Muted Colors: The Quiet Stars of the Decorating World

Muted colors can affect a space in all sorts of different ways, whether coaxing architectural elements, accessories, or other colors into the limelight or exuding a comfortable elegance all their own. Read on for inspiration.

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Everything In This Slideshow

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    Warm Welcome

    A nice variety of muted neutrals -- including chalky white on the walls and warm taupe on cabinets -- make this kitchen a place where you can imagine whipping up a warm meal. Rich orange interiors peek out from behind the upper cabinets’ glass, and the curtains show off a similar shade but in an airy sheer fabric.

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    Decorating in Neutrals

    Watch and learn how to pull together a neutral color palette.

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    Calm Cohesion

    Lending calm cohesion, muted colors spread throughout the rooms of a home with an open floor plan. Here, a judicious amount of darker tones grounds each space -- the coffee table in the living room, the cabinetry in the kitchen. It’s a comfortable stage where art, patterned pillows, and other compelling details can subtly grab your attention.

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    Muted Blue

    Decorating with various neutrals and just one muted color gives license to have tons of fun with a few key pieces. Here, each zone of the open living space has its own high-impact treasure. The kitchen gets a huge hanging candle rack and the living room an amazing woven chair, while the dining room’s ombre-dyed draperies, starring in the space's muted blue accent color, bring the neutral palette to life.

  • 5 of 17

    Laid-Back and Stylish

    This dining area comes together with a casual elegance, perfect for everyday meals as well as entertaining guests. Whether it's the bold wallpaper or the striped upholstery, the wicker armchairs or the clapboard flooring, everything is a toned-down shade of brown. When everything’s neutral and muted, mixed patterns and textures don’t overwhelm.

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    Arftul Architecture

    Muted colors allow beautiful architectural elements to stand out. This bedroom’s creamy coffered ceiling and paneled walls are only enhanced by the understated color combination of soft gold and gray. They aren’t so bold as to take away from perhaps the room’s finest feature: French doors welcoming in a verdant view.

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    In Contrast

    It's easy for a palette of muted colors to encourage sophistication, especially when you paint the walls dark. Here, the white carpet, cream wing-back chairs, and floor-to-ceiling draperies create gentle, luxurious contrast. Well-placed throw pillows welcome the walls' deep muted tones into the room. 

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    Narrowed Down

    You can have a lot going on in a small room without it feeling too busy if you use muted tones wisely. Here, a striped bedspread pulls calming colors from the art on the wall above it. Tiny bedside stands and articulated sconces afford surprising comfort in such a small space. The absence of a bed skirt lends to the illusion of space.

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    Shine On

    While pops of color are relied on to add zest in a room decorated with muted color, shiny surfaces can add the same effect without straying from the palette. Fabrics with sheen add elegance, especially when used in large quantities, such as this room's floor-to-ceiling draperies and on a tufted couch, nicely balanced by gleaming twin stand-up chandeliers. A stone fireplace and wood-beam coffee table inject rugged appeal. 

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    Little bursts of color stand out beautifully among the muted tones that dominate this room. The sweet single bed becomes that much more adorable when dwarfed by billowing draperies and set atop an impossibly fuzzy rug. Toned-down coral feels positively regal when mixed with cream and gold.

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    Kick Back and Relax

    Even muted shots of yellow brighten the subtle browns, grays, and whites here to create a cool, relaxed den. Draperies hung mere inches from the ceiling create height. Weathered wood boxes become a table/conversation piece with glass cut to make a top.

  • Headboard, bedroom, lighting, ceiling fan 12 of 17

    In the Mix

    A mix of materials, all in muted colors, is the secret to this room’s success. The metallic ceiling fan and bed frame inspire the painted bedside tables, gray textured rug, and walls faux-finished to resemble brushed metal. A pair of glass lamps and a full-size mirror up the shine factor.

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    Down to Earth

    This stylish bath’s glass tile in various muted colors creates a focal point -- and color inspiration, too. The vanity makes its earth tones feel decidedly modern with a simulated wood grain, strong lines, and clean, spare hardware. Muted green-painted walls and pale sand-color tile meet beautifully between.

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    Cozy Quarters

    The muted colors in this gorgeous rug are borrowed throughout the room. Its rich softness, too, is mimicked in the velvet-upholstered chair and headboard, and a pile of thick, cozy blankets. Those emerald green pillows might get lost amid a brighter, busier space, but placed just so within this room’s quiet coziness, they shine. 

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    Center Stage

    Intelligent accessories make all the difference. The uniform sea of white and muted gray here make a smart support system for the two massive, gleaming statement light fixtures that accentuate this soaring, recessed ceiling. What lies beneath does not disappoint, either: a metal freestanding island, open and airy like the light fixtures themselves, surrounded in wood-and-metal stools, shapely and smooth.

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    Thoroughly Entertained

    A seagrass rug defines the family room, where a surprisingly wide variety of muted colors mingle. There are grays and blues in various shades and patterns, plus lots of pillows and a little table always within arm's reach, creating a collected and comfortable look. The standout brown of the overhead fan, beam mantel, and compact coffee table create central focus.

  • 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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