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How to Maximize a Neutral Color Palette

How to Maximize a Neutral Color Palette


neutral color scheme in master bed room

Color composition can be a difficult task in home decorating, especially if you want a neutral color palette. But it’s possible to balance bold colors while maintaining neutrals as your base. Here are our five top tips to get an elevated look with a combination of bold and neutral.

entryway with vintage window and vintage sign
In Cynthia Villegas’ vintage-inspired home, she uses bright whites on her walls and in furniture to set a calming and neutral base for her vintage décor. Photograph by Chris Bradley.

1. Keep Your Base Muted and Neutral

Keep your furniture pieces in muted, neutral colors. These base pieces set the stage and establish your neutral color palette. By putting sofas and armchairs in neutrals, you also give the room more space to breathe and establish an airy feel. These pieces are also harder (and more expensive) to change out regularly, so keeping them in classic neutrals you love will give the design longevity.

Wallpaper Statement Walls
Homeowner Brooke Larsen added a dramatic and bold, yet neutral-colored, wallpaper in her daughter’s bedroom. The result is eye-catching, but the only color comes from transitional pieces like throw pillows and smaller poufs. Photograph by Rebekah Westover.

2. Use the Walls

Whether it’s wallpaper, wood paneling or just a bold-yet-neutral painted wall, wall paint can add a lot to a room. Accent walls do a lot to jazz up a room, or you could go with a very bold choice and paint the whole room in black or navy blue. Just remember to balance out your accent wall choice with lighter elements in the furniture, flooring and décor.

Afro-Cuban print pillows sit on a gray window nook with farmhouse style black window frames.
Accent pieces like throw pillows, blankets and other décor can be bold with texture and pattern, even if they don’t have lots of bright color, as this modern farmhouse shows. Photograph by Laura Metzler Photography.

3. Go Bold With Accent Pieces

Even with a neutral color palette, accents are the place to go bold with texture, pattern and even (yes) color. One way to do this is with changeable seasonal pillow covers. This is a festive and easy way to add interest to your spaces, and they’ll pop against your neutral furniture. Plus, it’s low commitment, so you can go with bolder choices, knowing you can always switch them out later. 

Modern boho farmhouse living room with open shelves and geometric soft goods
This modern boho farmhouse has lots of plants that add pops of color, but don’t scream “color” like a pink or yellow throw pillow would. Home of Stacy Smith; photograph by Jeremiah Hull of Attic Fire.

4. Add Fresh and Faux Live Décor 

This can include live or faux houseplants, and live or faux floral bouquets. Like your furniture, select vases and planters in similar neutral hues. Then add in explosions of colors or texture with faux or real plants. The contrast between the vessels and the flowers will be eye-catching and impactful. 

colorful books in a room of neutrals
Book spines often have a lot of color, but there are plenty of ways to make them stand out as part of your neutral color palette. Photograph by Victoria Van Vlear.

5. Use Books as Décor 

Another creative way to balance color and texture with a neutral color palette is with your books. Use them as décor by either displaying them by color, or by flipping the books around to display them by their page edges. You could also take the book jackets off, as most hardback books have more neutral spines underneath the colorful jackets. This is a surprising, literary and fun way to inject either color or pattern into a neutral color palette. You can mix books or choose ones all in the same shade. 


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