Yes, you read that right, I’m talking about neutrals despite my crusade to #banthebeige. I just can’t swerve the topic any longer because the new neutrals are one of interiors biggest trends in 2021. While the new neutrals are not a million miles away from my arch enemy beige, there in one thing to be thankful for, the new trend for warmer neutrals is finally kicking out the colder tones of grey for good!
Ruminating on why more people are pulled towards the warmer paler shades right now, I think it’s all to do with how we want to feel. During this unsettling year spending more time at home than ever before, so many of us are seeking solace and comfort, peace and reassurance. There is something very non threatening about a warm ecru, cream, stone, or bamboo. And it’s no surprise the words we use to describe these neutral shades are based in nature. The colours of the natural earth are grounding and calming so it follows that the ‘new neutrals’ trend has come to the forefront of how we decorate.
Colours and tones
All the paint companies are on board with the new neutral trend as seen in their new collections.
Little Greene has launched a new colour card dedicated to warm neutrals called the Stone collection, which it describes as ‘a new palette of natural colours offering warmth, tranquillity, timelessness and harmony.’ Doesn’t it sound compelling! And helpfully they have created scales which means they have grouped families of colours together that you could use throughout your scheme or indeed your home with the confidence that they all sit next together harmonioulsy because they share the same undertone.
I love how that yellow chair slices through the warm tones and textures in this hallway. Ceiling & Arch, Slaked Lime 105 in Absolute Matt Emulsion; Upper Wall, Lute 317 in Intelligent Matt; Lower Wall, Pompeian Ash 293 in Intelligent Matt; Dado Rail & Skirting, Pompeian Ash 293 in Intelligent Eggshell, all Little Greene.
Little Greene’s Creative Director, Ruth Mottershead says:
‘Our households have become our haven, whether working or relaxing we are all spending an increased amount of time at home. We are searching for interiors that are comforting, which is driving the desire to create cocooning, cosy spaces – the colours of stone are indefinably beautiful, so pleasing to the eye and soothing for the soul. There is certainly a shift away from cooler greys towards warmer hues and the warm neutrals that the Stone palette provides are perfect for creating restful living spaces, whilst absolutely attaining elegance in both contemporary and classical settings. This is not about a return to beige or magnolia, it’s about using these new neutrals to create interiors that are smart and inviting.’
But to take neutrals to the next level, it’s all about what you put with your perfectly chic shade of taupe. I’d of course opt for an accent colour every time and I just adore how well this citrus yellow chair slices across the neutral backdrop. So if you love vibrant artwork, flamboyant accessories or plush furniture, your soft neutral back drop with allow it to be the start of the show.
With this warmer neutral as a backdrop you know you can add other warm hues like pink, coral, saffron and chocolate effortlessly. Crumpet Sofa by Loaf.
Designing a neutral scheme may sound like an easy task but it is probably one of the most difficult things to get right. My biggest bugbear with the beige is that I think too many people opt for it out of fear or lack of confidence and think it’s easy. I’m here to tell you it’s not! You may think neutrals go with anything and you can just layer the beige upon more beige! But beware that you may end up with a scheme that just looks a bit meh. I maintain that to make a neutral scheme sing you need to invest. Where there is a lack of colour the eye needs texture and line to delight in. So make sure you choose elegantly shaped furniture. Play with contrasting textures and mix rough next to smooth and I, of course, recommend a neutral backdrop needs even the smallest touches of colour and pattern to help it sing!
The light inducing milky tones create a sense of space and the combination of natural textures add the much needed warmth. The Heritage collection by Dulux.
Without colour to distract us, texture becomes your biggest weapon. Dulux introduces the Heritage collection, (as the name suggests, colours are modern interpretations of classic shades from the history of British architecture and design) which includes a ton of warm neutrals but more importantly boasts a new finish they are calling Velvet; a silky finish to add texture and depth.
Marianne Shillingford, Creative Director of Dulux, was instrumental in the curation of the range and explains how “the rich, creamy formulation is easy to apply and dries to a premium matt finish which is tough enough to deal with everything real life throws at it.But the pure delight lies in how it feels to the touch.Soft and smooth like silk velvet. Now that is the kind of luxury every wall deserves. Who wouldn’t want to drape themselves and their walls in the finest velvet?”
The new neutrals is all about the feels!
Walls in School House White no.291, Modern Emulsion; Units in Setting Plaster no.231 in Modern Eggshell, both Farrow & Ball.
Farrow & Ball are on my bus and maintain that pink is a neutral! I just adore a pale warm pink as a neutral backdrop and I feel it has more interest then it’s beige based counterpart and yet see how happily it sits with all the natural tones like timber, stone, marble and copper.
Colour Curator and author at Farrow & Ball, Joa Studholme maintains that “the palette of colours we want to use in the home has expanded, we’re looking to introduce warmer tones, which add personality and elegance while still feeling comfortable.”
Shape and texture
The large Merlin pendant light by Pooky adds interest and texture and hits the perfect balance of surfaces with the polished floor, textured concrete effect wall and rattan. For similar wall effects, take a look at the concrete effect paint by Craig & Rose.
Aside from paint, the new neutrals are all about the textures and materials in our furnishings too. I’ve already written about the huge trend for natural bamboo and rattan but these artisan materials coupled with their warm honey tones really bring the neutral scheme to life! This image above is just a riot of texture; from the glossy concrete floor to the woven bamboo furniture, from the patina on the metal to the glossy glazed pottery and finally wow, that plaster effect wall treatment is giving me the thrills! There is not a lot of colour here but the effect is a feast for the eyes.
So what do you think of the new neutrals? I’ll admit I’m struggling to find much that’s ‘new’ apart from by moving away from the cool tones towards the warm, they are not grey. And grey has been the dominant story for the past ten years. But despite the hype, I’m not seeing anything ground breaking or particularly innovative with these palettes- but maybe that’s the whole point. The new neutrals are comforting in their familiarity!
My top tips for using neutrals
This isn’t just about wall colour, there must be a rich palette including the right balance of texture, pattern and tones to stop it looking flat and dull.
Up the texture with panelled walls and decorative mouldings
Add depth and interest with different tones of a similar colour and don’t be afraid to add an accent colour. Make sure it is harmonious with the overall warm neutral palette.
When you have a room that’s pared down something has to create a visual feast for the eye so choosing interesting shapes and silhouettes will help bring the scheme to life.
If your room is South facing be aware that the warmth of the sunlight could turn your warm neutral more yellow than you intended.
Paler shades will maximise the feeling of daylight, giving you another dose of Mother Natures mood boost.
Let the natural light flood in! If you have a dark north-facing room warm based colours work well but beware that unless you have layered lighting the overall effect will fall flat.