The Case for Neutrals

By Kate Riley October 20, 2011

I could read shelter magazines all day, admiring all of the bold designs within the glossy pages. Yet I find more and more I am drawn to spaces with neutral palettes, especially ones with multiple layers of texture and pattern.  What’s true is that beige, cream, and taupe don’t have to be boring. Instead, they can be sophisticated, serene, interesting, and inviting when done right.

When I look at what makes a neutral space successful, it’s the combination of several design elements. With a neutral palette, the visual interest comes from the shapes of the decorative objects chosen, the contrast between light and dark, the addition of warm wood tones, the addition of metals or metallic sheens, and the layering of pattern and texture. 

I find a neutral bedroom to be soothing and restful.  Below is one of my most favorite bedrooms where several different patterns are present.  Beyond the linen headboard, you’ll see a matelassé coverlet, herringbone throw, damask drapes and a textured accent pillow combined with classic French style furnishings.  

house beautiful neutral bedroom 2

House Beautiful


Neutral bedrooms avoid the boredom factor when multiple layers of texture and pattern are part of the design. 

neutral sophisticated bedroom

via eclectic revisited


sarah richardson neutral master bedroom

Sarah Richardson


bhg neutral bedroom

Better Homes & Gardens


This family room space is so incredibly cozy despite its lack of color. The chunky area rug, various throw blankets, and mixture of leather, wood, and upholstered fabrics all combine to form a space anyone would be comfortable in. 

neutrals add texture justine taylor myidealhome


Gold accents always pair well with neutral fabrics like in these two elegant sitting rooms. 

tone on tone neutrals

source unknown

veranda neutral living room



Here is a no fail neutral combination: cream upholstery with exposed wood legs, woven shades, and patterned window panels. The set up is timeless and all you need to do to add a pop of color is change out the accent pillows with the seasons, add fresh flowers or a throw blanket, it works every time!

bhg neutral panels and chairs

Better Homes & Gardens


In this family room, a pale sofa is paired with a textured sisal rug and there’s a touch of pattern on the accent pillows. The pops of blue are just the right touch to prevent this neutral family room from becoming too blah. 

neutral cottage living room martha

Martha Stewart

Texture texture texture is what it’s all about!  Woven and wood materials ground this serene beachy place. 

lakeside living room canadian house and home

House and Home


Here’s another combination of cream upholstery and dark furniture legs that never fails. The traditional table and architecture add an air of elegance.   

bright neutral space bhg

Better Homes & Gardens


The neutrals in this nursery feel more sophisticated with the use of grown up elements like a bergère chair and crystal chandelier. 

neutral nursery chic shack

via Decorpad


These next three spaces have one big thing going for them: stone walls!  Paired with wood tones and fantastic chandeliers, the interior walls of stone add amazing natural texture.

neutral dining room stone wall


wisteria trestle table stone walls



stone walls sunroom massuco warner miller

Massucco Warner Miller


It’s all in the details below.  Look at all the variations in shapes and texture pulled together in a neutral palette. A coral chandelier, grasscloth wallpaper, bamboo lamp shade, mirrored sconces, and natural wood floors set a stunning scene in this dining room.

new england home mag neutral dining room

New England Home Magazine

I’m such a fan of neutral dining spaces which allow the entertainer to add any color whatsoever to any tablescape. Top it off with a classic golden chandelier, and it’s perfection in my eyes.

skona hem dining room

Skona Hem

janie molster dining room

Janie Molster


Neutrals play well together when old world style is on display like in this bathroom combining baroque carvings, marble accents, and European inspired lighting.   

old world neutral bathroom

via Pinterest


Taupe walls are anything but boring when partnered with crisp white wainscoting, large scale art, and fabulous home accents like those perfect stools tucked underneath a modern curved console.

emily jenkins followill console stools art


Cool grays like in this foyer are warmed with the choice of woven baskets, wood floors, and accessories in golden hues.

neutral foyer

via Pinterest


The best neutral spaces combine contrast and texture with pattern, so why not take yours up the wall with gorgeous wallpapers like these.

thibaut neutral wallpaper



thibaut harlequin pattern neutral wallpaper


What say you?  Do you find neutral spaces as soothing as I do, or do you require more color in your home?  Got a favorite neutral space you adore?  Do share.





