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neutral bedroom with black frame windows white walls studio mcgee

Neutral Bedroom Decorating Ideas: How to Blend Calm and Character

I’ve decided it’s time to share my fave neutral bedroom decorating ideas with you. The reason for this: bedrooms are becoming too clinical. There, I said it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a neutral bedroom. But time and time again I see dear clients and readers wanting a toned-down boudoir, but they end up with a stark or cold space instead. Is this currently happening to you? Are you struggling to work out how things suddenly got so uninviting in what’s meant to be the most inviting zone in the house?

Well, I’m here to lend a hand. Because when done right, a neutral bedroom can look amazing, be full of character, tantalise the senses, and ultimately evoke calm. So let me walk you through some ways to get it right.

The hero image in this post comes via Studio McGee.

moody neutral bedroom with grey walls dark floors guys bedroom design
via coco lapine design.

We’ll cover off so much in this article. Here’s a quick snapshot of the neutral bedroom decorating ideas we’ll discuss below:

  • How to avoid masses of white in a neutral bedroom
  • The colours you can (and should) embrace
  • The finishes in some furniture pieces that are letting you down
  • Materials that are missing that you should totally introduce
  • Why pattern is so crucial (and how to get it right)
  • The charm that can come with keepsakes and mementoes
  • The importance of not getting stuck in one design style
  • Shapes! Focusing on these can make all the difference
  • Why you should have a little vintage thrown into the mix

So let’s dive right into the best neutral bedroom decorating ideas you’ll see all year. OK, that’s quite a claim. Maybe this quarter. Month? Let’s go with month!

light pink scandinavian bedroom design with light floorboards and white bedding

The Best Neutral Bedroom Decorating Ideas Avoid White

I know. You’re clutching your pearls. I’m clutching mine. This is the truth bomb of all truth bombs. But the news just in isn’t fake: neutral bedrooms don’t have to be all white.

I don’t pick up a dictionary very often, but a quick Google search delivered the very definition of neutral, and there’s no mention of white at all:

neutral, adjective: (of colours) not bright, and therefore not likely to attract attention.

So there we have it. Decorating a neutral bedroom is not about bringing in a lot of white. It’s about using colours (actual colours) that are not likely to attract attention. We want to evoke calm, and relaxation, and to do that you actually need to embrace colour, not run away from it.

That said, I know so many of you don’t want to paint your walls. So I have includes some images in here of rooms with that in mind. But atop those white walls we need to do a lot of work with other tones!

If you want some paint colour ideas for neutral rooms, this post has you covered.

neutral bedroom design with light blush and blue bedding and oak timber bed
Emily Henderson’s bedroom is the perfect example or neutral but with colour.

The Colours You Should Use Instead

A quick scroll through the bedrooms in this post will reveal a lot of the shades you should look toward when decorating a neutral bedroom. Pictures, as we know, speak a thousand words.

Instead of white, look to the neutrals like soft grey, taupe, camel, milk, beige, clay, ecru and more. The even better news is that you can (and should) use colours like blue, pink, green and yellow. You just need to have the saturation turned down so much they that read as calm and neutral. They whisper ‘colour’. They’re using their indoor voice.

As mentioned already, white can of course be used. And it should, come to think of it. But the white would feature in your bedroom in a moment like the quilt cover on the bed, the vase on a bedside table, or the paper in a framed artwork that sits on your dresser. In other words, it’s in accents, not necessarily in the main pieces in the space.

neutral master bedroom with black four poster bed and beige armchairs with dark rug

neutral master bedroom with dark brown floorboards and black four poster bed
both images above via the lifestyled co

The Furniture Finishes Letting You Down

It’s quite a common approach to look for a budget buy when furnishing your bedroom. I hear you. I’m a bargain hunter as much as the next decorating junkie. But, sometimes the cheaper-made piece of furniture come with a sheen. You know… a sheen.

It’s that glossy sheen that you see in melamine furniture. And sadly it gets put into a lot of bedrooms through bed frames, bedside tables and lowboys or dressers. Now, you know that matching your bed, bedsides and lowboy is one of my big bedroom decorating mistakes you need to avoid at all costs. But it’s made even worse when the finish on them is all white, and all glossy.

