Meyer says whether you are designing a room with neutrals or bolder hues, it can be challenging. “They are both about finding the right balance,” she says. “In a neutral scheme, the challenge is incorporating enough textures and materials to create visual interest. But when working with color, no one wants it to look like the circus, so exercising just the right amount of restraint is key.”
Last week, Meyer appeared on my weekly live Q&A webchat to discuss decorating with neutrals. Here is an edited version of some helpful knowledge she shared.
Q: I see so many beautiful neutral rooms on Instagram, but I worry that if I go down that path, the space will look really blah. How do you make a room interesting and not totally one-note?
A: It’s all about varying textures, patterns and materials. There are so many amazing textures out there in neutral fabrics, such as a chunky boucle or a lightweight linen. Mix textures with tone-on-tone patterns for more visual interest. Don’t forget to mix materials such as natural woods, woven rugs and metal or lacquer pieces. A neutral grass cloth on the walls or on furniture will never fail you.
Q: I love the idea of using lots of white/neutrals, but I'm afraid of keeping them clean. I have little kids, and the chemical stain treatments worry me. Do you know any family-friendly solutions to a light color palette?
A: As the mother of two young children, I couldn’t agree more! If you want to use lighter fabrics and minimize the risk of damage, I would suggest using them on surfaces that see less use, such as accent chairs. There are also green solutions out there for fabric treatment. In fact, in our own textile collection, we offer a treatment that releases no chemicals, so you can feel better about it for your family.
Q: We moved into a renovated home and painted the walls in the main living areas various shades of gray/beige and gray/blue. There are large windows and not a ton of wall space because of the open floor plan. What would you recommend starting with in terms of adding some artwork? Maybe I could add a piece to a small wall in the kitchen and something for the open stairwell. Do you have any favorite sources for original art that won't break the bank?
A: I would start with the stairwell, because there is probably no other main design element in the space. For art, I think it is important to find something that brings you joy. I have had great luck on Etsy and have found that many of the artists there will do custom pieces to match your size and style.
Q: I'm thinking of branching into some color, but I don't want to make a big commitment. What are some easy ways to add color in a mostly neutral space?
A: Pillows are an easy way to add some color, but there are many other ways, too. There are loads of lamp shade options available, including allover patterns, subtle textures or just colored trims. Accessories in different colors are another great alternative. Why not collect a group of objects in a similar shade and carry that throughout the room?
Q: Do you have favorite white or off-white paint colors?
A: I love White Dove, Chantilly Lace, Cloud White, Atrium White, Oxford White and Baby’s Breath, all by Benjamin Moore.
Q: My upstairs has a very cohesive color palette of blue and green — think navy, teal and sage. My downstairs, including an office, guest room and laundry room, does not. Is it worth it for me to try to re-create the same color scheme as the rest of the home, or should I go for something totally different, such as neutrals plus red, or just white and tan downstairs?
A: Oh, your palette sounds beautiful. Generally, I try to keep most spaces consistent with larger pieces and then layer in different accents in smaller ways. For the lower level, I would pick either the navy or sage plus an easy, neutral color for the walls. Rather than red as the warm tone, I would do a color such as coral, orange or yellow, which would complement the existing colors but would not feel quite as disconnected to the upstairs.
Q: If you paint your walls in a creamy white, what is the best color for your trim?
A: I love Benjamin Moore’s White Dove as a trim color to pair with creamy walls. It has enough depth that it will not read cool next to the cream color, but it should have enough contrast to feel fresh. I would then use White Dove in a flat finish on the ceiling to keep the space consistent.
Q: How can you do these chic neutral interiors without banishing your kids and their items? When I imagine a beautiful living room with wood and linen and grass cloth, adding a blue plastic dog and a red toy piano and a multicolored farm-animal puzzle ruins it. But I don't want my kids to seem like interlopers; it's their house, too.
A: This is a question we get all the time with our clients. I understand, because I have two boys, ages 7 and 10, and they are messy. We use lots of indoor/outdoor materials for upholstery. We often find a pattern that we love, and then we laminate it for kitchens or playrooms. For furniture, it is all about distressed wood, which already comes “broken in.” For keeping clutter such as toys under control, concealed storage is the best approach. I have cabinets and chests of drawers on our first floor that the boys can use to tuck away games and toys when they are not using them.
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