Looking for a decorating scheme that won’t fall victim to colour trends? You can’t go wrong with timeless white living room ideas. Available in a surprisingly wide choice of shades, it suits any space – big or small – and simply will never date.
There’s something so fresh and clean about all-white living room colour schemes. It’s a surprisingly daring look to go for – and not one for the faint hearted or sticky fingered!
Layering up a spectrum of white shades in natural textures and imperfect finishes creates a surprisingly soft finish – not the anonymous, stark space you might expect.
White living room ideas to inspire
There are a surprisingly wide variety of living room ideas and tips on how to use white, depending on whether you opt for a cool shade with tones of blue or grey, or a warmer ivory or vanilla.
Whites can vary in tone throughout certain times of the day, depending on if your property is north, south, east or west facing. Be sure to test your paint on the walls of your lounge, sitting room or snug and monitor how the tone changes according to the light in order to gauge which is the best white paint for your living room.
Another thing to consider with your white scheme is how other accent colours will play a part in determining the overall aesthetic.
‘Always consider the light aspect of the room you plan to paint, and all the other elements incorporated into your room such as fabrics, furniture and artwork,’ advises Patrick O’Donnell at Farrow & Ball.
‘An easy way to do this is by creating a mood board to see all the components in one place. This will give you greater context for the result.’
1. Pick a warm white paint
In a room with little natural light or a north facing room with no direct sunlight, choose a warmer white paint or take inspiration from soft grey living room ideas to liven the space and create a cocooning interior.
An off-white introduces a little more depth, so go for a paint with warm grey or subtle cream undertones. These restful white tones will create a sense of intimacy in a room lacking light. Ensure you pick the right shade for your walls.
2. Contrast with bright colours
White is the ultimate blank canvas, creating a clean, fresh space that will work with any other colours, hence why it’s a popular living room paint idea. It’s no wonder new properties are often painted white, as it’s the perfect finish to layer personality on to.
‘Make white the backdrop and bring in graphic statements such as bold, colourful artworks or key pieces of furniture like a bright, velvet sofa,’ suggests interior designer Natalie Myers. ‘White will never look cold or boring when used in direct contrast to bright colour.’
3. Create a completely blank canvas
For households brave enough, perhaps without pets and young children, creating an all white blank canvas on both floors and walls has a really powerful impact.
Proof is in this light and airy modern living room with a white decorating scheme, with white walls and white plush carpets. The pocket doors, bespoke sofas and black triple pendant light all add designer interest without distracting from the canvas of striking white.
4. Warm the look with wooden touches
Adding brown living room ideas, such as natural wooden touches, to a white decorating scheme can help to introduce a hint of colour without having to actually ‘add’ colour.
In this white room you’ll see how the dark brown wooden flooring helps to anchor the other lighter touches of wood throughout, from the impressive bay window frames to the leather furniture and sewn wood coffee table.
The scheme no longer feels stark, but instead inviting and cosy thanks to the warmth of natural wood.
5. Keep it airy and bright
Decorating any room with white is a classic way to make the space feel bigger. Better still in an extended living space you can add savvy roof panes to flood the space below with natural light. The white on the walls will reflect the light brilliant to bounce it around the wider space.
For an extension such as this one, that leads onto the garden beyond, welcome colours of nature to add an uplifting touch to a white decorating scheme.
6. Make a small space feel expressive
In this Victorian conversion split-level apartment the interior designer homeowner knows only too well the importance of embracing your own sense of style and personality. A white decorating scheme can have the air of an unloved space, devoid of personality. Ensure your white living room feels reflective of your own personal style.
In this small living room there are just enough statement pieces injected into the scheme to showcase personal style. The use of artwork on the wall and injection of mustard accents help the space to not feel bland.
7. Add rough texture
White isn’t just for ultra-modern, glossy schemes. Use it with rustic materials to create a warmer, earthier contrast. For a calm yet cocooning space, different shades of white have been layered to stop the space from falling flat.
The super-textured ceramics and fireplace idea shown above are stand out features. Along with the crumpled, slubby linen sofa that all add some much needed tactile imperfection against the open, white wall and smooth flooring.
8. Create an arty finish
An all-white backdrop can create a gallery-like space to showcase sculptural pieces, whether that’s a statement armchair, a bold, abstract print or sculptural style furniture. For a minimalist look, avoid lots of knick knacks in favour of a few vases or accessories with strong silhouettes.
