A neutral sofa in a neutral living room often needs colour to bring it to life. But, how do you know which colour to decorate with your existing neutral decor? Here are 7 easy ways to add colour to your neutral living room – plus my favourite place to start your colour palette!
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about grey sofas. Because even though the trend has moved from grey to black, white & cognac, people are still hanging onto grey.
If I were to ask YOU which neutral was THE MOST neutral. You’d probably say grey right? Well, would you?
Let me know in the comments if my assertion is correct? I could be flat out wrong…
But I think it’s also the reason why, in the world of commercial interiors, grey is a constant neutral. It doesn’t seem to go in and out there. Haven’t offices had grey-panelled walls forever?
So first, I’m not saying ya’ll need to jump onto the next trend. Not at all.
But when the brown trend came to an end, homeowners quickly moved on to grey. Not that this is what should have happened. I’m just reporting here.
Anyway, what I’ve been percolating on lately, is that too many people overthink decorating with colour.
And maybe it’s because you think if you’re going to have a colourful room, it has to look something like this:
That is, a room with colour has to be decorated with complicated patterns and perfectly chosen colour palettes. This kind of look takes expert decorating skills.
But I think it’s a common problem to be unsure about where to begin adding COLOUR. I talked about this on a live IGTV recently when I talked about, “What if I Don’t Like the Current Trendy Neutral’ here.
How to add colour to your neutral living room
And when you don’t know where to begin, you might too quickly end up with too much neutral.
Too much grey or too much beige. And nowadays, too much black or too much white.
It’s all too common to create a neutral base, say a neutral paint colour and sofa for example, and have no idea when to take the leap into some colour to bring it all to life. So you just continue to choose everything in grey (or black or beige…), the area rug, the drapes, and eventually the pillows and art too.
There is never a lack of decor items available in the trendy neutral colour of the moment, so it’s just easier right?
1 | Avoid too much of the same neutral
As an aside, can I just say that I think grey drapes should mostly be banished? I just do not see the point in continuing the look of a grey sofa, on your windows. And just in case you’re about to hang some drapes right now? Read this post first to get your measurements right.
When in doubt, choose white curtains/drapes to match your trim.
Anyway, if you get stuck on the everything-the-same-neutral rails, you end up with a room that looks at best, like some version of a drab showroom display like this below.
If you have. a charcoal sofa and grey walls, I’m saying DON’T also get a grey area rug, toss pillows and window coverings. Too much grey can be sad. And colour is simply happier.
It’s good to know AT WHAT POINT TO SHIFT INTO COLOUR and it’s my goal to help you add more into your life!
It doesn’t have to be complicated!
It’s as simple as this: pick an area rug with a COLOUR and repeat it.
(Already have wall to wall carpet? No problem, layer an area rug over it.)
2 | Start your decorating colour palette with a rug
And by the way, the reason the rug is important is that it’s a LARGE dose of colour. It’s a common mistake, when introducing an accent colour into your room, not to take it far enough. Just a pair of red toss pillows in an otherwise grey room for example is not going to look convincing.
For an accent colour to be successful, the rule of thumb is to introduce it in LARGE, MEDIUM and SMALL. doses. An area rug takes care of the large dose of colour, really making it look intentional.
This is the reason too that you want to look for a rug with a decent proportion (like half or more) of the colour. It’s not about getting out the magnifying glass to find the colour you want to accessorize within your rug. Choose the most dominant colour in the rug instead.
3 | Adding colour to a grey sofa
So if you have a grey or charcoal sofa, choose a rug with a lively colour and REPEAT IT.
If this violet grey sofa was sitting directly on the grey patterned wall to wall carpet without any colour? It would not be an inviting look. It would be no look at all.
The minute they threw down this fun faux zebra rug with a vibrant warm orange and sprinkled the colour around liberally in the pillows, tray, lamp, and accent chair, we are drawn in.
See? It doesn’t have to be complicated. Choose ONE colour and put it on repeat. It usually doesn’t hurt to toss in some white for fresh air in most rooms too.
4 | Adding colour to a cream, natural or light beige sofa
Often, a cream, light beige or “natural” sofa opens up even more options for fresher colour. But this pale pink beige sofa below would look pretty drab sitting in a white room without the addition of colour. A colourful area rug instantly brings this room to life.
