item.

I once test-painted a large blob of off-white paint over the existing living room wall colour (which happened to be a golden wheat colour at the time we moved in), just to see if I could handle the huge change from dark to light. It's a major jump to instantly go from what you’ve been comfortable with to something you think you want…

Design Tip:

  • paint a few test patches and see them at different times of the day first, then commit, sometimes you just have to dive right in.


Blissful bedroom design

Bedrooms are often one of the very last spaces clients tackle, or neglect to finish off all together.

That doesn't make the most sense, considering statistics report we spend nearly 227,468 hours tucked up in bed sleeping over the average lifespan - the equivalent of 26 years. 

If you're in the mood for a soothing and inviting space to retreat to, why not consider some of the following changes you can easily implement… You'll thank yourself in the morning.


It's not just the design of a room you need to focus on - first you must clear out the "mind-clutter" abject and misplaced objects and clothing create when they're strewn about or piled high in a corner.

Your bedroom should be a place you feel less tense and destressed in — not a place you lie awake at night in, surrounded by to-do projects, laundry, or items that didn't quite make it to the closet; it's amazing just how peaceful a clean, well-organized bedroom can be.

Change Your Light Fixture

Once you've gone through and tidied and purged, you can move on to the fun parts! Start simple by changing out an old or dimly lit light fixture with something that makes more of a statement.

Dining rooms aren't the only spaces that can benefit from a show stopping fixture: a smaller chandelier, a modern mobile, a capiz shell piece of art... step up and something unexpected.

Add An Area Rug

Whether you have hardwood, laminate, or carpet already... adding an area rug at the foot of the bed or even under the entire bed will soften up your space and allow you to add some interesting pattern and texture.

A 5x8 can tuck slightly under the foot of the bed and give you enough left over to add a bench or trunk at the end. Opting for something larger will give you a warm and cozy surface down either side of the bed to step out onto in the mornings.

If your duvet or comforter is heavily patterned, lean more toward a solid or something with a simple border around the edges, and vice versa if your linens are solid... too much pattern can seem too fussy and busy.

Mix Up Your Pillows

Just in case you wondered, you don't have to stick with the matching pillowcases and shams that come with your sheets.

Look to darker shades and accent colours if your bedding is white or taupe; you can even mix a few white or off-white pillows with these accents to kick up the contrast. And on the contrary,

if your bedding has darker tones, try adding something in silver, cream, pearl, sand, or watery blue to help lighten the mood.

Pick A Soothing Colour

You can paint your bedroom nearly any colour you please, but if it's a soothing oasis you want to create, stay away from deep or heavy-feeling hues.

I tend to stick to pale grays, sands, suedes, and even silvery sages when picking out bedroom paint finishes... the bedding, drapery, and decor can add hits of darker and brighter tones afterwards in smaller doses.

Ditch The Matching Suites

If you're in need of new bedroom furniture, consider ditching the 'full suite', and look at mixing and matching instead.

An upholstered headboard and footboard, paired with wooden night tables, and a complementary dresser in white is a much more interesting combination than a standard five-piece set.

Too much of the same finish in one space can make it feel smaller and more crowded.

Design Q&A With Crispin

I get asked random design questions by friends, family, even strangers pretty much all the time – it comes with the territory.

Interior design is a bit of an art form, and I don’t blame people for feeling slightly intimidated when it comes to making big – and often expensive – design choices for their homes.

Enquiring minds want to know, so I’ve complied several popular Q&As in the hopes it can offer some helpful and insightful expertise with your own projects come decision-making time.

Q: Grey is everywhere, but I’m not sure I’m entirely sold on it. Do I have to use it to be in style?

A: Heck, no. Grey is definitely classic and ultra-calming, but it’s been ramped up as the “it” colour for the past few years – everything from floors, to cabinets, to furniture can be found in 50 shades of grey – and it’s created  mindless design when it comes to pulling different finishes and materials together.

I love finding materials and fabrics that layer to combine hints of grey with tan and cream, and even walnut and deep charcoal. Bringing in some warmer undertones will eliminate the cold and sterile feeling aesthetic you get when you pick everything in grey tones.

Q: Granite or marble?

A: Both! But keep in mind marble is mega-porous and will stain if you spill red wine, pasta sauce, makeup, and anything acidic on it.

Q: Are painted feature walls still popular?

A: In a word, no – however, you are your own judge when it comes to your spaces, and if you really love the look of a bright or richly painted feature wall, who’s going to stop you?

Ten years ago every client I worked with wanted a feature wall (or several) somewhere in their homes, but now, the trend is to paint the whole house out in only one or two versions of the same colour, and infuse colour in your accessories and décor.

Q: Is running hardwood through my kitchen a bad idea?

A: This depends on the style and finish of the hardwood.

Choose something with more colour and grain variance, and perhaps something with a hand-scraped finish to help camouflage the gradual wear and tear any natural product will start to show over time.

