Neutral living room ideas – 15 versatile and timeless designs
Neutral living room ideas are super stylish. From gorgeous cream and chic white to classy clay, why would you decorate with anything else?
If you're after the latest neutral living room ideas, then you have landed on the right page. For many years we were in love with all shades of peach, cream and magnolia – the color choices of property developers despite being the butt of many ‘discerning’ interior designer’s jokes.
However, now the tide has turned, and those creamy neutrals have been brought up-to-date with a sophisticated gray, taupe and coffee palette. These are the new neutral living room ideas that will happily blend with bold contemporary shades (such as lime, cobalt, shocking pink and acid yellow) or complement stronger, deeper heritage tones.
Team neutral living room ideas with the latest rustic wood finishes, and look at contrasting colors and textured materials. We show you how to create the perfect neutral living room scheme.
Neutral living room ideas
When looking for living room color ideas, these are fail-safe choices. These versatile neutral living room ideas will encompass a thousand shades of gray, oyster, café au lait and green-grays, are easy on the eye and a very good choice for those who prefer a subtle hue, rather than dramatic shades. Use the 'new neutrals' right through to practical living room paint ideas to achieve the finish you desire for your neutral room ideas, and add in plenty of layering for a cozy appeal.
1. Add layering with neutral tones
Beige living room ideas are so much more exciting than they sound. This room is abundant with textures, from the mixed tones of the herringbone tiled floor and the different woods in the furniture, through to the chalky finish of the handcrafted Japanese paper wallcovering from Mark Alexander and the blocky design of their upholstery cloth.
Though the palette is neutral, the scheme feels rich and full of interest thanks to all the texture and pattern from the variety of surface materials and finishes.
'Such a chic look, this room is a beautiful example of how a pared back, neutral scheme can still feel warm and layered. It is all about how you mix in different materials and textures,' says Emma Thomas, Homes & Gardens' Style Editor.
2. Introduce color to a neutral scheme for a chic scheme
Neutral living rooms are so much more successful when texture is emphasized, as here in the tonal mix of blues with the warm whites and additional wood accents.
The fresh modern rustic scheme has been brought to life with the introduction of gentle watery blue hues. The smooth finish of the painted wall boards and crisp sofa upholstery offer a neutral backdrop for the addition of the tonal mix of slubby blues, from the aqua linen sofa loose cover from Threads at GP&J Baker and soft teal linen sheer curtain to the tapestry-style cushion and aged rug.
3. Introduce the warmth of wood for natural tones
If you're toying with the idea of white living room ideas, you will want to introduce warmth. Crisp neutral living room walls are given an instant lift when you introduce natural timber pieces. A beautifully reeded front gives this buffet a modern elegance. The warm wood tones are echoed in the panels of the deep window frame. A pared- back selection of monochrome artwork, sculpture and white plaster lamp adds a contemporary freshness. Additional texture can be found in the linen curtain and flatweave rug.
4. Choose a pale, neutral palette for a timeless feel
This gracefully proportioned sofa from Kingcome, shown here with soft upholstered loose covers in a crisp white linen, sits elegantly alongside the handwoven textures of a beautifully thick braided jute rug from Emily’s House London and ceramic lamp with natural linen shade. The mix of textures and tones from the most pure and refined to the more tactile and natural combine for a chic yet informal look, pleasing on the eye.
'Traditionally handcrafted English furniture always promises a pleasing attention to detail, a sense of quality and longevity and works beautifully in both classic and modern spaces and with a mix of styles. And pieces, such as this classic sofa, when upholstered in a new crisp white linen loose cover, feel fresh and contemporary,' says Emma Thomas.
5. Introduce the 'new neutrals' for a warm feel
There is a movement towards 'new neutrals', with warmer pinks and spice shades being included by many interior designers as neutral backdrops in their schemes.
Charu Gandhi, interior designer and founder of Elicyon, who designed the room above, explains: 'The new neutrals are warm by nature. An underlay of yellow pigmentation throughout creates a cozy cocooning aesthetic, regardless of scale.'
6. Paint your living room in shades of gray
Gray living room ideas are undeniably popular. This cool color adds a sophisticated edge, elegance and a refinement to a room, and is a go-to for anyone who wants an easy-to-live with tone that will go with almost any other color.
‘Grays are a decorating staple – and can be combined in both classical and contemporary decoration with ease and elegance,' says Ruth Mottershead, creative director at Little Greene.
Due to its versatility, most colors go with gray – it is a neutral after all, which means gray will act like a blank canvas on which you can put your mark.
7. Give neutral living room ideas a lift with art and furnishings
If you are a keen collector or art connoisseur, then neutral living rooms provide the perfect backdrop for a prestigious gallery wall or collection.
'Knowing what overall ambiance you are aiming to achieve in your home helps when creating a bespoke selection, and the relationship between the artwork and its surroundings plays a central role when designing the desired atmosphere,' advises Federica Barretta, director of Opera Gallery London
Here, the addition of rough and coarser textures like reclaimed wood, velvet and terracotta have 'visual weight' and create a cozy, rustic aesthetic in this otherwise predominantly pale neutral living room.
8. Enhance a white living room with texture
This versatile neutral is one of the most popular shades for interiors, offering a blank canvas that illuminates dark spaces and make even the smallest rooms feel spacious, light and bright.
Texture in interior design is imperative if you want to create a cozy living room. Quite simply, without texture, a white living room space will fall flat. It's crucial to look at the room as a whole and bring an area together with mixed materials for vibrancy and warmth.
'Textures help to keep a space from feeling flat or one dimensional,' says Tiffany Leigh, of Tiffany Leigh Design. 'Texture in interior design is all about creating tactile moments that invite touch.'
