Neale Whitaker explains the different shades of white

THERE was a moment in the early 1990s when we all wanted our homes to look like Santorini. I’m really not sure what prompted it.

Mamma Mia wasn’t even on the horizon. My own apartment had white floorboards, white walls, white blinds and every accessory chosen to match the famous blue domes of Oia.

Transported to Australia it might have worked beautifully but unfortunately it was in London. What was meant to be a Greek odyssey had all the warmth of a butcher’s fridge.

Of course I blamed the leaden London light for my interior malfunction but it was actually a far more complex problem. I had chosen the wrong white.

A couple of decades later my knowledge might have expanded (what I needed all those years ago was a little hit of lemon, pink or peach — even black — to warm up my whites and offset the cold blues) but white still fazes me.

As stylist Megan Morton states in White Rooms, a new book by Karen McCartney and David Harrison (Penguin Lantern), white is “the trickiest of colours that sells itself as one of the easiest”.

Perfectly put. Through beautifully photographed interiors mixed with practical advice, McCartney and Harrison’s book demonstrates the versatility of white but it doesn’t pull any punches.

While the authors point out that white is a “dramatic, affirmative and democratic’’ decorating choice, they admit choosing the perfect white from literally thousands on the market “is no easy exercise”.

News_Image_File: An industrial warehouse interior from the book White Rooms by Karen McCartney and David Harrison.News_Image_File: The cover of White Rooms by Karen McCartney and David Harrison.

Sydney-based designer Greg Natale is best known for richly layered, decorative interiors, but he’s also a skilled practitioner in white.

An all-white kitchen he designed is breathtaking in its apparent simplicity.