Decorating with Neutrals & Washed Color Palettes

Decorating with Neutrals & Washed Color Palettes

If you’ve been convinced by glossy magazines that neutrals are boring, we’re here to buck that longstanding myth! Our Ballard Designs stylists prove every day that neutral and washed color palettes can be cozy, warm, and inviting, and we’re going to share with you a few ways we give some of our favorite neutral rooms extra personality and interest!

Mix Metals

If you look closely, you’ll notice that the dining room above, while it feels inviting and  serene, it actually mixes together gold and silver metal finishes. Our new Verona Chandelier has a blue-gray painted frame with gold arms and accents which mixes beautifully with the bold, brass nailheads on our Capistrano dining chairs. While the chairs and the Verona chandelier relate nicely, the drapery rods on the far wall and our ever popular Grand Palais mirror bring in a silver accents, proving that yes, you can mix metals and still create a serene and cohesive space! If you’d like to introduce both warm and cool metal finishes in a room, it should look intentional, so use each finish at least twice and be sure your use of both is balanced.

Decorating with neutral color palettes

Balance light and dark

Another rule of thumb when working with a primarily neutral color palette is to balance the light and dark elements. In the living room above, most of main elements are in varying shades of white, from the wall color to the upholstered sofa and chairs. In order to create balance, we used dark accents throughout the space, like a wooden coffee table stained in a rich hue to ground the room and a dark iron chandelier which pops against creamy walls.

Washed color palettes

Introduce Colors in Washed Shades

If you’re itching to introduce color into a primarily neutral room, we love the serene, tailored feel washed colors give to creams and taupes. Though the foundation of the space above is built around creams and tan, but a few touches in washed shades of blue give this bedroom extra personality. Our Jardin Toile bedding in spa brings in just the perfect touch of personality, and light blue mats on a collection of botanical prints tie everything together.

Incorporate varying wood tones

 Incorporate varying wood tones

Wood is a staple in any space, whether you have a media armoire in a family room, a large farmhouse table in the dining room, or an upholstered bed with exposed wooden legs. Wood finishes bring a warmth to every space, but one of our favorite ways to up the personality of a room is to mix wood finishes together. In the office above, we’ve blended three different wood finishes, creating a space that while neutral, feels interesting and inspiring. The exposed legs on the Upholstered Couture Chair have a driftwood finish, the Isabella desk has a lighter, washed Belgian Oak finish, and the Antoinette Bench on the far wall has a cream painted finish.

Living room with neutral color palette

Keep it open and airy

We love the way the room above has an openness about it. One way in which you can accomplish this in your own space is by incorporating furniture pieces that have exposed legs. In the space above, our new Clervaux Tufted Ottoman, our Cecily Armless Chair, and our Olivia Mirrored Side Table all have an openness to them which gives the room an airy feeling.

For an even more open look, choose draperies that are either the same color or just a touch darker than the walls. The effect is modern, open, and effortless!

Embrace simplicity

Embrace simplicity

We often find that some of the most impactful rooms from our catalogs are the simplest. The room above graced our cover, and we love how pulled together yet effortless it feels. Taking its cue from the gorgeous span of windows and leafy canopies it overlooks, this space highlights the view by keeping the main elements clean and crisp.

Browse more decorating inspiration on our Pinterest boards.

How to Decorate Team

How to Decorate Team

We enjoy spending days interacting with How to Decorate readers. From answering Design Dilemmas to writing How To articles and working with guest designers, our passion is to provide informative and accurate resources to help people solve their design problems.

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60 Comments

  1. Reply

    Stacia Busch

    November 6, 2017

    what color are the walls in the last photo?

    • Caroline McDonald
      Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      November 7, 2017

      Stacia,
      Unfortunately I don’t have any information about the paint color in this room. We actually shoot in real homes, so we don’t always have that information!

  2. Reply

    Lee Avnet

    October 25, 2017

    I absolutely love the striped ottomans in second photo. Where are those from?

    • Caroline McDonald
      Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      October 26, 2017

      Lee,
      Those are our Cooper Cubes in a striped fabric that we no longer carry, although we do have lots of striped fabrics to choose from! So glad you like them. Thanks for reading.
      Caroline

  3. Reply

    Varvara

    September 27, 2017

    Hello! Could you please tell where we can buy dark chandelier in the second picture?

