Designing with white is a classic aesthetic that seems to never go out of style and one that Los Angeles-based designer Chris Barrett has leaned into for years. Her website describes her firm’s sensibilities as, “inspired at its roots by the brilliant light and clean sensibility of the California landscape,” and few things are as reminiscent of that as bright and airy spaces that beckon relaxed living.
A Malibu living room designed by Chris Barrett painted SWISS COFFEE (DEW 341).
The popularity of painting spaces white extends beyond Barrett’s design aesthetic. With the popularity of white paint, Dunn-Edwards has created a number of white tones from High Hide Whites that cover over darker colors, to round-ups of favorite white hues designers turn to for that clean look. Even further, top interior design sites like Elle Décor, Martha Stewart, and House Beautiful all have recently featured articles highlighting designers’ favorite white paints, exemplifying the color’s enduring staying power.
A white washed Malibu kitchen from Barrett in SWISS COFFEE (DEW 341).
Some examples of Barrett’s work emphasize her use of white to set an easy-going and light mood while textures and antique pieces tell the story of a space. Take this project of hers located in the oceanside enclave of Pacific Palisades in Los Angeles, where white paint in the living room contrasts with soaring wood beams and arched French doors that lead out to a patio. In another of the home’s sitting areas, white walls lead the eye up to the classic dark wood coffered ceilings, which add sophistication and a cozy moodiness to the room. In the bedroom, white serves as the perfect background to show off a dramatic dark antique four poster bed.
WARM WHITE (DEW380) soothes in this Pacific Palisades living room.
Chris Barrett-designed Pacific Palisades residence in WARM WHITE (DEW380)
Sun drenches the WARM WHITE (DEW380) walls of this Pacific Palisades bedroom
Choosing the perfect white can be difficult. With white as a common thread in many of her designs, Barrett explains one rule of thumb she typically keeps in mind when it comes to white colors — she keeps her whites in warm tones. “I love Dunn-Edwards color selections. There are certain colors I rely on,” Barrett said. Some of her favorite go-to Dunn-Edwards whites paint colors are Warm White (DEW380), Droplets (DEW381), and Whisper (DEW340).
She expertly keeps the look of each of her projects unique although they often share similar color palettes. For one of Barrett’s projects in La Jolla, California, the design is airy, nautical and classic. Here she opted for Dunn-Edwards White Picket Fence (DET648) with its calming cooler undertones. The look seamlessly transitions from the primary bedroom to the children’s bedroom.
Chris Barrett design in La Jolla featuring White Picket Fence (DET648)
Barrett has designed a variety of spaces all over L.A. in differing architectural styles, from Mediterranean beach houses and traditional homes, to restaurants like French Brasserie Comme Ça. White’s flexibility and range of tones makes it an ideal paint color to use in any variety of designs. Barrett explains that the biggest misconception consumers often have about white is that they’re all alike. “This could not be further from the truth,” she said. Depending on their pigments, whites can have undertones of pink, blue, tan and more. As a result, whites paint colors react differently among different surroundings and accent colors. In short, no two
white paint colors are the same.
La Jolla children’s bedroom featuring White Picket Fence (DET648)
Barrett’s best advice for choosing a shade of white? Paint a sample of it on the wall it will be going on, even if it’s a white shade that’s been used before. Or for more flexibility, paint the shade on large pieces of white board that can be propped up against the wall. That way the board can be moved around from place to place, project to project. “It can be a pain but it’s better than having to repaint an entire room,” Barrett cautioned.
For more ways white paint hues have spruced up spaces, take a look at how one interior photographer turned her dated Joshua Tree cottage into a slick and modern getaway.
All photos courtesy of Chris Barrett Design