Cream, pale beige, forest green, deep navy blue, black, charcoal; they may be neutral, but they can convey so much emotion and mood when incorporated into the design of a room.
People navigate towards neutrals for a reason; they provide a blank canvas, are uncluttered, clean, and simple. It doesn’t feel like a big commitment painting the walls white, vs painting a wall hot pink. You can easily change your mind about other design elements in a room and swap them out, but painting a wall or hanging wallpaper, or pricier items like headboards or furniture, can be a time consuming, expensive, hassle. That’s why many of us gravitate towards white walls, grey or navy couches, wooden headboards, etc.
Neutrals, like most design trends, evolve and change over time. In the early 2000s, yellow-toned beiges, deep brown kitchens, and warm-toned, speckled marbles were all the rage. Flash forward to the 2010s, where stark white and grey minimalism with pops of black and Carrara marble took their place. That’s not to say that one’s space always has to be on-trend. A well-designed space filled with things you love will always be a classic.
In this article, I want to make a case for the moodier neutrals. The ones that can really pop against white without being ostentatiously colourful. Sometimes when the decor is all white walls, white furniture, black chairs, black frames, etc., it can feel very impersonal and a bit like the inside of a sugar cube. Get creative with your use of neutrals. Consider a slight change of a slightly deeper blue-grey than you would typically gravitate towards, or layering shades of beige to create visual interest.
Pops of black and blue. How gorgeous are they?
What’s amazing about this room is that although it’s mostly white, it’s bright and fun and has a positive energy about it. The black paint on the inside of the fireplace makes it so much more interesting and bold than if it were all white. And the teal blue paintings and vases are simple and fresh. It doesn’t need a ton of accessories to feel accessorized. While the room is very neutral, it has a distinct cool-toned colour palette. The textures of the white linens and the grey furry throw add softness and coziness, so the room feels cool without being cold.
How can you invigorate your all-white room with touches of shade and colour?
This is the coziest, warmest grey room. It feels sophisticated and elegant, and even a bit spa-like. It’s easy to picture yourself drinking a glass of white wine and snacking on a charcuterie board while sitting in this plush chair next to the fire.
Greys don’t always have to be cool-toned. This grey has plenty of warmth, enhanced by the natural materials in the round carpet, basket, and mantelpiece. The candle holders and wall colour are stony, making the room reminiscent of a California mountainside. Further natural elements are brought in with the artwork and foliage. The whimsical line drawings of flowers next to the vases of leaves and florals are a great addition.
What themes can you bring into your design to create warmth and add detail?
There are so many lovely details to take in when looking at this dining room. The gallery wall is full of intrigue, with lots of different imagery allowing the designer to communicate their interests and style. Gallery walls are such a great way to display lots of different pieces at once, and they can grow as your art collection grows. The table is quite substantial and anchors the space. Using black, a beautiful moody neutral, really compliments the weight of the table and the industrial-style materials, without making the room feel too dark or heavy.
How can you add pops of black to your room? Would you make space for a gallery wall?
The geometric shapes in this washroom are great! Squares and circles all around, and a delightful starburst pattern if you look down at your toes. The shape of the cupboards, white tiles, and the sink are very sturdy and square. The mirror, planters, doorknobs, faucets, and even the leaves on the plants are cute little circles. This room is so charming, and so much fun. Painting the radiator to match the cupboards was a great way to blend it into the existing space. The very simple and minimal grey and white design is livened up by hanging plants and pops of leaves in planters, distracting your eye away from the radiator and adding freshness to room.
How can you add whimsy and charm to your space through the use of geometric shapes? Let us know in the comments.
Freelance writer and photographer living in Toronto. She is the author and photographer of two cookbooks, Everyone’s Welcome (2019) and Allergen-Free Desserts (2015).