How to Add Color to your Neutral Living Room

A neutral living room with accents of green and blue, designed by Ballard DesignsNeutral living rooms get a bad rap. There are a lot of smart reasons to use neutral pieces in your space, but without the right colors and accents, a neutral room falls flat. The good news is that if you have simple, well-made elements as your anchor pieces, you can easily add color and energy to your space with these strategies:

Neutral living room designed by Suzanne Kasler with small accents of blue

Start with a Strong Foundation

1. Proportion and Scale

It’s important to start off with a strong base. Pay attention to the proportion of your furniture and your layout. It’s crucial that these two elements are functioning properly before you make any color or decor changes to your living room. Your tape measure and a virtual room planner should be your best friend. If you don’t have a trained eye, correcting scale and proportion can be tricky. Even the pros get it wrong sometimes. We recommend taping out furniture pieces on your living room floor or using a room planner tool to test your layout before putting it into practice.

2. Focal Points in Around the Room

Every room needs several focal points. If you have a neutral living room that feels boring, color might not necessarily be the answer. Consider adding drama with a statement light fixture, an over scaled art piece, or shapely furniture. They might not be colorful, but they’ll make a statement in the room which is often where neutral living rooms are lacking.Black and white living room with strong focal points

In the living room above, all of the elements are black and white but the contrast and shapes of the furniture create enough drama and energy to carry the space. Notice how each of the furniture pieces have a strong silhouette. The wall art and mirror are also overscaled to the sofa so they create a strong focal point.

Add One Strong Piece

If you have a neutral living room but you’re interested in perking it up with color, it can be tricky to know where to start. One way is to make a big impact with a single statement. Here are three ways to do that.

1. A Bold Rug to Ground the Room

We love a patterned rug for many reasons. They energize a space with color and pattern, plus they’re stain-friendly, hiding any ‘oops’ moment in your busy family life. One thing to consider when shopping for patterned rugs is that they often aren’t as bold once you bring in other elements. Because they’re horizontal and topped with furniture, you can choose something a bit bolder than you think will work.

2. Dramatic Art or Wall Decor

In this bedroom, strong green botanical prints add color to the space

Wall art is any easy way to add color to your room, and we don’t always match art to a room exactly. In this bedroom, we used a grouping of three botanical prints to add color to an otherwise neutral room. Use this strategy in your living room by incorporating artwork with color.

3. A Statement-Making Paint Color in a Neutral Living Room

Each of these rooms has a bold wall color that takes it to another level, and if you’re looking for a quick way to totally transform a neutral living room, paint is your ticket.

Paint is an easy way to change a room, but it can be complicated too. Before you get started, ask yourself a few questions about how you want your space to feel.

What do you want the energy to be?
How much light does the room get?
What time of day are you using the room?

These questions can help you narrow down a color before heading to the paint store. Of course the number one rule of painting is to test your paint with swatches!

Small Accents that Add Up in a Neutral Living Room

A neutral living room with accents of green and blue, designed by Ballard Designs

If you want to make a change but don’t want to commit to anything major, consider bringing in lots of small accents that give your room a color makeover. In the living room above, we’ve added lots of small accents of green — pillows on the couch, greenery and faux botanicals, and trim on the curtains. Pull small items from other areas of your home and use them all in the same space to make a big impact.

1. Add Plants to your Neutral Living Room

Living rom with greenery and plants throughout, designed by Ballard Designs
If you have a green thumb, consider grouping lots of plants together to inject energy into a neutral living room. We love the way houseplants in varying shapes and sizes add color to the top of this bookcase.

2. Matching Drapes and Pillows

Coordinate drapery and pillows to bring color to a neutral living room

One fabric used in several ways can totally transform a neutral living room. In the space above, we used a hand painted medallion print in blush and taupe on curtains, chairs, and pillows to breathe life into an otherwise simple space.

Using one large print over and over again may seem busy and over the top, but it actually has a calming effect. Because it’s repeated, it feels like a neutral here.

3. An Accent Chair and Pillows

Neutral living room with accent chairs and pillows in blue
If you look at the bones of the room above, they’re pretty simple. A large white sectional, natural fiber rug, and white painted furniture all provide a classic backdrop, but without accents of blue it would feel plain and boring. Two chairs and pillows in shades of blue totally transform the space.

Layer with Purpose in a Neutral Living Room

Once you’ve added a few colors into your neutral living room, we bet you’ll start looking for other ways to layer color into your space. With thoughtful choices, your neutral space can grow and change with you.

1. Start with a Unifying Fabric or Rug

In each of the space above, we started with a patterned rug that drove the color palette of the room, but if you look carefully there are lots of neutral pieces incorporated to each space. As you’re layering elements into your room, find something to unify all of your choices like a rug or fabric.

2. Grow Your Neutral Room over Time

Living room designed by Bunny Williams with antique inspired pieces
No room in your house should stay stagnant for years. Small tweaks and changes may not change the foundation of the space, but they’ll keep your living room from looking stale or dated. We love the way the living room above designed by Bunny Williams has a layered feel.

Looking for more living room inspiration? Read these helpful articles next:

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Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Reply


    June 25, 2021

    I would like too receive your booklet. My daughter would also.

    • Reply

      Abbey Nolte

      June 29, 2021

      Hi Beverly,
      You can sign up to receive a catalog here.

  2. Reply


    April 29, 2021

    Can you tell me the name of the grey paint color featured on pages 40 and 41 of your April catalogue?

    Thank you.

    • Reply

      Abbey Nolte

      April 30, 2021

      Unfortunately I don’t have information on that paint color. I would suggest showing this picture at the paint store and they can match it for you.
      Best of luck!

  3. Reply

    Sallie Hayes

    March 3, 2021

    I received your March catalog today. I am very interested in several things with an upcoming move 😊. First though, I am choosing colors. I love the blue wall on page 14 ! I followed directions on the page to find the color , to no avail. Would you please let me know what paint color and brand it is ?
    Thank you
    Sallie Hayes

    • Reply

      Abbey Nolte

      March 12, 2021

      You can find all of our Spring 2021 paint colors here..