Anything But Neutral

A few weeks ago I developed a list of tips for decorating a room with neutral colors after being asked to write a guest post on How to Decorate a Room with Dark Walls. I quickly realized that most dark walls are some variation of gray or brown ... both neutral colors! As a follow up, I've put together two room design collages that demonstrate the basic principals of designing a room using neutral color schemes.

The first of the two the design concepts is based on varying shades of brown. As you can see below, the number one rule of thumb is to use different shades of the primary neutral color. Here I've paired the rich dark Chocolate brown of Restoration Hardware's Flax Paint Collection (also brought out in both Room Essentials pillows from Target) with the more rosy hue of their wood and metal Wine Barrel Side Table, Ralph Lauren's tan Leather-Trim Cashmere Pillow and the lighter creams and whites of the Woven Textures Rug from Neiman Marcus, Anson Leather Sofa from Room & Board and Small Wire Pendant Lamp from West Elm.

Neutral Browns Design
Meet the Browns: A Warm & Welcoming Family of Colors

In the second design collage I worked with different shades of black, white and gray. Many people forget that these are neutral colors because they don't have the same warm and earthy quality we are used to from the brown, beige and cream color family.  If you find tan a little bland or just over-used, black white and gray are a way to achieve a bold, stylized look within a limited color range. The same design techniques work in either case.

At any rate, in this style concept you can see how different patterns, textures and surface sheens can complement one another. For example, the Henry Black Wallpaper, available at Graham & Brown, has a strong vertical grain that the Ralph Lauren Windsor Chalk Stripe Pillow picks up on as well. This vertical movement is further echoed in the Crate & Barrel Duncan Antiqued Silver Floor Lamp, but this time it is in a shiny, sleek silver. Moving to a different material, the high-backed Pebble Accent Chair from ZGallerie is made of leather, as is the IXI Thalassa Premium Leather Shag Rug, but the smooth, shiny white of the armchair contrasts significantly with the rough, matte gray of the shag rug. I also added a red rose to the image, just to show how a teeny bit of color can be a great accent that doesn't disrupt the overall neutral color scheme. Flowers are great for this!

Black Neutrals Design
Neutrals In Black & White: Bold Style, Never Boring

Here's a quick summary of how to decorate a room using a neutral color palette:
  • Use many, many, many different hues, from dark to light, of your primary neutral color
  • Create contrast by pairing light and dark hues strategically
  • Look for unique shaped furniture pieces to create visual interest through form rather than color
  • Incorporate different patterns, textures and sheens - like rough, smooth, matte and shiny
  • Don't be afraid to add a small splash of color, like the red rose above!

This post was written by Katie

Related Links: 
Get Your Own Interior Design StyleBoard
The Homeowner's Guide to Mixing Metals in A Room
Accent Walls: Inspiration and Tips

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