Why You Don't Need to Paint Your Room Instagram's Most Popular Color
White, it turns out, might not be right.
Yes, the pristine bedrooms of Pinterest and Instagram may be an unbroken sea of white walls, white duvets and white shelves. But how we paint our walls and fill our rooms are about more than following trends — color affects everything from our psyche to our sleep quality.
"The color we paint our walls can be a matter of personal expression, but it also becomes part of our mental environment," Clare Hagan, Astor Educator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, told Mic.
And color experts suggest that we don't have to join the whitewash when we DIY our own spaces.
White isn't always right: The Internet has opened up new avenues in home decorating, offering us inspiration and tricks to get glossy-looking interiors. We're eager followers of home decor, even when we can't afford it — just look at the worldwide spread of Kmart Australia interior design hacks, or the cult following IKEA has gained.
Social media allows us unprecedented, if highly edited, access into other people's lives — including their houses and apartments. And their white walls are damn appealing.
"White is clean and calming," Jennifer Koen, vice president of the online furniture marketplace Viyet, told Mic. "And in the ever busy world and constant social media, people need more calm and clean than ever before."
But white might not actually be the calmest color for our bedrooms. Tranquil shades like pale blues and greens are more ideal for calming and inducing sleep, while warmer tones like reds and oranges work well to bring energy to rooms used for socializing. Surveys have found that blue wins out for bedrooms, promoting feelings of peace, tranquility and even lower blood pressure.
"Pure white is a very demanding color. It's what I call an 'intellectual' color, as opposed to other color categories that feed the emotion," Sylvia O'Brien, creative director at interior design company Color Theory in Toronto, told Mic.
"Pure white is a very demanding color."
Living an Instagram fantasy: Pinterest and Instagram are great, said Hagan, but "you don't have to limit yourself to interior design accounts, though... The more creative you are in your search for inspiration, the more fun you will have and true you will feel to your choices," she said.
That means also being honest about the space you're working with (hello, tiny lightless studio). When it comes to feathering their nests, O'Brien said the single biggest mistake her clients make is picking paint colors in store.
"In theory, color doesn't actually exist without a light source. So to see how a color will 'act' in a space, you have to view it in that space," she said.
That's especially true of white, which actually comes in about a bazillion shades. "It's harder to choose white than any other color," Sharon Grech, a color expert at Benjamin Moore Paints, told the Seattle Times.
That means staying open-minded and realistic (depressing, we know) is key — for both the hyper-clean room you imagine, and how much your reality matches your inspiration.
Online, bedspreads are artfully ruffled, headboards carefully distressed and #shelfies display travel souvenirs, intellectual books and $100 face creams. Those carefully curated social media accounts, white or not, don't contain real life with all its messiness.
Paint can't do it alone: Which is why we shouldn't be seduced by the pristine white fantasy.
"It would be magical thinking to assume a sense of peace can be obtained simply by painting your walls white. The amount of clutter, arrangement of objects, and other factors contribute to the overall effect," said the Met's Hagan.
It may be hard to hear, but clutter is the common enemy of both tranquility and style, experts say.
"Clutter can be a lot of visual distraction and mental stress. It's basically a bunch of things you have to do (put away clothes, file papers, pay bills, get rid of junk, etc.) that you're procrastinating on," Leo Babauta of Zen Habits wrote in a blog post about conquering clutter.
Not sure what to do with your small space? You don't need white walls — maybe just a cleanup, or a clever configuration. Japan's Marie Kondo, already shaking up our closets by getting us to dump half our wardrobes, reminds us that our homes should project aspirations for our broader lives.
"The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past," she writes in her hit book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.