Louise Rea

A Neutral Interior Design Scheme

Working with clients over the past 20 years, the one request that our luxury interior design studio receives over and over is for a calm interior scheme. One that looks coordinated and effortless and a place to retreat to from the world. We believe that a neutral interior design scheme delivers on these points, so it’s definitely here to stay. 

The neutral room is not as easy to achieve as it looks. People go down this route thinking that adding beige to beige, or taupe to taupe is all that’s needed, which couldn’t be further from the truth. 

The interior ends up looking bland and lacklustre, and this is when beige really does equal boring! Really great neutral rooms have a mixture of tones, texture and detail that ensure there is a complexity as well as subtle variation in the design.

How to achieve the effortlessly put together neutral room? 

Firstly, consider the space you are working with and try to capture as much natural light as possible. This might mean opening up some rooms or removing any obstructions to windows.

Then, start with a light coloured base; we will often use a white or off-white on the walls; either paint or a small-scale textured wallpaper is good and we would suggest you follow this through the whole house as it’s a great base for artwork to hang and objects to sit against. 

Next, add in the upholstery, ideally a few shades darker. Using tonal woods, within the furniture, joinery and floors makes a good foundation for the various layers of accessories with lighting, curtains and art still sitting within this calm neutral base. 

Soft furnishings are a good way to experiment with texture so add a chunky knit throw, or cushions made from a variety of fabrics; velvet, linen and complex weaves, in tonal shades of the same colour. 

The scheme will meld and look cohesive, but now needs something “extra” to ensure there is excitement in the room for the eye to be drawn in! Be brave and add a small touch of black, this will never fail. It could be a feature of the joinery, fireplace, or doors, but even one chair, swapping out a lamp or a couple of accessories will achieve a similar effect. 

Adding a small selection of decorative items will provide visual interest; think of reflections and add both matt and gloss together to increase the sense of layers throughout the room.

In a kitchen or bathroom, using natural stone with some interesting veining or depth of colour will still feel calm and elegant when combined with wood cabinetry and the pale walls. Add detail to liven up the space with interesting handles or metal and wood accessories.

Of course, once you have the natural palette installed, it’s quite acceptable to bring in some colour or pattern. This will give the room some personality and doesn’t have to jar the eye or cause palpitations! It can be achieved with an armchair in an autumnal fabric for example, or a sculptural piece in greens, and coordinating artwork. 

Now all you need to do is change up a few pieces each season to keep the interiors fresh.