Move over, beige; there’s a new kid in town! And by new kid, I mean lots of new kids. For far too long, people have believed that the only neutral colors are white, grey, and beige. But I am so excited to introduce you to the idea that all colors can be neutral.
I have always had a love affair with color. When everyone went crazy over the all-white rooms, I was still over here playing with color. It’s not that traditional neutrals aren’t beautiful, it’s just that limiting yourself to these colors in order to create a space that feels safe isn’t as easy as you think.
So today, I’m sharing the solution to your paint color woes. You are no longer restricted to traditional neutrals because I’m showing you how any color can be neutral. Learn how to pick the right neutral for your space and my tips for choosing colors that play well with it. If you want your space to feel like you, then my easy-to-follow formula is exactly what you need.
You are listening to episode six of the Decorate like a Design Boss podcast. Today I will be talking about the new neutrals or rather move over beige, there’s a new kid in town.
Welcome to Decorate like a Design Boss, a podcast for design lovers who want to create beautiful spaces in their very own homes. My name is Kimberly Grigg and I’m a professional interior designer who teaches design lovers like yourselves how to decorate. And when I say decorate I mean decorate like a design boss. If you’re ready to create a space that your family loves and your neighbors can’t stop raving about well, buckle up honey because it’s time to design.
So in today’s episode we’ll be discussing what a neutral actually is and how to make any color that you love actually become a neutral. I’ve always had a love affair with color and I have to admit when everyone went quite crazy over the white trend I was still over here playing and playing hard in color. I found white rooms some of the hardest to do albeit seemingly the easiest for a novice. I know this sounds a bit like an oxymoron but the reality is I know and I’ll be teaching during future episodes of the podcast all about undertones.
White has a lot of idiosyncrasies, one of which includes 155 different shades of white just in the Benjamin Moore paint palette alone. Pinterest and many of the social media platforms do a great job convincing you that white, white, white is the way to go. And that if you just choose white everything, you will somehow create the most beautiful rooms known to mankind. I’ve seen many a fail in this arena mainly due to not understanding undertone.
This is like when you paint your walls stark white and your white sofa ends up looking like yellow teeth. The undertones in this case are way out of whack. But back to those pretty white rooms that you see on Pinterest. Well, I will let you in on a little secret. Those rooms are photographed using a light filter. That bright white light that you’re seeing and loving might actually be a dull and uninteresting room in person. But by use of technology, professionals have turned a room that could actually be amiss into the most gorgeous photo ever. Does that really matter? Well, it does to me.
In today’s world we as regular people have access to light filters via apps which can make a regular photo close to magazine quality very, very quickly. So am I disking white rooms? Well, heavens no, that’s not my point. I’m getting there. I’ve created my share of white rooms and I’ve enjoyed creating some beauties. I’ve also been called in to fix many a white room gone bad for the reasons I just shared.
I think people have been wildly attracted to white rooms and understandably. I admit I fell for the trend once or twice in my own home. They can be beautifully refreshing and lovely and I think many people love a white room. Well, here’s the crux of it, because they feel safe. I also think many people looked at Pinterest and chose to create a white room because it felt easy to do. But over time I just have to say, you’ve seen one white room well, you’ve seen them all. But many of you bit the bug and I am sure many of you have beautiful rooms but there is a bit of an art to it.
But the point is I think part of the reason you chose the white room is that it feels very, very safe. It’s a bit of a fresh neutral and you felt you couldn’t mess up and that, well, you’ll have flexibility for life. Well, I say it’s not as easy as it looks. And if not properly done the room can fall very, very flat. I’ll be doing a future episode on whites and creating a white room. But for now today I actually want to talk about color. And I want to destroy the concept that traditional neutrals are best and that they will give you total freedom and flexibility.
The truth of the matter is regardless of the neutral or lack of it, what we all want is successful spaces that are beautiful to us and that resonate with us. This is the bottom line. I like to throw in that if we can achieve this and reflect a little personality and uniqueness into the mix then we have a winner, winner chicken dinner. So let’s talk about this concept of choosing a neutral to provide a safe haven. Again, this goes back to the concept of the reason that you chose these white rooms or neutral rooms to begin with.
So many of you feel that you can’t go wrong with a neutral and that they, well, go with everything. This provides a safety net. Well, let’s consider what it doesn’t provide. There’s no sense of uniqueness, it might feel safe but doesn’t really reflect your style. And if the goal is to create a beautiful space then I say how are you going to do this with the same old boring beige that is everywhere, or the same old boring white that is everywhere? If your rooms look like everyone else’s, well, what have you really accomplished?
