Neutral paint colors have always been in style and always will be. But defining a "neutral" color can be more difficult than you imagine. By the traditional definition, a neutral is any color that doesn't fall into any of the standard families associated with the color wheel. These include the gray, brown, and white families. Neutral colors such as taupe, off-whites, and light grays do not have a deﬁnitive color, so they almost never cause discord with furnishings and other color schemes. These "none-colors" are virtually foolproof since they easily support all other colors.
More recently, interior designers have broadened the definition of "neutral" to include shades that have definite undertones of a definable color. Most color families will now include a neutral or two that is predominantly taupe, off-white, or gray, but with a very subtle hint of color.
Whether a classic neutral or a subtle variation within a color family, a neutral paint color has many advantages in a room design:
- They are flexible, classic colors that are always in style.
- They are perfect for people who are unsure of their color preferences, or who change their minds a lot. A room's color scheme can be changed merely by switching accents against the neutral background.
- They are ideal for people who prefer bright, colorful accents and furniture.
- The overall effect of neutral paint is to make a room restful and relaxing.
- Color Family: Varies and can lean into grays, taupe, beiges, greiges, and even whites
- Complementary Colors: They work with virtually all colors because they're neutral
- Pairs Well With: Most colors pair well with these neutrals
- Mood: Calming
- Where to Use: Great for living rooms, bedrooms, dining rooms, offices
Here are 10 of the best neutral paint colors for your home's interior walls.
01 of 10
Benjamin Moore’s Pale Oak (OC-20) is a go-to paint color for any room where you want to add warmth and serenity. It’s a complex and layered color that can appear gray, oak/taupe, or off-white, depending on the time of day and other colors in the room. Pale Oak lends the same quiet peacefulness that a thin layer of early morning fog bestows on an early morning valley.
"This color is versatile with any design style—from coastal to contemporary to traditional," according to Noelle Micek Interiors. "We have used it in bedrooms, dining rooms, and even bathrooms!"
02 of 10
Revere Pewter (HC-172) from Benjamin Moore is always at the top of the "Best Neutral Paint Colors" lists. According to Caroline Lizarraga, interior designer and decorative artist, "My go-to neutral is Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter. I love using this color for several reasons. It is a warm gray and tends to look great with pops of color, black, and of course white. I also find that it works in every light, a room with tons of natural light or small windowless space. Lastly, it is a color that has a lot of depth, so it goes in a lovely direction, no matter what you pair with it."
03 of 10
Designers have recently coined the term "greige" to identify a marriage of gray and beige neutrals that combine the best qualities of both.
"The new go-to neutral is GREIGE!" says Lisa Lorino, of LJL designs. "Greiges have a wonderful softness to them with subtle undertones of beige, keeping them from falling flat. There are so many good greige colors out there but my go-to favorites are Benjamin Moore's Gray Cashmere (2136-60), Sherwin Williams' Repose Gray (SW 7015), and Farrow and Ball's Pavilion Gray (242)."
04 of 10
Whites are a classic favorite neutral. There is a warm white paint color appropriate for every room. "Every designer swears by white and while I've tested and sampled plenty of the classics, I still gravitate towards my favorite, Dunn Edwards Swiss Coffee (DEW341)," says Irene Lovett, of designstiles. "Its creamy undertones keep it from appearing too cold and flat. It adds the right amount of warmth while still feeling crisp and clean in a kitchen with modern appliances."Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
Elissa Morgante, a co-principal at Morgante Wilson, has a favorite pairing of a white and a cool neutral.
"Benjamin Moore's White Dove (OC-17) is my favorite white. It seems to provide a gentle contrast and pop to any color your put with it, so it is my go-to trim color," she says. "My go-to cool neutral is Benjamin Moore's Balboa Mist (OC-27). The great quality about this color is that different tones come through at different times of day, or as you change the light source, so it works well with a variety of color palettes."
When painting baseboards and trim, beginners might find painter's tape useful to help prevent mistakes.
06 of 10
Designer Bea Pila of B. Pila Design loves incorporating dramatic colors in her projects. However, one of her go-to colors is Benjamin Moore's Cloud White (OC-130), whether for a full neutral look or to blend with vibrant hues. "It's interesting because of all the colors out there, I find the most difficult to choose is white," she says. "Either it's too grey and cold, too yellow, too pink, or picks up too much of some other hue. Cloud White is the perfect neutral. On a wall, it creates a beautiful airy effect, but it's also a great accent against other colors and I tend to use it on ceilings, trims, and molds as well."
07 of 10
A fresh white paint color can be ideal for highlighting woodwork and stone features. As Morgan Farrow, senior designer at Tatum Brown Interiors observes, "The benefit to finding a great, classic neutral is the flexibility it gives you. Essentially creating a blank canvas to work with. I love Sherwin-Williams' Alabaster White (SW 7008)—it really freshens up a room, while giving it a touch of warmth. Alabaster White helps create a warm and inviting feel, and provides a neutral base that art and furnishings can really pop against."
Determine how much paint you need with The Spruce's Paint Calculator (below).
08 of 10
Sherwin-Williams' Sea Salt (SW 6204) is one of the most beloved, classic neutrals available, largely because it has that tiny hint of color that can go in either a subtle green, blue, or gray direction depending on the light. It's more cool than warm which brightens up a room without making it feel stark. "Cooler colors recede and make the space feel larger," says Jessica Klein, interior designer in the New England area. Sea Salt is on Jessica's short list of favorite neutrals and she recommends using this color in a room that gets plenty of natural light to bring out its best hues.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10
White, the ultimate neutral, is a pretty tough nut to crack when it comes to choosing the perfect one. There's one white neutral that rises to the top of designer's lists just about every time, and that's Benjamin Moore's Chantilly Lace (OC-65). Erica Van Slyke, interior designer and blogger at Designing Vibes, says it best in her experience of trying to find the perfect neutral. "I was on a mission to find the best, bright/crisp white, free of any yellow undertones, which may translate into a mucky effect," she says. "Chantilly Lace is definitely more of a crisp white with grey and blue undertones, thankfully it never feels stark or sterile to me." Erica also suggests using plenty of textured earthy tones and warm neutrals in rooms painted with Chantilly Lace.
10 of 10
At first glance, Sherwin-Williams Repose Gray (SW 7015) and Benjamin Moore's Revere Pewter will look alike. But there are definite differences that keep these two classic neutrals tops on most designers' lists. "Repose Gray is warm, but it is definitely not as warm as Revere Pewter," says Erica Van Slyke, interior designer and blogger at Designing Vibes, "As a result of its middle ground on the warmth spectrum, it never reads brown or muddy. Repose Gray has the least amount of undertones, just warm gray and beige, which creates its greige softness that pairs best with creamy whites.
Understanding a paint's undertones is half the battle to choosing the right neutral. An undertone is created from the tiny bits of color added to the base to create the hue. Some neutral paint undertones could make your entire room look dull and dingy or perfectly crisp and balanced. Sample, sample, and then sample more with paint choices on all walls of the room.