Decorating with contrast

Photo: Roger Davies, Designer: Jennifer Post

It Makes for a Jaw-Dropping Contrast
Black and white may go with everything, but the colors are most striking when they're paired together (no pop of color necessary). Different finishes or textures—like the glossy, lacquer table against the matte white walls of designer Jennifer Post's dining room—can keep things from looking too matchy-matchy.

Photo: Myquillyn Smith/The Nesting Place

It Gives You Drama on the Cheap
A discarded tree stump from your neighbor's yard can look like a West Elm-worthy side table with just a coat of matte white paint. The look capitalizes on the woodland-rustic-slash-Etsy trend, particularly when you group three logs of varying heights, like designer and The Nesting Place author Myquillyn Smith did. The trio sets the folksy-cool tone of the room, and seems less random than a lone stump.

Photo © Myquillyn Smith. Taken from The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith. Copyright © 2014 by Smith. Use by permission of Zondervan.

Photo: Thinkstock

It Softens Rigid Lines
White beadboard paneling gives the walls just a hint of texture, making them feel stylized and "finished" even if you never hang a thing on them. It's an easy way to get that "I'm escaping to my weekend cottage" feel just by walking down the hall.

Photo: Eric Piasecki, Designer: Steven Gambrel

It Pushes Your Ceiling Up, Up and Away
The fastest way to fake a higher ceiling? Paint the top 12 inches of the walls to match it, says designer and Homepolish founder Noa Santos. It erases that hard contrast where the wall meets the ceiling, effectively raising the roof—at least to your eye. If your walls are 8 feet tall or shorter, paint 6 inches down, he says.
Young House Love

Photo: Sherry and John Petersik/Young House Love

It Calms Even the Craziest Collection
If you ever wanted to create a collage of wall art but were afraid it would wind up looking like a jumbled mess, steal this design idea from Sherry and John Petersik, the bloggers behind Young House Love: Spray paint all of the frames white. Then, no matter how mismatched your frames (and art) are, they will look part of a cohesive group.
White decor

Photo: Roger Davie, Designer: Phoebe Howard

It Showcases Your Favorite Pieces
Details can get lost in flashy, colorful rooms. Against a white backdrop, you immediately notice the little things, like the intricate carvings in a baroque-style mirror, or the curved arms of a chair that look like a work of art in and of themselves.

Photo: Jean Randazzo, Designer: Kishani Perera

It Saves You (and Everyone You Know) from the Fireplace That Ate the Room
A splash of white can tone down ornate pieces, like this fireplace, so they come off as modern, not gaudy or dated. The detail is still there; it's just not as in-your-face.

Photo: Aimee Herring, Designer: Janet Lee

It Lets You Flirt with Every Design Influence
Bird wallpaper next to a diamond-print side table? Go for it. With a tufted headboard? Bring it on. And a frilly porcelain lamp? Yes, please. When white is your primary color, you can mix in a variety of textures and patterns without fear of clashing (especially if the other colors are muted, like the hints of yellow and gold in this bedroom from Living in a Nutshell blogger Janet Lee).