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Is Colour the Best Neutral? Yay or Nay

By 03/07/2011January 23rd, 201736 Comments
Brown trend > Gray trend (source)

For months now in most of my consultations in-person or on-line all over the country in US and Canada, my clients have been asking for the same thing.  And it is this: “How can I eradicate beige and caramel/orange tones from my home and replace it with the cooler ‘trendy’ grays and whites”. I addressed this question in more detail in my newsletter last month. Subscribe here if you’d like to read it.


Gray Trend; Image via Decorpad

Creams and beiges were required with the earthy brown shades that we have been decorating with for the past 15 years (below) but now the colour pendulum is swinging back to the other side to the cooler tones (above).


Brown and Beige Trend; source

Many of us think that brown and black furniture is ‘neutral’ and ‘timeless’. However if you purchased a brown sofa in the last 8 years when that trend was big, now you are probably craving a linen or white sofa because the trend is moving to cool. You bought the ‘neutral’ colour because you thought you wouldn’t get bored of it but now. . .  you’re bored. Maybe.


Interior Design by Mark Radcliff via House Beautiful

My sister has had a dark blue sofa for 12 years and now that she is renovating and buying a new one, she still wants the same colour, but in a more classic style. The french roll arm, just like mine (she’s so smart).

Better to have bought a sofa in a great colour that you love (above) which then remains timeless to you! This way when the next trendy neutral arrives, you’ll still have a colour you love in your living room.

What colour is your Neutral?

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me.

Related posts:

Nice  Neutrals from Benjamin Moore
Colour vs. Neutral
How to Wear Colour or Neutrals; Which Group are you in?

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  • Tamara Nicole says:

    Our nuetral is cream-ish white, but we do love some colors!

  • Ideezine says:


    My neutral is creamy off white, couch is taupe in classical style, carpet is steel blue. Love it all. It stays neutral because I add colors in toss pillows and draperies, artwork and there's lots of natural light throughout my house.


  • Karena says:

    I love blue/gray/teal to me they are neutrals to build bright color around!

    Do come and enter my Artful Offering!It is truly beautiful!

    Art by Karena

  • Windlost says:

    Interesting. I am still in love with grayed out milky brown, also called cocoa and mocha (I love how they remind me of food!). I never liked chocolate brown. This also verges on taupe for me, which I love. So milky gray browny taupe (not pinky) is my neutral. And pure white. I don't care for creams and ivories. Oh, and slate blue is timeless.

    P.S. You are so lucky to grow up in Victoria. We love it there.
    xo Terri

  • Infatuated with Homes and Gardens says:

    My netral is wood tones 🙂

  • Shawna says:

    I love warm colours most….although I don't know how to explain that I also love blue, green and purple…… I guess my favourite neutral is a creamy colour

  • Alana in Canada says:

    My Neutral is green. Love your post on Green couches. It really is the best colourful neutral in my opinion.

  • Naturally Carol says:

    By introducing pewter shades into lamps and fittings as needed and lovely shades of grey in accessories like cushions etc and some graphic and geometric fabrics I think brown becomes a beautiful foil for grey. I love the brown/black combo too with a few bronze and pewter tones.

  • Emom says:

    Palest of yellows…..have it on most walls….smiles.

  • Anonymous says:

    We use pale yellow (but not too pale). Now it goes with shades of grey and I've added a dark blue. Though for spring, I'm using a raspberry colour and will bring back the dark blue in the summer months. Yellow is very versatile as I can use it with cool or warm color combinations. It's my "neutral."

  • Dori says:

    Monroe bisque, Putnam ivory and golden taupes. Grey looks dirty fast and it reminds me of every office I have ever been in. My dermatologist, dentist and attorney all have grey sofas.
    I think grey will look old in homes fast. As a real estate broker it will be one of those colors that date a home a certain few years like harvest gold appliances.

  • pve design says:

    Green has been my neutral for some time, but now I am gravitating to cooler gray's and loving whites, creams and blacks. Black iron, black laquer and lots of white.

