How to Design a Neutral Room That Isn't Boring

(Photo: Lonny)
Beige is a bad word in interior design circles, a shortcut to describe a room that’s one-dimensional, dull, unimaginative, and not a lot of fun. But there is nothing wrong with beige, white, gray, brown, or any other neutral as the basis for designing a room. Assembled with care and finesse, a neutral room can create a serene but richly textured background for a colorful life. Here are our top tips for designing a neutral space that isn’t boring.

Remember Your GeometryWhen designing a neutral room, make a conscious effort to incorporate as many different shapes as possible. Mix the straight lines of square picture frames and rectangular tables with an octagonal mirror, an oval rug, a round light and more organic shapes to create a graphic look that won’t overpower due to its neutral base. Painting flea market finds from various eras in shades of white will neutralize their differences, but make sure you look for a variety of shapes to keep the ensemble interesting.

Texture is a Neutral Room’s Best Friend

Incorporating a mix of textures is easy to pull off when you’re sticking to a neutral palette. Add a warm sheepskin throw to a cool leather couch or a fluffy, sequined Moroccan wedding blanket on the edge of a bed covered in polished cotton linens. A feathered circular Cameroonian juju hat will add dimension to a white wall. Mix matte finishes with high gloss, wood with metal, rough with soft. Textures in neutral tones will play off of one another and keep the space lively and warm.

Don’t Be Shy with PatternsIncorporating pattern is a no-brainer if you stick with a neutral scheme. A dramatic black and white room might include a zebra rug, throw pillows in a mix of geometrical patterns and graphic floral wallpaper. Keep a gray room from looking flat by covering the walls in gray and white diamond-patterned wallpaper, then hang a window shade printed with an arabesque motif and throw some gray and white Chevron patterned pillows on a neutral sofa.

Incorporate Metallics and Shine
Energize a neutral space by adding metallics in a variety of finishes, from silver to gold to brass to bronze to copper. Shiny surfaces will reflect light and act like jewelry in a neutral space. And don’t forget mirrors and mirrored finishes, which help bounce light around and add depth and dimension to a neutral room.

Let There Be More Than Overhead LightingAll rooms benefit from ambient lighting, but it’s especially important to illuminate a neutral room. Table lamps, floor lamps, sconces, and other light sources scattered throughout will add warmth to the space. And a streamlined neutral room is the perfect place to have a little fun with lighting — whether it’s adding sculptural modern floor lamps or a perforated metal Moroccan lantern that will throw atmospheric shadows on your neutral walls.
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