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neutral interior design scheme light grey sage green and blush living room dulux

The Thing you Keep Getting Wrong when it Comes to White at Home

A common assumption is that a neutral interior design scheme is packed with white. But I’m here to tell you today that successful neutral spaces are anything but white. And I’ve brought the imagery to prove it.

Now, I’m not knocking the all-white interior. But here’s the issue: people go to it because it seems easy. They go to it because they assume it’s going to make a room feel calm. It’s low-risk. All of that makes total sense. But truthfully, creating neutral spaces that feel calm don’t require white.

In fact, a lot of the time, all-white rooms feel clinical. They feel cold. They feel sterile. The exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. So what do we do about this common colour conundrum? We take a flick through the images in this post, courtesy of the gang at Dulux, and understand that creating calm is all about colour – and picking the right tone, of course.

You see, neutral actually means “of or denoting a pale grey, cream, or beige colour”. That’s how the online dictionary defines it anyway. So let’s abandon white and discover a gorg neutral interior design scheme using a slew of other colours on the spectrum.

Styling in this post by Bree Leech. Photography by Mike Baker.

neutral interior design scheme living room with soft grey sofa dulux

A Neutral Interior Design Scheme that Evokes Calm

The imagery in this post comes from the Dulux 2020 Colour Forecast. I’ve included wrap-ups of their other themes here and here if you need. The soothing theme you see in this post though is the Grounded look, and boy does it evoke calm.

The idea with this look is the notion of embracing a simpler lifestyle. It’s about adopting a less-is-more approach to your home and what you bring into it. Think a carefully curated space that has evolved over time as you’ve brought in pieces that mean something to you. It’s less mass-produced and quite refined. The colours reflect this sense of simplicity. They’re super calm, and they’re definitely not white.

The Grounded palette is a medley of soft, livable neutrals. Think shades like pale biscuit and caramel through to muddy lavender. Hints of terracotta add warmth in smaller moments. Many of the colours can be used as the main shade in the rooms of your home, with gold and coral making for beautiful highlights.

The dining room above and below is the perfect example of a neutral interior design scheme that doesn’t rely on white. Instead, pale grey and cream is the base, and soothing sage green also comes into play. There’s even a pop of tan in the mix, which just grounds the space even further. I feel ready for a nap just looking at it (and I mean that in the best way possible).

neutral interior design scheme dining roomw ith sage green banquette seating and oak dining table

neutral interior design scheme dining room with concrete pendant light over light oak dining table

“I know we all feel that pull toward white at times. It happens. But I really implore you to keep searching. Even if it means moving beyond your fave retail store and spending a bit more money”.

neutral interior design scheme light grey sage green and blush living room dulux

Why All-White is a Mistake Best Avoided

I know we all feel that pull toward white at times. It happens. You’ll often go shopping for furniture like coffee or dining tables, consoles or bedside tables. And you’ll find yourself met with two colour choices: dark brown or glossy white.

I feel your pain, but I really implore you to keep searching. Even if it means moving beyond your fave retail store and spending a bit more money.

I know, the lure of affordable furniture is strong. And you know I’m all for a bargain buy. But what happens is that you’ll buy that glossy melamine bed, the bedsides and the tallboy. And you’ll get them home and put them against your white walls. Then your white curtains or blinds. And white doors.

And then all of a sudden things feel cold. The room feels sterile. And you’re now faced with the challenge of how to warm it up.

In this instance, people often throw in some black, brown or charcoal accessories. But still, the space isn’t warm enough. And that’s because there aren’t enough of the in-between tones you see in this post. No beige, no cream, no caramel, no biscuit. And it’s those tones you need in larger doses when creating a neutral interior design scheme.

neutral interior design scheme dining room with soft green wall and light timber ceiling neutral interior design scheme light green wall with wicker bench seat against it

Commit to Calm Colours on the Shell of the Space

When creating your dream neutral interior design scheme you have to commit. You have to be brave. You can’t just pop beige chairs in a white room and hope for the best. It’s the shell of the space that’s most crying out for some colour splashed on it. And I’m talking walls and flooring if you want to make maximum impact.

The paint aspect is the easiest to change, and you can attempt it yourself if you’re feeling up for it. If you’re trying to figure out the best paint colour to use on your walls to make the room feel calm without overwhelming it, I got you covered. Simply click here for a snapshot of the colours you see on the walls in this post. That way, if you love the look of a particular room you can replicate it. Too easy!

I hope you’re starting to realise that it’s not all-white that makes a space feel subdued and neutral. Sure, you can feature it as an accent (like in the staircase below), but on the walls and floors – you gotta look to other tones.

neutral interior design scheme white staircase against muddy terracotta wall paint

neutral interior design scheme bathroom with muted colour palette and timber side table

Neutral Spaces also Embrace Texture, but Avoid Pattern

OK, so now we’re on the same page about what it takes to pull of a neutral interior design scheme. But the last point I need to make is that it’s not just about colour. Texture and pattern comes into play too.

When it comes to texture, you gotta embrace it like never before. Failing to do this can make the space feel boring and lifeless. For example, this gorgeous Grounded theme from Dulux rocks furniture in natural materials such as honeyed timbers, pale leather and linen. That’s just to name a few. You can scroll through the images here and see all sorts of wonderfully tactile materials you just want to touch.

I find with this sort of pared back, neutral look, you want to rock texture with some detail. Think smooth timbers where you can see the grain come through. Or, opt to showcase marble with its sleek sensibility, but visibly vein.

Looking for more ideas on using texture to finish off a space? This post has you covered.

When it comes to pattern, it’s definitely a case of don’t-even-go-there. You’ll notice in the neutral interior design scheme of all the rooms here, pattern is nowhere to be found. So just avoid it altogether and you can’t go wrong.

bedroom with caramel walls and dark brown bedspread neutral interior design scheme

Are you Feeling Confident to Abandon the All-White Room Now?

That was the entire goal of this post, after all. I wanted you to get to the end ready to banish the boring white walls of your home. I want you to feel ready to try a subtle shade. And I want you to consider how bringing in some different textures and taking out the pattern could see you executing the neutral interior design scheme of your dreams.

Drop a comment below and let me know if you have any questions.

And as always, happy decorating at your place!

chris carroll post sig

neutral interior design schemes dining room with light timber table and sage breen upholstered baquette seat

Outside of writing the TLC Interiors blog, Chris is an interior stylist and author. You can also catch him on your TV screens as a designer on Channel 10's Changing Rooms. If you'd like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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