Neutral Living Room Design Ideas

Is there anything more calming than a neutral living room? Perhaps. But there’s no denying the endless possibilities when you go with neutral furniture and accents in a living room.

For starters, it’s easy to find tons of inspiration for neutral living room ideas—from minimalist rooms with all-white decor to modern spaces decorated in all shades of gray. Even so, finding the right mix of furnishings and getting the look right for your neutral living room can often still feel challenging, if not incredibly daunting. That’s because neutral spaces are all about the details—the natural materials and varying textures, the neutral paint colors and nuanced tones, the contrast in hard lines and soft curves. Plus, you want to make sure all these neutral elements are in line with your personal aesthetic and lifestyle needs.

For some (neutral) guidance, here are our favorite neutral living room ideas to help you design your own cool and calming space.

Combine Varying Textures

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When you’re designing a neutral living room, you want to make sure there’s a good mix of textures. That means adding different pillows, rugs, poufs, and even artwork that give your room a bit of depth and extra softness. Just remember to stick to a neutral palette when choosing your accents.

If you’re after a white living room, a mix of textures is especially key. Think a white faux fur pillow with a fringe trim, a tightly woven patterned rug in black and white, or a smooth polished marble table. For more ideas, check out our guide to decorating with white and our tips on should you get a white sofa.

Mix Wood Tones

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Introducing wood furniture and decor is a great way to add texture and varying tones to a neutral living room.

Consider a mix of wood tones and finishes. A polished light wood with visible graining on a coffee table or side stool can bring a natural look and a sense of warmth to seating areas. Meanwhile, a darker stained wood, like walnut or mahogany, will give off a more formal feeling, which makes them perfect for dining chairs and cabinets in open living spaces.

If your neutral living room is starting to feel like a wash of whites, grays, and everything in between, a few wood pieces in light and dark tones is a great way to break up the monotonous palette.

Energize With Pattern

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If you think a neutral living room means zero patterns, you’ll be happy to know that it’s just the opposite. Patterns bring contrast and visual interest to spaces, so they’re all the more important in a neutral living room.

There are two easy approaches. You can add patterns made with natural materials, like a geometric natural-fiber rug and baskets with woven details, or you can keep to soft patterned accents in a neutral palette, like a black-and-white pillow, a striped gray throw blanket, or monochrome art. Or you can combine all of those elements into your neutral living room, as in this space. All to say, patterns will bring your neutral living room to life and allow you to show of your personality.


Embrace Architectural Elements

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The great thing about neutral palettes is that they allow you to play up architectural elements in a space, instead of competing with them. These can include architectural features, like exposed wood beams, a white brick fireplace, or pretty molding.

If you’re working with a neutral living room that has a bold fireplace, as in this space, you can look to its colors and materials for inspiration for the rest of your furnishings. For instance, the white brick provides the perfect jumping-off point for the grey-white sofa and ceramic items on the self, while the wood shelf is balanced with the lighter tones of the coffee table and cabinet.

Another trick that always works in a neutral living room? A symmetrical layout, which are a great option for spaces like this one that have a fireplace in the middle of the main wall.

Create Depth With Contrast

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Contrast is key in neutral living rooms. They can always benefit from pops of darker tone neutrals, like deep grays and black, which bring a warmer feeling to the space.

If you’re not sure where to start, try anchoring your neutral living room with a large white furniture piece, then add darker monochrome accents around it. Look to small textured pieces, like a black ceramic vase or a soft gray pillow. Not only will they create contrast, but they’ll also add depth through their different textures. Also consider various shades of brown, which makes for a richer, natural touch of color in a neutral living room.

Add Sculptural Forms

Neutral living room with boucle loveseat

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Add sculptural design elements that direct focus to give a neutral living room more visual interest. Items like the love seat in the design above are a fantastic way to show your style, and because they are in a neutral color scheme, you don’t have to worry about them seeming too bold or flashy.

The best way is to bring in sculptural furniture pieces with interesting shapes, like a sofa with a curved back or a freeform silhouette, modern tables with bold bases, or a statement floor lamp or chandelier. There are no rules when it comes to sculptural designs for a neutral living room, except that you should place them in a prominent place to look almost like an art piece.

Hack Color With Earth Tones

modern style earth tone living room with red sofa

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Earth tones can be considered neutrals, and they can add a sense of warmth without compromising the soothing effects of a neutral color scheme.

