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Attic Heirlooms, by Broyhill Furniture

Country-style rooms are typically painted vegetable colors… tomato, straw, denim and other paint colors the Waltons would have loved.  Appropriate too, given that the country was the birthplace of vegetables in the first place. But one of the quickest ways to give simple, worn-down furniture (or worn-down people who’re up for a simple change) is with a can of white paint.

White paint was birthed by early 20th century modernists. Tired of Victorian clutter and drama, they wanted to lighten up a little (a lot, actually)… and white paint did the trick. One hundred years later, it’s working again, this time to lighten up rustic rooms.

The beautiful thing about white paint is that it brings furniture into really sharp focus so we can appreciate its shape and texture more. Notice in this dining room how good the ladderback chairs, table and sideboard look against the pristine walls. The  room feels fresh, light and even slightly contemporary. Even the old-looking rug looks fresh and stands out.

As a side note, the furniture shown here (Attic Heirlooms) is one of my personal faves. It  mixes painted and natural wood finshes so it’s a little less matchy-matchy. Those casual straw-seat chairs are causal and that bench is pure fun. This collection has been around for a while and is still pretty popular, so it shouldn’t be hard to find if you’re in the market for new furniture.

For more info on the dining room, visit


Here’s a good example of how to use white paint in a classic dining room without it looking too stark or modern!

The classic look of this dining room comes from the design of the dining room furniture (especially that Greek klismos-inspired chair) and some pretty strict symmetry (the Greeks and Romans loved their symmetry…  everything on one side of the room mirrored on the other side). Notice the very definite center reinforced with the artwork and wall sonces centered on either side of the chandelier.

But the room gets a few updates that make it feel fresh and contemporary.

First, all that white paint is pure modern! But notice how carefully it’s used. The symmetry is reinforced with the center panel painted white to highlight the centered artwork. But the cafe au lait color (Benjamin Moore #1077) above the white dado warms up the room (the colors were picked up from the rug).

The furniture finish is also darker than most classic furniture (nearly black), giving it a more contemporary feel.

The only thing I’d have changed are the light fixtures. I like the centered chandelier with the wall sconces on either side, but I’d have looked for something simpler – an alabaster glass lamp (with coordinating wall sconces) would have been more classic and more contemporary (like the room), rather than the shaded lamps.  Here are two possible alternates that I like for this room.

On the left, this classic chandelier coordinates with the furniture, but adds a more classic feeling with the alabaster glass lamps. Source: LampsPlus, Valmont Collection. $299.99.  #67177.
On the right, definitely more modern! But the black furniture, contemporary artwork and white walls could handle it. Source: Lamps Plus, Possini Euro. $399.99.
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White kitchen with wood counter cutting board

What  beats the warmth of a wood counter top, especially in a white kitchen? Wood is also a sanitary choice for kitchens because its inherent properties protect it from  bacteria build-up. 

For most of us, the closest we’ll get to a wood counter is a wood cutting board. So why not make it a big one? This kitchen’s wood chopping block was cut to the width of the island, giving it a built-in look.   

The cutting board here is oak, but maple, walnut, teak, bamboo, cherry or beech are all great choices for a kitchen countertop. (Just keep in mind that wood should be rubbed with mineral oil every now and then to keep it from drying out. Extremely hot cookware can also leave a mark).

The cutting board was a great way to add a natural, organic quality to this white kitchen. It also brings the warmth of the wood floor up to counter height. 

For more  home decorating ideas, visit

410_7,9__9,1,2_fusion_bigstockphoto_483040If a fancy, new bed isn’t in your budget right now, here’s a great way to create the perception of one.

Find 2 or 3 framed posters or artwork that, together, approximately match the width of your bed. Hang them just slightly above the height of pillows proped up against the wall. Add additional pillows and linens to match colors in the artwork and voila!… you don’t just have the look of a headboard, but an attractive feature wall in your bedroom. Adding a bench or row of ottomans at the base of the bed creates the perception of a footboard as well!

Another thing that really works in this room is the white wainscot at about the height of the bed. This low line around the perimeter of the room creates a relaxed, calming effect. The white color used near the floor makes this small room look more spacious, while the darker color above makes it cozy and helps darken the room at night.

Dining Room with white wainscotHere’s a simple way to expand the look of your dining room without losing the cozy ambiance that deeper colors offer.

By surrounding this dining room with a band of white (or off-white) on the lower wall, the room looks bigger than it would have if whole wall would have been painted dark. White paint colors look expansive because they reflect light; the same reason we look a little expansive when wearing white clothes!

If dividing a wall into two portions, experts usually recommend putting the light area on top – partly because dirt and scuffs occur on the lower portion and are easier to hide with dark colors, partly because  it mimics the natural world (the ground is darker and the air above it lighter).

BUT in the case of a small room, the reverse can be effective. Notice how the 2 areas that add light to the room (the ceiling because it reflects light down and the upper wall because it’s most visible) are kept dark and enclosing. But the 2 areas that create the room’s perceived size (the lower wall because it connects to the floor space, the window because it opens views to the outdoors), are kept light and spacious.  

The wainscotting and the ceiling molding also create horizontal lines that add to the spacious look. By moving the eye right and left, rather than up and down, the room looks wider and longer.

Another side benefit of a light-colored low wall area? The details of the chairs are easier to appreciate against a light rather than dark wall.

For more home decor ideas, or to download our free magazine, visit