Distributed in the UK by Benjamin Moore UK Ltd
formerly Shaw Paints Ltd
Be Inspired Explore Colour Find Products Stores About Us Contact Us Shopping Basket My Account My Favourites
Be Inspired Explore Colour Find Products Stores About Us
» Home
» Paint ideas, inspiration and colour ideas
» Colour & Style Guide Blog
» Ring the changes with new neutrals

Ring the changes with new neutrals

Ring the changes with new neutrals

Grounding colours that serve as an elegant backdrop to softly contemporary interiors.
By author and interiors journalist, Emma J Page
Editor, journalist and author, Emma's career writing about lifestyle, interiors and architecture spans newspapers, magazines and books. She regularly contributes to Homes & Gardens, Living Etc, The Times Magazine, House & Garden and The English home, among many others. She is the author of two interiors books and is currently working on her third.

While classic off-whites, putties and sand tones are deeply associated with the concept of neutral decorating, that's only part of the story. Step forward a clutch of purposeful hues, from pinky-brown to anchoring blue and grounding green - all essential in the colour arsenal when it comes to creating a restful canvas that still carries a little punch.
These new classics are a great way to decorate with flair while still incorporating understatement. The key is to use them confidently, taking in fitted joinery, architectural features and woodwork, for an elegant, intentional look.

Walls: Cotton Balls OC-122 Woodwork, Stair Risers and Door: Peale Green HC-121
Ceiling and Spindles: Chantilly Lace OC-65.

Form and flair

Many of us still associate understated schemes with pale tones, but it's also the case that darker colours make effective neutrals, whether that's through creating powerful accents with moss green painted stair risers and spindles, choosing a wine finish for tongue-and-groove woodwork, or a smart navy or powder blue on kitchen cabinetry.

(LEFT IMAGE) Woodwork, Panelling and Drawers: Forest Green 2047-10.
Walls and Window Trim: White Dove OC-17. Right Cabinets: Hollingsworth Green HC-141
(RIGHT IMAGE) Wall: Chestertown Buff HC-9. Bench: Gray Cashmere 2138-60.
Door, Panelling and Woodwork: Atrium White OC-145

The same goes for monochrome schemes - white walls complemented by off-black window frames and sills creates an immediately grounding feel, with light airy walls thrown into relief - and given a more contemporary twist - by moodier tones.

Walls : Calm 2111-70. Ceiling, Spindles and Door: Decorators White OC-149Stairs, Trim and Panellng: Black Knight 2136-10.

Think of a darker neutral as a canvas designed to highlight furniture, finishes and pattern. For example, alcove joinery painted in forest green, along with skirtings and trims, does an excellent job of grounding a vibrant floral wallpaper that carries the same green tones. Redolent of nature, deeper walls like this have the same effect as a forest showcasing colourful fauna, serving to almost disappear into the background without being insipid.

Headboard: Black Jack 2133-20. Walls: Gray Mist OC-30

A considered use of mid-to-dark greens, blues and burgundies applied in an all-over approach can also work well. Deep blues for libraries and snugs create a cloak-like feeling of containment and security.

Near Walls: Pale Oak OC-20. Near Trim: Cloud White OC-130. Far Study: Champion Cobalt 2061-20.

Key is to consider a room's orientation as well as its architectural features. North or east-facing spaces that don't receive much natural light benefit from blues with warm undertones, while cooler notes can be used in south or west facing schemes. Ceiling height, mouldings and the placement of windows will all impact how a dark neutral appears in a scheme. A room with higher ceilings will have more capacity to handle these shades without feeling too heavy.

Side Wall: Lily White 2128-70, Trim: Lily White 2128-70
Ceiling: Lily White 2128-70, Back Wall: Evening Dove 2128-30, Bathtub: Abyss 2128-20

Playing with finishes will subtly change the atmosphere of a scheme, too.