If you want to add earth tones to your neutral living room, start with a neutral base. That can be a neutral rug or a white sofa that grounds your space. Then work in your earth tones but try to avoid patterns. A good rule of thumb is to keep to softer earth tones, like sage green and a soft orange. If you’re feeling bold, stick to one to two colors that have a grounding effect, like the burnt orange and olive green seating in this neutral living room. Also, check out our tips on how to choose a color palette.

Offset Neutrals with Metal Accents

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From brass details to black metal and bronze accents, metallic details are perfect finishing touches that pair perfectly with a neutral color scheme.

With so many muted and soft tones in a neutral living room, polished and dark metal details can bring a bit of edge and balance to the overall space. And you don’t need to go all out with a big metal piece of furniture either. Instead, look to chairs with steel legs, floor lamps made with brass or black metal, and even thin picture frames in dark and chrome frames. A little metal goes a long way in a neutral living room.

Layer Warmth With Leather

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Yes, there’s room to work in leather in a neutral living room, and you’re not limited to black or white. Tan leather is a classic choice that adds warmth and depending on the patina of the leather, it can add texture and pattern as well.

If you’re not familiar with decorating with leather, start small with accessories like a woven leather pouf or cowhide pillows. For those of you who feel ready to style up your neutral living room with leather in a bigger way, try bringing in a sleek sofa in the material. For a super modern and contemporary look, opt for white and black leather in a sleek sofa shape.

Also, get our tips for more ways to decorate with leather.

Work In Neutral Pink Hues

Glam style living room with neutral color scheme and pops of pink

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Soft pink is always a stylish choice for a neutral color palette. It a cozier take on neutral living room ideas, while still feeling light and sophisticated.

Explore the full range of soft pinks when choosing furniture and accents for a neutral living room. Having varying shades will help unify the overall look in your space. From blush hues to a creamy coral pink, spread out a few different pops of color across your neutral living room. Think a peach-pink sofa, purple-pink pillows, or even a rug with undertones of blush. They’ll all add up to create an instantly elegant and cozy atmosphere.

Source Unique Minimalist Pieces

A minimal style neutral color living room

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Minimalist designs will make a statement in neutral living rooms. And they can use some of the pared-down style, which naturally blends with neutral colors.

The channeled sofa in this neutral living room is at once a foundational anchor point, a sculptural accent, and the jumping-off point for the rest of the decor. Try to use minimalist furniture as a blank canvas for color and accents, and experiment with different pillows, side table materials, and woven accents. Here, the marble side table brings a touch of pattern and depth while the caning on the front of the low shelf makes for a warm touch of texture.

Play With “Bluetrals”

A neutral coastal style living room with subtle pops of blue.

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You heard it here first: Bluetrals are shades of the blue that have a neutral base. And they’re a slightly more colorful take on a neutral living room.

The best way to use blues is to go big with a large piece of furniture in a blue-grey shade that blends seamlessly with a neutral color palette or use the color sparingly, in soft muted pops, like in a pattern on a rug. Blue is actually a common color found across various neutral living room ideas, and it’s a great way to liven things up or give it a light coastal and rustic spin. If you’re not ready for cool neutral room and you’re not a fan of warm earth tones, bluetrals is a versatile choice that’s easy to decorate with.

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Paint Spotlight: What Our Designers Think of Benjamin Moore Pale Oak

While darker, bolder paint colors are definitely having a moment in the trend spotlight, neutral paint colors will always have their place. One versatile neutral that we’re particularly loving right now is Pale Oak by Benjamin Moore.

Want to learn more about this popular Benjamin Moore paint color? We’re giving you the scoop and showing it in action with some of our favorite color schemes.

What color is Pale Oak?

Pale oak is a true “greige”—a perfect blend of warm gray and beige. Reminiscent of white oak, as a paint color it adds just a touch of color and warmth to space while remaining versatile and neutral.

What undertones does Pale Oak have?

Benjamin Moore Pale Oak has warm undertones which lean a bit yellow, giving it a really creamy finish. And since this soft paint color sits at the intersection of gray and beige, it can lean toward one or the other of the base colors, depending on its surroundings. Because of that, the furniture and decor in a room, as well as the natural and artificial lighting, will greatly impact how this color “reads” in a space. In some lighting, Pale Oak will have the slightest purple or pink undertone. But in a space with a ton of natural light, this paint color will actually read more off-white than gray or beige.

What We Love about Benjamin Moore Pale Oak

There’s a lot to love about this warm, versatile neutral. But here are a few of our favorite things about Benjamin Moore Pale Oak:

  • It creates a warm sophistication and quiet elegance in a space.
  • It can balance out deep and bold shades, while also making white look more crisp.
  • It’s a neutral shade—but it’s far from boring. (The perfect choice if you’re wanting a neutral but want to avoid white or gray.)
  • It goes really well with transitional, minimalist, traditional, and Scandinavian designs.

