Not long ago, homeowners looking for a neutral color palette had a limited range of white, beige, and gray. Today, palette options have grown astoundingly, from "snowbound white" to "marshmallow white," from "kilim beige" to "whole wheat," and from "rainstorm" to "rock garden" gray (and that's at one paint store alone!). The vast array of choices means that monochromatic no longer has to mean monotonous, and that a neutral color palette can be as vibrant and elegant as a colorful one.
Technically, neutral colors are defined as the shades between black and white that don't appear on the color wheel. In the decorating world, beige and brown are often included, as are very low-hued colors (think earthy tones like sienna and umber). Because neutrals go with just about every color, homeowners looking to create a calm and serene oasis often choose this palette. But with that decision goes the possibility of the "blahs," a room so dominated by homogenous colors that it loses its visual energy. The following are some tips for ensuring your neutral room is calm and elegant, yet maintains its vigor and excitement:
Use a variety of colors from your palette.
The beauty of neutrals is that, for the most part, you don't have to worry about clashing colors as long as you stay in the same color family. According to Krissy Millner and Nora LaBrocca of Terra Firma Home in Medford, "neutral palettes should be defined within a range of colors. For example, a warm neutral palette would include soft ivory to a rich, warm cocoa, and a cool neutral palette would be defined by grays and taupes." Using the full range of the palette will give your space a density of tones that work harmoniously together.
Incorporate shapes and patterns.
Since the color palette of a neutral room is subdued, use shapes and patterns to engage the eye. Leanne Eaton of La Bella Casa Design in Grants Pass recommends incorporating stripes and tweeds in your color range and adding objects with interesting designs and shapes — orbs and spheres, for example, are dynamic choices. And, since neutral color schemes tend toward the contemporary, adding floral patterns can soften the overall look.
Application of other materials.
Millner, LaBrocca, and Eaton all suggest adding interesting textures in the form of different materials: glass, metal, and wood are terrific choices. Millner and LaBrocca note that "using clear glass and fresh greens will capture sunlight and bring sparkle to a monochromatic room." Eaton recommends bringing in natural elements from the great outdoors: grasses, twigs, and branches add visual interest and texture. Eaton notes that she has seen some "really wonderful artificials" that are perfect for those who don't have "the lifestyle or the green thumb to keep up plants," but she warns that it's important to choose quality artificials. Also, think outside the box with furniture: wicker, rattan and seagrass can work especially well with a neutral color palette, adds Eaton.
Decorating a room with a neutral palette can be a wonderful way to enhance the serenity of a space, fostering a sense of peace and calm. By incorporating visually engaging textures, materials and objects, you can make your place of serenity also a place of inspiration.