Neutral hues can placate ‘color-phobes’

“Grey is a colour that always seems on the eve of changing to some other colour.” — G. K. Chesterton (1874-1962), English writer, “The Glory of Grey,” Alarms and Discussions (1910)

At the recent furniture market here in Las Vegas, I was very impressed with a lot of color exhibits. And I decided that I have a new favorite, too. More on that later.

So don’t a lot of folks wish a lot of colors would change to some other color? Color versus noncolor. Where do you fall in this decorating dilemma? As hard as it is to believe, color is one of the biggest decisions for a lot of people when it comes to changing their decor.

Many are afraid of color. I’m not totally clear on exactly what that means. What is the fear? Will it hurt you? No. Will it make you sick? No. Will it rob you? No. Color has a lot of implications, but doing harm is not one of them.

So you don’t like color. That’s so perfectly OK, but if you’re not going to use color in your home, do the noncolor thing right.

White walls and white furnishings are often used as backdrops for art — sort of “galleryish.” There’s no competition to the color in the art and, consequently, it really pops against a white wall. If you have the caliber of an art collection that yells out for white walls, then, by all means, go with the white.

But for all of the other “color-phobes,” a neutral color scheme is just what the decorating doctor ordered for you.

Neutral color schemes are often compared to black and white photography. This type of photography places more emphasis on the subject than anything to detract, such as color. The light and dark of the photo take on more importance.

The same is true in a neutral color scheme. It doesn’t have to be boring or bland and, in fact, can be very beautiful and interesting. Each piece takes on a major role in the overall look. And, I must say, I have friends who do it beautifully.

The key to a successful neutral color scheme is the selection of proper neutrals. For instance, bright white upholstered furniture, white walls, white shades or window panels: Now this is scary. It’s too stark, cold and uninviting.

Beautiful taupes, grays and off-whites are luxurious, elegant and warm. Any combination in these “color” families, along with a mixture of textures, will create a serene, welcoming space.

Just like the quote from Chesterton, grays and other neutrals always look like they could almost be some other color. Ah, the beauty of neutrals.

Soft, textured rugs, a variety of fabrics and finishes in pillows and throws, and subtle color on the walls add up to a perfect palette. And you can always pop the neutral scheme with a little color but not too much. If you add too much color, you will ruin the effect of the neutrals. And it might scare you.

By the way, there are other benefits to having a neutral color scheme. If your furniture and accessories blend together, it is easier to use them in different rooms or spaces if you should move or just want to repurpose a room. Keep in mind that you can do that if you have colorful furnishings and accessories, but, oh, we’re not talking about color because it scares some of you.

As usual, I prefer a fun and playful approach to design, just as I do with most other things. Picking colorful belongings or neutral ones is a very personal choice.

Have fun with your selections, but take a little more time if you go neutral. Selecting just the right tones and textures will make you much happier and be worth the time spent to pull it together.

So I told you I had decided on a “new” color for me. Well, it turns out it’s blue. Never been a favorite until now. So it won’t be long until we talk about blue.

Carolyn Muse Grant is a founder and past president of the Architectural and Decorative Arts Society, as well as an interior design consultant and stylist specializing in home staging. She can be reached at

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