Neutral room ideas – light, dark and timeless ways with colour

Neutral colours tend to be calming, easy and super stylish to decorate with.

There’s plenty of debate as to how to define a ‘neutral’ when it comes to neutral room ideas – some believe they are those that don’t show up on the colour wheel such as white, beige, grey, taupe, khaki and ivory. Other decorators say that any one colour, if it dominates in a room, becomes a neutral and allows other elements to stand proud. ‘Rather than the Bauhaus modernist phrase of ‘Less if More’, my latest phrase is ‘More is Less’,’ says Maria Speak, co-founder, Retrouvius. ‘The more of one colour you have, it then becomes neutral.’

See: Sophie Paterson shows us how to decorate with grey

As a general rule, however, neutral colour ideas tend to be calming and easy to decorate with – they work with pretty much every other colour but to get it right it’s important to understand the base pigment that suits the light that a room receives. ‘The light in a room is a key consideration when thinking about whether to choose warm or cool tones,’ advises Ruth Mottershead of Little Greene. There is a difference between a warm neutral (with a green or yellow undertone) which will tend to work well in north-facing rooms as they help to bounce the light around and a cool one (with a bit of pink, violet or blue).

One important aspect to consider, when decorating with a neutral colour is to bring in as much texture as possible as it creates interest and layers – important factors when strong colours are out of the picture. Consider warm metallics such as brass and bronze or natural wood elements alongside linens, velvets, sheepskins and chunky knits. When it comes to wood, Barak Alberro, architect and head of design, Banda Design Studio, advises: ‘Grey is a versatile colour which pairs well with natural wood furniture. It works particularly successfully in large spaces where a bolder colour would be too much.’

See: Living room with tactile textures, rich colour and glamour