As The White Company celebrates its 25th anniversary, its founder has published its first interiors book and shows how interesting and characterful a neutral home can be
THE SITTING ROOM OPENING ONTO AN INTERNAL COURTYARD IN THE HOME OF INTERIOR DESIGNER BETH DADSWELL. IMAGE: CHRIS EVERARD
“For me, home has always been such a special place, somewhere we can close the door from the outside world and feel instantly calm and cosseted,” says Chrissie Rucker in her introduction to For the Love of White: The White and Neutral Home.
The idea for The White Company began when Chrissie was asked by Nick, her then boyfriend, now husband and father of their four children, to help him decorate his first London home. “The day he moved in, he owned a bed, a few kitchen chairs and some old green towels. His linen was burgundy and when you opened the kitchen cupboards, there were just a few plates and four chipped mugs,” Chrissie writes.
In an attempt to show herself off as perfect marriage material, Chrissie set to work. At the time she was working for Harper’s & Queen, and had also worked for Vogue, GQ and Brides. “I started to think about what makes a great image for a magazine and reflected that simple is often best and less is often more,” she writes.
“It struck me that white in the home is like the perfect little black dress. It’s simple yet effortlessly stylish, modern yet classic. It also has a magical, calming, spa-like quality – and it just works. So, I decided to look for all the essentials in lovely, calming white, but it wasn’t easy and I found there was a clear gap in the market. At one end of the scale, there were beautifully designed, great quality ‘designer’ pieces that were lovely, but very expensive. And at the other end, it was much more affordable, but the quality was poor with no real design.”
When Chrissie met up with Nick’s sister, who had also recently moved and was facing a similar challenge looking for beautifully designed white essentials, The White Company was born.
Today, you’ll find items from The White Company in homes around the world, from crisp white bedlinen, fluffy towels and scented candles, to clothing, home accessories and furniture. Walking into one of their stores tends to bring on a spontaneous sigh, such is the soothing effect of its colour palette and designs. But if you thought that neutral interiors meant bland, think again: “the real joy of a white and neutral home is that it provides the perfect canvas against which art, antiques and other discoveries can stand out”, as these three rooms featured in the book prove.
THE STUDY IN THE SUSSEX HOME OF THE WHITE COMPANY’S CHIEF CREATIVE OFFICER, MARK WINSTANLEY. IMAGE: CHRIS EVERARD
The Sussex home of Mark Winstanley, Chief Creative Officer of The White Company, his wife Sally and their two children, was once known as ‘The Rest’ – a fitting name for such a bucolic setting.
‘It started life as a cottage but grew over time and now has that farmhouse quality that we love,’ says Mark. ‘With the interiors we wanted to play with the materials, the natural palette and more rustic textures that have this sense of character and longevity. There’s nothing terribly delicate or too precious, which suits the house.’
The rooms in the house flow effortlessly into one another, decorated in complementary tones. ‘It’s not all about pure white here, but more about living with white and neutrals as a backdrop and then adding these layers of texture and textiles,’ says Mark. ‘But I also like the idea of having rooms that are all about sitting down and being comfortable so that you just read, talk, listen to music. That has always been an overarching thing for us – making spaces that feel comfortable and lived in rather than precious.’
The study, with its floor-to-ceiling bookshelves pained in Nearly Black by Farrow & Ball creates a dramatic setting for Mark’s extensive library of design, architecture and interiors books and magazines. ‘For me, books do make a home, as you can see from both the library and the sitting room. It’s your own personal collection of all the things you have read and all the things that inspire you,’ says Mark.
THE LIGHT AND BRIGHT BATHROOM OF AN OXFORDSHIRE FARMHOUSE, OWNED BY A PHOTOGRAPHER AND HER FAMILY. IMAGE: CHRIS EVERARD
A Photographer’s Haven
This soothing and restful bathroom is to be found in the Oxfordshire farmhouse of a photographer and her husband and two children. ‘I have always been drawn to neutral colours at home, apart from an earlier chapter in my early twenties, when I painted a whole room deep purple with golden stars on,’ she says. ‘For me, it’s a timeless way of decorating a space that doesn’t anchor a room in any particular moment or place.’
The neutral walls – either lime plastered or painted chalky white – provide a calming canvas for art and photography. The floorboards of the master bathroom are painted white, which helps to reflect the daylight which floods in. The sides of the tub, sourced in France, are painted a gentle grey like the washstand, and complement the white paintwork of the room. The mid-20th-century white Eames RAR rocking chair sits well with the period elements, and complements the light and space of the room.
Courtyard Oasis (top image)
When interior designer Beth Dadswell and her partner Andrew Wilbourne, a graphic designer, first caught sight of a derelict dairy in Herne Hill, South London, it was the courtyard that really captured their imagination. A lattice of bare metal girders floated over this hidden space, creating a kind of pergola that was soon to become part of a welcoming outdoor living room.
Working with architect Takero Shimazaki, Beth designed a layout that offered a fluid relationship between the ground-floor living spaces and a choice of outdoor rooms.
Beth opted for a soothing colour palette throughout. The walls are in bare plaster, which has been lightly sanded and then sealed with a clear matt varnish. The coffered wooden ceilings are picked out in a soft Dulux eggshell paint called Wiltshire White, while the floors – which run through to the courtyard on the same plane – are coated in a thin layer of cement with a grey-white tone. The custom-made joinery for the kitchen units, storage cupboards and stairs has been painted in Mole’s Breath by Farrow & Ball.
‘Life is very frenetic, so living and working somewhere that feels calm and light is very important to me,’ Beth explains. ‘As I’m constantly working on the design of other people’s houses, I decided that I wanted something that felt very pared- back and timeless, as well as a home that we wouldn’t want to redecorate in just a few years’ time.’
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