There is a multitude of design elements to consider when you're decorating your home, but few are as important as color. The right shade doesn't just have the power to upgrade a space with personality and create a long-lasting impression; it can also make a room look more elegant and refined, which is a big win when you're decorating on a budget.
When it comes to choosing paint colors for a modern, luxurious house, New York-based interior designer Tali Roth always comes back to one hue: Ivory. Unlike saturated colors, she points out that shades of white will never go out of style—and they're a foolproof decorating shade.
Read on for Roth's tips on mixing ivory with luxe shades of white, classic neutral tones, and more to give your home a five-star facelift without spending big.
Make Your Space Luxurious
"I think the one color that makes a room look more expensive is ivory. It's a 'forever color' that has been featured throughout every era," says Roth (the creative force behind one of our favorite home tours to date). "It's luxurious in the sense that it is delicate by definition, and must be handled with care. Plus, all ivory spaces appear to be larger, loftier, and airier." As an added bonus, Roth notes that ivory is an especially-great pick for those new to interior design: "It is much easier to do well than other colors."
Rethink the Base
Before you start decorating, Roth suggests rethinking your base. If your space already has white walls but feels bare or unwelcoming, it might feel strange to put the time into painting it a similar shade—but the underlying tones of ivory can transform your rooms in a way that makes it all worth it. "Many of the spaces I walk into (especially in New York City) already have white- or cream-painted walls, but it doesn't feel crisp and vibrant," she says. "Clients often resist painting, but when we do, the results are awesome!"
Choose Your Shade
So how do you know which white shade to choose? "Whites are super complex, and making the right call is based on personal preference," says Roth. "It really helps to work with a designer. I love bright white for a gallery finish, as it lets you layer many colors and textures over the top and makes a space feel way less dingy." If your room has more of a traditional feel, on the other hand, Roth recommends warmer shades like "decorator's white" or "simply white."
The beauty of an ivory-inspired room is that it doesn't take much to bring it to life. Rather than incorporating many small pieces of décor, choose a few large elements that make a statement. Using minimalist furniture with an abundance of texture draws the eye directly to the main pieces, and makes the space feel vibrant with personality without sacrificing clean lines and plenty of breathing room.
Incorporate Natural Elements
In a bright, white room, it's helpful to bring in natural textures that add depth to the space. Genuine leather furniture is long-lasting, easy to clean, and hard to damage—but it's also a great contrast to a sleek background. Try to incorporate warmer colors that complement the undertones of ivory paint and pair well with various types of décor.
Layer Accents in Different Tones
Decorating a room from scratch can be intimidating, but Roth says it's nearly impossible to go wrong if you layer furniture and accessories in different shades of ivory. "I can honestly say it works in every room. An all-ivory bedroom is so sleek, stunning, and dreamy. A white marble dining table with ivory upholstered chairs is classic and delightful, and an all-ivory living room is swoon-worthy!"
Get Creative With Lighting
When you're decorating with monochrome color schemes or focusing mainly on one shade, adding statement pieces like bold lighting can bring personality to a simple room. Opt for hardware that matches the accent colors in your design: Like this sleek chandelier that complements black dining furniture. When in doubt, choose neutral accent colors like black or other dark hues that complement ivory tones in minimalist décor.
Mix and Match Textures
Inspired to try ivory paint at home, but not sure how to style your décor with it? Roth says it's helpful to mix and match furniture: "Make sure you mix textures and materials," she says. "You don't want your space to feel like a car sales showroom with white leather Barcelona chairs and a shag rug!" When it comes to variety in textures, it's helpful to choose furniture that doesn't come in a matching set. Thrifters, it's your time to shine—unique pieces are great for layering different textures, like pairing linen throws with leather seating or adding woven accents to contrast smooth walls.
Blend Various Patterns
One of the best parts about decorating with neutral colors is that different patterns don't clash—they complement each other. By incorporating various types like chevron, stripes, or rounded tiles of the same color, each design element stands out from the rest without making an overly-bold impact. Choose similar shades to blend color while letting patterns become the focal point.
Use Metallic Hardware
In this bathroom designed by Roth, gold metallic hardware stands out against bright ivory walls. Opting for clear shower doors gives a glance into the rest of the room, which mirrors the sink and lighting fixtures with polished accents. By keeping décor simple with a white frame around a small painting, bright colors aren't overwhelming (and they don't take away from the clean design).
