Barack and Michelle Obama's living room palette is 'considered more of a lifestyle rather than just a design choice,' say designers

The couple opted for a timeless, neutral palette – and they use these expert-approve tricks to ensure it feels anything but boring

(Image credit: NAACP via Getty Images)

The eternal appeal of a neutral living room needs no long explanation, especially when it's (unintentionally) endorsed by the former president.

Barack and Michelle Obama's living room, located in their home in Kalorama, Washington DC, makes yet another case for what is arguably the most failsafe color palette of them all. However, in all its versatility, we dare say these shades can sometimes feel somewhat vanilla. So, how do the Obamas ensure their space never feels dull? Designers say the key is in their balanced textures and curated accessories.

In their neutral living room, Michelle and Barack Obama combine a warm cream wall with a similar-hued accent chair and beige curtains surrounding their unpainted wooden blinds. However, they balance the subtly of these tones with an intricately patterned red and blue rug and, crucially, vibrant accessories, including flowers and (what appears to be) an azure-blue candle.

The couple layers their textures and varying accessories to create a space that doesn't feel flat. It enjoys the warmth and comfort of neutrals without sacrificing interest, and designers suggest it's a masterclass in decorating with neutrals.

'The neutral aesthetic in interiors is not a new trend, nor is it one that we’ll see going anywhere soon. In fact, taupe, cream, beige, greige, gray, and black have all been adopted as a signature style for many interior design OGs. The demand for creating a warm, zen-like space at home has grown, and this look is considered more of a lifestyle rather than just a design choice,' comments Samantha Wilson, an interior designer and founder of Collection Noir.

To ensure our living room (or, in fact, any space where we're using neutrals) always appears luxurious, we should follow Obama's lead, starting with our chosen accessories.

'The use of natural fibers, timbers, and earthy hues creates a sense of balance and understated luxury. It’s a look that can be easily achieved, too, whether you accessorize with woven baskets and planters (especially woven planters with olive trees) or play with natural textiles such as linen cushions, throws, and tablecloths and, of course, jute and flatweave rugs,' Wilson says.

neutral living room with green sofa, rust and patterned cushions, painting on wall, paint, floor lamp, drapes

A living room that utilizes neutrals in a way similar to what we see in Obama's house.

(Image credit: Albion Nord)

Another lesson we can take from Obama's space is their lack of clutter. While the room feels both welcoming and lived-in, the accessories don't feel overwhelming. This is something we, too, should consider when playing with neutrals, especially on a smaller scale. 'Clear the clutter and rehome anything that doesn’t add harmony to the overall space,' Wilson comments.

However, the one accessory we shouldn't cut? Our indoor plants. Or, in Obama's case, their flowers. 'Create interest by mixing organic shapes and earthy materials to help bring a connection to nature,' Wilson suggests. 'Why not display a beautiful, rounded ceramic pot with fresh foliage on a stone plinth?' Alternatively, we love this vase inspired by the one seen on Obama's sidetable.

We love how Obama's curtains complement the neutral wall and surrounding furnishings; however, when it comes to our window treatments, we don't always need to go beige. Wilson also recommends enhancing natural light by opting for sheer curtains to help keep the space bright, spacious, and airy. This trick works particularly well in small living rooms, however, as Wilson and Obama's space reminds us: with neutrals, it's hard to go wrong.


Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.