The Lowdown on Neutrals

Neutrals are a popular choice for homeowners and renters. Understated, relaxed, timeless – and ideally suited to small space living – they “make few demands on the eye” (Elle Decoration June 2016) and allow furniture pieces and home accessories to take centre stage. However, anyone who has ever picked up a paint chart will be familiar with the overwhelming choice of neutral paints available. Then there’s the challenge of applying your paint to the wall to find it looks nothing like the colour on the paint chart. Talk about a paint minefield!

Need a guiding hand to get the lowdown on decorating with neutrals? We consult Elle Decoration June 2016’s ‘Beyond the Pale’ article, with guidance from Farrow & Ball colour gurus Joa Studholme and Charlotte Crosby to uncover the top tips. They say…


  • Light plays a huge part in how neutrals appear, which is why Farrow & Ball divide neutrals into four distinct neutral groups – traditional, yellow-based, contemporary and architectural. Choosing a group is the easy part – simply decide which you are most drawn to. You can then build a decorating scheme around this
  • As a rule of thumb, older buildings tend to demand softer effects from colours and are best suited to traditional and yellow-base neutrals. Meanwhile, modern settings benefit from the harmonious greys of the contemporary and architectural neutrals
  • Traditional neutrals – as the name suggests, this group has its roots in the past. They create calm, restrained spaces with richness and depth. Their underlying grey-green tones create an air of ‘old world’. These shades are viewed as sophisticated and have been used everywhere from the decorative plaster ceilings of 18th century houses to Parisian apartments
  • Architectural neutrals – cool with a blue undertone, these are a great alternative to pure white. According to Farrow & Ball “with the addition of almost imperceptible quantities of other pigments, these greys take on a completely new personality, creating a sense of spaciousness while avoiding a clinical look” – ideal for making the most of a small space
  • Contemporary neutrals – these have a cleaner, more urban feel. They have an underlying lilac tone which brings an element of warmth. It also prevents them from looking too severe. These neutrals can be used throughout the entire house “so you can drift from room to room hardly noticing that there has been a change of shade”
  • Yellow-based neutrals – according to Farrow & Ball, these are the prettiest and simplest of the neutral groups. Their tradition stems from the addition of a minute amount of black, and the shades work well in any rustic home


Futon Company says: This easy-to-understand explanation of selecting neutrals is something we applaud. With the right know-how and simple explanations, everybody has the potential to create a stunning interior. A simple setting can make furniture pieces and accessories sing. To get you in the mood check out some of our favourite pieces – perfectly designed to compliment a neutral backdrop…

Orbit Chair










Betsy Table










Oak Rocking Chair










Loop Mini by Nell Beale