Glossy furniture like this is inherently cold. You might have one piece of it in a bedroom, but it’s wise to look beyond it to furniture that has more warmth, interest and detail. It’s one of the key things that’ll stop the space feeling uninviting.

vintage white chest of drawers in bedroom with vintage brass styling
via studio mcgee

The Materials to Bring into the Room

Here’s the next shock when it comes to decorating a neutral bedroom: cold metallics are not your friend.

I often see all-white rooms accessorised with chrome. It’s in legs of furniture, it’s in lamps that are on your bedside table, and it’s in the handles on your drawers. Chrome, sadly, is a cold material and when paired with the all-white approach it’s the exact opposite of what you want to achieve in your boudoir.

Instead, look to warm metallics like aged brass. It is an absolute godsend in making a neutral bedroom feel warm. You can go for shinier brass accents, but I do find the aged versions bring the most depth and character.

Leather is another inclusion I would recommend you bring into the bedroom. And no, this isn’t some BDSM, 50 Shades of Grey suggestion (whips are so 2012!). I mean through cushions, or bench seats, or ottomans. Or even in smaller accessories. Leather is packed with warmth and if you look to warm tan colours it’ll work a treat.

You obviously want to explore a whole medley of textures when considering your neutral bedroom decorating ideas. Soft linens, warm timbers, rattan, clay and ceramics – you name it. You’ll want a variety of finishes as well: matte and gloss, rough and smooth, hard and soft. Don’t go all-in on just one of those qualities. Let a little of each have a moment.

Here’s some more help on making an impact with texture in the rooms of your home.

neutral kids bedroom with four poster bed in light timber emily henderson
via emily henderson

Pattern in a Neutral Bedroom is Crucial

When I say that pattern is a top neutral bedroom decorating idea, I don’t want your mind to go to in-your-face prints or motifs. That’s not at all what I’m suggesting. Pattern is so crucial in adding interest to your bedroom, but it can be achieved through the most subtle of prints.

Even some items like textured rugs can give the illusion of pattern through the type of weave they’re made from. So subtlety is totally recommended here. Feature pattern in wallpaper (yes, wallpaper is a must-try!), cushions on your bed, the throw blanket you lay over a muted quilt cover, and more.

Also don’t be afraid to think outside the box. One of the ideas I love for neutral bedrooms is laying down a tribal or oriental-patterned rug. It brings such a nice element of surprise to the space and touches on my next point about keepsakes and mementoes being a must-do.

PS if rug shopping is getting you down, here are my tips on choosing the best one for your room.

bobby berk bedroom with large handmade art tapestry on wall above reading nook
via bobby berk

A Plea for Odd Keepsakes and Treasures

I don’t want these neutral bedroom decorating ideas to feel too modern. Too mass-produced. Too clean. I think the best neutral bedrooms are really quite dynamic, they just bring interest and detail through elements that aren’t colour.

One of these necessary elements is embracing the odd. I say odd, but I just mean embracing furniture and decor that is a little left-of-centre. The best way to rock this approach is to showcase keepsakes that have been passed down to you. Or, it might be that you decide to display something you picked up on travels overseas (remember travelling overseas – what a distant memory!).

These odd moments could be anything, but ideally they mean something to you. That’s the key takeaway here: your bedroom needs meaning. The best bedrooms (or any rooms, for that matter) are ones where there is a true reflection of the person who inhabits them.

So, it’s time to think outside the box. As long as the items aren’t bright colours, you’re doing it right.

neutral bedroom design with beige bed frame white curtains
via change co

Avoid Getting Stuck in One Design Style

You’re a wild decorating animal, and I love it. Don’t allow yourself to be caged or boxed-in by one interior design style. I see it all the time; clients telling me they find it hard to land on one aesthetic for their home.

The good news is this: your home shouldn’t be one style, no should your bedroom. The best interiors are ones that showcase design moments from a number of themes (provided they work together, of course). And in neutral bedrooms, it’s easier to blend styles because you’re keeping the colours muted. It’s far harder to blend styles when you want to rock loads of different loud tones.

A perfect example of this is the California Cool trend that is taking the country by storm right now.