‘White holds everything together, directs the eye and showcases other colours and textures in a space beautifully. It’s cleansing, it’s fresh and it gives people an opportunity to self-express through their chosen pieces,’ says Helen Shaw, marketing director at Benjamin Moore.
9. Make it modern country
For a contemporary country living room look, avoid cluttering the room with heavy furniture. Create visual space with open shelving and slimline wooden framed furniture to maintain an airy sense of space.
However, the linear designs require some movement and contrast to give this living room the inviting ambience it has. This wide width wall panelling idea offers instant interest, along with the super-soft sheepskin textiles. The greyscale palette is uninterrupted by colour, so there’s nothing too bold to distract the eyes, creating a sumptuously serene room.
10. Welcome natural materials
Take the clinical edge out of an all-white scheme by working in natural elements. In this neutral living room, the raw finish on the wooden coffee table, the rattan pendant shade and a chunky wool rug all soften the clean white walls and streamlined sofa, with relaxed, organic finishes.
11. Pair with a super-sized plant
Although this room already has height and space on its side, white can be a practical choice for such a large space. The most light-reflecting colour on the spectrum, white makes small spaces look and feel bigger than they actually are.
White won’t detract from any architectural features either, letting a striking design speak for itself. Instead of artwork, a small tree or oversized plant will fill a large void and contrast the hard finishes of this modern industrial style and sleek, modern sofa with unobtrusive colour and organic shape.
If you’re looking for more ways to get creative with greenery, our house plant ideas are a good place to start.
12. Make white feel spring-like with daffodil yellow
Be inspired by spring flowers and add accents in daffodil yellow and leaf green to a white-painted room to give it a new-season lift. Do a cushion review and swap your winter faux fur and wool-covered designs for a pristine parade of crisp cotton covers in bold prints.
13. Pair white with touches of black
A mixed palette of whites, greys, creams and taupes can look bland, so add touches of black here and there. In this cosy living room, a throw, side table and photo frame bring elements of modern monochrome chic. You might also want to throw in some natural colour with fresh or fake foliage.
14. Make winter white smart yet rustic
The key to this look is structure. With a simple, square sofa, you can freely mix accessories in lots of shapes and finishes. However, when creating this layered look, it’s best to stick to natural textures – cosy sheepskin, wool, linen and even faux fir.
And, going to prove that making a statement doesn’t have to mean shouty colour or fierce shapes, the interesting finish and details on the simple coffee table are enough to make it a focal-point hero.
15. Embrace French country style
This timeless style is all about faded elegance and an unrefined sense of luxury. Mix new buys with vintage finds and don’t be afraid of a scratch or two. Washed-out fabric, chipped paintwork and blemishes all add to the effect, while antique-style pieces will be right at home. Here, a panel of delicate lace fabric draped over a footstool adds subtle elegance.
Layering whites, by opting for warmer hues in a neutral palette, will make your living room feel simultaneously airy, spacious, inviting and comfy. Adding plush seats, subtly patterned living room wallpaper ideas and fresh flowers will add to the welcoming mood.
16. Take a trip to the beach
Ideal for anyone who loves home comforts with added character, coastal living room ideas work well in houses with original features. Or create it from scratch using a careful mix of old and new buys.
Whitewashed beams and distressed floorboards give this snug-style room a rugged framework, while slubby linen and nautical buys make it feel like a cabin by the sea.
Top tip: Turn your chopped firewood logs into a rustic feature by putting them on display
17. Use white as a backdrop to a gallery
A thoughtful gallery wall idea goes a long way to invigorate a white lounge area. Try a staggered arrangement to show off an assortment of artwork and family photographs using a couple of narrow picture ledges. This works well if you have lots of pictures in different shapes and sizes.
Start with the largest frames first, working down to the smallest, overlapping as you go to fill in any gaps.
18. Go coastal with blue accents
Bring a breezy, coastal vibe to your living room by mixing nautical stripes, checks and coastal motifs into an all-white scheme. Subtle blue living room ideas have been used here to create a quirky gallery wall with a collection of seaside prints grouped together on the wall, teamed with a couple of nautical extras, from a tide clock to a painted paddle.
19. Layer up white with vibrant vintage florals
Start with an all-white backdrop to let your chintzy roses really stand out. Then use bursts of lemon yellow and bright carnation pink for a modern edge. Line up pretty cushions along the whole of the sofa for a comfortable, lived-in feel.