  1. Love, love, love neutrals. Just redid my bedroom in neutrals with a pop of aqua blue. So soothing. I was a fan of the darker colors for years, but I’m finding that as I remake a space, I’m leaning toward neutral shades with lots of texture. Hopefully soon I can get rid of all the darker colors I have remaining.

  2. Oh Boy! I love them all! I already have a lot of neutrals in my home, with little punches of colour here and there. But I think I would like to go all the way with it in my bedroom. I think I feel a project coming on…Thank-you for all the wonderful pictures!

  3. I am tending to lean towards neutrals more, since I tire of things quickly!! Those rooms are gorgeously done in neutrals!!

  4. My whole house is done in neutrals and we love it this way. I have apple green touches here and there and thats all I need to make me feel calm. I love all the photos you posted.

  5. I love looking at neutral rooms, and they always look so restful – like someplace I’d like to vacation. But for daily life, I need color. Beautiful images! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Oh this is just gorgeous! I love something (or many things) about each space. I couldn’t help but ooh and ahh over so many of them, and the lovely feeling of tranquility and freshness!

  7. These rooms are all drop dead gorgeous!! I’m always afraid of a room being TOO neutral, but these images prove that layering different textures is the way to go. None of them look boring at all!!

  8. I love stone walls – and neutrals are wonderful, you can change the feel of the room so easily with some accessories.

  9. I’m loving all of those neutral spaces. Great inspiration. I especially love a neutral bedroom. I have a neutral palette in my bedroom with a touch of robin’s egg blue. Very soothing.

  10. Beige is my favorite color! Well, maybe brown, green and taupe, but neutrals speak to me too. Thanks for posting such lovely inspiration.

  11. Thank you for sharing! What beautiful spaces and so inspiring! I think I am going to have to change things around in our master so we can fully embrace that neutral look.


  12. I have always had dark rich colors in my home, but lately I am just drawn to these soothing clean neutral palettes. These photos are just so beautiful! Thank you for sharing!

  13. I have a love/loath relationship with neutral. I find that neutral is what I gravitate to but then hate myself for not being more daring with color.

    • Ha, Sunny, I know how you feel! I’ll see something bold in a store and want that color everywhere! I think that’s what’s so great about color used as accessories, you can pull all sorts of accents into a neutral based space and switch them out the next year for something fresh, budget permitting.


  14. I feel relaxed after just merely looking at those gorgeous rooms!

    Our house is done in neutrals and I love it. I accessorize with pillows, throws, knick knacks, flowers and artwork to add splashes of soft colour, which can then be changed easily and inexpensively whenever the mood takes me.

    My dining room has been slightly on the bland side of late, and is currently my “writer’s block” in the decorating sense, but after seeing the effect and impact of adding wallpaper like in those last two pictures, I definitely has some food for thought…thanks for sharing!

  15. I LOVE a neutral, textural palette with an eclectic vibe. My personal favorite is a sort of cottage/industrial vintage fusion. Give me a variety of whites, taupes and grays, tarnished metals, textures, throw in something sleek, modern and shiny, and I’m drooling. :)

  16. This is exactly what I’m planning to do with our master bedroom and bathroom when we’re finished with the remodel. Everything will be very neutral to highlight the beautiful solid cherry bedset and vanities we have/are going to have. The first picture has a lot of the texture and layers we want to go with. I need some matelasse bedding!

  17. I love the restful sense of the neutrals. When we built out house 8 years ago, we chose a very neutral palette, but I find that I have to change out bedding, pillows, and mostly displays to keep myself from hating beige.

  18. I love tone on tone rooms especially in my own home although I tend to lean toward the more gray neutrals. I find a tone on tone color pallete so soothing especially if it’s layered with texture. I think my love of neutrals in my own home is because I am always surrounded by color and pattern while working with clients so when I get home I just want a clean, crisp, and soothing space. Thanks for the great additions to my tear files!

  19. As I’ve grown older and wiser, I have been decorating with neutrals and texture. I have experimented with all the color trends in my youth, and grew quickly tired of each one. And now it seems like too much color and pattern in my decor is an assault on my senses.

