How to Use Neutral Colors without Being Boring: A Room by Room Guide

Colors tend to have one of three primary behaviors: active, passive, and neutral. The word neutral, in fact, means impartial or unbiased. Because of this, the use of neutral colors in home decorating is a common and effective strategy.

Neutral inspired decor with grey accentsView in gallery

For one thing, neutrals (think white, black, brown, cream, grey, and pretty much any muted earthy tone) can “go” with anything – that’s what makes them neutrals. This provides versatility in decorating over the years as trends and personal preferences change. Neutrals also tend to be colors that provide an excellent background to any other color, providing a solid foundation for decorating no matter what your style.

Warm neutral colors for kitchenView in gallery

But sometimes this idea can be taken to an extreme in the neutral world. Entering a room that’s decorated in beige upon beige upon beige upon…wait, is that cream? Oh. Nope. Beige again…is both boring and aesthetically stagnating. In order to alleviate that risk, the following is a guide for decorating with neutrals for every room in your house while maintaining personality, life, charm, and style.

ENTRYWAY

Entryway first impressionsView in gallery

As the place where first impressions happen in any home, the entryway is a perfect spot to showcase design savviness and great taste. But you needn’t necessarily jar your guests with bright colors to make an impression. A few well-selected patterns in the same neutral palette will go a long way to add visual interest to your entry. Think wallpaper, rugs, runners, even art.{found on jenkinsbaer}.

impossibly high-backed wingback chairView in gallery

An interesting and unexpected piece of furniture in the entryway is a perfect way to add character to an entryway, if you’ve got the space, without having to stray from neutral coloring. An impossibly high-backed wingback chair is both aesthetic and functional when it comes time to put on shoes!

color tone from your neutral floor tileView in gallery

Pull a color tone from your neutral floor tile, and use this to dictate the neutral scheme of your entryway. The space will be cohesive and inviting as a result.

Combine neutral colorsView in gallery

The combination of the neutrals of several different colorways makes for an engaging and charming entryway. Remember that you don’t have to choose just one neutral color to create a truly neutral space – go with grey, cream, brown, blue, and black all at once. Just keep the saturation component fairly similar across the colors so they do, indeed, blend together in the space.

Light neutral entrywayView in gallery

A light neutral surround provides a lovely foundation for a bold piece of art or some colorful flowers. This is a perfect way to emphasize some beloved pieces and to allow a little bit of color to infuse an entire room (without having said color take over the space).

LIVING ROOM

strategic pops of colorView in gallery

Reserve those strategic pops of color for the window treatments and throw pillows to enliven a neutral living room. This does two things – it makes the neutral scheme a breathing space between the colors while also bringing life into the living room overall.

Neutral living room with mirrors on wallView in gallery

Mirrors add so much to any living room, but they are particularly useful in a neutral one. They reflect the light and therefore brighten and enlarge the space. The mirrors themselves read as a neutral and thus add depth to any neutral palette, whether it’s based upon browns, whites, creams, greys, or any other neutral shade.

Living room pops of color through pillowsView in gallery

When decorating a living room in neutral colors, remember that using slight variations of that color goes a long way in creating an aesthetic, warm space. Consider the neutral color palette’s role in your walls, window treatments, furniture, floors, and lighting…but pop a bit of energy back into the living room with a bright throw pillow or two.{found on chanarchitecture}.

Neutral color scheme in the living roomView in gallery

A neutral color scheme in the living room is a wonderful way to emphasize a feature or nice architecture. If your living room has either one of these items, use neutral color and décor to highlight – because of the lighter shade on the fireplace wall, for example, it is given prioritized presence.

Dramatic lighting for living roomView in gallery

Adding dramatic lighting to an otherwise neutral living room makes the room elegant and sophisticated. A large chandelier, for example, give the otherwise airy space a sense of purpose and presence. Not to mention, it’s a beautiful addition to any décor anyway!

KITCHEN

Large neutral kitchen designView in gallery

In a neutral kitchen (which is a highly popular design trend right now), guide the eye by repeating shapes throughout the space. Wide, flat cabinet drawers work well with a similarly flat, rectangular hood – the combination is congruent but not totally matching, and thus interesting to look at. And pretty hardware works well anywhere!

Choosing kitchen cabinet colorView in gallery

Choosing a cabinet color that mimics, but doesn’t match entirely, the color of your appliances will create a beautiful, seamless space. This shade of warm matte greige, for example, is a perfect complement to stainless steel and allows the appliances to look cohesive in the neutral kitchen décor.

Mix styles in the kitchenView in gallery

Mix mediums in the kitchen details to keep the neutral things feeling alive and well. Concrete, waterfall glass, wood, subway tile, and stainless steel, to name a few, all work together to create a hip, contemporary, and vibrant kitchen space…while still remaining neutral.

Edge wood kitchen table and bubble lamps over islandView in gallery

Incorporate printed textiles in the kitchen wherever you can – think of towels hanging on the oven door or upholstered bar stools at the kitchen counter. These additions bring energy without bringing distraction.{found on vpinteriors}.