20. Make white glow with gold
Warm up an all-white living room by introducing a subtle colour palette of soft gold and pale grey. Start with soft furnishings from cushions, throw and rug in co-ordinating patterns. Then add prints and accessories in the same soft shades, from vases and candles to baskets and books.
21. Bring white to life with nature
With white walls, modern white furniture and a European-style tiled floor, this room is at risk of feeling cool if not cold. However, introducing plenty of greenery and reclaimed wood in the form of shelves and a TV panel brings balance. Hiding a TV isn’t always possible, but it can blend in with the room’s decor, as shown above.
Hints of raspberry in the form of soft furnishings are evocative of a sunny English country garden.
22. Make a living room snug feel bigger with white
Open up a narrow or small living room with white, being careful not to break things up too much with other colours. Here, matching white walls, curtains, furniture, shelving and a fireplace blend into one, making the space feel wider and brighter.
Keep furniture to a minimum – an oversized sofa and floor cushion offer more than enough seating.
23. Use white as a backdrop to a patterned sofa
Floral sofas are having a moment – everyone from Sofa Workshop to Ikea are doing them, so they MUST be a thing. However, the maximalism trend isn’t an easy one to get right. Therefore, to make it easier, start with a backdrop of white and make your sofa the centre point.
24. Fade to white
Create a casual, laidback living room in a colour palette of faded whites with the sofa as the focal point. Choose a comfy, loose-covered sofa so white covers can be popped in the wash and fill with a line-up of cushions in a mix of different sizes and fabrics.
Display family photographs in a gallery wall above the sofa in an eclectic assortment of frames.
25. Add romance to white with red
Gustavian-style shades of white and cream may seem like a disaster waiting to happen in a busy living room. But not only will they make your room feel lighter and larger, if you choose durable materials, they really can be practical, too.
For starters choose a subtly patterned wallpaper and team it with a textured and incredibly hardwearing natural floor covering. Delicate red living room ideas and accessories have been used in this white living room to add subtle pops of colour.
Never fear wine spills or mucky fingers again by picking sofas with washable seat covers, and go for a chest of drawers that provides plenty of clutter-busting storage. Keep bold red to a minimum – a little goes a long way!
26. Layer up tones of soft white and linen
Choose a patterned wallpaper in neutral tones to add depth to your scheme, then give the room texture with warm-wood accents, furniture painted in chalky shades, distressed surfaces, smooth ceramics and a soft wool rug.
Add a hint of pale colour on seating with cushions in blush pink and champagne. Keep the look relaxed by showcasing collectibles on open shelving and artwork in mismatched frames.
Choose wallpaper, flooring, furniture and soft furnishing in restful off-white shades to create a peaceful space
27. Try white with yellow
Give a calming scheme a sunny lift by painting walls in uplifting primrose. Keep the look simple with a cream woollen carpet and a few striped fabrics. This will make the space feel springlike but also cosy over the winter months.
The great thing about this look is that it can work equally well in a new build or a period home, as the colour and texture brings all the character.
28. Add a hint of pink
For a summery scheme, use a pretty palette of putty, rose and blush shades. Choose a pastel pink for the walls, white loose-covered sofas and plain cushion covers in a mix of pale tones. Add texture with a cosy rug and wooden flooring.
What furniture and fabrics look best in a white living room?
For a beautifully romantic look, decorate walls with an off-white wallpaper in a classic design, such as a trailing-leaf pattern, then add linen curtains at the windows to allow soft light to filter in to the room.
Choose linen-covered sofas and it would be wise to buy a sofa and armchairs with removable slip covers that can be easily cleaned. Add a painted chest of drawers as an elegant way to store everyday items. A white chandelier will lend a feminine feel to the room.
Coastal style and our white living room ideas go hand-in-hand. Achieve this laid-back look by starting with fresh white painted walls and pick nautical fabrics such as ticking and deckchair stripes for upholstery, cushions and blinds. If you have a bay window, a painted window seat with a striped seat cover works beautifully.
Alternatively a wooden bench situated in an alcove creates a similar feel. Scour the shops for seaside-inspired accessories, such as a porthole-style mirror, or choose a painting to create an authentic look. Gloss white furniture in a contemporary living room looks ultra-sleek.