Again, simply repeat the colour (and if you have a multicoloured rug, you can repeat more than one if you’re feeling adventurous) in accessories and toss pillows and ta-da! You have a room worth living in.
Caitlin Wilson Design is one of my favourite sources for pretty area rugs in fresh colours.
In both this example, and the grey and orange example above, they have taken it to the next level with the addition of an accent chair in a colour. This is a bold step that I absolutely encourage! And you don’t have to guess which colour it should be, just pull it directly from the rug!
Creating mood boards before you “add to cart” can be so empowering. Find out more in my online training.
5 | Adding colour to a brown sofa
Got a room with lots of brown and wood? Consider a rich blue, teal or green accent. Shop for a rug in the colour you want to decorate with first.
A great tip I include in my new Shop Online with Colour Confidence course is to expand your colour vocabulary for more effective online sourcing. Is it a periwinkle? Or Indigo? Grass, moss, olive or kelly green? It’s a great way to narrow down your search and find what you’re looking for.
Even repeating the colour just once, as they’ve done with the teal blue pillows here, works in a pinch. A nice trick is to find a rug that has the grey or brown or beige of your sofa in it as well as the saturated accent colour you are introducing.
6 | Adding colour to a black sofa
Black is especially bossy and heavy, making it even more challenging to see the move needed to get into some colour in your room. So much so that I couldn’t find a single good example of a pretty room with a black sofa and some colour. An image search for black sofa living rooms is pretty bleak.
So I made up a quick mood board to show you what I would do.
I talk about black a lot. It’s trending, and while a little is always a good thing, there is a tendency to overdo the trending neutral and this is particularly dangerous with black. Because it’s SO heavy. The best way to approach a black sofa is to go glam.
However, if you want a casual or rustic vibe, skip the black sofa. It will look best with a bit of warm contrast, brass and richer wood tones. To bring a black sofa to life there is nothing like a hit of leopard print.
Cognac, light beige, cream and white are also excellent at softening the palette. Black and grey or black and white immediately give you the stark minimal look. This look is not only really tricky to pull off well, but it also belongs mostly in well-composed photographs and not so much in real life. Again, my opinion.
Rich jewel tones also work really well for adding colour to a black sofa. Deep pink, rusty reds, and deep, leafy greens wake up a room with too much black.
But remember, adding colour doesn’t have to be a pop of a saturated hue. In the case of black or charcoal, or even much too much white, if you want a neutral look, you can pull in warm woods, beige and cognac for balance.
Just watch those five undertones of beige when you get into the world of mixing warm beige and brown neutrals. Do you know what they are?
7 | Adding colour to a beige sofa
And the reverse is also true. Have too much beige in your world? Add some high contrast black, glam leopard and lots of cream or white.
And if you want brighter colour with a pink beige sofa? The combination of blue and white is a sure thing for freshening up pink beige sofas.
I would paint the walls in this room above a pretty complex cream like SW 6105 Divine White to further tie them in. The white walls in this room make it feel a bit bottom heavy. But it’s a great example of simple blue accents repeated in the area rug.
A pretty and colourful living room starts with a rug
So there you go. If you’re not sure where to start adding colour to your room, choose a pretty, colourful area rug and work from there. Nothing wrong with a simple formula! Gotta learn the rules to break them well.
You can also do this to change up a tired colour scheme. Take the rug, pillows and accents out of your room, stripping it down to just the walls and sofa, for example. Then reimagine it with a pretty new area rug and accessories to match. Complete transformation!
Worried about shopping online? Ordering area rugs online can be a real pain point. My Shop Online with Colour Confidence course has you covered! With my best tips for shopping for all things colour and decor online, including the best way to shop for area rugs!
“I loved this course. I had never thought of putting a mood board together this way until Maria outlined it in this course. It makes the whole process less of a gamble. The added bonuses of the checklist and online sources save time and money. I feel far more prepared to shop successfully on line. Yeah!!! You are so generous with all you have learned in your design business. This was well worth the money!” – Catherine M.
My first two virtual live Specify Colour with Confidence workshops of this Fall season are SOLD OUT, but there are still a few seats left in both my courses at the end of October 21 & 22, October 28 & 29.