Cheerful stripes or other classic patternsView in gallery

Cheerful stripes or other classic patterns work to add a little bit of flavor to a neutral kitchen in a timeless way. Classic patterns themselves read as neutral, making their combination with a neutral color palette perfect.

DINING ROOM

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Use glass or acrylic pieces in the dining room! This is a fabulous way to maintain a visually lightweight, neutral palette that shines. Lucite dining chairs or a glass-topped dining table are two easy switches you can make in this space where ho-hum neutrality often reigns supreme simply by default.

Neutral dining room color schemeView in gallery

Neutral dining rooms tend to be charming, breathable spaces. Linen upholstered dining chairs and plenty of textural wood lend earthiness to the room and make it comfortable. And, frankly, who doesn’t want a comfortable, inviting dining room, where family and friends are inherently at ease and able to linger longer?

Modern and neutral dining room with a unique floorView in gallery

Particularly in this room where floors tend to be un-carpeted, a neutral foundation is literally laid via tile, stone, wood, laminate, or other flooring types. Carry this through to the remainder of the dining room for an engaging space.

Dining room with yellow chairs and felt lamp over tableView in gallery

“Neutral” doesn’t necessarily mean “color-free.” Even yellow can read as a neutral color when paired with a similar yellow wood. You have to agree, this neutral dining room is anything but boring!

HOME OFFICE

Neutral home office designView in gallery

Metallic details, such as brass wall sconces and curtain rods, add the perfect amount of pop to a home office space. One benefit of using metallic pieces (by the way, don’t think you have to match the same metal throughout the whole space – mix it up if you like!) is that it’s an absolutely neutral, but a glammed up one. A perfect addition to any neutral space, really.{found on gallerieb}.

neutral-toned folding panelsView in gallery

Use a neutral-toned folding panel or wall divider as the backbone of your home office, regardless of its size or other décor. This will automatically create a distinct office delineation in an all-neutral zone.

Beautiful home office designView in gallery

A fun task lamp in the home office, such as this long-necked glossy yellow lamp, will add plenty of personality in a neutral, work-focused space. Of course, plenty of patterns and pictures help to liven things up as well, even when colors themselves are muted or similar neutrals.

Select a fun home office chairView in gallery

Select a fun office chair that may be neutral but has a unique twist. Oversized zebra print upholstery, for example, breathes personality into an otherwise standard and neutral home office space.

Neutral home desk placed against the window for natural lightView in gallery

Whenever possible, let natural light serve as the counterpoint to and highlight of your neutral color scheme. This is the case for a home office as well as for any other space – our eyes naturally gravitate toward a window with plenty of natural light, and the space is instantly appealing.{found on madeco}.

BEDROOM

Serene master bedroom designView in gallery

Blending natural elements into your neutral color scheme – like a wood plank ceiling, for example – help to add depth and warmth without overtaking the décor.

Color block bedroomView in gallery

Color-blocked window treatments, even if it’s just with two slightly different shades of the same color, is unexpected and, therefore, interesting. Align the color block connection with one of the horizontal window planes (in this case, the bottom of the window) for maximum effect.

Picture ledge above the bedView in gallery

A single wall-to-wall photo shelf above the bed serves as a unique headboard and is different enough that it makes a solid statement in any neutral bedroom. And don’t forget the importance of luxe and cozy textiles in the bedroom – a neutral soft throw or pillow can be the most inviting and soothing accessory of the entire room.{found on jino}.

Attic bedroom with black and white pillowsView in gallery

Don’t forget that black and white, either separate or combined, are neutral colors, too! They make an impressive and dramatic addition to any neutral bedroom. Play with the classic color combo with black-on-white and its negative white-on-black for a little more intrigue and fun.

Bedroom carpet shapeView in gallery

Use interesting shapes, lines, and curves to create a gorgeous, interesting bedroom. The curved legs of a side chair, a uniquely shaped headboard, or a rounded night stand pack a punch while keeping within a neutral palette.

BATHROOM

Touch of green in bathroom with a plantView in gallery

Add a plant. It’s just that easy, actually. In a bathroom where “neutral” décor can easily become “sterile” décor (what with the white porcelain bits everywhere), the appearance of something green and living is both appropriate and welcome.

Lighting is very important for a small bathroomView in gallery

Lighting can set a space apart and take it from being pretty ordinary to being extraordinary. This is the case in the neutral bathroom, for sure. Place warm lighting in an unexpected place, like underneath the medicine cabinet or bathroom mirror, for maximum and delightful impact.

Ladder behind the toilet for storageView in gallery

Toiletries aren’t necessarily beautiful. Blue plastic jugs, red plastic caps, bright green spray cans – all of these work completely against a neutral color palette if they’re exposed. So simply use baskets to maintain the serenity of your neutral bathroom while simultaneously incorporating texture.

Small Mosaic Tiles for BathroomView in gallery

Tile is a bathroom’s best friend, and there are few ways better to infuse visual interest into a small space than by the laying of tile. Glass tile, ceramic tile, penny tile, and many more add sparkle and shine by their light-reflective properties. Plus the mosaic effect brings the neutral colors alive.