Decorating with Neutrals & Washed Color Palettes

Decorating with Neutrals & Washed Color Palettes

If you’ve been convinced by glossy magazines that neutrals are boring, we’re here to buck that longstanding myth! Our Ballard Designs stylists prove every day that neutral and washed color palettes can be cozy, warm, and inviting, and we’re going to share with you a few ways we give some of our favorite neutral rooms extra personality and interest!

Mix Metals

If you look closely, you’ll notice that the dining room above, while it feels inviting and  serene, it actually mixes together gold and silver metal finishes. Our new Verona Chandelier has a blue-gray painted frame with gold arms and accents which mixes beautifully with the bold, brass nailheads on our Capistrano dining chairs. While the chairs and the Verona chandelier relate nicely, the drapery rods on the far wall and our ever popular Grand Palais mirror bring in a silver accents, proving that yes, you can mix metals and still create a serene and cohesive space! If you’d like to introduce both warm and cool metal finishes in a room, it should look intentional, so use each finish at least twice and be sure your use of both is balanced.

Decorating with neutral color palettes

Balance light and dark

Another rule of thumb when working with a primarily neutral color palette is to balance the light and dark elements. In the living room above, most of main elements are in varying shades of white, from the wall color to the upholstered sofa and chairs. In order to create balance, we used dark accents throughout the space, like a wooden coffee table stained in a rich hue to ground the room and a dark iron chandelier which pops against creamy walls.

Washed color palettes

Introduce Colors in Washed Shades

If you’re itching to introduce color into a primarily neutral room, we love the serene, tailored feel washed colors give to creams and taupes. Though the foundation of the space above is built around creams and tan, but a few touches in washed shades of blue give this bedroom extra personality. Our Jardin Toile bedding in spa brings in just the perfect touch of personality, and light blue mats on a collection of botanical prints tie everything together.

Incorporate varying wood tones

 Incorporate varying wood tones

Wood is a staple in any space, whether you have a media armoire in a family room, a large farmhouse table in the dining room, or an upholstered bed with exposed wooden legs. Wood finishes bring a warmth to every space, but one of our favorite ways to up the personality of a room is to mix wood finishes together. In the office above, we’ve blended three different wood finishes, creating a space that while neutral, feels interesting and inspiring. The exposed legs on the Upholstered Couture Chair have a driftwood finish, the Isabella desk has a lighter, washed Belgian Oak finish, and the Antoinette Bench on the far wall has a cream painted finish.

Living room with neutral color palette

Keep it open and airy

We love the way the room above has an openness about it. One way in which you can accomplish this in your own space is by incorporating furniture pieces that have exposed legs. In the space above, our new Clervaux Tufted Ottoman, our Cecily Armless Chair, and our Olivia Mirrored Side Table all have an openness to them which gives the room an airy feeling.

For an even more open look, choose draperies that are either the same color or just a touch darker than the walls. The effect is modern, open, and effortless!

Embrace simplicity

Embrace simplicity

We often find that some of the most impactful rooms from our catalogs are the simplest. The room above graced our cover, and we love how pulled together yet effortless it feels. Taking its cue from the gorgeous span of windows and leafy canopies it overlooks, this space highlights the view by keeping the main elements clean and crisp.

Browse more decorating inspiration on our Pinterest boards.

How to Decorate Team

How to Decorate Team

We enjoy spending days interacting with How to Decorate readers. From answering Design Dilemmas to writing How To articles and working with guest designers, our passion is to provide informative and accurate resources to help people solve their design problems.



  1. Reply

    Lee Avnet

    October 25, 2017

    I absolutely love the striped ottomans in second photo. Where are those from?

    • Caroline McDonald

      Caroline McDonald

      October 26, 2017

      Those are our Cooper Cubes in a striped fabric that we no longer carry, although we do have lots of striped fabrics to choose from! So glad you like them. Thanks for reading.

  2. Reply


    September 27, 2017

    Hello! Could you please tell where we can buy dark chandelier in the second picture?

  3. Reply


    September 13, 2017

    What did you get the tree in the livain’t room? I absolutely love it!

    • Caroline McDonald

      Caroline McDonald

      September 14, 2017

      That is our Potted Olive Tree. So glad you like it!

  4. Reply


    June 30, 2017

    Beautiful Photos! What sofa are you showing in room five?
    Thanks, Susan

    • Reply

      Annika Dupree

      July 10, 2017

      Hi Susan,
      Unfortunately, the sofa shown is an older product that is no longer available. However, we do currently offer the “Candace Loveseat”, which is very similar to the one shown in the picture and you may even like it better!
      You can find the “Candace Loveseat” on our website here:

  5. Reply


    February 2, 2017

    I enjoyed this post, but please reduce the size of your header. I could not see all of any of the rooms pictured because the header took up so much space at the top!

  6. Reply


    July 26, 2016

    where are those framed florals from with the blue border?

  7. Reply


    May 15, 2016

    Hi there, can you tell me the type and shade of the wood used on the floor? Is it solid wood or laminate? Many thanks, Emer

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      May 16, 2016

      I’m so sorry, but we don’t have any information about the floor type or color!

  8. Reply


    March 31, 2016

    Also, what is the round metal side table in the Open and Airy photo? Love Ballard Designs btw!!!! 🙂

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      April 1, 2016

      Thanks for your comment. That’s our Olivia 30″ Side Table.
      Happy Decorating!

  9. Reply


    March 31, 2016

    Hi! In the first photo is the round table, the Andrews pedestal table? If so, is it shown in the Whitewash finish? Thanks!

  10. Reply

    Georgia Morgan

    January 17, 2016

    What color is the braided jute rug in the living room picture? Is it the natural or driftwood?

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      January 20, 2016

      Hi Georgia,
      It’s natural.