Notice the background of the roman shade is cream along with the carpet but the trim, walls and chair is WHITE. Image via pinterest
So the renovation that I mentioned here is starting next week, hooray! Habitat for Humanity is coming to remove all the espresso cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms and install them somewhere else. So everything is moving along and that’s great right?
For the kitchen cabinets I chose a true white to go along with the honed Absolute Black Granite countertops and after the cabinet maker had his paint colours, I started sourcing fabrics.
Everything went just swimmingly (I’m soooo excited about the palette we’ve chosen), until I tried to find a roman shade for the kitchen windows in a pattern with a white background. I was surprised how hard it was to find a fabric with a plain, true white background.
In fact, the majority of the designer fabrics I flipped through have an off-white or cream background.
When I conducted a poll with my True Colour Experts on our private forum, one said she’d even complained to the fabric companies about the lack of patterned fabrics with white.
Notice that the drapes and carpet are cream and the pillows on the sofa are a true white, however the white is repeated. Image from House Beautiful UK
The same thing happened when I went shopping for white tile for my bathroom renovations.
Since I am not a renovator, you’ll rarely find me in a tile store so I was really surprised at how little white there was to be found. White tile is in a corner somewhere out of sight, you almost have to ask where it is. Everything is grey, taupe, beige, earthy, busy, blotchy, mid tone or dark. And I went to seven stores, in one day.
Which, by the way, is easy to do when you know exactly what you’re looking for. Designers don’t generally spend a long time browsing and waffling when we shop. We walk in, scan the showroom or store, and if we don’t see what we’re looking for. . . we’re gone.
Anyway, I have suddenly developed huge empathy for all of you with bathrooms or kitchen floors out there that ended up in tile that you just don’t love anymore, never loved even when you chose it, or bathrooms you inherited and can’t wait to rip out.
Last year in the Spring when I was in Chicago at the Harrington College of Design leading one of my Specify Colour with Confidence™ events, I went to the sample room to gather tiles, carpets and fabrics for my in-class exercises.
How much plain white (or even cream) tile do you think I found?
ZERO. ZIP. ZILCH (is that even a word?)
I realized that it’s no wonder designers leave design school and think that they should be able to coordinate one pattern after another with tile (you can’t) and get the neutral undertones right (almost impossible).
The problem with design school samples is that they are discontinued. That clearly doesn’t happen with plain white tile which is why it doesn’t end up in design school sample rooms.
Take perfectly benign looking beige tile, install it in your hallway with natural light and then also in the adjoining powder room without natural light, and suddenly in there, it’s pink beige (or a colour you were not expecting). And now, you’re cranky.
However, given the teeny, tiny amount of plain white tile out there, I suddenly get it.
So my lovelies, if you are having this problem and are driving yourself crazy here is my best advice:
If you have trouble finding plain white fabrics and you still end up with some off-white or cream choices, repeat them in the space. As long as you repeat them both, it’ll still work.
Choose off-white unless your fixed whites dictate that you must go whiter.
Your bathroom is like an island, it’s totally fine if your house has off-white or cream trim but your bathrooms are white, or your house has white trim/cabinets but your bathrooms are cream.
If all else fails and you feel like you’ve done something wrong, distract the eye with styling. There are many colour mistakes made by big name, celebrity designers, every single day that you really don’t notice because the room has been so well decorated.
I recently received an email from a long time reader Sondra who said that she once heard this quote from a celebrity designer from New York:
“When you find a colour that is off, just repeat it somewhere quietly and then it goes away. No one will notice it. Looks as if it was on purpose”.
Wise words for the decorator in all of us.
In my Specify Colour with Confidence™ 3-day course I talk about this a lot. The magic of styling and how it covers up multitudes of colour mistakes. We also spend a lot of time on the 4 gradations of white, in addition to the other 9 neutral undertones that cause the most angst.
Over to you, have you had this experience with sourcing fabrics?
If you would like to transform the way you see colour, become a True Colour Expert.
Need help choosing the right white? My White is Complicated: A Decorators Guide to Choosing the Right White eBook will help you get your whites right for your cabinets, trim, ceilings, and walls. This eBook also includes my Bonus book of Whites which will take the guesswork out of your decisions.
You’ll need them both if you have an entire house of whites and neutrals/colours to choose, get them here.