What are neutral colors?

The dictionary defines ‘neutral’ colors as hues that tend to be without color, and mostly, do not appear on the color wheel. Black, white, brown, and grey are the four most common neutral colors which are formed by blending two complimentary colors. They are broadly classified into two categories: pure and near-neutrals.

Pure neutrals do not have an undertone, and hence the name. Near neutrals showcase neutral-like qualities but do have an undertone. They are produced by mixing a pure color with a pure neutral. They are allowed to be a tad lighter or darker than their original hue.

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Neutral colors_©www.pinterest.com

Broad uses

Neutral colors, the recent trend for a couple of years, offer a wide variety of interior decoration options. They can be broadly offered as: All neutral or Background neutral.

All neutral look: It simply means that a particular neutral color is chosen and its various shades are used to decorate a space. For example, the walls are painted in a lighter shade and the cushions on the sofa can be of a slightly darker shade. The vase on the teapoy or the painting on the wall could be even darker. In this way, there is a gradation which is achieved which gives a formal, sophisticated look for your interiors; it gives a cozy feel to the occupants.

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All neutrals_©www.livspace.com

Neutrals as the background: Here, neutral colors are applied on the walls. They reflect sunlight and the space, in turn, gets lit with beautiful, indirect light. (Did u know? Walls painted with neutral colors tend to make the space look bigger!) Now, the furniture and the accessories are chosen to be colorful to add interest and drama to the space. 

A colorful gouache painting on a neutral wall can do wonders. This combination neatly balances the color scheme and livens up the space. But, the space does not become too jarring either. Hence, a cohesive look is obtained which makes the space homely and comfortable.

Ways to add color to a neutral color palette

When one can never go wrong with neutral colors, a splash of color at some places gives the right balance and makes the space a lot more interesting. 

Here are some simple ways to add color to a neutral color palette:

Pillows and Throw blankets: A brightly colored throw blanket placed on a divan or a couch in the living area or the drawing-room instantly brightens up the space. The concept works similarly in the case of pillows as well. The neutral-colored walls and the wooden furniture complemented by the intricately designed pillow. How good is that!

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Throw blanket_©www.wayfair.com
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Throw pillows_©www.pinterest.com

Indoor Plants: It can be a potted indoor plant or cut flowers placed in a vase, the charm provided by these are irreplaceable. They add just the right amount of color to any space and make the space more livable and homely. Snake plant, ZZ plant, Coffee plant, Red aglaonema, String of pearls, Fiddle leaf figs, Sweetheart plant, Anthurium are some of the best options available for indoor plants.

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Indoor Plants_©www.pinterest.com

Statement furniture: A bright colorful piece of furniture gives a royal look to any interior space. A colorful recliner, chair, or a teapoy can do wonders. It is bold, eye-catching, and anchors the entire room.

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Statement furniture_©www.digsdigs.com

Accessories: Everyone would have seen the enormous amount of interior decor accessories in all home decor shops. Those items, even the small ones such as a teapot or a tiny vase can add a pop of color to any interior space and liven it up instantly.

Artworks: Abstract paintings work the best in this particular category. An abstract painting filled with vivid, bright colors placed on the plain, neutral-colored wall adds the much-needed visual interest and charm to the wall as well as the entire space.

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A few approved best neutral color palettes

Classical neutral colors: Incorporate silver, charcoal grey, white and misty mauve with hints of gold or steel to break away from monotony.

Grey color schemes: The options that can be explored with grey are endless. Firstly, grey itself has a lot of shades that differ according to the mood of the space and its users.

Some of them are:

  • Simple grey color scheme (Linen grey +white)
  • Industrial grey color scheme (White+ charcoal+cream)
  • Modern grey color scheme (Mushroom+brown+navy)
  • Feminine color scheme (Pale grey blue+charcoal+pink)
  • Chic grey color scheme (Soft grey+hot pink) and many more such palettes.
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Grey color scheme_©www.pinterest.com

Black and White paint colors: What can be more classic than the ever classic combination of black and white? It gives a hi-fi, sophisticated look along with a clean, neat feel to the users.

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Black and white scheme_©www.home-designing.com

Romantic neutrals: They can do wonders to the room, just with a splash of pale pink, dusty lavender, and milky blue. It blends effortlessly into the surroundings and gives you the cut edge above the others.

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Romantic neutrals_©www.pinterest.com

Shades of neutral colors: Use the various shades of the same neutral color which gives a formal and a layered look. They also tend to create a cozy atmosphere, mostly preferred for bedrooms.

The options seem endless. So, dive into the world of neutrals and embrace them to liven up your space and enjoy with a cup of steaming hot cappuccio, a good book, and a peaceful mind!


Sahana M Swamy is a third year architecture student at BMS College of Architecture, Bangalore. Besides art and architecture, Sahana loves history, movies, acting and photography. She believes that writing helps to de-stress and re-discover oneself.