Don’t Neglect Neutrals

By Lesley Myrick

The surprising way neutrals can help showcase your style

As an interior designer, I’ve seen a lot of homes, and let me be the first person to tell you that despite the fact that we are all unique people with a broad spectrum of personalities, tastes and interests, there are an absolutely absurd number of beige living rooms in this world. White walls, gray sofas, cream carpets — it almost seems like there’s this misguided belief that the more yawn-worthy a room is, the more likely it’ll be to put you to sleep so that you can dream of a room that you actually want to be in.

But I get it. For a lot of people, neutrals feel safe. While it may not make for the most exciting room to look at, a neutral room won’t exactly look bad either. But all-beige everything isn’t doing you any favors, especially when that’s not who you are.

Now normally, I’m someone who figuratively (and sometimes literally) shouts about the personality and depth of bold colors and patterns. And you could reasonably expect my advice here to be to put up some wallpaper and reupholster your couch. But if I’m being really honest, none of that is necessary. In fact, I think that a neutral room can be one of the best ways to show off your personality.

Hear me out.

Think of a neutral room like a blank canvas. If the main elements are neutral — like the millwork, sofa and wall color — then when you add a few brighter pieces, they have the chance to really stand out. When there’s too much going on, it can be hard for your eyes to focus on anything, which can be distracting and confusing and actually make it harder for your intention to come through. What’s going to make a painting pop more, a plain, off-white wall or striped wallpaper? A neutral background gives your unique pieces a chance to shine.

Having a neutral room is especially good if you’re not quite sure what you want. If you’re designing a room from scratch and find yourself a little uninspired, starting with a neutral foundation allows you to introduce one or two brighter pieces that you love and let it go from there. Neutral goes with every color and style, which means you have an opportunity to play and discover — without the commitment.

Keeping your foundation pieces, like your sofa, neutral allows you to easily swap out smaller accent pieces, providing you space to grow and evolve while you showcase your design personality. This could be great for families with ever-changing needs or for those who like a change in scenery maybe a little too often (guilty!).

Think about the possibilities. Every few months, you could trade out throw blankets, swap your pillows and replace the foliage in your vases to quickly create a cohesive, seasonal design that looks like it took a lot more effort than it did. Not only does a neutral backdrop make it easy to change styles, but it fades away and allows the room to tell a story by letting the more colorful pieces guide your eyes and making your small changes seem like a mini makeover.

Heck, a neutral backdrop could even allow you to layer different styles. I recently worked with a family here in Waco to add a little energy to their living room without sacrificing their home’s relaxed — but very gray — farmhouse vibes. By keeping the big pieces neutral and introducing selected splashes of color and pattern, we were able to maintain the original intent for the room while showcasing this young family’s bright, vibrant personality.

But a neutral palette doesn’t only work with colors and patterns, per se. If you’re going for an industrial or even a luxe look, a neutral backdrop can become be a great foundation for metallic accents. Coordinating accent pieces — think fixtures, lighting and hardware — tie a neutral room together, giving it a refined and intentional feel, even without the use of color. (But try not to go overboard here. Too much metal can feel sterile, like you’re living in a warehouse.)

If I’ve got you really gung-ho about the whole neutral thing, consider expanding it past the four walls of one room. A fully neutral house can provide a thread of continuity that ties together rooms done up in different styles. You didn’t think that a nautical bathroom, a boho bedroom and a modern living room could go together? Think again.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

My point is that starting with a neutral room doesn’t mean that you have to paint your walls green and replace all your gray furniture in order for the space to reflect you better. Adding just a couple of choice personality pieces, especially those with dynamic color and pattern, can make a world of difference and completely change the feel. But, that also means you’re out of excuses for that boring living room.