Design Tips for Decorating With Neutrals

SHOP: ottoman | chair (arroyo finish)

If you’re a huge color enthusiast, and not typically a fan of neutrals, terms like “boring, bland, or not-in-my-house” might come to mind when you think of decorating with neutrals.

That’s understandable, but sometimes it’s nice to have at least one neutral zone in a home.  In addition to being calming, a neutral space makes a great backdrop for switching accent colors in and out as your taste or design trends change.

And… there are a variety of things that you can do in a neutral space to keep it from being too predictable or boring. Done right, neutrals just might surprise you!

Mix it up.

Neutrals encompass everything from white and cream to dark grays and browns, so use a range of neutrals or several shades in the same family.

Warm Gray, White & Wood Living Room- from apartment therapy. This color with our couches is perfect, neutral and warm
image source  Wall Color: Benjamin Moore Copley Grey

Wood pieces can be mixed by using a variety of stained, natural or painted pieces, but use caution so that it doesn’t become a hodge podge.  Having some pieces that match or at least have elements that tie them together creates a sense of cohesiveness in the space.

A variety of fabrics and materials will also help to keep things interesting. Don’t be afraid to mix nubby chenilles with smooth silks, or add materials like leather or faux fur and animal hide.

Layer interesting fabrics when decorating with neutrals. Neutral bedroom with layered bedding, refined rustic bed and nightstand. Mixed metals.
Decorating with Neutrals
SHOP THIS LOOK: Calistoga bed and nightstand

Bring on the sparkle.

Add a mix of metallics, mirrors and/or glass to create interesting shimmer and shine and bounce light around the room.

SHOP: Calistoga Dresser

Bring the outdoors in.

Nothing brings a room to life like elements from the outdoors.   Cut some tree branches or fresh flowers or add a potted plant or terrarium.

For those of us that are a little “live plant challenged”, permanent botanicals are always an option. They’ve come a long way and sometimes its hard to tell the difference!

BHG 101135301.jpg.rendition.largest

Play with pattern.

There are so many different options when your decorating with neutrals for bringing pattern into a space.

Add patterned pillows, throws, accessories or artwork for a smaller punch, or consider painting a patterned wall, or bringing in a patterned sofa or area rug (or both!) if you want to make a bigger impact.

Try texture.

Texture is an element of any design, but is especially important when using neutrals.  Make a conscious effort to vary the textures in your space.  So many ways to do that – as big as wallpapering a wall in grasscloth or as small as adding baskets.

Some examples in the room below are the smooth painted wainscoting juxtaposed with the rough stone fireplace, linen-like fabrics set against a natural wood table, the metal pendant lights and soft, puffy texture in the table centerpiece.

Texture is key when your decorating with neutrals. Love the stone fireplace, rustic floors and table, gray fabric chairs, metal pendant lights
Image: House of Fifty

Add the unexpected.

Choose one or two elements that will add an unpredictable or whimsical touch of character to your space.  That one thing (or more) that sets it apart and makes it unique.

When you're decorating with neutrals adding something unexpected, like these cowhide ottomans, can help spice up your space. Foyer, entry, gray wall, metal console table
Lazio Console Table | Accessories – Schneiderman’s stores

More inspiration.

Browse more design tips, decorating ideas and room inspiration on our Design Tips page!

When it comes to decorating, are you in the neutral zone or a color enthusiast?

Editor’s Note: Originally published October 2014 – Revamped and republished 11/15/16

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