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coastal bedroom with white bedding rattan pendant lights and blue wallpaper design

Non-Boring Neutrals: Our 10 Best Hacks for Decorating Soothing Spaces at Home

Have you ever stepped back in a neutral room you’ve decorated and wondered, what went wrong? So often we want to achieve the soothing, calm and serene vibe at home. But a lot of the time the result feels cold, clinical and sterile instead. You know, kinda the exact opposite of what you’d hoped and dreamed it could be.

Today I want to show you how to make neutral interior design shine at home. This post is not only packed with ideas and tips, but imagery styled by yours truly with a video you can watch to boot. Don’t say I never put my money where my mouth is!

Scroll on for all the help you need to rescue your problematic neutral space. Oh, and I’ve also included some must-nab products you can get to pull the whole look together. I’m running a one stop shop right here, decorating junkies! Enjoy the inspiration.

This post is produced in partnership with Lorraine Lea.

neutral living room with diamond rug cream sectional sofa and leopard print cushions

neutral living room with white sheer curtains and round timber coffee table with glass top

1. Think Beyond White

So often when we think of designing neutral rooms white is the first thing that springs to mind. But this is a rookie error if I ever saw one. 

The room above, for example, is wonderfully neutral but there’s not much white at all. Sure, items might read as white (the sofa, for example), but they’re actually not. The sofa is cream, the walls are a soft greige (that’s a combo of grey and beige), and the accessories are a medley of other non-white tones.

The message here is simple: rather than having everything in white, explore soothing tones like cream, beige, dusty grey, camel, and more instead, to achieve a space that feels calm but not clinical.

2. Avoid the Melamine Overdose

Following on from my ‘give white the flick’ message above I want to address the nation’s obsession with melamine. Now, I’m no hater. I don’t think I’ve ever met a furniture or decor piece I haven’t seen working in someone’s space. But you can have too much of a good thing.

Often neutral rooms get furnished with tonnes of white melamine furniture and the high-gloss finish actually works against the soothing vibe you’re trying to evoke. It reflects a lot of light and it has a way of making a space (especially if the walls are white) feel less warm and welcoming.

Instead, opt for some warm timbers in your neutral interior. Or combine some melamine with pieces in other matte finishes. 

Pictured in this Space: Sabo Rug, Serengeti Cushion Cover, Bahati Cushion Cover and Elayna Cushion Cover.

cream sectional sofa with leopard print cushions and coastal styling lorraine lea henley jersey bedding grey and white stripe quilt cover set in neutral bedroom

3. Pop a Pattern in Each Space

Pattern is king when it comes to elevating a neutral room. And you don’t even have to do it in a big, bold way. The bedroom above, for example, showcases this concept perfectly.

How gorgeous is that grey and white stripe quilt cover set? It’s the Henley Jersey from Lorraine Lea, btw. I’m getting it for my own bedroom because it’s so soft to the touch (links so you can get it are further down). What it does is take the room up a notch, stopping it from feeling flat.

Scroll through every neutral room in this post and you’ll see pattern at play in every single one. Be it in a cushion or quilt cover, floor rug or wall of tiles; pattern in one form or another is your friend.

4. Hang Art with a Scenic Vibe

The whole point of having a neutral room is that it creates this chilled-out, effortless vibe. So when it comes time to adorn your walls, you’d be mad to make the mistake of putting art that’s too loud and visually overwhelming, or pieces way too safe and abstract that it feels pointless to hang it up in the first place.

Scenic art like the piece on the wall of this bedroom is a smart move, because it speaks to the easy-breezy vibe across the home. The living room further up has art that’s just as soothing. Look to pieces that showcase trees, the ocean, natural formations; anything nature-inspired but not too dark is a good idea.

Pictured in this Space: Henley Jersey Quilt Cover Set, Elayna Cushion Cover and the Chester Lamp.

coastal bedroom with grey and white stripe bedding black timber slat headboard and palm tree art neutral grey and white bedroom with coastal timber bedside table and grey striped bedding

5. Tactile Textures are Key

Neutral rooms often feel undercooked because there aren’t enough tactile moments at play. What I mean when I say tactile is textures you want to go up and touch. You need some of these in a neutral room to give it some depth and dimension. 

The bedroom below, for example, has this going on a few times. The pendants are wonderfully textured. The headboard is the same. And the ornament on the bedside table is absolutely must-touch. Even the living room further up showcases rattan baskets with tactile details. 

