Wall Color Selection #4: Special Effects of Classic Neutrals

black room5 Do you dress like your décor?


Holly Hunt is one of the most successful interior design trend spotters around…

Her eponymous multi-line showrooms represent the best and highest class of quality and design in custom furniture and fabric.  She noted in a recent interview that interior design trends tend to follow fashion design trends by a couple of years.

Following that same line of thought, it was Calvin Klein who first introduced to the fashion world, and then the rest of us, the value and beauty of using only neutrals together or combined with a limited color palette. The same disciplined approach to color works equally well with home design. A color scheme based on neutrals with only one, at most two colors is an automatic statement of calm, orderly sophistication.

Deep colors like navy/indigo, eggplant have come to be considered neutrals.

Think about it. These colors really do look great with virtually any other color. Still, even the classic neutrals such as brown, grey and black evoke particular emotional responses.

Brown says stability, security, reliability. What color could be more organic and natural than brown and all it’s taupey/beigey, camel, cognac, tobacco, bitter-sweet chocolate shaded sisters?

Brown must be the original “warm and fuzzy” representative. It’s wholesome and obviously “earthy”. It’s implicitly orderly and inherently practical. In most any shade or hue, brown is a lovely color that plays well with others. Living rooms and libraries are a natural fit, particularly if you add a few bits of green or blue for mental stimulation to the décor.

 In color studies, grey, black and white all drew positive responses from test subjects in general, but that might not be true for you  personally. For home décor use, since you would necessarily be seeing a lot of one color if one of these neutrals is the basis of your color scheme, the most important response will be your own.

Grey says smart, sophisticated, practical and elegant. Grey works in any room. It’s another uber-neutral because depending on the shade, it pairs well with any color thereby bringing a sense of order to an otherwise chaotically colorful palette.

Despite the fact that Grey is well liked, often worn, and a longstanding front-runner in suit color, it’s rarely named as a favorite color. This is possibly because it can be associated with loss or depression. A more positive take may simply be that it works so seamlessly with other colors that it doesn’t necessarily have a strong personality on its own.

Black says drama, sophistication, and mystery. Well, there is the small matter of being most commonly associated with depression and the “Black Arts”, as well as death and eccentricity, but let’s not be small minded…

Let’s just say black is not a “first” home color choice for everyone. Still, when you want to look sophisticated, or even if you are just having a “fat” day, black is the color of choice for clothing because it makes the wearer appear thinner and immediately lends a “cool” factor.

It pays to remember the counter-intuitive fact that light and bright colors pop forward, where very dark colors actually recede. Black is authoritative and powerful. Like red and orange, black can evoke strong emotions that can be overwhelming.

What about white? There is a lot to be said about white and how to use it, so much so that I’m devoting a post or three to white all by itself. Next time:

Wall Color Selection #5: Special Effects of White

Related Posts

(Wall Color Selection Seven Part Series)

Wall Color Selection #1: Special Effects of Blue & Green

Wall Color Selection #2: Special Effects of Red & Purple & The Shades Between

Wall Color Selection #3: Special Effects of Orange & Yellow

Wall Color Selection #6: Ten Thousand Whites

Wall Color Selection #7: White Room Service


Photo – I wish I could tell you….it’s one of my all time favorites

Questions? Cindy@DecodingDecor.com

3 thoughts on “Wall Color Selection #4: Special Effects of Classic Neutrals”

  1. Interesting topic. Honestly, I dress like my house and I try to translate my favorite clothing into rooms.

    I used to have a chocolate brown and white bedroom. Now its black and white, which is my go to outfit(Black skinny jeans, white button down, fur vest, with brown boots) and I am looking to add some brown leather something in here…

    My living room is gray, white, black and gold, but I do have touches of brown in there too! I try to dress simply, classic chic with a downtown twist and I try to get that into my home as well. Classic with edge.

  2. Hey Nicole,
    Thanks for your kind comments! I’m not surprised you and your rooms dress alike. You have great “classic with an edge” taste, which is one of the reasons your blog is so popular. I like classic with edge too….I have a vintage motorcycle jacket, really beaten up, but it fits, that I like to wear with strings of pearls.

    I’m not sure I can say I dress like my apartment, but I’m thrilled you loved #2, since I like your taste so much.

    #2 is actually my apartment. It’s small and dark (I’m not) so I played it up with a rich croissant wall color (liked it for the burlap drapery) and a lot of black and dk brown. It’s looks more like an intimate pied-a-terre rather than a way too small studio….any time of day, though better at nite. If I didn’t know otherwise, I’d think the place belongs to some sophisticated gay guy rather than a single white female, with cats.

    My alter-ego? Good grief, must be too long since the last boyfriend!

    Anyway…hope all is well with you…
    PS…your grandmother is forgiven, that photo was taken in the 70’s. She’s just having a “back in the day” moment….

  3. I cant believe that’s your apartment!!!! Hmmm…. It looks like you should be wearing tweed with elbow patches! But I love that! Who doesnt love a good elbow patch! Very good job it looks warm and inviting and very sophisticated! You have such a dapper alter ego!

    Btw, did I mention that my bedroom is not simply black and white, the walls are black! People think that painting rooms a dark color makes them feel smaller, I find that it makes them look more expensive somehow, plus cozier and warmer…

    My husband cant get over that when we eat by my grandmas house she has hand made antique lace tablecloths, but she covers the tablecloth with a throwaway clear plastic one! I guess bad habits are hard to break, but honestly, if I had tablecloths worth thousands of dollars I might do the same thing!

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