Decorating with Neutrals

Neutral colors area reliable decorating tool, providing welcome visual breaks, excellent backdrops and soothing moods, depending on how you treat them. See just how versatile neutral color palettes can be and how you can get a not-so-boring neutral look in your home.


    Everything in this slideshow

    • Orange You Glad?

      Walls painted a deep putty make for a versatile neutral, as the color not only works equally well with black, brown and white, it pulls all three together. A light, patterned rug warms the wood floor while balancing the brightness created by the white cabinets and woodwork. A cluster of neutral, nature-theme artwork adds understated interest, as do small, simple shots of happy orange.

    • Neutral Color Scheme

      See how to put together a color scheme starring neutrals.

    • A Better Bath

      With tiles like these, who needs a shower curtain? Clear doors let the neutral-tone beauties take center stage. It's one of three types of tile, which work together so well in this small space because they're all made up of neutral tones. The mixture of gray and brown, plus the natural materials and abundance of clean, straight lines, give the room a masculine feel.

    • Hub of the Home

      A mix of soft, gentle neutrals in this kitchen make it an easy backdrop for the action it naturally attracts. Bare wood beams stand out against a whitewashed ceiling, and are nicely balanced by the wood floor and attention-grabbing black-and-white runners underneath. Note that any bit of dark tugs at the eye amid this cheery sea of light.

    • Step It Up

      Use neutrals to unify materials in DIY projects. Here, wooden step stools, painted gray and white, stack together as a impromptu library. The painted finish complements the neutral hues and textures used elsewhere in the living room.

    • Smart Art

      A backdrop of subdued whites and gentle grays present the perfect way to show off a colorful art collection. Placing pictures in a variety of frames painted the same glittery, elegant gold is a smart way to draw attention and add cohesion without getting too matchy-matchy. 

    • Go Beyond Beige

      Use these tricks to take a beige room from boring to bold.

    • Go Wild

      Here's proof that a color scheme made up exclusively of neutrals is anything but boring. A healthy variety of brown tones, plus black and white, create an upscale look with intrigue. The nubby rug, stone mantel and sculptures add textural depth, and all those unassuming stretches of neutral allow the patterned work of art over the mantel to take center stage. 

    • Rustic Neutrals

      Neutrals allow show-stopping pieces to have the attention they deserve. Here, simple white walls, neutral trim, and even the wood ceiling and floor quietly come together so as not to steal the show from the rustic cabinet, weathered farm table, and distinctive overhead light. Employing one color, a muted green, throughout the space adds a little dimension, without taking away from the room's rustic neutral palette.

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      Throwback Country Kitchen

      There’s something clean and classic about an all-white kitchen. Warm wood floors and countertops only add to the throwback appeal. Here, simple striped shades repeat both the wood and white, but add some sunshiny yellow. Metal fixtures and appliances find further cohesion from basic, yet shapely metal stools and a standout painted-green light fixture.

    • 11 of 19

      Sweet Dreams

      In a bedroom, a mixture of white, barely beige and the lightest of baby blues are the stuff dreams are made of. The tonal color palette doesn't fall flat, thanks to an abundance of fabrics -- a padded headboard, plush comforter, billowy curtains, and upholstered stools.

    • 12 of 19

      Naturally Good

      When a room is lucky enough to be filled with natural light, it makes sense to keep the mood bright with light neutrals. This room riffs off the outdoor theme with layered natural-fiber flooring, weathered wood tables, nature-inspired art and accents in the colors of water and sunshine. Lots of fabric and a mix of patterns big and small keep things casual. Pops of blue inject a just-right visual break from the cocoon of neutrals.

    • 13 of 19

      Very Complementary

      Here’s a foolproof formula for a pulled-together room: Take extravagant stretches of beautiful neutrals, then layer in a pair of complementary colors, which always look good together. Here, red and green show up in a smart mix of patterns from big to medium to small. Though the drapes and rug are both tan, like the walls and sofa, their subtle patterns defy monotony.

    • 14 of 19

      Change is Good

      If you keep the room’s main elements neutral, it makes it a cinch to switch up moods on a whim. In this bedroom, for example, all the basics are classic, comfortable and neutral, including the pale walls, white woodwork, wood floors, and white tufted headboard. Changing the vibe is as simple as changing the comforter and the throw pillows.

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      Pattern Play

      When your patterns are neutral, you can layer many of them for intrigue without sacrificing sophistication. Here, painted gray cabinetry creates a certain elegance, while antiqued chairs and three varied gray patterns, spread from floor to ceiling and keep things from getting too serious.

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      Building Focus

      When decorating with light neutrals, it’s easy to create focus with bold color, or even other neutrals in darker shades. In this room, for example, the dusty blue rug and patterned pillows are light enough to blend sweetly with the neutral wing-backs. It’s the neutral, yet dark ottoman and art that really grab your attention. 

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      Naturally Industrial

      A good material mix is key to a successful neutral kitchen. Here, rugged, multicolor brick, delicate, sparkly glass, gleaming variegated wood tones, handsome gray cabinetry and all shades of metal each bring something fresh to the kitchen, otherwise outfitted in understated neutral shades.

    • 18 of 19

      So Dreamy

      Neutrals are an excellent choice in the bedroom, thanks to their restful vibes. Lots of white plus slightly varied tones of calming beige throughout mix dreamily with sweet bursts of sky blue. Measured doses of dark brown low down -- like the wooden legs peeking out from under the upholstered pieces -- ground the airy palette.

    • Next Slideshow Neutral Paint Colors

      Neutral Paint Colors

      With tones as varied as driftwood gray and creamy latte, neutrals are anything but boring. Browse our top neutral paint color picks to find the right hue for your rooms. Plus, learn the best tricks for decorating in neutrals.
      Begin Slideshow »

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