What colors does Pale Oak go well with?

Pale Oak goes with a variety of colors. We especially love the way it looks with deep blues and earthy greens (though it even looks lovely with a more minty, aqua green). With its warm gray undertones, it takes on a beautiful quality when paired with earth tones like brown, clay, and rust. (And, no matter your color palette, if you want to create contrast between your Pale Oak wall color and trim, paint your trim a true, crisp white.)

Want to see these color schemes in action? Keep reading to see our top 5 favorite color combinations to use with Benjamin Moore Pale Oak.

Serene bedroom in transitional coastal style with walls painted in pale qak by Benjamin Moore

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Blue and Pale Oak

Various shades of deep blue tones go really well with Benjamin Moore Pale Oak. When paired together, the visual contrast is very pleasing to the eye and creates an elegant, traditional look. If you want to try out this color scheme, incorporate varying shades of blue throughout a space (rather than sticking with just one). They’ll all play beautifully with the gray undertones of Pale Oak, complementing and contrasting all at once.

Pair Pale Oak Walls with the Adona Queen Bed by Scout Home

This handsome indigo-dyed upholstery bed will pop against Pale Oak walls. A shelter-style bed with almost a wingback shape, it adds a dramatic touch to a bedroom—with a hint of glam from the brass nailheads.

MCM meets boho living room with leather sofa and walls painted in pale oak by by Benjamin Moore

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Brown, Rust, and Pale Oak

Brown and rusty, burnt orange bring out the earthy qualities of Benjamin Moore Pale Oak, creating a lovely color palette. Brown tones and Pale Oak create a warm neutral base for a room design, while pops of rust help the Pale Oak to feel more modern. This mix of earthy neutrals gives rooms, like the one above, a sophisticated and serene sensibility.

Pair Pale Oak Walls with Thomas Framed Wall Art by Precita Home

Bring those rust tones into your space with some wall art, which will beautifully complement Pale Oak walls. Ready to hang and already framed, this pair of complementary art pieces is great for making a statement with minimal effort.

Bedroom in contemporary style with walls painted in Benjamin Moore

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Black, Light Neutrals, and Pale Oak

As is often the case with neutrals in general, Benjamin Moore Pale Oak goes well with other neutral colors. By varying the shades of neutrals in a space—from warm brown woods to greige bedding and flax upholstery—you can create subtle depth in a space. And pops of black offer some contrast against Pale Oak walls without bringing color into the space. Together, this mix of neutrals creates a very zen and cohesive space.

Pair Pale Oak Walls with the Hartley Nightstand by Scout Home

We love the high-contrast look of black furniture against Pale Oak walls. This iron nightstand is designed in a sleek and industrial-inspired style—while still offering some traditional details. It offers ample storage for either a bedside table or as a smaller stand-alone dresser.

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Earthy Green and Pale Oak

Benjamin Moore Pale Oak goes really well with greens—especially earthy greens. These green tones pop against this paint color, creating some beautiful but soothing contrast. The creamy undertones of Pale Oak softens shades of green and adds a sophisticated element to this cheerful color palette.


Pair Pale Oak Walls with the Rodrigo Pillow by Precita Home

We love the look of this green pillow against a white sofa and Pale Oak walls. This beautiful sage green pillow with simple striping adds a springy, fresh feel to a living room. And the cover is removable for easy cleaning, too!

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Warm Earth Tones and Pale Oak

Warm earth tones like gold, terracotta, dusty rose, and even burgundy pair beautifully with Benjamin Moore Pale Oak. They contrast with this neutral without creating too much starkness, since the Pale Oak adds a warmth to the space in a way that compliments this color scheme.

Pair Pale Oak Walls with the Korina Rug by Ceana Designs

This beautiful rug is full of earth and jewel tones, which offers incredible depth to a room painted with Pale Oak walls. Hand-lopped, it features a timeless medallion pattern that looks vintage but is made to last.

More Benjamin Moore Paint Inspiration

Looking to freshen up the paint in your home? Before you buy the paint and pull out the rollers, be sure to check out our designer-approved painting tips—plus the most popular living room paint colors and a guide to matching paint and wood floors. And if you like neutrals like Pale Oak, you may also like 5 of our other favorite neutral Benjamin Moore colors. Check them out, below!