  • I don't think I can get on the gray bandwagon, at least not in this house. I'm drawn to yellows for some reason.

  • [email protected] Designs says:

    You are always so dead on….
    There is a plethora of palettes I like, but it usually tends to be brown, black and cream. Boring, right? You should see how the wardrobe is the same. 🙂 In the process of weeding out the warm terra-cotta and rich golden tones I introduced eons ago to recover a few things with some gray with a brown undertone.
    BTW: your sis might be on to something. The new in/trend colors: Navy/Indigo. 🙂

  • I have loved green since the 80's – that's almost 30 years now!

  • Jane says:

    In my light-filled room, most of our furniture is creamy white. BUT…there is one indigo chair and lots of warm, rich colors in pillows, artwork, and accessories. With the warmth of the wood floors and natural wood tables, and the texture of the seagrass rug and table, I walk into this room and SMILE. It's so very inviting!
    Jane (artfully graced)

  • Anonymous says:


  • Luciane at says:

    Hummm.. I'm really into white and gray lately! It can be a little cold, so you have to know how to use it, but it can also be so pretty! Add some linen to it… bingo!

    By the way, would you please drop by my blog today to see my interview with the adorable Paloma Contreras of High Gloss? It would be great to have you there, Maria! 🙂

    Thank you!


    Luciane at

  • Dovecote Decor says:

    Hi Maria: I just picked up an orange 82" sofa that was in the Tony Duquette sale on One King's Road on Saturday. I never get tired of Orange, so I'm sticking with it!!

  • Jürgen says:

    Her sister is a really intelligent person and very confident.
    And your post today is very, very right.
    Finally, our own taste should be as important.

  • Donna says:

    That's so interesting Maria about your sister sticking with blue. I did the exact opposite. I dumped the blue which I was excessively tired of and got brown, not because it's neutral, but because I ADORE brown. I wear it too. But I did do one thing that your sister did and that was to update the style of the couch. I LOVE the style and color.

    Of course, now I'm worried. If I keep reading your blog, which I certainly will, am I going to get discontent with my color. Probably not since I'm not too anxious about keeping up with what is stylish. But I do think I can still work in some fresh colors on the pillows.

    You have gotten me to thinking of new colors for other rooms though. Great ideas!

  • Brenda says:

    Is colour the best neutral? Only if it makes you happy! I have a neutral formal lounge dining which I just adore and children spend very little time in there and then I have a family room packed full of bright colours and the obligatory brown suede sofa as it doesn't show up all those grotty kid marks and spills – happiness is the best of both worlds….B:)

  • Ann says:

    Mine is green…fresh, spring, green. Melds with the trees outside and goes with most anything.

  • Donna says:

    PS. Maria…I forgot to mention that I don't care for chocolate brown..but cocoa. One of your commenters mentioned that. I think that because I'm an Autumn person..I'd have a hard time transitioning to the grey. But in previous posts you've matched a little natural colors in with the gray and I think they look fabulous!

    I love how you stretch our 'color sense'. I'm your every day Wal-mart type shopper and get too easily stuck in a rut. The education I get here is priceless!

    BTW, I wrote a post for Tuesday Tea that I know you would love. Lots of photos of our family (in particular one each of little child..grown child.) It's about being the family cheerleader. I wonder perhaps you are that person for your family. I hear hints of it. :o)


  • Zelda says:

    Hi , I'm in the interior design business as well and truly admire the way you keep yourself professional and helpful after being asked such question " how do I remove a color from my home ??" I mean seriously what kind of quest is that ? the answer would be by simply remove it for your walls cushions and sofa you name it , what do they esxpect really ? to keep the all place as it is to save money and you to find magic incantation to change the colore ? sorry if I'm being polycolorely incorrect with this comment but I'm just wondering that's it .

  • I felt like you wrote this post for me. I bought a dark brown leather sofa about 7 years ago when I was highly into the whole Pottery Barn look. I recently switched to a white sofa and the neutral walls that I had just aren't cutting it anymore. I've always loved blues, to me blue is almost a neutral because it looks perfect with nearly anything it's paired with.