So I say instead let’s talk about achieving the same exact safe feeling, this feeling of security but now I want to talk about it in terms of using color. Are you with me? We’re talking about what if I waved my magic wand and said you can’t mess up if you use any color that you like, would you feel safer and more confident? Well, perhaps not yet. Would you even be open to trying it? Well, maybe, maybe not. My point is that all color can be neutral and can be just as easy to have success with if you follow a few simple guidelines in my formula that I’m going to share with you right now.
But first I want you to open your mind to this concept. All color is neutral. Now, I know that this seems like it’s not even possible, but I assure you it is. It is a unique concept and one that I embraced many years ago. I needed clients to trust me when I didn’t want to create a boring beige room, especially when I knew that they want boring beige and the rooms really weren’t going to make their heart sing. I wanted a pleasant way to let them know that they could, well, just trust me.
So I started playing around with this concept of all color is neutral even when I would say it, people would feel better when I showed them a colorful schematic, as long as I used the word ‘neutral’. Now, I wasn’t trying to trick people but I really did start to think about color in a way that would make it more palatable. So I want to invite you to try on this concept as well and take a little journey down a somewhat unique path when I say that all color is neutral.
Let’s begin with the definition of a neutral. I define a neutral as any color that plays well with other colors. I cannot think of a single color that doesn’t play well with other colors. It’s the colors and how they are combined that is the deciding factor of whether a room is successful or not. I divide neutrals into two categories, the traditional neutrals and the new neutrals. Your basic traditional neutrals can be defined as beige, white, grey, black and tan and of course every shade of these colors.
I say the new neutrals are every single color. Again, it’s the combination of the colors, not the colors themselves but the pairings that make them work. So over the years countless clients have come to me and we’ll start that initial conversation about their spaces and it goes something like this. I will ask, “Well, are there colors that you like or that you’re drawn to?” The client will often answer, “Well, I like color but I am really more comfortable with neutrals. I don’t want to invest a lot of money in color in things that I can’t use forever. I might get tired of color. I know I won’t get tired of neutrals.”
Side note, do you not think you’re going to get tired of boring beige, really, or tan, or white? “I want my pieces to be neutral”, they’ll say, “so that I can have flexibility and that they will last me forever.” I typically respond with, “Well, okay.” But I do continue to push. I then say, “Well, aside from neutrals are there colors that you actually like?” “Yes, but I’m still not ready to commit to any kind of color. I think I just want some neutral spaces.” Okay. So then I might ask, “What is your favorite color?”
Now, to be fair I have had an occasional I love grey or I love taupe. But really this is actually rare. I don’t even remember ever anyone saying that but I suppose it could happen. And this is where I actually watch their faces. “Aha”, said the owl in me, “So you do actually like color.” Especially when I say, “What is your favorite color?” Then I ask, “Have you ever lived in color?” They will say, “No, I just never wanted to invest in pieces of furniture that aren’t flexible.”
So I also ask, “Well, are there colors that you just don’t like?” I typically get a bold emphatic statement here. It’s often purple or pink, sometimes red or orange. But this statement is always bold, definitive and it’s personal. Okay, so then I say, “So, what if I told you as a professional interior designer that I won’t use the color or colors that you don’t like, but more importantly that you cannot get the color wrong and with whatever color scheme that we use. And I promise it will be safe and timeless. If I promise you those three things would you be more open to exploring this concept?” Most often I get a shy, yet curious, “Yes.”
So, now, I’m not trying to win an award for being a manipulative designer. But I do know that often people want neutrals because they’re afraid. They’re afraid of color not because they really want a neutral. They’re just afraid. Now, of course I have had clients who would freak out if I painted their walls with a lot of color. But remember, I do believe in knowing and using your design DNA. And if you want to understand what your design DNA is and discover it, well then, you’ll want to go back and listen to episodes one, two and three.
And I won’t necessarily suggest to someone who can’t do color on walls, I won’t a suggest a bold color on a wall, this would just refute the entire process and would be pointless. But my job is to stretch you just a little and to get you out of that comfortable boring beige phase and give you something that is truly unique and resonates with you. So I also know that you can achieve a colorful room without using color on the walls. At this stage before I have fully processed someone’s design DNA I just know that I don’t want to create another boring neutral room.
