Neutral colours never lose their appeal, but choosing them can be daunting, as with so little to distract, it’s hard to lose mistakes in the mix. But if you’ve chosen the right neutral fabrics for your room design, they can create a space of timeless beauty and calm. So it’s worth taking the time to learn how to choose the right neutral fabrics and put them to work. Here’s where to start.
How to choose the best neutral fabrics may seem obvious; select a pale, chalky tone. But neutrals are more complicated than that. There are still warm and cold base tones and choosing the right ones is the secret to a scheme that feels refined rather than random. You must choose a family of fabrics that work well together, there are colours that have a cool pink tone as well as a warmer pink tone. It is essential that you decide which neutral feeling you want; cold neutrals can make a hot room feel more sophisticated and cool down the light. Some can think neutrals feel cold, but this is only the case if the tone is cold. Here, warmer hues have an underlying yellow, red or orange base. These colours are especially good at the windows, where a Silhouette blind will change the light by lending the tone its hue, so a pale blue will cool the day’s rays, while an ochre yellow adds warmth.
Even within neutrals there are depths of tones, and this is what keeps things interesting. Be cautious here; mixing what seem like the right tones but are actually slightly off, can create almost a camouflage or disjointed effect that quickly looks like a grouping of random colours rather than a pulled together decorating with neutrals scheme. Make sure your neutral fabrics ‘step’ on from each other, either up or down in the intensity of tone. Make sure you take samples of fabric with you as it’s so easy to get the tone wrong from memory. For a big investment like a kitchen, a neutral is ideal, and you can use deeper neutral paint to add richness without lifelong commitment.
A neutral sense of place
Neutrals are a great way to evoke mood and conjure a sense of experience or time. The sandy tones of a lunch in a Roman square, or the washed out seaside tones of a St Ives holiday; imbue some personal treasured experience into even the simplest of schemes and they will feel even more like a retreat. A bedroom in gentle cooler tones that recall the sky will be the ideal place for an afternoon read. So start with an overall vision of how you want to enjoy your space before you start. Places to show off the beauty of fabric include louche sofas, or the folds on a Roman blind.
All in proportion
Once you have chosen the family of neutral tones you wish to use, you may want to use an accent tone, a brighter hue to add a little pop. A peaceful bedroom can seem even more so when given a shade to contrast with. The key here however, is proportion. An accent is just that. A small percentage of the overall tone to provide a foil for the other tones. With a neutral bedroom scheme that may be some cushions on the bed, the lining in a curtain, or blinds such as Twist in a metallic finish that can add some richness.
Another way to keep things interesting is to keep the colours very similar in tone but add in texture and some pattern. Here an open weave wool, a flat cotton, linen and animal print all add to the mix. Once again, the key is keeping things elegant by using them, but in the right proportions. Equal measures will make the overall look riotous, so choose one element as your dominant backdrop and then use others in diminishing proportions.
Rich and handsome
Neutrals can be rich as well as pale. Here, keeping them in the same family is essential, as is choosing a mix of textures. Dark tones work especially well with deep tones. These also are a great way to enjoy neutrals as part of a scheme if you have children, animals, or messy friends that are likely to turn a pale sofa into a maintenance nightmare. Varying the chunkiness of the weft and weave, shimmer and tonal variation can quickly layer into a stylish scheme that will outlast most trends. The way to fabricate a design classic.
If you want to know more about decorating with neutrals, take a look at our inspiration for living with linen.