Interior Design

Interior designer Charu Gandhi's masterclass on using the 'new neutrals' – 2021's most comforting look

Create a calming, warm home that's right on trend with Charu's expertise

Living room - new neutrals
(Image credit: Elicyon/Patrick Williamson)

Neutrals have had a rebirth in 2021 – and rather than being cool backdrops for bolder accessories, they take center stage to create interiors that are designed to envelop and cosset us. 

See: Interior design trends – top looks for the year ahead

'Fuelled by our desire to create an at-home sanctuary that is calming and tranquil, in the midst of a year that has been quite the opposite, the new neutral palette has swept through our homes and become one of the biggest interior trends of 2021,' says Charu Gandhi, founder and director at interior design studio Elicyon.

Here, Charu shares her expertise on choosing and using neutrals to create a home that's inviting, layered – and comforting.

1. Pick warm tones to create an inviting space

New neutrals

(Image credit: Elicyon/Patrick Williamson)

'Not to be confused with cold and bland palettes, the new neutrals are warm by nature. An underlay of yellow pigmentation throughout creates a cozy cocooning aesthetic, regardless of scale. 

'Typically matt in finish, they have the ability to flex, and so it’s possible for them to suit any home, be it traditional or contemporary – in fact, their elasticity is the reason we’re calling them "new".' 

See: Neutral room ideas – light, dark and timeless ways with color

2. Choose colors based on the natural world

New neutrals - hallway

(Image credit: Elicyon/Patrick Williamson)

'The focus for interiors today, and the popularity of new neutrals, is largely based on the natural world – emulating the olive greens and terracottas found outdoors helps to make us feel grounded in our homes. 

'But it wasn’t always this way, there was a time in the early 2010s when a much darker sumptuous palette was preferred, and we saw this reflected across many of the projects we were working on.'

3. Create a connection with nature

Living room chair - new neutrals

(Image credit: Elicyon/Patrick Williamson)

'Following this was a period when greys, silver and high-gloss were in favor, and then in recent years we have evolved into a preference for warmer, more colorful interiors with a focus on the wider environment. 

'In 2020, this aesthetic obviously took on a new meaning, as our need for views and a tangible connection to the natural world was heightened. It’s a comfort to us because we understand it and it makes us feel connected.'

4. Combine natural materials – imaginatively

New neutrals

(Image credit: Elicyon/Patrick Williamson)

'The familiarity of natural materials has come alive in the luxury sphere, and we are greatly enjoying celebrating these whole heartedly. 

'As much as I love the new neutral color palette, they need to be paired with other materials to truly sing – timber and marble work particularly well I find. 

'Leathered finished marble is a favorite of mine, for its movement and tactility, its rather delicious to touch.'

See: Decorating with neutrals – things you should never do – and the secrets to success

5. Add curves and texture for interest

Bed - new neutrals

(Image credit: Elicyon/Patrick Williamson)

'I also love pairing new neutrals with with suede and carved woollen rugs. Ceramic, clay and colored glass are great for decorative elements in these spaces – playful and sculptural – throw in a couple of pieces and you will avoid the rooms feeling somber.'

Charu Gandhi
Contributing Editor

Charu Gandhi is Founder & Director, Elicyon. Charu Gandhi is a qualified Architect, registered with RIBA and ARB, who studied and taught at the Architectural Association before joining the London offices of Allies & Morrison Architects in 2006, where she worked on exceptional residential and hospitality projects in Beirut, Kerala and Qatar. Her portfolio of commissions also included the Doha National Library and the London Olympics Masterplan. Now in its eighth year, Elicyon is creating luxury, bespoke interiors for private clients, residential developers and boutique hotels in some of London’s most illustrious addresses, as well as around the world.