An ode to white

dpphotoproof nancy 2 2011-175I am perplexed by many things in life. Probably No. 1 would be Saran Wrap. That stuff is just weird. If aliens land here and happen to see the Saran Wrap, God knows what they’ll think of us. I’m perplexed by the popularity of Michael Bay films. Also, I’m really stuck on men’s neckties. Why are they still being worn? Why? Pantyhose falls into the same category.

And I’m perplexed by the color white.

I understand and appreciate white in clothes: a crisp white shirt, or a white tee, or white linen pants. And the cool thing about white clothes is you can bleach them when they get dirty and they brighten right up. Most of the time.

dpphotoproof nancy 2 2011-176But I don’t get white walls. This is a huge problem area for me! Why do people like white walls so much? I cannot count how many times I have heard this comment about the apparent allure of white walls: white walls really show off the wood in the house. This is the one that stumps me. Why doesn’t mint green show off the wood just as well? It does to me. How about yellow or orange? Also beautiful against wood. I think wood shows itself well against most colors  — except perhaps brown (aka wood color). Here are two pictures that show some of the wood in my house highlighted against yellow walls (a classy color called Corn Chip, I believe).

And white is a dirt magnet. Right out of college I had a white couch. I thought I was sooooo sophisticated — until the first time I spilled a drink on that couch. Then I understood how my need for a sophisticated color scheme got me stuck in a no-win situation. Soon significant portions of shoe money and going-out money were being spent on steam cleaning my couch. I was so broke because of cleaning my couch that I couldn’t afford a new one, of course.

dpphotoproof nancy 2 2011-187-2White carpet, white walls, white baseboards, white counters: all dirt magnets. White porcelain sink? Have to scrub it with non-scratching bleach cleansers. What a crummy chore! And all these white items appear classy in magazines, and crappy when you spill your coffee. Have you ever been to a party where people want you to take off your shoes because of the white carpet? Have you been to a party where only white drinks are served? I have. Didn’t like it.

But the real issue here, if we can get down to it, is that I find white a bit boring. Some friends once called me over to evaluate their paint choices. They had bought a half dozen pints and painted them on walls where we could examine the different shades in light and dark. Problem was, the paint choices were all white, six different shades of the stuff. I was supposed to make a decision — pick a white. I explained that I was absolutely the wrong person to ask. They all looked the same! I felt like I was looking at the color palette for a planned community. Perhaps I’m white-blind? You know, like night blindness, only different. I understand there are yellow-whites, blue-whites, and so on, but I cannot see the difference. I don’t want to see the difference. I only see dirt waiting to happen.

And yet I have a white room in my house (see picture). Since most of my house looks like a color bomb went off, I wanted to have a “different” room. So I have a white bathroom. There is no white paint, but the fixtures are white. And here in this classy sanctuary, you will find metal and white marble and glass. One friend once said to me that “this is the only room in your house where I can breathe.” (Actually, most people like that bathroom better than every other room in my house). Do you find it to be calm? Clean? Classy?

Hey! You know what isn’t in that room? Wood. It’s a wood-free space. And all that white looks great on its own.

Portlander Nancy Ranchel is a self-described accountant, design fan, serial re-modeler, compulsive re-user, and blog writer.