  4. Reply

    Natasha

    September 13, 2017

    What did you get the tree in the livain’t room? I absolutely love it!

    • Caroline McDonald
      Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      September 14, 2017

      Natasha,
      That is our Potted Olive Tree. So glad you like it!
      Caroline

  5. Reply

    Susan

    June 30, 2017

    Beautiful Photos! What sofa are you showing in room five?
    Thanks, Susan

    • Reply

      Annika Dupree

      July 10, 2017

      Hi Susan,
      Unfortunately, the sofa shown is an older product that is no longer available. However, we do currently offer the “Candace Loveseat”, which is very similar to the one shown in the picture and you may even like it better!
      You can find the “Candace Loveseat” on our website here:

  6. Reply

    BVaeth

    February 2, 2017

    I enjoyed this post, but please reduce the size of your header. I could not see all of any of the rooms pictured because the header took up so much space at the top!

  7. Reply

    Megan

    July 26, 2016

    where are those framed florals from with the blue border?

  8. Reply

    Emer

    May 15, 2016

    Hi there, can you tell me the type and shade of the wood used on the floor? Is it solid wood or laminate? Many thanks, Emer

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      May 16, 2016

      Emer,
      I’m so sorry, but we don’t have any information about the floor type or color!

  9. Reply

    Catherine

    March 31, 2016

    Also, what is the round metal side table in the Open and Airy photo? Love Ballard Designs btw!!!! 🙂

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      April 1, 2016

      Catherine,
      Thanks for your comment. That’s our Olivia 30″ Side Table.
      Happy Decorating!

  10. Reply

    Catherine

    March 31, 2016

    Hi! In the first photo is the round table, the Andrews pedestal table? If so, is it shown in the Whitewash finish? Thanks!

  11. Reply

    Georgia Morgan

    January 17, 2016

    What color is the braided jute rug in the living room picture? Is it the natural or driftwood?

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      January 20, 2016

      Hi Georgia,
      It’s natural.

  12. Reply

    Tammy

    December 19, 2015

    Can you put oil rubbed bronze door handles in a house where all the fixtures are brushed nickel? Don’t know if we should use bronze to replace all door handles.

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      December 21, 2015

      Tammy,
      We typically think mixing and matching finishes is a great thing to do in the home. We would suggest just making sure all of the door handles match throughout the house for consistency. Another thing you can do is to incorporate more bronze throughout the home — maybe a lamp, bookshelf, or wall decor that is either black or oil rubbed bronze.
      Best of luck!

  13. Reply

    Doreen

    September 17, 2015

    In the balance dark and light. Where is the chandelier from

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      September 17, 2015

      Doreen,
      The chandelier in that image is Cosette 10-Light Chandelier.
      So glad you like it!
      The How to Decorate Team

  14. Reply

    Madeline

    August 11, 2015

    hi where is the round coffee table from as well as the striped ottomans?

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      August 13, 2015

      Madeline,
      This is our Upholstered Cube in a stripe fabric (we suggest Suzanne’s Blanc and Flax stripe or Callistro Stripe in Gray). The coffee table is our Bornova Coffee Table in Brown.
      Happy Decorating!
      The How to Decorate Team

  15. Reply

    Doreen

    June 25, 2015

    Hi Caroline,
    Where is the bedroom chandelier from? I’m looking for one that is well made for my master bedroom.
    Thanks,
    Doreen

  16. Reply

    ashley

    May 21, 2015

    Where is rug from in the second photo?

  17. Reply

    Janet Sutton

    April 24, 2015

    Where can I buy the basket from that the olive tree is in?

  18. Reply

    Bobbi

    September 30, 2014

    I like the anchor of the rooms starting with the rugs could mention the makers and the patterns shown in the above
    photos.

    Thank you so much

    • Reply

      LaNissa

      November 22, 2014

      Where is the tree from? Love it!!