Without these textured moments, neutral rooms fall flat. Ensure you include some in yours and the whole zone is going to shine.

6. Embrace Embellishments as Well

Neutral can be taken in too minimal a direction. You know, there’s white walls, light carpet in rooms, and white bedding in a flat linen. It’s just all a bit blah. If you’re looking for a way to add interest without going overboard, embellishments in smaller doses is key (and they’re easy to include).

Think about bedding with a quilted detail, for example. Bring in a throw with some tassels of pom poms on the ends. Or even with bedding and cushions, look for frayed edges that bring a level of softness to the space. It’s these little details that work wonders in keeping the room visually interesting without overwhelming it.

These pieces are really affordable and super low-risk too (in case a wallpaper like the one below is too scary a design step for you). 

coastal bedroom with white bedding rattan pendant lights and blue wallpaper design coastal bedroom with macrame wall hanging and blue and white wallpaper design rattan pendant light

7. Use Visual Highs and Lows

Every room needs visual highs and lows; a moment for your eye to be invigorated, and then a moment where it can rest. The mistake people often make when designing or decorating neutral interiors is that it’s all visual low and no visual high. You can, and should, still have a moment of visual stimulation. Just do it in a subtler way.

Now, it’s quite common in a space like a bedroom to do your visual high in something like bedding and let the walls stay blank. But I love the idea of flipping this concept on its head. The bedroom above and below, with that gorgeous wallpaper, is a perfect example of putting the visual high on the wall instead.

What this approach does is allow you to rotate soothing neutral bedding each season, knowing that if you keep it subdued it’ll work against the bold wallpaper every time. And seriously… imagine if this bedroom wall was white. It just wouldn’t be as phenomenal.

8. Let an Actual Colour into the Mix

Another mistake people make when decorating neutral spaces is that they get so scared of colour they don’t allow any of it in at all. And that, my friends, is a true crime against design.

It’s a really nice idea to select one colour and feature in in your bedroom, living room, or bathroom. In many of these images the hero colour we’ve used is blue. But notice it’s not a royal blue, or a navy blue, or any other blue that screams at you when you walk into the room. Instead it’s a dusty, chalky tone. It makes the space still read as calm and serene and indeed rather neutral, but not boring or sterile.

The bedroom below also allows some blue moments to take place on the bedside table styling. That vase is a rather nice inclusion (links below to it if you want it for your place)

Pictured in this Space: Noosa Quilt Cover Set, Ashley Throw Rug, Carly Wall Hanger and Marbella Vase.

coastal bedroom with rattan headboard and pendant light and white bedding with grey throw neutral bathroom timber top vanity white basin matt black bathroom tap grey fringe towel white freestanding bath tub with bamboo bath caddy and floor mat grey and white fringe bath towels

9. Let Nature In

Another important element in making sure your neutral room shines is to let nature in. Introducing plants, flowers, twigs or even rocks brings with it an organic feel that really makes a neutral room seem more alive.

Now, if you’re into a fake plant I have you covered with the best places to get them here. But, I’ve been on a personal mission of late to go real-deal with my greenery so I do recommend you give it a go too. 

If you don’t want to bring a bold pop of green into your neutral space, consider a native bunch of flowers, a dried arrangement, or something like what you see on the vanity in the bathroom above. It’s such a serene approach and I love the softness it brings to the space.

10. Warm Up Cold Materials

I want to dedicate the last tip to spaces like bathrooms, ensuites and laundries. Because these zones are already inherently cold, you need to find ways to warm them up without putting in lashes of warm colour. How do you do it while still keeping the feeling neutral? I say you gotta look to warm timbers.

Bamboo is your friend in the bathroom, there’s no doubt about it. Above you can see it doing a lot to take this scene in a more welcoming direction. Place a caddy across your bath and style it up (our top tips for styling towels are here), pop some bamboo on the floor, and don’t be afraid to include it in your vanity either.

Towels with textured details like frayed edges are a winner too. The more texture and detail the better. Replicate this idea in your laundry with decorative moments and your whole home will feel neutral but visually impressive.

Pictured in this Space: Bamboo Bath Caddy, Bath Mat, and Emine Towels.

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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. There are some very nice spaces in this lot. Not sure if you did them Chris but they are lovely with simple pops of contrast.

    1. Hey Jan, I styled the spaces using some new and existing pieces :). Can’t take credit for the large furniture items, paint or wallpaper though, that’s all the fab Metricon team.

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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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