You don’t always have to shout to make a statement. Sometimes a whisper is the most powerful way to grab someone’s attention. The same holds true in the decorating world. Need proof? Look no further than the unassuming sisters white and cream. Whether they are the backdrop of a room or the main stage stars, these tones are anything but timid. And, they can be key to bringing your home décor to the next level. Here are four places you can add a spot of cream or a splash of white to arrest attention in your home: 

Whitewashed walls and trim

In the years it took for me to save my pennies to renovate my dated kitchen, I imagined this all-important room in lots of different colors. In the end, I chose a creamy white. I wanted a color that screamed “clean”. (Believe me, when you have a golden retriever and two cats, something in your home needs to look clean!)

I want to challenge the notion that painting your walls white or cream is taking the easy way out. I think working with these soft colors is as much of a commitment as  painting  your walls a bold hue. It requires just as much decorating savvy to make a white or cream room warm, cozy and filled with character as one painted in any other color.



In the first few years of our marriage, Dan asked only one thing from me: color stability. I love to experiment with color and I saw the walls and furnishings of our home as an ideal laboratory. So, instead of painting and repainting my walls, now I fulfill my color lust through a parade of colorful accent pillows, swapped out seasonally or whenever I feel the itch. What allows me to live in pillow heaven (or pillow hell, if you ask my husband)? White and cream furniture.

White and cream furniture is a welcoming canvass that embraces every other color in the rainbow. In the spring, I love to toss in navy and green pillows, or coral and turquoise, or yellow and gray, or … you get the picture.

I know lots of you shudder at the thought of white or cream furniture, feeling like you are one red wine spill away from disaster if you have this tell-all fabric on your sofa or a chair. But I’ve had fabulous luck with my white and cream upholstered furnishings, and that’s coming from someone with a very messy husband and three shedding pets who loves to entertain a lot, complete with red wine.


If there is no way white upholstery is crossing your threshold, you can dot in white furniture in different ways, like adding a punchy white ceramic garden stool as a side table. How about white painted wood furniture, like an end table or hutch?



Quiet bedding ensembles that rely on a rich mix of tonal textures are among my favorites. And no colors pull this off more effectively than white and cream. A white-themed bedding ensemble doesn’t have to be shabby chic. It can be crisp and contemporary and clean.

Picking white fabrics as the base of a bedding ensemble is a smart idea because you can constantly change the look and feel of your bed just by switching out your accent pillows or the quilts that are layered at the foot of the bed. This cream duvet is lovely all by itself or as a spotlight for any color you pair it with.



  • Dishes

By now you’re probably tired of hearing my spiel on white plates and how they are the best investment you can make when buying dishes because they allow you to take your tablescapes a million different directions. But I want to add a pitch for white and cream table accents, like this gorgeous tiered dessert server. Just like white dishes, white platters, servers and bowls look just right on every table, giving you lots of mileage from each piece.


  • Pillows

Weave white into your upholstered furnishing through accent pillows. Go for solid white or cream, boosted up with fabrics that feature a nice texture, or pick a pattern where white plays a key role.


  • Lamps

Larger scale lamps are a great addition to side tables because they add visual weight. And white lamps pull this off with panache, fitting in with just about any style home.

Next Week … Monogram mania! Put your mark on your home with stylish monograms.


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24 Responses to “Quiet But Powerful: Decorating with White and Cream”

  1. Gee Says:

    Thank you for this post!! I have cream walls and quite a bit of white, and neutral furniture and I add pops of colour throughout the year to change things up a bit. I cannot live in an off white world, must have colour!
    Luvly home…
    Happy new week.
    Cheers, Gee

  2. Ramon Says:

    This is a great post, I have white sofas thanks to my first visit to your lovely home, and as a matter of fact I just posted about my Spring/Summer living room reveal inspired by Nell Hill’s, thank you so much for the inspiration.

  3. Lisa Fernandez Says:

    I love this. I have two white sofas and white chairs and white dishes. As much as I love color in your stores and posts in my home I love to decorate with dreamy whites and creams. So this post was perfect for me.
    How beautiful.
    Lisa Fernandez

  4. Julie @ Creating This Life Says:

    I adore white. White flowers, white candles, white dishes, white furniture. I haven’t quite made the move to white walls. Strange as it sounds, I’m not quite brave enough for that. But I have embraced neutral walls and I change out colors with accents, like you’ve suggested.

  5. LuAnn Says:

    I’m not that brave either to go all white…maybe someday! My husband is use to color in our home and he doesn’t like change. So color it is, but maybe I will do our attic in all whites and creams when my son moves out of there I think it will be awhile though, he is only 24 and seems settled here. ;)
    I love your designs and have most of your books! Everything you do is beautiful!

  6. Meg Says:

    I’ve had cream canvas slipcovered sofas for 13 years. Everyone who comes over for the first time says, “WHITE sofas?” But I explain that with slipcovers, you can spot treat and wash and they’ll be REALLY clean. They still look great after 13 years, four cats, a move, two babies (now toddlers) and a new little dog. I can change my accents and pillows seasonally in a snap–in fact I keep each season’s pillows and accents in a plastic bin and just swap out. Fun!

  7. Kristi Rambo Says:

    Love your blog! I, too, have always loved the whites and cream palettes. Mixed with flax linen, makes a beautiful statement, that not only is clean and inviting, but can be changed with bright (or not!) pillows and art.