Add a Cream Rug
If you're decorating a rental, chances are that there's at least one aspect you wish you could renovate. There's a quick solution for old, unsightly flooring, though: Add a plush ivory rug. According to Roth, pale-colored rugs can help reflect light, making the room look more luxurious and new. "Covering the floor or a large surface area in something ivory is a great way to lighten your space. I would, however, ensure that not everything in your space is black: If your home has lots of heavy, dark furniture, maybe stick with a lighter grey so the contrast isn't too severe," she recommends.
Choose Accent Colors
Color doesn't have to be something to avoid in ivory rooms. To keep the space feeling light, choose a single bold accent tone—and go all the way with it. Cooler colors like blue create a fresh feeling, while shades of orange and red are classic for a welcoming, warm vibe.
Pair large accent furniture with smaller decorative elements on shelving, counters, or coffee tables to lengthen your space by drawing the eyes around the room.
Opt for Furniture With Slip Covers
Ivory sofas: Stylish, or destined to get dirty? "I happen to have had an ivory linen sofa for three years, and it has been brilliant!" says Roth. "The main cushion covers zip off, and when dry cleaned, it comes up looking brand-new." If you have pets or children (and you're sure your ivory sofa will get stained with time), Roth recommends a durable fabric cover. "Go with a Perennials fabric that is completely stain-proof so you don't need to constantly worry about it." Otherwise, accessorize the sofa with throws and cushions that can be washed at home. "Drape a large sheepskin over the sitting cushions, and then have a few throw pillows and a folded blanket. It'll add texture, and cover a large portion of the surface area so that entertaining isn't stressful!"
Add Lush Greenery
Plant parents of all types can agree that the perfect setting for a lush, green space is a brightly-painted room. Complement your ivory walls with plenty of thriving greenery to bring a natural feeling to living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, and bathrooms alike. If you don't have much of a green thumb, either choose low-maintenance plants or faux leaves to keep your rooms feeling fresh without the hassle.
All-white bedrooms always have the potential to look "flat," so Roth recommends experimenting with different shades of white, ivory, and cream to keep it interesting. "The key to a luxe bedroom is creating multiple layers of heights, scale, and texture," says Roth. "Another tip is to add a mirror, as it reads as a neutral and will reflect light. I also love an ivory throw over crisp, white bedding."
Neutralize Your Bedding
While it's always tempting to spring for those brightly-patterned duvet covers and change your theme with the seasons, choosing simple bedding keeps a white bedroom looking crisp. Instead of bringing new tones to the room with larger blankets, use accent décor to achieve the color scheme you're going for. Layer throws and pillows of varying textures to add visual interest to bedding designs.
Swap Out Light Bulbs
As with all other aspects of interior design, when you're working with ivory, lighting is everything. Roth says the biggest mistake people make with white rooms is their choice of lighting—opt for the wrong bulb, and that creamy linen chair might look yellow. "If you want a [room] to appear whiter, then you need to look at the Kelvins," she says, which is the scale used to describe color temperature. "3500K to 4100K will be a white light, and 3100L and below will appear more yellow. Again, this is a super-personal preference. I like a light temperature of 3100K, whereas my husband prefers 2700K—trial and error are important."
If you're stuck between hues, opt for color-changing bulbs that can appear warmer or cooler with the click of a remote.
Paint Your Ceiling
A common design trick among interior decorators is to extend your wall paint color to the ceiling. By giving the full space a uniform color, you'll not only have a sleek feeling in the room, but you'll make your ceilings appear taller as well. Pair the design with matching light fixtures for a modern look that leaves plenty of opportunity for accent colors.
Love Your Linens
When you're browsing different types of bedding to complement an ivory bedroom, look no further than linen: This timeless, lively fabric adds vibrance to every space it resides in. Linens bring out a different texture each time you toss them over the mattress, so your bedding will take on a new shape with every styling.
If you're inspired by the farmhouse look but want to keep things fresh and airy, take inspiration from the French: Bring rustic elements into your space. Using a light ivory paint as your backdrop, add natural decorations that highlight the bright whites in the room. Simple accents like naturally-worn wood, fresh flowers, and woven furniture create soft focal points that won't overwhelm your overall design.