Never mind swooning over the quasi-erotic novel Fifty Shades Of Grey, it’s the 150 or more shades of white that are beginning to get my pulse racing.

‘I would go for white and keep it simple,’ said a friend when we moved into our house some 12 years ago. And we did.

But, then, we went and complicated it all by choosing one tone of white in the kitchen, another for the living room, a third on the stair walls and a fourth in the bathroom.

Pale and interesting: Cool white offsets Garden Trading’s Oakridge furniture

Pale and interesting: Cool white offsets Garden Trading’s Oakridge furniture

What were we thinking? And, of course, we didn’t keep a proper record of what went where — and so here we are using this period of house arrest to gaze despairingly at two-thirds empty tins of paint in the hope they might miraculously tell us where they belong. 

‘Next time, we’ll just stick with Dulux white and have done with it,’ I pronounced at the weekend.

Hardly. Because when I looked at the Dulux website I came across no fewer than 38 whites. Some have exotic names such as Porcelain Doll, some cheesy (Calm Clouds) and a few that don’t sound white at all (Natural Wicker).

It’s the same wherever you go. Upmarket Little Greene has 28 shades of white, as does the more affordable Crown; both Paint & Paper Library and Mylands have 24 and good old Farrow & Ball, pictured inset, has somewhere between 20 or 30, depending on whether you think the likes of Hardwick White and Bone really belong in the white firmament. 

Stir the pot some more and it gets ever more complicated.

‘Many of us tend to use a combination of whites, starting with the lightest shade for the ceiling, a darker white for the cornice, and perhaps a third and different shade for the woodwork, doors, and architraves,’ says interior decorator John McCall (

But, he adds, ‘for a contemporary look, a single shade of white throughout is effective and can hide architectural shortcomings, such as low ceilings’.

There are three basic ‘white’ families: blue whites, grey whites and cream whites.

Farrow & Ball, pictured inset, has somewhere between 20 or 30 shades of white

Farrow & Ball, pictured inset, has somewhere between 20 or 30 shades of white

‘All have their uses and give a different mode and feel,’ says McCall, whose skills are in demand everywhere from New York to the Bahamas, Dubai to London.

‘Grey white is still the go-to shade for the Notting Hill set as it works so well with contemporary art. Cream white works better in the countryside with stone fire surrounds, floors and antiques.

‘And blue white is the property developers’ favourite, as bright and light sells, but it tends to be cold.’

Such are the complexities of choosing a shade of white best suited to your needs that experts hold advice sessions.

Tammy Gray, who worked for Farrow & Ball for five years, charges £125 for a one-hour colour consultation (

‘The first question to ask yourself is what are you trying to achieve in any room rather than what colour of paint do you like,’ says Gray.

‘Do you need to warm things up in a north-facing room or bring out the furniture. And always remember that a bright white can glare at you rather than give a softer edge.’

White paint’s big moment goes back to the dawn of minimalism — a reaction against fussy chintz and floral wallpaper that dominated homes in the 1970s. 

Then the arty crowd realised it was an ideal blank canvas on which to show off their work, closely followed by the Scandi and even Japanese aesthetic, which effortlessly lend themselves to creamy whites and textured greys.

Bold colours seem to be on the way back, but not necessarily at the expense of white.

‘We still recommend white to many clients because you can so easily bring in richness via cushions and other accessories,’ says Caroline Downing Nadel, co-founder of home furnishings firm, Wicklewood (

‘All our products look best against a white background. It helps to bring out texture and dimensions.’

Wicklewood is a big fan of Farrow & Ball. Downing Nadel, who has one-year old twins, recommends F&B’s White Tie for kitchens, String or Blackened for bedrooms and something more stark in bathrooms as long as you’re prepared to see the truth staring at you from the mirror every morning.

White also comes to the rescue of traditional ‘brown furniture’. Slap it on your grandparents’ hand-me-down mahogany bedside tables and immediately you get a distressed look that wouldn’t look out of place in a glossy magazine devoted to Swedish style.

What I’ve always liked about white is that you can’t go wrong with it. At least, that’s what I used to think.

Now, with hundreds of whites from which to choose, I’m not so sure.

What your home really needs is… festoon lights 

Sunsoaked Netflix drama White Lines is becoming an unlikely influence on the decor of our garden spaces, writes Anne Ashworth.

Some fans watch the Ibiza-set show for the sex, drugs and the raves, but others are drawn to its alluring villa and stunning poolside dining scenes.

And what makes them look so good is the lighting.

This means festoon lights — which are also known as cafe or party lights. Nowadays that means a planet-friendly, battery-operated LED set.

A festoon of lights adds a touch of glamour to any garden or balcony — no matter how much entertaining you do. Dunelm’s versions are priced from £12 ( while Cox & Cox’s £35 offering has three shapes of bulb, round, teardrop and flute ( Or try a string of coloured bulbs, pictured,, priced £30.

Your garden may not have the same weather as Ibiza, but you can dream. 


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