How to Decorate a Neutral Living Room

Front view of a rattan console table in a neutral living room

The Spruce / Jacob Fox

Think neutral color schemes are boring? Nothing could be further from the truth. Neutral living rooms can be calm and relaxing, but they can also be fun, energetic, and full of life. The key is to use a variety of complementary tones, mix materials, and play with patterns​—just like you would with any other color palette.

Use Pattern and Texture

When decorating with a neutral color scheme, it's important to bring in a variety of patterns and textures. By offsetting rough with soft, shiny with matte, and coarse with smooth, you create depth and interest, making the room more dynamic. Think about using textures like linen, suede, velvet, cable knits, and sheepskin. When it comes to using textures in a neutral living room, you can almost never have too many. Patterns are similar; you need some to create contrast, but try to stick with the regular rules for mixing patterns.

Patterned pillows on a neutral sofa
Cultura Exclusive / Matelly / Getty Images

Create a Relaxing Atmosphere

If you want to create a relaxing retreat, a neutral color palette is the way to go. In this neutral living room from Income Property, a large linen-colored sectional fills one corner and is enhanced by a collection of throw pillows. Notice that the pillows are all different shades of similar, light neutrals––just enough to create interest without causing visual clutter. Even though there's blue in the room, it's soft enough that it reads as neutral, a clever trick that can be accomplished with almost any pastel shade. A taupe area rug sits on a foundation of dark wood for contrast, and the walls, window treatments, and accessories are all various shades of ivory, beige, and taupe. Together, they create an environment that encourages rest and relaxation.

A neutral sectional sofa in a large living room
Skit Inc.

Add Sophistication With Gray

Sophistication is easy to achieve with neutral tones. In this photo, a single gray tone has been accented with luxurious details. Floor-to-ceiling drapes, button tufting, and reflective surfaces contribute to the luxe look, creating an atmosphere of sophistication. More elegant than brown and more versatile than taupe, gray is a flexible shade that can work in just about any room.

Gray living room with luxury details
ED REEVE / Getty Images

Include Architectural Details

There's more to decorating neutral rooms than just furniture and wall colors. To add interest to a neutral living room, think about including architectural details, such as ceiling beams, shiplap, wainscoting, decorative columns, and even crown molding. These elements have a dramatic impact on rooms with neutral color schemes. Remember, too, that neutral doesn't have to mean white—the reclaimed wood beams in this room provide contrast to the all-white decor, making the room visually dynamic.

Neutral living room with reclaimed wood details
Benjamin Moore

Make it Family-Friendly

A neutral living room can be very livable and family-friendly, as evidenced here by Sidra's living room. Part of the reason in this example is the darker neutrals, like brown and black, and the use of patterns. People often associate neutral with white, but neutrals are generally considered to be any colors that don’t make an appearance on the color wheel. By this definition, a neutral living room can be white, black, gray, or shades of brown and taupe. Unlike an all-white room, a room full of dark neutrals invites people to kick back and relax without fear of getting things dirty.

Transitional living room with a neutral color palette
Skit Inc.

Create a Luxe Look

A neutral living room does not have to be bland. In fact, all-neutral rooms can be super chic and glamorous. This room uses a combination of elements to create the effect. Applied molding on the walls, button tufting on the sofa, and the use of reflective surfaces such as glass, mirror, chrome, and silver all combine to create a luxurious atmosphere. Just because a room has a neutral color palette doesn't mean it can't have a little sparkle!

Luxurious white living room

Direct Painting Group

Embrace Modern Styling

If your decorating style leans towards modern or contemporary, a neutral color scheme is something you should seriously consider. Black, white, beige, and gray lend themselves well to the simplicity of contemporary and midcentury modern decor. As always, remember to include a variety of textures and tones to keep it from falling flat.

A modern, neutral living room
Skit Inc

Don't Forget the Details

If you don’t pay attention to the little details, you run the risk of ending up with a bland and boring space. Even in this minimalist neutral living room, the subtle details like the textured feature wall and springbok pillows prevent it from being boring. It retains its simplicity but is still comfortable.

A cozy living room
Westend61 / Getty Images

Add Comfort and Warmth

Every neutral living room needs a little warmth. There are a few ways to accomplish this. One is through the use of soft textures that feel nice to the touch. Think about using velvet, wool, chenille, and microsuede. Another is through using neutrals with warm undertones. For example, if gray is your neutral of choice, consider a shade with brown undertones instead of blue undertones. And finally, to add warmth, include some wood tones. Wood adds depth to any space, so pop in some wood tables or side chairs with wooden legs. A little bit can go a long way. If wood isn't your style, metals such as brass and bronze can also help add warmth.

Comfy neutral living room
Patti McConville / Getty Images