For any chronic redecorator or lover of seasonal accessories, selecting a color palette for a room’s walls and furniture can be a nightmare. These designers spend hours worrying that crimson paint or a lime green chair might clash with that burnt-orange throw pillow they might fall in love with next month. Skip the stress and give yourself a neutral-hued base design that will complement accessories of any color.
Neutral base # 1
Bold black and white
Far from stark, a black and white color palette has been hip since mod style took the design world by storm in the 1960s. However, there’s no need to go completely retro with the look. Black and white works whether your design style is contemporary or French country.
The key is incorporating all the gradations on the monochromatic – in other words, use shades of gray in your neutral black and white design plan. However, this is not as simple as it seems. Few grays are straightforward blends of black and white, but instead have overtones of a primary color that gives the gray warm or cool overtones.
Before making a major color commitment, paint a small swatch on the wall or purchase a returnable pillow or ottoman covered in the fabric you want on your big furniture pieces to test what the colors will look like in the home. Bring swatches of all the paints, fabrics and textures home at once to make sure they fit in the same warm or cool color story.
One last word about wall color – steer clear of white walls, even in a black and white room design. The savviest of high-paid designers struggles to keep stark white expanses from swallowing up artwork and wall accessories. Instead, select a shade of gray that doesn’t lean too far to either the warm or cool color families. A paint with an unusual finish – like metallic or Venetian plaster – helps prevent gray walls from appearing too prison-like.
- West Elm – Henry Sofa – Performance Velvet – Dove Gray (warm overtones)
- West Elm – Henry Sofa – Marled Microfiber Granite (cool overtones)
Neutral base # 2
Picking luscious chocolate as your main base shade can feel like a commitment to warm-toned color story – but that doesn’t have to be the case. At its core, the color brown is the combination of the three primary colors of red, yellow and blue. This means the chocolate shade you select will lean toward a warm color palette if it has more red or yellow in its base hue, or toward a cool color palette if it has more blue in its base.
Lighting also alters the appearance of brown paints and fabrics. What looks a neutral chocolate brown color under the store’s fluorescent bulbs may appear tinged yellowish or reddish at home.
Circumvent the warm or cool color palette problem by selecting a textured chocolate fabric for furniture that has both warm and cool tones. Accessories of any color temperature can then be incorporated into the space, as they will pull out the warm or cool overtones in the chocolate fabric.
The same holds true if you decide to stick with neutral cream fabrics on the furniture and instead use chocolate as your wall color. Select a textured wallpaper that incorporates both warm and cool color temperatures. If you prefer paint, utilize special brushstrokes that allow you to add the appearance of texture. For example, select a warm chocolate paint for the base coat, then dry-brush on a darker cool chocolate as the top coat, allowing both shades to show through.
- Ethan Allen – Colton chocolate fabric swatch (warm tones)
- Ethan Allen – Chester chocolate (cool tones)
- Ethan Allen – Old English chocolate (warm and cool tones)
Neutral base # 3
Beige equals boring, or so the saying goes. But the much maligned hue doesn’t have to be kicked to the curb. Done right, the beige color family makes the perfect backdrop for décor accessories of any shade to pop without competition from dark, heavy neutrals like black or browns.
The trick with beige is finding fabrics with the right mix of patterns and textures so that the room looks finished without the addition of any colorful accessories. Problem is, many patterns commit you to a certain design style because they are too graphic, too flowery, too masculine and so on. Those distinctive patterns or textures create a challenge when you want to change a room’s look without completely remodeling the room.
Select instead a fabric pattern or texture with the versatility to look completely at home against formal accessories, yet won’t look out of place if you decide to give the room a makeover with modern accessories.
- Thomasville – Fabric swatch 4889-02 (feminine)
- Thomasville – Fabric swatch 5491-90 (modern)
- Thomasville – Fabric swatch 3623-03 (versatile)
- Thomasville – Fabric swatch 1931-08 (versatile)