The New Neutrals

I’ve heard neutral design described as everything from ‘trendy’ to ‘blah’.  And over the past decade neutrals have been equated with the color beige, and beige only.  I dubbed this beige color “builder’s beige” (a.k.a. the color that builder’s paint an entire house in the hopes of attracting buyers).  Regardless of whether you feel neutral colored design is boring or brilliant, neutrals are here to stay.  Open any current design magazine and you’ll find at least one showcase of neutral color.

The difference in today’s approach to neutrals vs. years ago is that we now include a broader range of colors.  Gray has made a huge surge in popularity as has greige, a hybrid color of sorts that includes both gray AND beige.  Some designers may argue that more saturated colors like blue are also becoming neutrals.  I stick to the idea that neutral means less color, but I definitely agree that undertones of color are creeping into the most basic of neutrals.

Here’s a quick look at today’s neutrals…..

GRAY – Gray colors are increasingly present in design, often replacing beige as the go-to neutral.  Gray can be cool or warm, so watch undertones when you choose shades.  Warm grays will have red, orange, or yellow color while cool grays will have a hint of blue or green color.

Benjamin Moore

BEIGE – Don’t fret when you hear the “boring beige” clichés!  Beige is still a wonderful neutral choice.  Colors that remind us of coffees (think latte, cappuccino, etc.) are solid beige choices.  If you want to bring a little more drama to beige, try using two beige colors of varying saturation in the same room.


GREIGE – Greige, it has been said, is the new beige in the design world.  The mix of gray and beige produces a raw color, giving new dimension to any space.  It is generally considered a more modern color choice than beige.


YELLOW – Yellow has been front and center in all design areas – fashion, industry, interiors.  Now I know I just said neutral means less color, but we could almost create a new neutral category utilizing yellow.  (Beige with a kick of yellow….’bellow’, maybe?)  Think beige with the Midas touch…..golden, caramel, or honey beige tones.

Barclay Butera

So now that you know all about neutrals, how do you apply them to your home?

    • Select large upholstery pieces in gray or beige shades – the pieces will give you the utmost versatility as you change your look.
    • Neutralize textiles, such as rugs and draperies, with beige or gray options to create a sleek, uncomplicated look.
    • Instead of brown stained hardwood floors, go for a sophisticated look with a charcoal gray hardwood….tres chic!

Williams Sonoma Home sofa

Mohawk Home Shock Waves Rug. Available at Bed Bath & Beyond.

Mohawk Red Oak Charcoal Hardwoods

Hope these tips help as you create a neutrally inspired design.  As always, happy decorating!

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