  20. Those rooms are absolutely gorgeous!!! And SO sophisticated! We haven’t been sure whether we want to keep the house we purchased, since it is SO outdated, or sell for something requiring no work. Well, at the same time, we have our cottage listed. SO, I contacted our real estate agent to have him come and give us a market analysis for our house. In so doing, he gave me a list of colors to paint individual rooms. They are all differing shades of beige, except for the laundry room and bathroom downstairs. And what do you know, I am starting to fall in love with my house, and we are really starting to reconsider our first inclination. Go figure!!

  21. I completely agree! That’s why I’m currently taking my living room from a bright color scheme to a more netural (ivory + slate blue + rust) vibe. It is sooo much more relaxing and I’m in love. Team neutral!

  22. Kate all of this inspiration is gorgeous!!! Thanks for sharing. I already had some of these pictures saved, but now I have more that I want to save. I love neutrals. Our house is basically beige, light blues and light greens….so they are all neutral backgrounds for us. But I also have some dark pieces to break up the room and give it visual interest. You can check out our Family Room. It’s mostly white/beige/brown with blue accents and some of those darker finishes.

  23. I totally agree with this! There is nothing more soothing than a neutral room- and as a parent, it helps to have a neutral room in order to locate all that primary colored plastic clutter, er, I mean toys strewn about. But when they are all picked up, the house looks immediately immaculate. You can’t say that about all home design color schemes.

  24. a couple of them I just almost literally “itch” to get in there and layer a couple of subtle color patterns in, but definitely love the ones that work with wallpaper or stone walls best…. thanks for the house porn in the morn’. :)

  25. I love, love, LOVE the look of a neutral room…in other people’s homes. I think I would feel like I was suffocating if I lived in that myself. I need my teal cabinets, my yellow walls, my orange front door, etc. I feel alive when surrounded by color! I do admit that I get a wee bit jealous when I see how easy it is for people with neutral rooms to change the look of the room with the addition of a few accessories–from winter to summer in the blink of an eye with the removal and addition of just a few things. But I still need my color. I do love how it looks, though! And if I were planning a relaxing weekend away, I’d definitely want to choose a beautiful hotel with a room that looks like one of the above rooms, rather than my bright and colorful home.

  26. This colorful gal is slowly moving toward the neutral palette… I mean how easy and seamless is decorating when you only have to choose the closest thing to white.. your house will always match!!!

    Very soothing!

  27. I always have color, but I’ve been coming around to neutrals lately. I’ve been working on our guest bedroom lately which is all neutrals (light taupe walls with whites and medium wood tones and a hint of black with the hardware). It’s out of my comfort zone, which I know is the opposite of most people; they are afraid of color. I’m really loving it though, I’ve been thinking about repainting our master bedroom the same color, or possibly even white (super scary!).

  28. Gorgeous, but I like more pops of bright color in my home. Bright colors really lift my spirits and make me happy.

  29. Kate, so funny I just picked up a hand towel from Target for my bedroom inspiration. The colors are cream, camel and gray!!! Great post!

  30. I have to live in neutral spaces to be happy, I’ve concluded. For me the most important element is lots of wood and natural textures with strong, strong contrast. So in addition to the soft beiges and oatmeals, I need bright white and black. For me, that’s how to keep it from looking blah. Oh, and a bit of shine from gilding or aged brass!

  31. These are all so clean and fresh looking. Most of them have two things in common: plenty of texture, and lots of natural light. I think those are both key to remember when working with neutrals. You need interest–texture or pattern–to make up for the lack of color, and without plenty of natural light neutral rooms can look dingy. Thanks for the great collection! I love your blog.

  32. Creamy, cushy, cloud-like, coffee, yay! I love these colors…they are so smooth and relaxing. I love color, but when I want to “settle in”, I want CREAMY.

  33. Yay for neutrals! I agree and think that a neutral is so relaxing…I go for anything cream, sage and tan…it’s all about mixing textures…decorating with neutrals also makes it so easy to add color when you want-I change my accent colors for the seasons! love your blog!

  34. All of these looks are simply bliss. I feel like the right combination of neutrals work well for any type of space and can fit every style.

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