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8 Elegant Tips for Designing a Neutral Living Space

Adobe Stock / nikolarakic

These subtle designs don’t vie for attention but instead create understated, elegant spaces that allow for relaxation in the Hudson Valley.

By Susannah Hutchison, Houzz

There’s nothing in-your-face about a neutral living room, but that’s the point. These subtle designs don’t vie for attention but instead create understated, elegant spaces that allow the senses to relax. There are many ways to interpret the look to suit the style of your room and, of course, personal taste. Check out the examples below for inspiration.

82mmphotography, original photo on Houzz

1. Use the room’s features. If you’re lucky enough to have striking period features in your living room — like this lovely big bay window and elegant fireplace — it makes sense not to detract from them with an overly detailed design. This is where a classic neutral palette can pay dividends. In this space, beige sofas with period-style turned-wood legs perfectly complement the proportions of the room.

Ryan Wicks Photography Ltd, original photo on Houzz

2. Center with black. Banish any ’80s corporate connotations with a gentler take on black furniture. In this rustic living room, an oversized, low-slung velvet footstool works as a focal point between the two cream sofas, but the soft fabric and curved lines mean it doesn’t look out of place in the predominantly neutral room. The black picture frames help tie it in, too.

Alexander Waterworth Interiors LTD, original photo on Houzz

3. Mix in some dark wood. Pale woods such as birch, stripped pine, and light oak are longtime fixtures on the neutral scene, but dark woods can look just as at home. Choose pieces with slim, elegant lines, such as the chair frame and shelving shown here, to provide a sophisticated contrast to the neutral palette.

4. Choose a centerpiece light. When there’s a lack of color in the décor, a striking ceiling light works well as a focal point to draw the eye into the middle of the room. Leaving the rest of the design plain, without fussy pillows or curtains, lends a contemporary feel.

Stephanie Dunning Interior Design, original photo on Houzz

5. Try stripes. If ultra plain is too severe for your tastes, introduce classic stripes into the mix. Stick to a muted palette, using something like the taupes and pale grays seen here, but use stripes (or checks) to create subtle interest. A bit of pattern on a sofa is also more forgiving on the upkeep front than a single pale color.

Bonaventura Architect, original photo on Houzz

6. Hang pictures creatively. In a compact or narrow room, opting for neutral furniture is a smart choice as it keeps things feeling open and allows for creative, decorative touches to stand out. For example, here the gallery of pictures on the narrow wall between the windows grabs your attention.

7. Green up with plants. One of the easiest ways to bring a plain room to life (quite literally) is to add some plants. Whether you go for a large, tropical-style centerpiece or a more subtle collection of succulents, plants provide an instant pick-me-up in any room. Growing conditions vary — some plants need lots of water, some very little, so check when you buy to get the most out of your new green roommates.

marciosuster.com, original photo on Houzz

8. Introduce subtle pattern. By keeping the main elements plain — such as the sofa, curtains and chairs seen here — there’s room to add muted pattern with other textiles. A two-tone rug, a small pouf and gently patterned pillows all add color but stick to the soothing pale theme.

Related: Upcycle Antiques With These 7 Tips

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