Decorating your home with neutrals: How to get it right

From vibrant, printed wallpaper to richly-toned walls, you might think interior design was all about bold colours and a maximalist aesthetic right now. However, according to COAT Paints, nine out of 10 of the top-selling shades are neutrals, showing that we as a nation are still very much in love with subtle shades.

decorating with neutrals

Mindful is the brand’s bestselling neutral colour (used above by Melanie McCrindle) – a pale taupe with a little grey and beige in it. Aaron Markwell, COAT’s colour curator, says Mindful’s versatility is the key to its appeal – ‘it works well with all types of materials, stones and woods’ he says.

As for Aaron’s tips on how to use neutrals successfully in your interior design plans, it starts with working out what will compliment the lighting of your room. ‘Look at the direction your room is facing: east, south, west or north’ he says. ‘As a general rule, I use warmer colours in north- and east-facing rooms because they have cooler light, and am more flexible in my approach to south- and west-facing rooms because natural light is warmer.’

Decorating the rest of the room in a way that will bring your colour scheme to life is also important. Aaron says, ‘How you dress the room is really important in making neutral schemes sing. Upholstery in slightly deeper tones than the walls is grounding, and adds a subtle contrast that looks really considered. When choosing accents like cushions and artwork, use a bolder version of your neutral colour. For example coffee browns for taupe schemes, or olive greens for greige schemes. Use warm-coloured woods to create an inviting neutral space that won’t feel too austere.’

The number one mistake people make with neutral colour schemes, explain Aaron, is failing to layer up tones and textures in this way. And if you’re worried about the room looking boring, try painting your woodwork too. ‘If you’re worried about your neutral scheme feeling a bit flat, I’d encourage you to paint your skirting boards and door frames in a deeper neutral than your walls. This will make your scheme feel elevated and airier, as well as adding interest’ says Aaron. ‘And, when in doubt, add more plants!’