White: a multi-faceted colour

Have you ever wondered why white is so popular in the bathroom, and realised that this colour doesn’t necessarily always look the same?

Anyone who has ever stood in front of a shelf of white paint in the hardware store knows that the colour white has many nuances. There are around 100 listed shades of white. The options include old white, polar white, ivory white and many more – and you will almost certainly have come across the description “alpine white” at some point.

Alpine white: what is it, exactly?

Alpine white is a slightly warmer shade of white specially designed for bathrooms, which is why it is sometimes also known as sanitary white. It was defined in 1987 by the European Fachverband für Sanitär-Keramische Industrie (professional association for the sanitary ceramic industry). It corresponds to the established RAL colour “signal white” and is seen as very neutral. Alpine white is intended to ensure a fresh feeling in the bathroom while creating a greater sense of space and light. The colour also represents hygiene and cleanliness. In general, when it comes to white tones, a touch of yellow brings a sense of warmth and comfort to a room, whereas cooler blue and grey shades create a straight, cool look. However, it is important to be aware that even a shade of white that has been precisely defined can look different with different materials such as plastic, glass or ceramics. This is a result of the physics of visual perception.

How does our colour perception work?

Three factors play a role in vision: the light source, the perceived object and the viewer him or herself, since our perception of colours and objects is the result of the interplay between the eye and the brain. Another key factor in our perception of colour is how the observed object reflects light. If 100 per cent of the light is reflected back, we see pure white. If there is no reflection, we see black. The surface condition is also important: A scratched WC lid has a different colour compared to a lid without scratches, for example.

Neutral colours are a popular choice for the bathroom

Today, classic white is still used for many bathrooms. Just like the kitchen, the bathroom is a room that often has a timeless design in its appearance and furnishings. This explains why many homeowners prefer neutral colours. The colour white isn’t a passing trend. It goes with everything, and if anything breaks, it’s generally easier to find a suitable replacement than it is with fashion colours.

A flair for design

“It’s not easy to design a colour-coordinated bathroom where all the objects are the same shade of white,” says Martin Rohrer from Geberit, an expert in colours and materials. His recommendation? “It’s best to buy your sanitary ceramics from a single manufacturer and a single bathroom series – that means you can avoid choosing a washbasin and a toilet which are slightly different colours, for example. You can also play with contrasts. Why not combine white ceramics with furniture in different colours, or made of wood? But for people who want to stick with classic white as much as possible, I would advise that you work with colourful accessories such as bathroom textiles to give the bathroom a bit more colour and create a harmonious balance.”

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