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10 Ideas for Neutral Living Rooms

Strike a balance between character and calm with these classy schemes

There’s nothing in your face about a neutral living room, but that’s rather the point. These subtle schemes don’t vie for attention, but rather offer an understated, elegant space that allows the senses to relax. While usefully impervious to the fickle nature of fads (no buyer’s remorse over a neon-pink sofa here), there are still many ways to interpret the look to best suit the style of your room and, of course, personal taste. Check out the examples below for inspiration.

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Use the room’s features
If you’re lucky enough to have striking period features in your living room – like this lovely big bay window and elegant fireplace – it makes sense not to detract from them with an overly detailed decorative scheme. This is where a classic neutral scheme can pay dividends – in this space, beige sofas with period-style turned wood legs perfectly complement the proportions of the room.

Browse discussions about neutral colour schemes in the Advice section – or post your own Design Dilemma

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Centre with black
Banish any 80s corporate connotations with a gentler take on black furniture. In this rustic living room, an oversized low-slung velvet footstool works as a focal point between the two cream sofas, but the soft fabric and curved lines mean it doesn’t look out of place in the predominantly neutral room. The black picture frames help tie it in, too.

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Mix in some dark wood
Pale woods such as birch, stripped pine and light oak are long-time fixtures on the neutral scene, but dark woods can look just as at home. Choose pieces with slim, elegant lines, such as the chair frame and shelving shown here, to provide a sophisticated contrasting touch to the neutral palette.

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Choose a centrepiece light
When there is a lack of colour in the decoration, a striking ceiling light works well as a focal point to draw the eye into the middle of the room. Leaving the rest of the décor very plain, with no fussy cushions or curtains, lends a very contemporary feel.

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Try stripes
If ultra plain is too severe for your tastes, introduce few classic stripes into the mix. Stick to a muted colour scheme, using something like the taupes and pale greys in this picture, but employ stripes (or checks) to create subtle interest. A bit of pattern on a sofa is also more forgiving on the upkeep front than a single pale colour.

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Hang pictures creatively
In a compact or narrow room, opting for neutral furniture is a smart choice as it keeps things feeling open and it also allows for creative decorative ideas to stand out. For example, here the gallery of pictures on the narrow wall between the two windows grabs your attention.

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Green up with plants
One of the easiest ways to bring a plain room to life (quite literally) is to add some plants. Whether you go for a large, tropical-style centrepiece or a more subtle collection of succulents, plants provide an instant pick-me-up in any room. Ideal growing conditions vary – some need lots of water, some very little, so check when you buy to get the most out of your new green roommates.

Find out the latest styling tips for accessorising with plants

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Introduce subtle pattern
By keeping the main elements plain, for example like the sofa, curtains and chairs here, there is scope to add muted pattern with other textiles. A two-tone rug, a small pouf and gently patterned cushions all add colour but stick to the soothing pale theme.

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Paint the furniture
If your current freestanding furniture doesn’t fit with your plain plans, or you have built-in furniture like the big bookcase here, consider painting them the same colour used on the walls. This creates an unbroken flow, which will reinforce the room’s relaxed feel.

See more examples of woodwork blended in with walls

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Act natural
Textured natural materials such as jute and rattan also work really well in a neutral scheme. They add interest, are hardwearing and can give a pleasing Scandi look, too.

Have you gone for a neutral scheme in your living room? Share your ideas/photos in the Comments section.
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