Homebuyers looking for all sorts of designer extras should keep an eye out for model homes when they go on the market. These decorated models in new neighborhoods are often loaded with features, says Atlanta interior designer Lisa Gabrielson. “A model home usually has all of the bells and whistles,” she explains. “The builder is selling homes based off of the beauty and innovation of the model, so it’s always a good house.”

For her clients, empty nesters who bought in the Lake Haven neighborhood of Milton, the model was lovely, but needed a little tweaking for their California-style taste. “They wanted a sleeker look, so first we covered the walls with shiplap (horizontal pine paneling once popular in barns and historic homes) and painted everything white,” explains Lisa.

StyleBlueprint Atlanta Decorating with white living room

The family room fireplace received a face-lift from 1-by-6-foot planks, painted white, and bronze library sconces flanking the television. Mirrors made out of antique metal barrels are grouped on the wall as an industrial accent. As a contrast to the metal, designer Lisa Gabrielson incorporated a “crusty” antique sofa and swivel chairs. Pillows are custom made from Schumacher fabric.

StyleBlueprint Atlanta Decorating with white living room

“The living room is the first room you see from the foyer, where the architecture of the coffered ceiling makes a huge impact,” says Lisa. “The white sofa and swivel chair in cotton are both casual and comfortable, but it’s the tones and textures that add interest: pillows in embroidered linen and knotty swivel poufs that layer on the luxe.'” The column lamp is from Scott Antique Markets, and Lisa herself designed the custom, raw wood console beside the stairs, with its unique X base.

“White rooms have made a huge comeback,” adds the designer, but understandably homeowners can be wary. Her clients were okay with white cotton duck upholstery, she recalls, but were a bit afraid to pull the trigger on all-white walls. “I assured them that this was the fastest way to achieve the West Coast look they craved, while making the biggest impact on the house,” says Lisa.

People often think that decorating with white equals boring, she adds, but the secret is to incorporate texture. “We added all sorts of texture: a stone fireplace, shiplap planks, chunky sisal rugs and fur pillows, to name a few,” says Lisa. Tonal variations are also important. The walls are painted Benjamin Moore Dover White, but the cabinetry is a creamier shade of white and the furniture is an even brighter white, which covers a spectrum of neutrals.

StyleBlueprint Atlanta Decorating with White kitchen

The designer covered Ballard Designs swivel stools in a diamond fabric to coordinate with the pattern on the ottoman in the adjacent family room, tying the spaces together. Because the house was a model home, the kitchen already had the glass-front upper cabinets and decorative backsplash treatment when the homeowners bought it.

StyleBlueprint Atlanta Decorating with white kitchen nook

“The breakfast area is a combo of hard and soft,” says Lisa. “When you’re in the space, it feels very chic and serene with the linen pinstriped sheers and warm white walls … almost like a boutique hotel.” She chose a rustic ebony dining table and industrial caged pendant to ground all the white.

StyleBlueprint Atlanta decorating with white dining accessories

Willow chargers are from Scott Antique Markets

To embrace the all-white look, the homeowners were inspired to sell their previous furniture and start over with new pieces, so the designer mixed popular retail options — Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn and Ballard Designs — with some antiques for visual interest.

And as for the ever-present “will it show dirt” question regarding an all-white palette, Lisa offers several tips. Choosing white slipcovers enables fabrics to be washed. Similarly, she has non-slipcovered furniture coated with Scotchguard to provide a coating against grime. For the kitchen banquette stools, the designer covered them in Perennials fabric, an upscale indoor-outdoor material that can be wiped down.

StyleBlueprint Atlanta decorating with white couch

Symmetrical floor lamps from Restoration Hardware tie in to the metal pendant lights in the adjacent kitchen.

StyleBlueprint Atlanta decorating with white coffee table

A coffee table made of reclaimed Belgian wood, along with the oversize chandelier, were sourced through Lisa’s design business, where she refurbishes antiques and found objects for clients.

This gorgeous Milton home is a testament to not being intimidated when decorating with white. Varying neutral shades and textures create a cool, casual look that is a welcome respite for guests and homeowners alike.


Interior designer and some accessories: Lisa Gabrielson
Photographer: Christina Wedge
Paint: Benjamin Moore
Decor and accessories: Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn, Ballard Designs, Scott Antique Markets
Fabrics: Perennials Fabrics, Schumacher


Want to redecorate but not sold on white? Check out our many stunning home features and decor stories sure to appeal to every taste!