Staying Neutral by Design

>There’s a lot to be said for interiors with longevity and the power of neutrals. First of all, neutrals don’t age. Consider this the fountain of youth for your home. Neutral finishes are timeless, which means you won’t have to endure the inconvenience or cost of replacing them in an effort to keep up with the trends. This also means your existing finishes won’t end up in a landfill anytime soon. Everyone wins.

Despite the obvious benefits, people sometimes shy away from neutrals for fear of being bland and boring. I’m here to tell you that this couldn’t be further from the truth! Here are some tips for where and when to use neutrals, and how to do it with style!

Generally speaking, choose neutrals for big-ticket or large-scale items such as countertops, flooring, cabinets, backsplash and walls. Traditional neutrals include cream and beige tones, but white, dove grey, taupe, brown and black can all do the trick.

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Colour temperature

When choosing your colours for finishes and paint, they don’t necessarily all have to be the same colour but be mindful of their temperature. Place your swatches and samples side by side and look for yellowish (warm) or bluish (cool) undertones. If the temperatures don’t match, your choices will appear tinted instead of neutral as intended.


Texture goes a long way when working with neutral finishes. Dress up the beige – or whatever neutral colour you decide on – by incorporating a variety of finishes and textural elements. Create contrast with high-gloss and matte, rough and smooth surfaces. Layer elements of wood, stone, glass, metal and mirror, which are all thought to be colour-neutral but rich in visual interest. When it comes to textiles such as upholstery, window coverings and rugs, solids juxtaposed against pattern creates a similar layered look.

photo: courtesy of West of main

Pro Tip

Mixing metals is very trendy, easy to do and it won’t break your budget. In addition, this is another easy way to add interest to a neutral base. Kitchen appliances, hardware, fixtures, lighting, furniture and accessories are the usual suspects for touches of gold, silver, bronze, stainless steel or all of the above! When it comes to finish (for example, polished, matte or brushed), feel free to mix those up as well. Just be sure the various metals and finishes are referenced in other areas in the home, for consistency and connection.


Last but not least… Lighting brings vibrancy and visual interest to any space, but especially to a neutral interior. An unlit room can easily fall flat, losing important detail and dimension. Layer ambient, task and accent lighting, and when in doubt, put everything on dimmer switches that allow you to control the intensity and mood. Use your lighting to highlight focal points in the home, from architectural elements and furniture vignettes to artwork. It can even be used to create points of interest in a space where they may otherwise be lacking!

West of Main
photo: courtesy of west of main

Personally, I love decorating with neutrals. They are calming, soothing and effortless – at least in their appearance! In addition, a neutral palette can actually make a space feel bigger and brighter, which are two qualities that most of us wish we had more of in our homes. I’d even go so far as to say neutrals are easy to work with, if you know how. With these simple tricks, your neutral rooms will be anything but boring.

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