  8. Margaret Says:

    The cream and white looks beautiful. I would love to know what cream color you used on the kitchen cabinets.

  9. sandy mccune Says:

    This is off the subject,but a friend of mine went to the Remodeled Home Tour. She said one of the houses was done by you. She thought it was wonderful. Could you share any pictures of what you did?

  10. Emily Eady Says:

    Wondering where I could find white lamps like or similar to the ones in the last picture?

  11. Pam Says:


  12. Mary Carol Says:

    Hello my fellow lovers of white and cream! I love all your stories and ideas – inspiring! Emily, you can find the lamps in the blog at Nell Hill’s! Just give us a call toll free at 877-746-4320 for more info. Margaret, my cabinets are painted Garrity Cream, from my own Mary Carol Artisan Paints line. I love this tint because it goes with everything. You can find my paints at Nell Hill’s. If you live outside of the area, give us a call to see about samples and shipping.
    Love to all of you!

  13. Jerry Ballard Says:

    I am the one Sandy spoke about on the Nari remodeled home tour. It was charming home in Fairway. The living room walls were a lively green, but the new kitchen, which was featured, had lovely Grey cabinets! Your beautiful touches were everywhere, and were mentioned as we walked into the home. I love your decorating, your accessories, the way they are put together, tell me, were the colors in the home your paint, as well? By the way, I love the white/cream furniture, too! My favorite piece of upholstered furniture in my house is a cream matelesse sofa in my living room.

  14. Alice Davidson Says:

    I love the bedroom with white linens. Just finished purchasing a second white spread for new king size bed and used basically the same color for walls. I have three kinds of pillows in blue and white on the bed. The room has a peaceful feeling.

  15. Carol Says:

    My favorite thing to give new brides is white serving pieces. I have never had one girl say she didn’t like it and later tell me how much she uses it. I have several different sets of white plates and use them all the time. My grandson asked me for a set of white iron stone and I gave him one. Even guys like it.

  16. Vicki Says:

    I grew up in a mid fifties home with patterned barkcloth draperies, pea green walls, red countertops, red sectional sofa. We had a yellow and white/gray formica table with crome and yellow vinyl chairs and our dishes were Franciscan Starburst. It was really mid century modern until the 60′s when mom decided to go maple furniture Early American–ugh. My bedroom was a dusty mauve with chalky pale pink trim and my parent’s room was sandalwood brown. I hated it! It was so dark and oppressive feeling to me. My parent’s always kept the draperies drawn and I love light. So I have a real problem with dark walls with strong colors! I can do a pale creamy butter, or a very pale lavender for a bedroom, but I really prefer creamy white! I like lots of windows with sheer curtains – no blinds! I prefer uncarpeted floors with small rugs in strategic areas!

  17. Carol Says:

    Mary Carol,
    I love your blog! I visited your stores in Atchison a couple of years ago and enjoyed it so much. I also am a big fan of white and cream. For white upholstered pieces, I think washable slipcovers are definitely the way to go – no worries about spills or stains when you can thrown them in the washing machine!

  18. Linda Says:

    Just remodeled my deceased mother’s home to move into and size down, since there’s just me now, so just did it to suit me, and used white on all of the walls & beams in living room. The only rooms that aren’t white are two guest bedrooms. The kitchen cabinets were painted with “decorator white”. It really lightened the house up, and color will come with some pics, chairs, and pillows. I had white plantation shutters installed in living & dining, so lots of white and no regrets. My couch is taupe, not daring enough so far to go white there, but love the look of white slip covers. Maybe someday.

  19. Nancy Block Says:

    I have a tendency to change ideas a lot, so I find that neutral basdics make it easy to change for holidays or seasons. Plus it allows you to bring in different styles, like industrial or rustic, whatever suits your fancy them.

    Love your style and definitely want to come up from Rolla to see your home tour sometime.

  20. nancy kabonic Says:

    Love it all Mary…as usual

  21. Gail Says:

    Oh finally someone after my own heart! I LOVE WHITE AND CREAM. I was afraid that it was actually the “too scared to use color” syndrome, but it just makes so much sense, as has been stated that one can change pillows, some art work and have a whole new look. Same for dishes.
    We have just moved, and I was debating and “stewing” over the decor. So…since I love the look, and one can never go wrong with Nell Hills, I am jumping into white and cream. I so love everything you do. You are so creative and artistic, it is awesome. And I just can’t say enough about how I love all your decor and blogs. I look forward to them like a kid in a candy store. And your stores are beyond description-so beautiful.

  22. Mary Carol Says:

    I love this outpouring of love for some of my favorite colors!

  23. Mary Carol Says:

    Hi Jerry and Sandy, I wanted to answer your questions about the home featured on the tour. Nell Hill’s has not officially decorated a home for a tour in a while, but we are so fortunate to have lots and lots of customers whose homes are on tours, and they come to us for help getting their spaces ready for public view. We love helping folks bring their own style to life and make their homes their beautiful best, whether it’s helping with a complete redo or just tricking up their mantel for the season. The home in Fairway sounds beautiful!

  24. sandy mccune Says:

    Thanks for answering my email.Now I am waiting for a column about your Lake home.We Nell Hills lovers can be so demanding.

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