Our Favorite Tips on How to Decorate With Neutral Colors

Neutral tones help to create a soothing environment. Your eye isn’t distracted by busy patterns or garish color. Instead, a pared-down palette inspires focus, calm and relaxation.

diy caning wrapped glass vase
Caning-Wrapped Vases. (via Martha Stewart)

Neutral home décor, done right, is elegant and easy on the eye. Decorating with neutrals for an event is also a sure-fire way to make the occasion feel airy, effortless and sophisticated.

Neutral shades are classic and versatile. But creating a cohesive design scheme isn’t always as easy as it looks.

Here we give you the lowdown on neutral shades and offer our tips for creating neutral décor that stands out from the crowd.  

What are neutral colors?

Neutrals are any shades that don’t appear on the color wheel. Think white, beige, ivory, taupe and any off-white shade you can imagine.

neutral home decor color palette
Neutral coffee table styling. (via Minimax Life)

These hues don’t leap out at you. Instead, they create a feeling of calmness and elegance.

For home décor, neutrals can be adapted to any season. But for an event, we think they’re particularly suited to the warm summer months.

So what do you need to look out for when decorating with neutrals?

Firstly, however neutral a shade, it will have underlying warm or cool tones. Mixing and matching warm with cool can be a challenge so approach this with caution.

Secondly, don’t presume that a neutral scheme is easy just because you’re not matching bold color or pattern. Decorating with neutrals requires a good understanding of tone, texture, materials and structure.

Fail to incorporate some or all of the above and you risk creating a scheme that feels boring or bland.

But don’t worry! We’ve got all the tips and inspo you need to create an utterly elegant and beautifully cohesive neutral space.

Neutral Home Decor Ideas

1.   Create warmth with wood

Wood is the perfect partner for a neutral scheme. It brings warmth and character. And it ensures your space doesn’t end up feeling cold or clinical.

Choose a natural wood finish for big furniture pieces. If a whole redesign is possible, consider revealing wooden floorboards or installing a parquet. That way you create a wonderful wooden base on which to build your neutral home décor.  

The next step? Add in yet more warm tones with wooden accessories, like wood shelving or wood picture frames.

outdoor dining tablescape with wood lanterns
Woods all around, from the chairs to the lanterns, the chargers, cutlery, salt and pepper cellars, and the salad bowl. (via Martha Stewart)

These Chinese & Bell wood hurricane lanterns have the added benefit of bringing warm welcoming candlelight, as well as those rich wooden tones, to a tablescape or dresser top.

2.   Layer natural materials

When decorating with neutrals, using different neutral tones, throughout a space, gives a feeling of depth. So too does layering:

  • Layer natural-toned blankets and throws on top of sofas
  • Layer rugs to create a sense of luxury
  • Opt for fabrics like linen, cotton and wool to enhance the neutral, natural aesthetic
stones sand driftwood candle display
Size, texture, weight, and hardness mixed beautifully using stones and sand, still manage to have a soft and calm look. (via Sköna Hem)

Take layering one step further by applying it to room accessories. Take a clear glass vase and fill it with neutral colored pebbles or superfine sand (or both).

This display of natural tones and materials can be used as a candle holder, a home for succulents, or even a vase for a few dramatic silk blooms.

3.   Go bold with shape and structure

With neutral home décor, you can’t rely on color or texture to catch the eye. But choose the right furniture and decorative elements and there will be plenty of added interest.

When picking out furniture, opt for striking silhouettes. An architectural armchair. A table with shapely legs. Perhaps a curved coffee table, rather than something predictably angular.

As long as your furniture pieces follow a similar structural theme, they will add drama without creating visual chaos.

coral candles wood cutlery beachy tablescape
Beach neutral: Natural linen hues, wood, and antique brass for candlesticks. (via Castlefield Design)

Take a similar approach to room or event accessories. And remember to incorporate any wider theme too.

For example, for a seaside inspired interior, pick structural accessories like this artificial coral, brain coral and white starfish. Their beautiful shapes bring texture and depth whilst maintaining the calm and cohesion of a neutral scheme.

4.   Embrace texture

Texture brings movement and life to a room. And texture is best created with natural materials like linen, raw timbers, rattan, raffia, cane, jute, wool and earthenware.

diy rope mirror mantel decor
Loop lengths of sun-bleached rope around a few looking glasses, and you can deck out your home with the fairest maritime style of them all. – Martha Stewart

Choose furniture and room accessories in highly textured materials. That means neutral-toned, natural fabrics for carpets, rugs, throws and cushions. And wooden furniture with grain and character. Even mirrors can be given a little added texture with the help of a thick, rope frame.

For tablescapes, dress tables with reactive glaze dinnerware and linen napkins. Design centerpieces based upon rattan runners and foliage.

summer wedding raffia table decor
This raffia mat from ‘good things’ as a table runner; matching placemats are also available. (via Martha Stewart)

If a complete renovation is on the cards, go for textured wall paint or wallpaper, in neutral tones, of course. You could even add painted paneling to your walls.

All of these changes will bring subtle texture and character to your neutral décor.

5.   Add vintage elements

When decorating with neutrals, some homeowners and designers choose to go minimal and modern. But that’s not the only way to create neutral home décor with the power to wow.

Vintage or distressed furniture and accessories tick lots of the boxes when it comes to neutral design.

They bring texture and depth with beautifully imperfect finishes. They also add structure, with interesting shapes and silhouettes.

diy sand pot urn
Classic designs like this urn take on an old-world appearance, but more modern shapes look great with a stonelike, sandy finish as well. – Martha Stewart

Take this rust-effect urn and this old gold effect urn, with their neutral color palettes, classical design and antique effect finish. They’d give exactly the right amount of interest to a neutral scheme. Just fill with some neutral colored flowers to really set the scene.

6.   Incorporate metallic pieces

Metals bring shimmer and shine to a neutral scheme. A reflective surface introduces a play of light and that elegant interest you’re looking for.

Bronze, brass and golden tones bring warmth. Stainless steel or darker industrial-style metals can also look striking when paired with warmer neutral tones.

bar cart with nickel cake pedestal
Elevated treats: Layer donuts on a nickel cake pedestal.

You can incorporate metals into your décor with light fittings and furniture legs. For room accessories, pick out metallic vases, candlesticks and collectibles.