I want to make the spaces unique and certainly more reflective of the people who are going to be living in them. So I’m encouraging you to consider this same idea for yourselves. And I’m posing the same question to you. If you couldn’t get color wrong would you be more open to using it? This invites a curious and exciting conversation. And it also causes me to be curious with you. If you couldn’t get color wrong and if I could show you a formula that would allow you to feel safe and help you create a timeless interior would you be more open to considering that all color is neutral?
So let’s go back to the definition of a neutral. A neutral is defined as a color that plays well with other colors. So if we take this a step further, what color doesn’t go with another color? Well, you guessed it. It’s not that color doesn’t play well with other colors. It’s just that some play better with others. These are all components of color theory, which without getting too technical, involve a color wheel. But for now I challenge you to just open up your mind a bit and consider the concept that all color is neutral.
And I want you to know and ask yourself, what is your favorite color? Whatever this color is then I say it should be represented in some strategic way into your décor. Again, it doesn’t mean it has to be a wall color, although it could be, but it does have to pair well. So let’s keep these key ideas in mind when you’re thinking about using color in your spaces. The first is, use your favorite color in your décor.
The second, determine if your space is going to be tranquil and calm, which typically involve cool colors such as blues, greens and purples, or warm and vibrant which are the warm colors like yellows, oranges and reds. Now, using a color wheel, determine what colors play well with your favorite color.
For example, if your favorite color is blue, then if you look at a color wheel you will see that a complementary color scheme might include pairing the blue with orange. Blue and orange typically create an energetic space. But if you used a peachy softer color with a lighter periwinkle blue you would have a calm and tranquil space.
If you wanted to create an analogous color scheme and blue was your favorite color then you would simply choose the colors right beside blue such as green and blue and purple. So blue and green or blue and purple would be the beginning of an analogous color scheme. Now, without getting into an entire lesson on color theory, this is just a simplified version of how to use color wisely.
Now, let’s pick a traditional basic neutral that looks nice with your color scheme. An example of this is with the blue and green schematic you might want to use a neutral like white as your traditional neutral if you’re trying to create a space with energy. I call this a really crispy look. The common tranquil version of blue and green would include using a traditional neutral with it such as grey. Now, here’s how to incorporate this formula.
Number one, if you use a traditional basic neutral such as grey, tan, white, beige or black on your walls then use color, or what I call the new neutral on your furnishings and draperies. Conversely, if you use a traditional basic neutral such as grey, tan, white, beige or black on your furnishings then use a new neutral which is a color on your walls.
Alright, so let me share an example of this. Let’s say your favorite color is cobalt blue and maybe cobalt blue feels too scary for you to use as your wall color. But what if your walls are a soft grey and you use a cobalt pattern at your window and a luscious cobalt blue velvet as your sofa. Now we’re getting somewhere.
So what can we take away from today’s lesson? At no time in the history of my design career has anyone ever answered the question, what is your favorite color with the word ‘beige’. So maybe it’s out there but I’ve yet to hear it. So I say why settle for boring beige when you can actually have a color in your daily life that you will love?
In summary, think outside the box and consider all color to be neutral. Secondly, incorporate your favorite color into your décor scheme. Use this formula for easy success, a traditional neutral on the wall and a new neutral on furnishings and soft goods or the reverse of this is use a new neutral on the walls and a traditional neutral on the furnishings and soft goods.
Alright, there you have it. I am glad my friends that you are here and I hope you will continue to join me on this podcasting journey. I’m really obsessed with helping you learn how to decorate your own spaces and how to be successful at it. And to celebrate the launch of this show I will be giving away three of my adorable favorite monkey bowls. This cool accessory ends up in almost all of my designs, from cottage to edgy, even the contemporary ones. It’s adorable and promises to make you smile.
The monkey bowl is perfect for fruit, candy or even an arrangement of flowers. I’ve reserved monkey bowls for three lucky listeners who subscribe, rate and review this show on Apple Podcasts. Visit kimberlygriggdesigns.com/podcastlaunch to learn more about the contest and how to enter. I will be announcing the winners in an upcoming episode. And I’ll be back next week. As I always like to say, don’t wait, today is a great day to decorate. Bye for now.
Thanks for listening to Decorate like a Design Boss, if you want more info on how to decorate your space like a pro visit kimberlygriggdesigns.com. See you next week.