Use Neutrals for a Flexible Background

Are you getting ready to redesign a bedroom, or throw some new paint up on your living room walls? You may be wondering what neutral colors are in interior design.

 

Neutral Colors

In the context of interior design, neutral means without color. Neutrals such as beige, ivory, taupe, black, gray and shades of white appear to be without color, but in many applications these hues often have undertones. Be aware of these underlying tones as you match colors or choose paint.

For example, beige might have an undertone of pink, tan or gold. White might be slightly ivory, yellow, bluish or peachy. Neutrals can be used in decor in two basic ways — either as a soft, neutral only, quiet look or as background colors for dramatic accents.

The All-Neutral Room

If you are going for an all-neutral look, layer different hues of the same color for a classy and sophisticated look. Follow the suggestions of paint chip families to choose colors that are harmonious. Choose a lighter shade for the walls, with darker upholstery. Choose an area rug in a color that complements the wood flooring but also is just a shade darker than the walls so the furniture stands out; choose the same color if you prefer carpeting. Tie the room together with accessories that include some or all of the shades you have used. This color scheme lets hardwood flooring; beams; fireplace surrounds of wood, brick or stone; and window frames make a warm statement within this understated room.

Neutrals as Background

In this scheme, as with the all-neutral room, start with neutral walls. Choose the neutral based on what other colors you wish to use, how much natural light the room receives and your personal preference for lighter or darker walls. Be mindful that darker walls seem to close the room up and make it feel smaller, as well as darker, especially if there is little natural light.

So if your room is large and light, you can consider all options. If it is small and on the dark side, a lighter neutral would likely be a better choice.

If you like gray, also decide whether you prefer a warm or cool shade; the same goes for shades of white. Say you choose a rich taupe for the wall color. Turn up the volume with a navy blue sofa and chairs covered in a stripe of ivory, taupe and navy. Add an area rug or carpeting in the same shade of taupe as the walls or a bit lighter. Pair throw pillows in taupe and the same pattern as the chairs with a taupe throw for a cohesive look. Place books and art objects with dashes of brick red on a brass and glass coffee table to add interest and color. In this color scheme, you have taupe walls and floor accent or carpeting for a neutral canvas, with drama added via the upholstery in navy and small bits of red in decorative pieces for further interest.