Tips for Using Neutrals in Home Design

Using neutrals effectively can be tricky. Interior designers have provided tips and tricks for design success.

Understanding Neutrals

It all starts with understanding the effect of neutrals. Often described as having equal parts of primary colors red, blue, and yellow and/or a color with very low saturation, a neutral color palette can be timeless and elegant when applied using these simple tricks and tips. There are warm neutrals such as black, brown, tan, and gold and cool neutrals such as white, ivory, silver, and gray. Either group can provide tranquility and unity to a space.

The Subtlety of Neutrals

Neutrals have attributes that allow for more flexibility and subtlety than their primary red and blue counterparts. This subtlety provides the perfect backdrop for other color stories and creates a consistent thread throughout the home.

Balancing the Tones

To make life easier and keep the tones in balance, keeping warm with warm, and cool with cool. However, you should feel confident in adding a splash of color, remembering to keep the tones similar in saturation.

Using Layers

Layering is a great way to add a little excitement to a neutral palette. Consider texture, patterns, and slight variations in tone. Use a variety of textures from flannels to chenilles and don’t be afraid to throw in some sparkle. Just keep the tones similar and it will all work.

Window Treatments and Wall Coverings

Create seamless, soft textures with layers of white on white. White linen drapes on white walls with contrasting metal hardware elevate and soften a room without interrupting the overall look. However, she cautions against falling into the trap of just white painted walls. Consider other neutrals for wall coverings, such as silk or seagrass for a touch of texture and elegance.

Playing with Pattern

Patterns can take a neutral room to new heights. This is a great place to let your personality show. Keep the range of color similar, but have fun with the weight and size of the patterns. A mix of complementary patterns instantly adds interest to a space.

Try Textures

Don’t limit texture in your home décor to pillows and throws, says Laura. Consider all of the aspects of the room. Accessories, art, window treatments, rugs and upholstery are all excellent ways to inject texture into a space.

Continuity and Consistency

When selecting your palette, remember the wall color is your base point. It sets the tone for the palette and it should be crisp yet subtle. Consider sampling your neutral selection at 30-50 percent lighter and build your deeper tones and textures on that for a congruent design.

Picking Paint

The right color and a good paint job is the base for your design. Keep paint light and crisp for a clean, open feeling. For a cozy, sexy look, go for deeper tones like graphite and espresso. Favorites are Dunn Edwards Cool December, Farrow & Ball Strong White 200, Dunn Edwards French White, Benjamin Moore Rocky Coast 1595, Farrow & Ball All White 2005, and Benjamin Moore Hint of Mint 505.

Exploring Neutral Colors

Use a neutral base such as white, off-white, taupe or grey to connect spaces and create continuity. Remember, however, that "colors," such as pink, can be neutrals. Low saturated blues, such as chambray or pewter can also work as neutrals. Even dark greys like charcoal and graphite are good examples of neutrals with a timeless feel. Being neutral doesn’t mean being dull. They can be exuberant and especially clean, fresh, and modern.

excerpt borrowed from

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