A lot of people want to paint their home in neutral colors. And understandably so—neutral paint colors give you a blank canvas, a backdrop against which you can decorate the rest of your home with color!
Decorating with neutral colors—especially when it comes to paint color—is a popular interior design idea, because a neutral color palette goes with everything. Neutral paint colors provide an easy base to any room, allowing you to truly personalize your space. They’re chameleon colors that take on the tones and personality of the rest of your space.
But deciding what neutral to go with is where many people get stuck. In fact, it can be downright overwhelming! How do you know which shade of neutral is right for your space? Do you go for more of a beige, white, or gray paint? Or something more bold?? Blue or yellow undertones? Warm or cool shades? What will the color look like in the morning light versus the afternoon?
When it comes to paint colors, there are hundreds of shades of neutrals to choose from. And when looking at paint swatches, you may find your eyes start to cross as you try to notice the subtle, nuanced difference between each shade of white paint. Don’t be intimidated. We’re here to help.
What Are Neutral Paint Colors?
A lot of people assume “neutral” means white or beige. But neutral paint colors are actually much more diverse! They can also include grays, blues, greens, browns, and even some very light pinks. Essentially, a neutral is any color that doesn’t add its own personality to the space. It’s a color that doesn’t command the space but supports it, creating a good backdrop.
How Do You Decorate With Neutral Colors?
When it comes to decorating with neutral colors, you can go a couple different directions. You can go for an all-neutral color palette, where not only your walls are painted a neutral tone, but your furniture and decor are also shades of neutral. The key to this approach is to vary the shades of neutrals (but in complementary tones) so that you have a dynamic space that doesn’t look flat.
You can also do neutrals with added contrast. Think: a black and white color palette. Or even a neutral in a deep, saturated tone like a navy or charcoal gray. These are still neutrals, since they go with just about anything and create a good backdrop—but their saturated tones create a more dramatic, high-contrast look.
A third, and popular, approach to decorating with neutrals is to use neutral paint colors as a backdrop, then add pops of color in the furniture and decor. This is a great approach to design, as it allows you to pick bold furniture colors or switch out colors and decor seasonally to give your space new life, without having to re-paint your space. It’s also a way to have a timeless look while still adding moments of color and personality.
Warm Neutrals Vs. Cool Neutrals
Here’s something you may not have realized: all colors, including neutrals, have a cool or warm tint to them. And neutral colors are no different—they all have warm or cool undertones.
Curious about the difference between warm and cool tones and how to spot it? Neutrals with cool undertones skew more blue or green (this includes most grays). Meanwhile, warm neutrals have more red or yellow undertones (which includes tans and browns). Warm colors have a stimulating effect, whereas cool colors tend to have more calming and relaxing vibes.
With that in mind, it’s also important to consider the other colors in your space—from your furniture to your rug, art, and decor. This can help you determine if you want to go for a neutral with a warm or cool undertone. You should also consider your light sources—both natural and artificial. And remember, lighting changes throughout the day. So, you may even want to test a few swatches and see the subtle ways that they change throughout the day as the light shifts.
But, overall, if you want a cozier feel to your space, go for a neutral with warm undertones. And if you want to give your space a more open, airy vibe, go for a neutral with cool undertones.
Choosing Your Neutral
Instead of testing a million different shades of neutrals in your space, we’re going to do some of the leg work for you. We’ve rounded up six of the best neutral paint colors and what styles and types of spaces they’re best for. You’ll be able to see each paint color in the same space so you can see the subtle difference between each shade.
Best Cozy Neutral: Revere Pewter, Benjamin Moore
This light gray paint color has warm undertones and has very calming, cozy vibes. It’s the kind of neutral paint color that you’d want for the walls of a cottage—making it great for rustic spaces. And, with its warm gray undertones, it’s more forgiving of scuffs and smudges.
In the room above, you’ll notice that the paint color complements the neutral furniture and the warmth of the wood tones. It would also look great with saturated earth tones. It’s a good neutral paint color for balancing out darker wood—but it’s not an ideal shade for spaces with lighter woods. We also wouldn’t recommend this shade for spaces with colorful furniture; the undertones of this wall color work better with other neutrals.
Best All-Around Neutral: Agreeable Gray, Sherwin-Williams
Agreeable Gray is on the cooler end of the color spectrum, with slight green undertones. Since it’s a cool neutral, it can be a good backdrop for warmer neutrals—and you’ll notice that it goes really well with the furniture in this space. We think that this paint color, of all the ones featured in this post, works best for this specific room.
Our designers feel this is the all-around best neutral paint color of the bunch. It doesn’t assert itself too much, but it holds up against neutrals and pops of color alike—making it versatile and a perfect backdrop for any interior design style.
Best Bright White: Pure White, Sherwin-Williams
This is definitely the starkest neutral of the bunch—but in a good way. It’s a shade that has become famous from its use by bloggers across the internet, heralded as one of the best neutral paint colors if you’re looking for a bright, pure white. It’s a great choice if you like color, as it makes colors of all kinds pop. In fact, you almost need pops of color or contrast with this shade of white paint. While it goes well with neutrals, it falls flat without pops of color. In the room above, putting a plant in the corner would add some of that needed color contrast, making the space feel less sterile and really come alive!
It has slightly warm undertones and works well with all types of wood tones. However, it’s better in areas with less movement near the walls—like a living room or dining room—as it’s not as forgiving of smudges and scuffs.
Best Versatile White: Decorator’s White, Benjamin Moore
This shade of white paint, while similar to the one above, goes in a cooler direction. With that, it has more of a formal vibe, creating a serene and tranquil space. It goes with neutrals and pops of color, alike, making it a very versatile shade of white.
Unlike Pure White, Decorator’s White is more forgiving, as it has more gradation when you look at it from far away. This makes it a better choice for high-traffic areas like entryways.
Best For Colorful Spaces: Slipper Satin, Farrow & Ball
Slipper Satin is a creamier version of Decorator’s White. It has pink undertones and asserts itself in the room more than other neutral paint colors, which reflects on the other neutrals in the room. Because of that, this shade is best for when you don’t have a lot of neutrals in the room, as you don’t want them taking on a pink tone. So, choose this shade in a room with colorful furniture and a colorful rug.
This is also a good shade for a gender-neutral nursery. It’s not grey, which is a typical shade for a gender-neutral nursery, but it’s still soft and cozy. With it’s pink undertones, it would also be a nice compliment to pink furniture or bedding, but it’s so subtle that you wouldn’t have to re-do it when your kid grows out of their pink phase!
Best For Homes With Kids: Amazing Gray, Sherwin-Williams
If you want a “greige” (aka a gray-ish beige) this is the color for you. Even though it has slightly green undertones, it has a feeling of warmth. It’s definitely the most gray of the bunch, and it complements neutrals and cool colors well. A blue sofa would look great against this wall color!
This is a great choice if you want neutral walls but in a more forgiving shade. (Parents know what we’re talking about!) It has a layered look, with more depth, which helps camouflage smudges that inevitably end up on the walls when you have kids.
Need help finding the right neutral paint colors for your space?