I have done up my flat in all white. I have white walls, white cabinets, white tables and white sofa. The only things that are not white are my old bed frame, my old dresser and old side tables, the children’s new bed (pine), our old shelves and the toilet. My kitchen has been re-orientated and opened up into a kind of open-concept kitchen so that light can enter and I can see what the kids are up to when I am in the kitchen. It is separated from the rest of the living room by glass panels and glass doors.
I have been getting comments and questions about the kind of maintenance needed. It looks like a very high maintenance design, especially when I have males at home, and especially when 3 of them are still young. A low maintenance house does make life a lot easier for a SAHM. When my children were much younger, I did stick to low maintenance kind of choices. However, to be honest, a lot of times, low maintenance also means aesthetically less appealing.
We always had white walls. We prefer white walls because you don’t get tired of it that easily. It is utilitarian. Over time, it may get a bit dirty – use paint that allows you to wipe and clean will help – but nothing that another fresh coat won’t solve. It is easier to paint white. Frankly, I don’t quite notice the dirt that much. But when colours turn dull, it makes the house look old and tired. With white paint, you do not have to worry about matching colours too.
Our white cabinets are covered with laminates. It makes cleaning and maintenance easier. I did consider other options, like a wood colour, but I really prefer a bright, airy, light and spacious look. We used to have woody kind of cabinets and they looked old and tired over time. Will the cabinets get dirty? Probably. Will they turn yellowish? Probably. But I think we can live with that. A woody kind of colour looks ‘yellowish’ already anyway.
When we considered the colour of our sofa, nothing feels right except the white/cream one. We used to have a greyish sofa. It simply looked dirty from Day 1. I dislike black furnitures very much because mosquitoes tend to hide in these places. They make the room look dark and gloomy too. I dislike brownish ones because they look old and dated. Like some old people’s furniture from 50 years ago. A splash of wood here, a dash of colour there, yes. But not for something major and big, like the sofa. I could have chosen a light brown or greyish tone again. But I figured choosing such a colour so that the sofa is more dirt resistant is like buying something that someone else have ‘pre-dirtied’ for you. Instead of waiting 2 or 3 years to end up with a somewhat dirty looking sofa, I will be getting one from Day 1. I figured I do not want that. Let’s have a nice sofa in the beginning and if we end up with a slightly dirty looking one somewhere down the road, so be it.
Glass? The horror of finger prints and water stain. I am not really bothered by it. If you have glass shower screen in the bathroom, water stain is something that comes with it. That’s what the shower screen is for. It is not there to just look beautiful. This brings the point of whether things are made for people or people exist for the sake of things. I strongly believe that things are made to be used, to serve people, to be enjoyed, and not to enslave their human owners. Some may argue that having white furnitures means I am enslaved to them by having to constantly keep them clean. Of course, I have to be more careful and maybe a bit more vigilant in housekeeping, but as I said, I am mentally prepared that things will not remain pristine forever. On the other hand, if for the sake of not cleaning glass, I had to confine myself to a dark kitchen, separated from the rest of the family every time I cook, I would rather sacrifice the low maintenance and go for the openness and the glass.
What about kids? Even in the old version of our flat, I have trained them to be clean. It makes my life easier. E.g., when they eat, they are careful not to drop crumbs. Now that they are older, they can take up even more house chores responsibility. Nothing makes a person mindful about his behaviour better than to let him experience how his behaviour affects others. The fact that they know the amount of effort that goes into cleaning makes them mindful about how to maintain the place simply by being more careful. Oh, they do not get it all at once, of course. It is a training and it takes time.
I am not into over child-proofing the house even when they are little. We removed the obvious dangers and maintenance nightmares of course, but we prefer to teach them not to get into dangerous situation or do things they are not supposed to do. I cannot remember who now, but someone told me before that she did not have curtains at home because she was afraid her little ones would tug and pull on the curtains. My approach was to teach the kids not to pull and tug on the curtains. If I removed curtains from the house, I could avoid that inappropriate behaviour. But it means the kid will never learn that he is not supposed to do that. What happens when he visits someone who has curtains in the house? So now, we told the kids that there are certain things they have to be mindful about in the new version of the house. Kids can be taught. They are smarter than we give them credit for.
Right now, my newly renovated apartment is bright, airy and looks clean. This is exactly what we want. All that white walls and furnishing help to reflect light and make the place brighter. A bright and cheery place leads to better mood! In the past, I had to turn on the lights all the time, especially in the kitchen where the light is on all day long. In this new version, I go around turning off light, even at night because the new downlights are so much brighter than our previous lightings and the layout makes it easier to just have fewer lights on.
So here are some pictures of what my house used to look like and what it looks like now. Hopefully, they will you a better idea of why we decide to go with what seems to be a maintenance nightmare. Balancing practicality and aesthetics is really very subjective. At the end of the day, what is more important is to enjoy what we are blessed with and not let it become a bondage.