Vail Design at Altitude column: In the white room with Slifer Designs

Yvonne Jacobs
Design at Altitude
White provides a clean palette for updated, welcoming design. White sofas, neutral walls and metal accessories make the living room feel updated and welcoming.
Courtesy / Kimberly Gavin |

One of the aspects of design that I love so much is how design elements change, remaining similar yet different. Homes in the mountains tend to have wood, metals and stone as main features. In the past, homeowners loved the look of leather combined with wood or stone — it felt reminiscent of cabins of yesteryear while feeling luxurious. More and more now, though, white furnishings provide that welcoming space, the color that really pops.

Of course, many clients are nervous to use white in their decor; fear of staining is very real!

We recommend trying indoor-outdoor fabric or stain-resistant, washable fabrics. These are updated fabrics that feel good to the touch but hold up under household mishaps (chocolate, little hands, wine). Step slowly into this new design territory: Use white slipcovers that are washable, soft and let you melt in with them.

OK, the fear of white is out of the way — here are a few tips to whiten up your home.


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White should be a natural choice here in the mountains: We are surrounded by snow all winter, and the bright light only makes the whites feel whiter, brighter and cleaner. It’s a clean palette right from the start; you get to make the design decisions.

Each season feels wonderfully different here. Using white as the background, you can update with throws, pillows and accessories. Bright pinks and greens for spring; red and blue come summer; gold and green in the fall and deep greens and crimson come winter. I promise, your room will feel vastly different each season.


Alternately, instead of using white walls as your backdrop, try a lightly colored wall (perhaps a citrus orange, ocean blue or even lime green) with a crisp white sofa, sectional or several armchairs. The white furniture feels clean and inviting and stands out.

We don’t think that white furnishings should be straight or austere. Think of comfort as well as visual interest: cozy sofas, fluffy soft pillows or faux-fur rugs. White is not strict; it’s serene and soft and allows you to fill in with color all around.


Still not sure about the white sofa? Try white window treatments. Freshly pressed linen or smooth, cool cotton curtains lighten up the look and feel of a room instantly. Open the window and they whisper in the breeze, bringing summer right in.

I love my cabin, the wood texture and color. I also love how white helps the wood stand out and take center stage — same with white walls adjacent to a fireplace. You don’t want to lose your fireplace; you want it to be part of your design. White provides a strong contrast with dark woods.


One final note on white: There are so many shades of white — hundreds upon hundreds, as a matter of fact. They have different undertones and nuances. Take your time picking the right shade, and look at it at different times of the day next to your furniture, so you can feel it.

Yvonne Jacobs is the president of Slifer Designs and she loves finding new and creative ways to incorporate whites into home design.

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