Painting with Neutrals

Take a tip from Mother Nature and bring earthy tones indoors for a relaxed neutral paint palette that never goes out of style.


Hi, I'm Jennifer Kopf, Homes Editor for Southern Living. Take a tip from mother nature and bring earthy tones indoors for a relaxed, neutral paint palette that never goes out of style. When selecting neutral colors, it's important to first establish your overall desired mood. A palette of warm beiges and browns results in a room scheme that feels traditional and cozy. Grey hues, on the other hand, deliver a cooler palette, giving a room a sleeker look. Neutral paints connect interiors with what's just beyond the window sill. Dark paint used on window muntins and trim frames views keeping what's outside the window on permanent display. Think of dark hues as eyeliner and use them to outline windows and doors or to punctuate architectural features. For a seamless look, paint walls, trim, and cabinetry the same shade, varying only the paint sheen for interest. Break up the look with a light colored ceiling. If your chosen hue is dark this offers relief and keeps the space from feeling overly cavernous. Neutral doesn't have to be boring. So experiment with color combinations. Browns and beiges make a striking statement when paired. Pump up the contrast of a neutral space by pairing cream wall paint with a darker greenish-brown paint on doors, windows, and other woodwork. For a softer effect, place a darker color on the walls using a lighter tint for trim work. Instead of wallpaper, pattern walls with handsome cabana stripes or even a whimsical pattern doodled onto walls with paint. Neutral color schemes allow the exploration of pattern and texture for your furnishings. Add layers of texture by choosing fabrics with heavy pile, such as velvets, chenilles, linens, and burlaps. With any color scheme, it's important that color flows from room to room, creating a cohesive feel throughout a house. Neutral wall and trim paint is ideal for hallways and staircases because it helps underscore continuity throughout a home tying rooms with coordinating colors together. Neutral tones compliment the look of natural stone. If you have an interior wall comprised of stone, stucco or brick compliment the look with an earthy scheme. Use darker walls to visually set off a display. If you want your china or dishes to pop, use a darker hue as a back drop and paint shelving white. Dark walls are also a great way to set off a collection of prints or maps. Liven the look of a neutral room with a subtle pop of color. Pale blues, muted pinks and soft greens accent a neutral palette. Painted an offbeat color, furniture can provide a clever focal point. When looking for color inspiration, just step outside your door. Let the hues found in your home's environment inspire your palette and you can't go wrong. For more decorating ideas visit
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