9. Introduce an accent color
Neutral walls are the perfect canvas for a variety of bright, bold colors. Gray works perfectly with brown living room ideas, black and wood – really, all natural tones.
When neutrals such as gray, white, beige and taupe are married with green or blue living room accents, like in the scheme above, it works as an indulgent and glamorous color choice.
10. Warm up with wood, leather and linen
One important aspect to consider when decorating with neutrals is bringing in as much texture as possible, as it creates interest and layers – important factors when strong colors are out of the picture. Consider natural wood elements and warm metallics like brass and bronze alongside velvets, linens, leather and chunky knits.
When it comes to wood, Barak Alberro, architect and head of design at Banda Design Studio, advises: 'Gray is a versatile color which pairs well with natural wood furniture. It works particularly successfully in large spaces where a bolder color would be too much.'
11. Decorate with a black and white color palette
Many rooms are suited to the neutral look, but as they are so relaxing, monochromatically neutral designs are especially perfect for a main living room. It will feel very fresh, clean and balanced.
A straight 50:50 split between white and black living room colors could make the space feel rather cold. Instead, pair monochromatic neutral living room ideas with wood and leather, and add another vital ingredient, texture.
While monochrome decorating can be tricky to get right, a considered approach will be rewarded by a simple but impactful scheme. Monochrome interiors can work especially well in period homes, where the striking color contrast can highlight and complement original features.
12. Layer pattern and texture
A peaceful blend of neutrals is a classic approach to creating a beautiful scheme with a sense of calm. The trick is to incorporate subtle pattern into neutral living room ideas to achieve depth and interest.
In this scheme, pattern and texture reign supreme, all in a muted tonal palette. While large-scale prints can feel overwhelming, a variety of small-scale patterns on repeat add a decorative appeal without dominating a room.
13. Consider the light levels in neutral living room ideas
Light is really important when choosing neutrals. If a space gets a lot of natural light, we tend to go with lighter tones and enjoy the beautiful shadowing that will come in throughout the day, creating another layer of texture. In rooms with limited light, it’s naturally more moody, so darker neutrals can be very effective.
Plus, it is vital to invest in good artificial lighting. The right living room lighting ideas can highlight architectural features, provide dramatic decorative effects, create illusions of space and define zones in open plan areas.
14. Create a cocooning feel with dark neutral living room ideas
Using a dark neutral palette base is a clever way to create a modern look to a room, while still retaining traditional and classical elements. The trick is to turn up the texture volumes in a room where the colors have been stripped back – it will help add atmosphere and character, and stops the space from feeling too flat and one dimensional.
Start with a calico or natural linen wallpaper. Depending on the hue, it will automatically give the room a softer more inviting feeling. Continue the dark living room ideas at the windows by hanging a set of weighty linen curtains in a plain neutral – here a dark gray/green has been used – and hang them generously so that they pool on the floor to give a more relaxed, pared-back look.
Then let the artwork and decorative pieces do most of the talking, with the accent of a ticking stripe on the cushions and floor just to soften the scheme.
15. Introduce a hint of shiny metallics for glamor
Metallics, and in particular gold, are an age-old way to communicate opulence in an interior. Used sparingly as thread in tapestry and embroidery in the Medieval period, through to opulent Art Deco interiors and, later, the 1980s prevalence for shiny brassware, using precious metals in a room has long been a way to communicate a sense of importance (or depending on your point of view, brashness) in a home.
But it needn’t be a controversial color choice. When employed judiciously and sparingly, glimmers of metallics, be they on fabrics and upholstery on the walls or on details such as cushions and rugs, introduce a flattering luminosity to the space.
Employed here in a very modern context, the metallic scheme serves to outline and show off the dramatic artwork, interesting lighting and stylish curves of the furniture.
What is a nice neutral color for a living room?
From oyster and beige to sand and gray hues, the secret to neutrals is to pick the right tones for the type of light coming into your room. Cool light works well with warmer neutrals, while south-facing light has a yellow hue, so cooler neutral colors are best.
Layers of similar tones keep a scheme from feeling flat, while accents of dark gray, brown or black can be used to punctuate.
How do you style a neutral living room?
A neutral scheme can still be inspiring and have depth. It’s important to consider texture, whether through pattern, such as a lacquered fabric, or by mixing finishes, like a matte wall with gloss paint on the ceiling. These elements create interest that will make neutral living room ideas sing.
If you want a room that’s very calming, stay completely in the neutral world with a more monochromatic look. However, if you want a splash of energy, then include one incredible piece of art, a colorful rug, or blue or green living room accents to create interest and personality.
How do you add color to a neutral living room?
There are many ways to add color to a neutral living room, from living room furniture ideas and living room seating ideas, to colorful accessories and decorating with art. The beauty having living room walls in neutral shades like cream, beige, white and grey is that they pair with almost any color so make a great foundation for layering bold pieces.
'Having beige walls allows key pieces of furniture in the room to really stand out, whether it's a luxurious, jewel-toned velvet sofa or an armchair in a bold pattern. It also allows you to make a statement of any artwork you have up, allowing the art to do all the talking,' says Emma Deterding, founder and creative director, Kelling Designs.
When it comes to what accent colors work well in neutral living rooms it's important to pay attention to the tone of the wall color says Justyna Korczynska, senior designer at Crown.
'As with any neutral or white, whether it is a warm or cool color depends on whether it has underlying hints of the warmth of something like pink or the coolness of a blue. So if you are using a deep red you can complement it with a warm grey/beige, conversely you can mix a colder grey with cooler blues, deep greys and greens.'
'Earthy tones in particular feel really neutral and warming and play to the aesthetic perfectly,' adds Samantha Wilson of Collection Noir.
Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.
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