Q: What’s your go-to, no-fail suggestion for art choices? And how high should I hang it?

A: Framed black-and-white photography… every single time. It can be sculptural, abstract, and timeless all at the same time, and can fit into any design scheme. 8”-10” off the back of your sofa, or centre the piece at 5’-6” on an open wall so the middle of the piece is at approximately eye-level.

Q: Do I really need to pull a permit?

A: Yes! Or almost always yes. You want to be insured after the fact don’t you? When in doubt, check with your local city planning department.

Q: What inspires you to always be coming up with new design ideas?

A: Honestly, in the digital and accessible world we live in, I don’t believe there’s really such a thing as a new design idea.

 I’ve honed my craft, so a lot of my design ideas are organic and derived from my client’s needs. But there’s a lot of inspiration designers take from concepts and visuals found on sites such as Pinterest and Houzz, online design blogs and sites like Elle Décor and House & Home, and from other well-known industrial and interior designers in the industry.

Scour magazines, and start collecting images of rooms and spaces that inspire you, and you will begin to figure out your own esthetic over time.


Make it personal


When it comes to refreshing and revitalizing a rented home, the price of what you pick and what you dream about bringing into your spaces shouldn’t keep you up worrying at night.

If you have remodelling limitations, or your budget’s a little tight, here are five great ideas that will help instantly transform your spaces and won’t hurt the bank account...


A quick pick-me-up for your cabinets, dressers, sideboards, and hutches, new hardware spices things up instantly. If you've got dated looking hardware, switch it out for modern chrome or distressed pewter handles, or something with a more Artisanal flare.

Don't worry if you have a few different finishes in the same area: as long as they're in the same colour family (chrome, pewter, nickel, and aluminum, or copper, oil rubbed bronze, black, or antiqued brass), you'll be just fine.

Some companies are coming out with amazing etched and oxidized finishes for totally unique and artistic looks; don't be afraid to go bold on drab cabinets or aged furniture.


Paint is one of the best - if not the best - ways to instantly transform a room.

We’re no strangers to painting at least one room nearly every year or two in our own home. It staves off boredom and allows us to create different looks at the fraction of the cost a total makeover would run.

Walls aren't the only thing that might benefit from a dash of new colour: coffee tables, consoles, old dressers, bookshelves, and end tables are other pieces you can splash your brush with for a fresh look.

This also works great for thrift shop or clearance finds with less desirable finishes.


Outdated and inefficient fixtures drag your spaces down and aren’t the least bit flattering.

Lighting can make or break a space and is often over looked when it comes to decorating. Some of the most striking fixtures I've ordered in the past have come from inexpensive outfits such as EQ3 or Structube.

Floor lamps done up with classic drum shades in woven grass cloth add soft sculptural dimension to bare or dim corners, while Mid-Century ceiling fixtures can help infuse whimsy and minimalist charm over a dining table or breakfast counter.


Once those walls are painted, it’s time to add a little polish and style; I don't necessarily mean you need to buy all new artwork, but consider editing or moving it around to new locations.

Make new groupings by pairing pieces of similar size or colour together, or take that large piece down from over the mantle and lay a few smaller frames with black and white images up against the wall for a more contemporary look.

Get creative with large collages made from patterned paper or fabric, wallpaper scraps or maps, or pop children’s art into off-the-shelf frames with bright white mattes.


Tired of your living room furnishings but not in the position to buy new? Add a few new toss pillows instead to help introduce a new accent colour, or punch up the look of a plain sofa.

If you've lucked out and own neutral furniture, you've essentially got a blank canvas you can work with. A colourful throw over the back of a neutral sofa is a great way to add a pop of colour, and conversely, if the heavy or outdated pattern of your furniture needs to be toned down, a single toned or monochromatic throw will help to hide some of the distraction.

As a rule, don't buy more than three of the same cushions to use in a room; you can end up with a space looking too contrived and matchy-matchy. Instead, buy two or three of the same staple cushion, and then find a few others in similar or contrasting shades with different and interesting textures or patterns.

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About the Author

Crispin Butterfield is the creative force and mastermind behind Urban Theory; a graduate of Mount Royal University in Calgary, her engaging personality and design-commerce savvy make her a valued and well-respected professional and mentor within her field.

She’s able to uniquely see the parameters and vision of each project in ways her clients often cannot, and has honed the process and proficiency required to grow incredible long-standing client relationships. 

Crispin embraces a life full of ingenuity and imagination, fueled by raw ambition and a desire to leave her mark on the world. Her impeccable design style, expertise, and a rock-solid business acumen is the foundation which allows Urban Theory Interior Design to provide full scale services with authenticity, innovation, and ample amounts of personality.

Featured in Style At Home Magazine, Covet, Canadian Retailer, and The National Post – www.urbantheoryinteriordesign.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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