Washable whites are child-friendly whites.

How to Do White Decor

by Lorna Hordos

In a home with children, decorating with white might be considered by many a mom as daring or downright disastrous, but that would be old-fashioned thinking. An almost-all-white decor scheme can be crisp, casual and yes, kid-friendly. Use your walls, window treatments, furniture and accessories as the design mediums for white done right.

1. Walls

If you think white is just white, you haven’t stood in front of a wall of paint swatches in a while. Whites seem to come in a zillion warm hues with tinges of pink, red or coral, or with cool notes of blue or green. You could give your living room, family room or kitchen walls a couple of coats of warm, energized white. Or you could paint a bedroom or bathroom a cool, peaceful white. Unless you use a more washable eggshell or an easy-to-touch-up flat sheen, however, fingerprints and unidentifiable smudges will no doubt adorn the room in short order. For a textural element, consider paintable, raised-print wallpaper. The shadow-casting design works as a sort of smear-and-splotch camouflage.

2. Window Treatments

If a curtain or drape’s washing-instructions tag says “dry clean only,” enough said. Opt for white window-treatment fabrics -- organic cotton, linen -- that you can toss in the washing machine along with T-shirts and undies. Think casual, relaxed, shabby-chic decor for a mainly white space. Rumpled materials read as easy-going and homey -- and don’t need ironing. If you want to incorporate a little color, consider a neutral or black window topper or tie-backs, and then sprinkle a little more of the secondary hue throughout the space.

3. Furniture

A room full of white furniture might be taking the whole white-design scheme a bit too far, but it’s still doable -- only with washable white slipcovers instead. Fitted slipcovers aren’t for everyone -- but those people probably don’t have kids. Anyhow, the imperfection of partly tucked covers fits with the relaxed atmosphere you’re trying to create. Choose durable, washable, cotton or linen preshrunk slipcovers to avoid shrinkage and improve longevity.

4. Accessories

The accessories are where you can (at least partly) take a break from white, if you like. But go with light, dusty or gray hues -- silvery blues, pale-sage greens, murky pinks, for example -- which aren’t quite so froufrou or infantile as pastels. Add touches of color in the artwork and with fresh-cut flowers. Along with or instead of color, include neutral sparkle with beveled-edge mirrors, chrome picture frames, and silver, glass or crystal ornaments; place the breakables high, out of reach of curious little hands. An inexpensive, thick-pile, white faux-fur or shag rug provides soft texture without the guilt of replacing a costly rug, if -- or when -- a routine steam-cleaning no longer renders it clean. To do white right, keep it simple; if you create a space that appears too precious, you won’t feel comfortable in it -- or more precisely, you won't feel comfortable allowing your kids in it.

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