      • How to Decorate Team

        Caroline @ How to Decorate

        November 25, 2014

        Hi LaNissa,
        Thanks for your comment. The tree is our Potted Olive Tree. It looks incredibly real. We’re thrilled you like it!
        The How to Decorate Team

  19. Reply

    liz

    August 5, 2014

    where is the bedding from? and the curtains.. this entire look is beautiful!

  20. Reply

    Rochelle

    August 2, 2014

    What is the paint colour on the walls of the last image (with the olive tree)?

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      August 4, 2014

      Hi Rochelle,
      Thanks for your comment. The paint color is Benjamin Moore’s Muslin (#1037). Hope that helps.
      Happy Decorating,
      The How to Decorate Team

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      August 4, 2014

      Hi Rochelle,

      We suggest Benjamin Moore’s Stonington Gray (#HC-170) for this space. Be sure to test a few paint samples on your wall before making your decision though. Sometimes paint colors can appear drastically different based on the lighting your room gets.

      Happy Decorating,
      The How to Decorate Team

  21. Reply

    Meredith

    July 28, 2014

    in the last picture what is the name of the trim color paint?

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      July 30, 2014

      Hi Meredith,

      Thanks for your comment. We suggest Chantilly Lace (OC-65) from Benjamin Moore. As always we suggest painting a few swatches on your wall before making your final decision. Depending on the lighting in your room and the furnishings, paint colors can read very differently from space to space.
      Best of luck!
      The How to Decorate Team

  22. Reply

    Brittany

    June 11, 2014

    Where is the mirror from?

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      June 16, 2014

      Hi Brittany,

      Thanks for your comment. Which mirror are you wondering about? The mirror in the first image, the dining room, is our Grand Palais Mirror in Antique Silver. The mirror in the 5th image, the living room, is our Grand Chateau Window Mirror. Hope that helps!

      Happy Decorating,
      The How to Decorate Team

  23. Reply

    Gayle

    April 7, 2014

    can you please tell me the wall paint color for the first and second picture…the dining and the living room? thanks!!

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      How to Decorate Team

      April 7, 2014

      Hi Gayle,

      The paint color is Benjamin Moore’s Muslin (#1037). Hope that helps.

      Happy Decorating,
      The How to Decorate Team

  24. Reply

    April

    March 31, 2014

    Where is the bed from or where could I find something similar? I love it!!!

  25. Reply

    Toni

    March 28, 2014

    Actually, do you know the name of the chairs and fabric with the Manchester Sofa as well? Thank you!! 🙂

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      How to Decorate Team

      March 31, 2014

      Hi again, Toni!

      The chairs in that photo are the Larkin Club Chair, shown in our Cirque White fabric.

      Best,
      The How to Decorate Team

  26. Reply

    Toni

    March 28, 2014

    Very helpful! Thank you 🙂

  27. Reply

    Sara mcLeod

    March 26, 2014

    What is the paint color in he room under the header “Vary wood tones”? I love it!

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      How to Decorate Team

      April 3, 2014

      Hi Sara,

      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I do not have an exact paint color match for this room but we would suggest Benjamin Moore’s Palace White (#OC-100). You could also take this image to your paint store and have them color match it!

      Best of Luck,
      The How to Decorate Team

  28. Reply

    Toni

    March 24, 2014

    Do you know what fabric was used on the sofa in this picture?

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      How to Decorate Team

      March 27, 2014

      Hi Toni,

      I’m not sure which sofa you’re refering to, but the sofa in the second image in this post is our Manchester Sofa, shown in Suzanne Kasler’s 13oz. Signature Linen in Blanc. The sofa in the 5th image is our Larkin sofa in our Off-White Twill.

      Hope that helps!
      Happy Decorating,
      The How to Decorate Team

  29. Reply

    Candi

    January 26, 2014

    What is the paint color in the January catalog page 37 I just love everything about this room I am in the process of transforming my dining room to a more neutral palette and this wall color is perfect!

    • Reply

      How to Decorate Team

      February 5, 2014

      Hi Candi,

      The paint color is Benjamin Moore’s Muslin (#1037).

      So happy to hear you love this room,
      The How to Decorate Team

  30. Reply

    Lakeitha Duncan

    January 20, 2014

    Great tips! I’m actually working on a neutral space in my home (family room). It will definitely be my first, but I’m so smitten with this look.

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