Choosing the right neutral tones for your interior

Jun 23, 2020 | Anoushka's Blog, Interior design and decoration

Every good design starts with a base of materials and colours. I think about this right from the beginning, at moodboard stage. I think abut things like how contrasting we want the materials to be, less contrast creates a calm balance, more will bring energy and impact. I also think about undertones, if I’m working with an existing home where there may be existing timber floors, or some joinery or carpets that I need to work with it’s important to identify the undertones existing so we choose complementary neutrals. If it’s a new build or we’re completely starting over then getting those undertones right from the beginning is also important.

So why not just choose grey and white, or Taupe and black, or sandy tones throughout? It just doesn’t work like that. There are so many undertones in all of the above. I’ve been studying Maria Killam’s colour theory for a couple of years now. It’s the best theory that I’ve come across to really understand colour and how neutrals can work together in harmony. Picking accent colours is easy, it’s actually getting the right base colours that’s harder.

Have you ever walked into a room with warm white walls and that almost pink/beige carpet from the 90’s and wondered why doesn’t it work? Well it’s probably because the carpet does in fact have a strong pink undertone and the walls have a yellow undertone, these really don’t complement each other well. Why? Well pink/beige looks kinda dirty and cream beige looks clean. These are the terms that Maria uses to describe undertones. And the general rule is don’t mix clean and dirty undertones. Dirty undertones look great when paired with other dirty undertones. Pink beige can work better with something like green grey that has a dirty undertone. So, what are the undertones?

GREYS

Dulux Grey Pebble (green undertone) against joinery in Dulux Natural White half (a bright true white)

The main undertones here are Violet, Blue and Green. I found these quite easy to see when I started out.

BEIGE

Duux Beige Royal Half (green undertone) on walls against Dulux Vvid White (true white) skirtings

The main undertones for Beige are Pink, Yellow and Green.

TAUPE

I didn’t have an example of Taupe but here’s Dulux Doe a Violet Grey on the joinery in this home

The main undertones for Taupe are Pink and Violet

The general rule is to stick to 2 undertones when combining. And if there are existing tones in some fixed elements in your room, it’s better to either go with them if they are staying for the long term, or if you know they will change later, and you don’t necessarily like them then just ignore. Live it with for now until you are able to change things up.

So want to use grey as your neutral? Bring it to life with fresh greens and blues, or bright orange and pink. Or looking at using a pretty Violet Taupe throughout as your base colour, this looks just gorgeous with accents of blue and fresh whites.

If you’re interested to understand more about colour and their undertones check out Maria’s blog, it’s full of awesome knowledge and information that will help you when choosing colour whilst renovating. Or if your in the Sydney area and would like to book a consultation don’t hesitate to reach out.

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