For example, powder blue in a lacquered finish looks exceptionally striking on fitted joinery, especially study or sitting room bookshelves. Add an extra level of detailing by treating cornicing and ceiling to the same colour for a luxurious feel. To lift the look of darker neutrals, pay attention to fixtures and handleware. These tones pair well with antique golds and brass, while mid-colour neutrals suit aged silver or a pewter finish.


Walls: Metropolitan AF-690. Countertop: Moonlight White 2143-60. Drawers: Hale Navy HC-154.

Wines and browns also offer a softly modern edge. For a contemporary take, try plaster-hued walls with joinery finished in burgundy. These tones offer a softening canvas that works well paired with simple, graphic furniture shapes and textured neutral upholstery for a modern, unfussy look.

Colour wash

The ultimate -new neutrals', plaster pink and soft blush, rose or terracotta offer a warmer alternative to traditional barely-there colours such as sand or beige hues, because of their soft yellow pigments. These tones are both forgiving and flattering and work beautifully as an all-over finish in living rooms or bedrooms (bolder pinks can look sugary due to their blue undertones, so choose a warm-based pink for a fresh, contemporary feel).

Wall: Melon Cup 101.

One-tone canvases are both peaceful and restorative, and can provide a mellow counterpoint to original features such as exposed eaves or ceiling mouldings.
Bear in mind that tone and texture go hand-in-hand: the most successful single colour interiors combine movement and depth with tactile pieces to create an interesting narrative.

Walls: Dream Whip 2174-60. Panelling: Mascarpone AF-20.

Build up layers to avoid a flat effect, pairing pink-toned walls with a boucl- sofa, a simple oak dining table, weathered wood pieces or rattan elements for added tactility. Knocked back sunshine tones also are also part of the new neutral family - instead of vanilla or buttermilk hues, turn to mustard or lemon.

Walls: Marry Me 1289. Ceiling, Door and Trim: White OC-151.

These mid-hued yellows are powerful enough to be noticed but understated enough to act as a sophisticated backdrop. Use them for bookshelves, joinery in laundry rooms, boot rooms and cloakrooms, paired with crisp white for a fresh, modern feel.

Upper Walls and Ceiling: White Heron OC-57. Lower Wall: Savannah Green 2150-30

A good rule for new neutral decorating is to take a favourite colour and opt for its knocked back version - burgundy instead of bright red; mustard instead of sunshine yellow; forest green instead of emerald and navy in favour of electric blue. Use these for the bones of your scheme, and you'll have a backdrop that is both considered and classic.

Cabinets: Evening Sky 833. Door, Wall and Woodwork: Calm OC-22.
Benjamin Moore UK Twitter
Benjamin Moore UK Facebook
Benjamin Moore UK Website
Sign up for news and offers
Follow us on
Renovation and Home Design
Benjamin Moore, the triangle "M" symbol, Aura, Regal Select, Natura, Green Promise and Gennex are all trademarks of Benjamin Moore & Co.

© 2015 - 2024: All design, text, images and the selection, alteration and arrangement of those elements are the copyright of Benjamin Moore UK Ltd or mentioned third parties, reproduced with their permission.
When you visit our website, we and our third party service providers may use cookies and similar technologies to collect information about you. We use this information to show you offers and products/services we think you might like, and to track usage of our websites. Our third party partners may also store tracking cookies and/or social media cookies and similar technologies when you visit our site and these cookies may be used to optimize user experience, track internet behavior, and provide targeted advertisements. You can change your cookie preferences or say no to all non-essential cookies at any time through our Cookie Settings.
Accept All Cookies
Privacy Preferences
When you visit our website, we may store or retrieve information on your browser in the form of cookies. This information might be about you, your preferences or your device and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to. The information does not usually directly identify you. You can choose not to allow some types of cookies below.

For more detailed information about the cookies we use, see our Privacy Policy.

Necessary cookies
These cookies enable our website to function properly. You can disable these cookies in your browser but this may result in our site not functioning correctly.

Performance cookies
These cookies allow us to count visits and traffic sources so we can measure and improve the performance of our site. They help us to know which pages are the most and least popular and see how visitors move around the site. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous.
Save & Close