How to Create a Neutral Color Scheme

A kitchen with a neutral color scheme

When creating a neutral color scheme for their home—one that doesn't include strong colors that stand out—people often think of beige. While there are, of course, hundreds of wonderful beige variations available, there is so much more to a neutral color scheme than just one color. 

When creating an interior or exterior neutral color scheme, the successful combination of colors is actually more important than the individual colors you select. And the key to any workable color scheme is ensuring the proper balance among the components.

Pair Dark and Light Neutral Colors

A color doesn't have to be light to be considered neutral. Dark neutrals include charcoal gray, dark brown, deep gold, navy blue, and black.

Use dark neutral colors for furnishings like sofas, chairs, and headboards. Dark neutrals can anchor a room in the form of an accent wall, an area rug, or window treatments. If you’re putting together a color scheme using a dark neutral, choose your dark color first.

Dark neutral colors look best with light neutrals with the same undertones or the same color temperatures like warm with warm and cool with cool. Learning about warm versus cool colors can give you a solid color foundation for building any color scheme.  A cool charcoal gray looks best with cool and light neutrals but can be accented with pops of warm non-neutral colors. A warm espresso brown looks great with warm light neutrals but can be accented with pops of cool color like aqua and blue. 

Create a Monochromatic Color Scheme

A monochromatic scheme is one of the best ways to create a stylish neutral color palette. If you’d like a sophisticated look in your home without having to worry about matching your colors, a monochromatic neutral scheme is a great choice.

The monochromatic color scheme starts with a color that you truly love and could easily live with. If deep espresso brown is your favorite color and you've bought a sofa and chairs in that color, you could build a monochromatic color scheme around your furniture. When you are creating a monochromatic scheme, you could use any of the colors that are varying shades of your dark neutral.


An easy way to create a monochromatic color scheme is to use a paint fan deck or single paint sample strip. In the majority of paint fan decks, the colors on one strip are simply lighter or darker shades of the same color. The color on the paint strip that would match a dark neutral would most likely be at the bottom of the strip. To keep the monochromatic scheme balanced, use a mix of shades from the top to the bottom of the paint strip.

Try Neutrals With Pops of Color

If you love the look of neutral walls and furniture but still want to express your creative side, a neutral color scheme paired with pops of color is a wonderful choice. The beauty of a neutral color scheme as a backdrop is that you have the freedom to easily add brighter or heavily saturated colors, and you can swap these colors out as often as you like, whether that's seasonally or when you're in the mood for a change.

Choose only two or three accent colors; things can get out of hand pretty quickly if you add too many bold colors to your neutral scheme. Choose colors from your favorite accessories and build from there. By sticking to a simple color palette, your home will feel more balanced.

When adding pops of color to your neutral color palette, your room will look more relaxed if you know how to use cool and warm colors. While you can pair a cool neutral color like gray with warm accents or a warm neutral like beige with cool accents, mixing both cool and warm accents with neutrals can look awkward. To find the right balance, it's essential to experiment with and edit accent colors.