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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.