  • Ivy Lane says:

    greenish beige..macadamia nut, sherwin williams

  • Nicole - Daydream Delivery says:

    I tend to reach for natural Linen Benjamin Moore cc-90 ALOT. But I'm a fabric fanatic and I pretty much have to have red or rusty orange in every room, one way or another. Neutral base, daring accessories, not an original idea, but it sure works. Love your blog Maria.

  • Dane says:

    My neutral is black. Has been since I was a teenager for clothing and I used it a fair bit in my own home now (walls).

    Boring huh!

  • Kathysue says:

    It has to be Spring green for me, it goes with all the other spring colors I love so well and then by putting a pop of black and white with it, I am so in heaven!!! KS

  • Traci says:

    Black is my neutral! I seem to use pops of it everywhere. For example, I *adore* my black interior doors … eight years after doing them!

  • Raeleen says:

    My neutral would have to be grey. I've always loved grey, even before it was trendy. I just bought a house and needed a new sofa. I was thankful grey is the new brown since I could get my grey sofa without having to pay extra for custom upholstry.
    I've always gravited to blues and blueish greens (never yellowish greens), and always slightly muddy rather than really clean. Those along with grey are colours I know I will never tire of.
    The one thing I hate about trends is that once your neutral is no longer trendy, good luck finding towels and bedding.

  • Anonymous says:

    My neutral is a pale warm yellow. It is the background for most of our walls and sofas, chairs, chaise. But ceilings, wood trim, lamp shades and curtains are a clean cream/ivory. We have very bossy stained glass windows in our rooms with a myriad of colours so I can take my accents from any of those. Raspberry pink, aqua blue and currently orange. Some wood is a greeney grey.

    I think grey in a room without an abundance of natural light is a bit like white; inclined to look a tad dingy. For that reason I don't think grey will last.

    Other than me : ) the other bossy thing in our house is the orangy pine of the 100 yo floor boards. Hmm, thinking of custom cut sea grass to neutralise that a bit.

    Cherill W

  • Simply Grand says:

    I'm totally mystified by the current popularity of the sackcloth-&-ashes look. Life's too short for neutrals.

    Not, of course, that I hate gray. I've lived in two all-gray apartments and have had gray-painted bedrooms in two others, but those tones were all chosen as positve 'colors' rather than as 'neutrals'–which I would never choose, no matter which end of the neutral spectrum happens to be fashionable at the moment–meaning that I never got tired of any of those colors. If something's not in style, it can't go out of style. In other words, I could move right back into any of the places that I ever lived–even lived thiry-five years ago–and be perfectly happy with the way it looks today. Then again, that kind of color contentment comes from choosing colors you love in the first place, rather than colors that everybody else happens to like at any given moment, just to, you know, fit in. No color regrets for me, ever.

    At any rate, my Chippendale camelback sofa is red and my wacky American Empire sofa has wide coral-&-green stripes and for exactly the reason you mention: because wherever they might end up, whatever other colors might surround them in the future, they'll always be a color I love. Meanwhile, if I get an urge to see gray & beige, all I have to do is look outside: gray asphalt & limestone, greige concrete and, this time of year, beige grass. It's a no-color fiesta! Although boring as hell. Like I said, life's too short for neutrals.

  • liz says:

    PLEASE HELP, SHOULD I CHOOSE IVORY???????? OR CREAM AGAIN???????????? i’m so confused as to what colour of neutral shade to choose for my schroll arm low back deep buttoned cottage style suite (not keen on brown or black. my present cream leather suite i loved but it’s worn out now. my walls, furniture, fire stove etc are all cream. my floor is dark wood with a very slight variant of gold through grain. i often change my cushions, throws etc to either duck egg or mauve/lilac – i have picked my suite from england and it has to be shipped to me, i can only go by very small swatches, or pictures on internet, it’s difficult to differentiate the shades of cream, ivory or beige of which i’m considering, don’t want a pinky shade. many thanks x

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