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White just right for Palm Beach seaside decor, but add some color

Posted on December 02 2016

By Carleton Varney

Special to the Daily News

The white house is calling, and I’m not talking about the one on Pennsylvania Avenue.

I’m talking about all these houses — and apartments — in Palm Beach, Jupiter, Delray Beach, Boca Raton and Miami that have gone with white in their decorating plans.

We’re talking white walls, white ceilings, white upholstery — in fabric, vinyl or leather — and white draperies, often limited to simple sheers. And that’s not to mention the white chandeliers and other light fixtures, along with the white marble floors. Although you may find some tall green palms set about in clay pots, those pots are likely to be white as well. Even the dinnerware is white.

My description is not an overstatement. Today, you can still find plenty of beige and gray in city pads, but it’s all about white at the seashore. The color scheme — or the lack of it — always provides a foil for ocean views, not to mention vistas of the waterways or gardens.

I believe in the theory that you should make merry at home with what you enjoy. But even though you may feel Jean Harlow-esque in your furnishing tastes, I still think you’ll need some color to keep from going snow-blind. Think about the paintings and art hanging on your walls — a perfect way to add a welcome jolt of color.

I always enjoy visiting the galleries on Worth Avenue. Every time I visit Wally Findlay Galleries, for instance, I see many great and large paintings that would give a white home the decorating magic it requires.

Flowers also help to relieve otherwise arctic monotony. A white room becomes more special with, say, masses of birds of paradise in large see-through glass containers.

White rooms also work nicely as the background for a party, especially if the hostess appears in a colorful Michaele Vollbracht ensemble, perhaps a vintage kimono or a glamorous evening dress. There’s a reason Vollbracht is among America’s foremost fashion designers and painters. For the white walls in your Floridian home, you might even consider a colorful Vollbracht painting or print.

Remember, too: A white room doesn’t necessarily require a white ceiling. White spaces with ceilings painted sky blue always are appealing — like something reminiscent of a Greek isle.

The Floridian home in white always includes some mirror work, perhaps a mirrored wall to reflect the water view. It’s a strategy that even works at night, especially if you’re lucky enough to live on the Intracoastal. I think night-time views across the waterway are so appealing, with lights dancing on the opposite shoreline.

Windows present a trickier situation in oceanfront homes. When decorating a home facing the sea, I always recommend well-planned exterior lighting for the palm trees as well as the ground plantings to give additional magic to the interiors when the sun goes down. I am, of course, aware of regulations regarding lighting near the beaches when the turtles are nesting, and you should be, too. Nature is a beautiful treasure, and we should always be mindful of protecting all wildlife.

For those white-decorating enthusiasts, remember that texture is a key element in rooms with a limited color palette. Textures provide visual relief, whether it’s a stucco wall, a linen fabric or a plush rug.

And do remember the white calla lily is not the only magical flower. Choose color for a happy home.

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