You can put the quiet tones, subtle hues, and melting contrasts of flexible neutral shades to good use in designing rooms that reflect your lifestyle rather than dictate it.
Often thought of as the colors without color, the range of neutrals is vast. Strictly speaking, they span from black to white through all the grays, yet are also taken to include shades of cream, beige, and brown, such as taupe, ecru, fawn, and stone, and off-whites. These neutral shades are infinitely versatile, forming the basis of many restful interior schemes, from restrained soft modern to high-powered glamour.
Many people shy away from a purely neutral scheme for fear it may be dull or austere. Nothing could be further from the truth. A fresh confidence and interest abounds in the unadorned good looks of neutral finishes. As well as being quite capable of holding center stage in their own right, neutrals play an important part as an unassuming background for bolder accent colors.
The successful execution of a neutral scheme probably involves more initial thought and planning than a layout where colors reign supreme. You need to ensure that every element, from paint and fabric to ornaments and trims, pulls its weight. But once the scheme is established, it is very easy to live with, and leaves you free to insert further items without fear of color conflict.
White is the absolutely colorless neutral. But for all its neutrality, you should not expect white to play a totally passive part in a scheme. As paint, it can dazzle with its brightness on walls and woodwork, while as sheer fabric, it forms a misty screen in front of windows and over beds.
Completely white schemes are the accepted, hygienic norm in a kitchen or bathroom. White walls refresh a living or dining room and a bedroom, too, reflecting the maximum amount of light during the day, even in a shadowy room. Indirect artificial lighting softens any tendency to harshness in the evening.
There are grays from every part of the color wheel; warm grays with hints of pink or heather in them, cool blue-grays or fascinating greeny grays that defy description by changing color throughout the day. In all its hundreds of variations, gray is a delight to use, either as a foil to black and/or white, or as a blend with other soft and subtle colors.
If black and white is too blunt a contrast for your taste, setting different shades of gray off against white is an elegant compromise. For a cool, romantic bedroom, for instance, white walls decorated with a gray stenciled border, gray damask upholstery, and gleaming gray silk curtains held back with ropes of pearls complement a bed dressed in snowy white cotton.
Black and White
Monochromatic schemes based on the extremes of black and white are really most dramatic. This is an old yet always up-to-the-minute decorating device, exploiting the attraction of opposites. Black is dark and receding, while white is light and advancing, so they provide a powerful visual contrast. Combined with the clean-cut lines of contemporary furniture and high-tech lighting, black and white is a good choice for creating stylish, modern interiors.
Creams and Beiges
Creamy colors – the slightly yellowed whites – are the mellow version of pure white. They are generally substituted for white in country and traditional-style decor, to create elegant, restful rooms. Cream is also a good color for suggesting a slightly aged appearance. For many years beige has been the ultimate safe choice for decorating -the color scheme you choose for want of any other particular preference, or to provide a universal, neutral sort of background. There are many shades of beige, from the creamy to the pinkish and slightly olive. By playing off various colors, such as a rich mushroom beige on the wall against paler versions on the ceiling and wood-work, you can build color schemes of amazing complexity.