But honestly, abandon the notion that your love of neutrals has to be confined to Scandinavian style, or Coastal style, or Boho Style etc. Mix, mix and mix some more. And not just with styles, but with new and old too. 

provincial master bedroom with neutral colour scheme and pendant light
via blake riley homes

Interesting Shapes Bring Just That: Interest!

Because the approach to decorating your bedroom is neutral, and you’re turning down the colour, other design elements step up to the plate. We’ve already discussed patterns and finishes, but another one that’s really important is shape. In particular, interesting ones and how they add detail and story to the room.

Take a dresser for example (or a set of drawers or lowboy). Now, there are tonnes on the market that are clean and simple. Either drawer fronts with no handles, or handles that are rather simple. They’re stock standard and everyone has them.

But in a neutral room, you’d be wise to look to a dresser with a carved front detail, or with some interesting shape present in the handle. Or you might find one that had a chevron pattern in the timber, or one with legs that are claw-foot.

The same goes for beds frames, armchairs, bedside tables and even the frames your mirror and artworks come in. The more interesting shapes in a neutral bedroom the better.

bobby berk bedroom with vintage furniture and white curtains
via bobby berk

A Little Vintage Goes a Long Way

I’ve touched on this a little when I mentioned the beauty of keepsakes above. Sure, get all of those old trinkets and travel treasures out and showcase them in your neutral bedroom. But, also look into vintage furniture and decor as well.

A neutral bedroom can often feel a little mass-produced, especially if you’re designing the room from scratch and everything in it is from a major department store. The best way to counteract that (and this is my fave of all the neutral bedroom decorating ideas in this post) is to bring in one piece of vintage furniture or decor.

It doesn’t have to be expensive either. If you can afford it, by all means invest. But it could be something from a local flea market or second-hand salvage store. A bench seat at the end of the bed, a moroccan pouffe beside an armchair, an interesting tapestry on the wall.

These pieces will take a little while to find, but trust me when I say that your neutral bedroom will thank you for it. It’ll make the space so character-filled, and half the fun is in trawling the stores to find the perfect piece anyway.

neutral bedroom with black frame windows white walls studio mcgee

What are Your Fave Neutral Bedroom Decorating Ideas?

You know I love to hear from you in the comments section below. So as always, please do drop me a thought and share your fave ideas on decorating neutral bedrooms.

Hopefully this post has given you some practical and tangible ways to make your bedroom a calm but character-filled space. Because neutral does not have to mean boring.

Now, go forth and decorate! You totally have it in you.


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Chris Carroll

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He’s also spent time on TV, on Channel 10’s Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7’s Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you’d like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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5 Responses

  1. Brilliant article, Chris. Like your sense of humour, too. And the sheen of white melamine – oof oof oof ! if you haven’t done so already, for the “budget-conscious” amongst us, what about a piece on painting to add texture to furniture ? Even over melamine – if possible ? (LOL) That would be really helpful, for me anyway. All the best.

  2. Thank you because I have just realised that my bedroom is not actually neutral and I’m happy about that!
    I don’t like any of the cream/ecru/tan/brown colours at all. I don’t wear them and I don’t want to live with them (and believe me I have put up with a load of 70’s mission brown in houses I’ve rented). Ugh! Never again.
    My room is (yes, painted white) with a very light grey King Living bed (storage underneath)-brand new. I have black bedsides with beautiful round pull-up ring handles with three drawers for storage in a modern French/provincial style. I also have a wide 6 drawer low boy in a cream colour (I know…) with a light wooden top (sand colour) but with the same details on the draws as the bedsides and the same dark circular ring handles.
    I use my beautiful teal occasional chair and different quilt covers to bring it all together.
    Really enjoy your blog Chris!

  3. Thank goodness you have covered neutral in the bedroom. I have ‘almost’ finished my main bedroom. I have been working on it for months.or is that years. I’d love a armchair or chaise but sadly not enough space. . I have a keepsake dresser from my childhood which is creamish and two different neutral coloured filing drawers (greys) as bedside tables because they are great storage & keep the room from looking cluttered. I just have to work on the window coverings.

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I’m interior designer Chris Carroll, and at TLC Interiors we’re all about helping you create an amazing home without breaking the bank. It’s affordable designer style at its best, and we make the whole process easy and fun for clients & readers alike!

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