16 Ways to Use Muted Colors for Understated Elegance in Any Room

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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Warm Welcome

Reminiscent Details

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

living room

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

living room

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.

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Laid-Back and Stylish

dining table

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

neutral bedroom

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

living room

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

Flea Market Ideas

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.

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In the Mix

Headboard, bedroom, lighting, ceiling fan

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

Decorating Gallery

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

Decorating Gallery

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.

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