Benjamin Moore Swiss Coffee

Sophisticated and versatile, this is a true off-white that is warmer than cool.

Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter

A light gray with warm undertones, this is a calming and restorative paint color.

Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray

One of our go-to grays that’s both timeless and modern, this is a very soft neutral.

Benjamin Moore White Dove

An absolutely classic shade of white, this is a favorite choice for light and bright spaces.

Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist

A true off-white that feels rustic and warm, this is a great neutral paint color to add coziness to a space.

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Designing With Neutral Paint Colors

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.

Neutral paint colorsHow 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.

Neutral paint colorsWarm 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.

Neutral paint colorsChoosing 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.

Neutral paint colorsBest 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.

Neutral paint colorsBest 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.

Neutral paint colors

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.

Neutral paint colorsBest 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!

Neutral paint colorsBest 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.

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Earth Tones Trend: Are These Hues the New Neutrals?

Earth toned colors are becoming something of a trend in interior design color schemes, and we’re all for it. These saturated paint colors and decor hues feature rich, earthy tones that you’d find in the natural world. These show-stopping shades create a relaxed palette that’s serving up major style.

We love using them as unexpected neutral colors that offer a rich backdrop to any room or as colorful but grounded pops of color in an otherwise neutral space. And they work great with natural materials like wood, metal, stone, linen, and woven materials. That makes this a color family that works with almost every interior design style in some way or another.

Intrigued? Keep reading for the full scoop on the earth tones trend, from some earth tone design ideas to learn why we’re calling these hues the new neutrals!

bohemian designWhat are Earth Tones?

Earth tones, in their most basic sense, are colors that are found in nature. Think: rust, marigold, deep navy, burnt sienna brown, terracotta, sage, turmeric, and the Pantone 2020 color of the year, classic blue. There’s actually quite a wide variety of hues within the earth tone family, but what ties them all together is their natural, earthy quality.

These colors are warm and inviting, and they often have brown-ish undertones to them. (This is not where you’ll find bright colors or neons.) But that doesn’t mean they’re not vibrant! Shades like turmeric and classic blue are quite saturated. But even these vibrant colors have an almost muted quality that gives them a soothing and relaxing vibe.

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Here are 4 reasons to consider earth tones for your home decor!

earth tones1. They’re Neutrals, With a Twist

When you think of neutral paint colors, furniture, and decor, your mind probably wanders to shades of white, beige, or grey. Some color-lovers even avoid neutral colors, thinking them boring or devoid of personality. But this is far from the case when you use earth tones as a bold neutral! Because these colors are derived from nature, they have a neutral base to them that you won’t find in neons or brighter hues. So, you get the building blocks of a neutral while still achieving a pop of color.

Their saturation causes them to pack an extra punch that gives your space more personality. Unlike standard neutral colors, earth tone color schemes can make your space feel moodier in the best possible way. They make an elegant statement on their own, but also create a gorgeous symphony of color when paired together! That’s why we’re loving earth tones when thinking through neutral color scheme ideas.

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earth tones trend2. They Go With Everything

This leads us to our next point: Earth tones go with just about everything. That’s why they’re becoming one of the more popular living room color schemes this year! You can pair them with patterns and use them to compliment numerous furniture styles and materials. You can even mix and match them with other colors and still get a cohesive look! Use earth tones as a backdrop or accent in a modern space, one with a desert minimal vibe, or even a space that’s more traditional or rustic!

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earth tone living room3. They’re Serving Year-Round Style

While earth tones are ideal for autumn—a season where these shades are found in nature more than any other season—they’re actually part of a chic palette that can be used year-round! Because they’re so versatile, you can easily make a few quick design swaps each season to help your look learn more toward fall/winter or give it more of a spring/summer vibe.

But how do you do this? Well, it can be in big ways or small ones—whether in playful pops of color or rich and dramatic tonal statements. These colors don’t just belong on walls. They can also be incorporated in accessories such as pillows, rugs, and wall art! You can even go big with a foundational piece like a sofa or accent chair in these earthy hues.

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earth tones4. They’re Calm and Comforting

These hues are moody and bold—but they also have a calm, relaxing vibe due to their neutral undertones. Color psychology tells us that familiar colors make us feel more safe and secure.

And because earth tones are colors we experience in nature on a regular basis, they’re basically the comfort food of the color wheel. So, it’s no wonder that in our current cultural climate we’re seeking something soothing and familiar at home!

We love that these tones let us indulge in our love of color while creating a space that feels neutral and calming. And honestly, who doesn’t need a little more serenity and calm in their lives?

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