7 Ways to Make White Walls Feel Like A Home – When you move a lot it can be hard to make your white walls feel warm, cozy, and have personality. 7 tips for adding color and life to your white walls.
I feel like this blog could be as much about moving as it is about food and photography. It is a big part of our lives and we are pros at it after constantly being on the move for the last 15+ years. We have bought houses, rented houses and lived on base. More often than not, we rent something sight unseen or are assigned to base housing with little to no choice. (We won’t buy again until we settle down somewhere.)
Thankfully, I am not picky and have adopted the attitude that we can make anything work. It might not be ideal, but as we know all too well, it is not forever. Truthfully, I think that it has made me really resourceful. I feel like no matter what dwelling we are in, I have been able to make it feel like “us” and a cozy home for my kids and husband to live in.
When you move into a rental or base housing, the one constant is that there is a lot of white. White walls, white appliances, and a lot of blank space with little character. I happen to love white, so I am happy to have the blank canvas to work with. I’m too lazy to paint anything because I don’t want to have to paint to back to white when we leave. So how do you bring life and color into a home with white walls and make it feel like a cozy home? How do you give it some personality?
Here are 7 ways to make white walls feel like a home:
1. Buy pieces that are versatile and aren’t too big. God Bless Ikea. There will be a time in my life when I invest in high-quality furniture but now is not that time. (My grandparents owned a furniture store for over a hundred years and my grandfather told me to buy the best beds I could afford and not bother with the rest until we were done with moving every other year.) It is easier to make smaller pieces fit into spaces and move them around to work for you instead of trying to cram a sectional into a too-small living room. I recently bought three Hemnes bookcases that are easy to move around and can be mixed and matched in other rooms when we move again.
2. Lots and lots of artwork. The easiest way to add color is to hang it on your walls. I take lots and lots of pictures and try my best to not let them live on my phone or hidden in hard drives. I buy frames when I see them on sale. (Michaels has great frame sales a few times a year and I stock up on big ones.) I have mostly white frames with a few grey ones thrown in for variety.
I order prints all the time. Two of my favorite places are Nations Photo Lab and Social Print Studio. From Nations, I order large prints (up to 30×40), metal prints, wood prints, and canvas. The best part about metal, wood, and canvas is that you can take it straight from the box to the wall. No need to frame anything.
I like how on a gallery wall they add different textures and depths. I prefer a gallery that is made of a few different types of images and types of prints. Sometimes I will also add some mirrors, maps (my Gale Nation map is one of my favorite things ever), and flags (we have that Outward Bound flag hanging in the boys’ room now).
From Social Print Studio, I order 4×4 prints straight from my phone and have a photo wall in my kitchen that is the focal point of the back of the house. It’s so fun and the kids love it. They eat breakfast and look at all of the pictures from our adventures since we got here.
I also don’t just print pictures, I also have some quotes that I love printed (like this one that I bought on Etsy).
3. Put BIG things on your walls. For starters, it fills more space. One of my biggest peeves is when I see a single 11×14 over a couch. Think of scale when you are hanging artwork, more often than not, bigger is always going to be better. There will always be more of a visual impact when you have large pieces hanging on your walls. It seems like when you open a box with a canvas that is 24×36 that it is going to overpower a room, but when it is actually on the wall, it is just the right size. So don’t be afraid to go BIG.
4. Plants. I do not have a green thumb, but I am trying my best. I am proud to say that all of the plants that I bought when we moved in are still alive. Plants are literally life-giving. It is nice to have living things around that add lots of green. I know that it might seem silly to buy plants when you often can’t take them to the next place, but you can give them to people that are moving in or staying put. We tend to pass a lot of plants around during PCS season. I really want to get a fiddle leaf fig plant. They serve two purposes, they are green and pretty and they take up a lot of space.
5. Add texture. Even all white can look interesting if you add different textures of white. All of my plates and serving pieces are white and they aren’t boring because they are all different in some way. I like to add texture by having different throw blankets and pillows. I have different colored blankets with tassels, pretty knit patterns, cotton, wool – they all add visual interest and keep you warm and cozy. Same with pillows. Throw pillows can make my white couch look completely different just by switching out a pillow or two.
6. Lighting. The lighting in our apartment makes it feel like we are living in a hospital or some other institutional place. Get some lamps and add warm light bulbs. This makes a WORLD OF DIFFERENCE. Overhead, fluorescent lighting is fine in an office building, not fine in my home. I have a few floor lamps and table lamps and use those instead of flipping on the overhead lights. I am always partial to warmer lighting (more yellow or orange) than cooler lighting (blueish) because it feels more like the sun and makes skin tones look better. This is the biggest thing you can do to make your house instantly feel cozier and homier.
7. Display things that remind you of people, places, and things you love. If you’ve been here awhile, you know I have a thing for mugs. Of course, they are pretty to look at and use, but they also remind me of places we have lived and traveled or people that have given them to me. Pictures in small frames on shelves are filled with friends and family. I found these amazing pictures of my Nonnie on her adventures to Europe, so obviously I have them displayed. (Also, I am SUPER envious of her travel clothes. People just don’t have the same reverence for travel these days.) I found these cool card stands on a trip to Magnolia (see, a memento of a trip AND my grandmother) and put photographs on them. They don’t have the exact same ones in stock, but you get the idea.
I collect cookbooks and instead of hiding them in a closet, I display them. Cookbooks, in particular, are very colorful and have a lot of personality on the cover and spines. Rethink how you display them. My personal favorite is to lay them flat and stack about 6-8 on top of each other on a shelf. When I bought the new bookshelves, I realized after I brought them home that I didn’t have enough “stuff” to fill the shelves. I used books to take up space and I love how much color and personality they add. I also filled in space with old cameras that I had and colorful vases.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to add personality to your home. Be resourceful and shop what you already have. I moved things around from room to room and just used what I had around. I don’t have a lot of stuff, or want to accumulate a lot of stuff so I only keep things that I really love and use. That’s not to say that I don’t buy anything, because I do, but I am really picky about what I buy. I have to really love it and will wait to buy things until I find what I am after. It took me four months to get these rooms to a place where I was happy with how they looked. Be patient and take your time.
(All of these images were taken in a 4 bedroom stairwell apartment on Robinson Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany.)