Tue. Apr 16th, 2024

Too much is never enough—until you’ve just about had it with maximalism and are ready for a fresh start. Perhaps that’s why we’re seeing the pendulum swing toward a more minimalist approach when it comes to interiors. The newly dubbed ‘white chocolate’ aesthetic is taking the design world by storm. But pulling off a tone-on-tone look isn’t for the newbie decorators, unless of course you’re armed with some expert knowledge. Luckily, Lauren Robbins of Lauren Robbins Interiors and Andi Morse of Morse Design have the look locked down. Here, they share their top tips for getting it right with white.

1. Pay Attention to Tones

You might think achieving a tone-on-tone look is easy enough, but there’s a backstory there that’s worth paying attention to. “The undertones of paint colors are what really allow them to work well together when layering various shades of white,” says Robbins. “When selecting your color palette, it is important that your whites all come from the same family tree and share similar undertones.”

Stick with grays for a more modern approach that skews cooler and yellow if you’re looking to go warm. When the underlying tones in your paint colors tell the same story, you’ll ensure they also work nicely within the space.

Karyn Millet


2. Incorporate Natural Elements

When working with a white-chocolate minimalist aesthetic, issues can arise if you don’t strike the right balance with natural elements. “Whether it’s a stone coffee table, wood console, or rattan side table, these additional textures add depth to a monochromatic space and keep it from feeling flat,” says Robbins. In fact, incorporating natural elements is a given no matter what project the designer is working on, thanks to their versatility and ability to morph into just about any style.

Morse likes to employ wood tones to deliver both contrast and a subtle pop. “Pick wood tones to complement the white-on-white look that mimics the architectural features in the space,” she says. “Accessories can also go a long way in bringing out the features.”

3. Highlight Architectural Features

One concern of tone-on-tone spaces is that existing features like arched doorways, moldings, and more might get lost. Robbins says the key is to play with paint finishes. “Using a semi-gloss on beams, trim, and door and window casings will accent the details of that woodwork and differentiate those details from the walls when the finishes are different.” Keeping the architectural features at the forefront can help ensure character and charm and provide a counterpoint to the more modern feel of the aesthetic.

Werner Straube


4. Keep It Interesting

When you’re composing a space around a single color family, it’s important to find different ways to bring interest into the space. One way to do that is with varying shapes. “For instance, some of my favorite vases are clean and white but their sculptural shapes allow them the opportunity to stand alone or really make a statement as a beautiful group,” says Robbins.

Another way to add visual interest is through the use of texture. “Using whites with different textures is a great way to pull together an all-white space and make it still have warmth and allow the whites to blend together beautifully,” says Morse. For Robbins, these textural differences are what give the needed dimension to keep a space from feeling flat.

5. Have Fun with Furniture

When it comes to furniture, shades of white are anything but boring as long as you have the right mix of interest. Morse likes to break down the details that set two pieces apart—even if they are upholstered in the same shade. “Beautiful white sofas paired with textured white club chairs is a beautiful look,” she says. “Personally, I love the skirted look on a sofa or chair blended with a piece without the skirt.” These subtle differences can be all the visual interest that’s needed to ensure a mono-hue composition is anything but boring.

6. Sample Your Shades

If ever there was a time to sample your paint color shades, it’s when working within a single color family. All white and ivory tones are not a match made in heaven, nor will all shades work with your lighting setup. Robbins stresses the importance of putting samples on the walls before picking up the paintbrush—or planning the rest of your furnishings around a paint color that isn’t tried-and-true.

“The location of a room in a home and the amount of natural light that is available all plays into how a color shows up on your walls,” she says. “Large square samples on multiple walls will confirm that your paint colors look good from any angle.”

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