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How to Decorate a Nursery with a Neutral Palette


Whether you’re saving the surprise of your little one’s gender for his or her big début, designing a gender-neutral space to be shared by siblings, or simply looking for something more sophisticated than a cutesy pink or blue treatment, a neutral nursery might be just what you’re looking for.

Think neutral nurseries are boring? Think again! When done well, a neutral palette can provide a beautiful backdrop for a rich and complex space, allowing more subtle design elements, such as pattern and texture, to edge out color and take center stage.

That being said, there’s more to decorating with neutrals than simply picking out the perfect shade of beige. Take your neutral nursery from blah to breathtaking with these five simple tips.

1. Know Your Neutrals

When people imagine a “neutral” color scheme, they typically conjure visions of traditional-style décor in tan or beige, but these tried and true neutrals are not the only hues on deck. Black, white, grey, brown and even understated shades of blue and green also fall into the neutral color family. Warm neutrals, like beige and brown, soften and warm a space, whereas, cooler neutrals, such as white, grey and grey-blue, create a brighter, more modern atmosphere. If beige is not your thing, branch out! Explore your options, and choose the neutral that best fits your style.

2. Get Tonal

To the undiscerning eye, beige is beige. But color - even of the “neutral” variety - is far more complicated than that. Take a brief scan of the sample wall at your local DIY shop. Look carefully and you will see dozens of shades of beige - not to mention, ivory, taupe, brown, black and grey - boasting undertones of blue, pink, yellow and even green.

Before taking home any old can of paint, consider these undertones carefully. For example, does your selected color share similar undertones to your chosen bedding? If not, it’s probably not a good match.

3. Mix and Layer Color

Settled on the perfect neutral base? Don’t be afraid to throw a few other colors into the mix. Try introducing dark brown accents into a beige palette or layering in several different shades of the same color, such as silver-grey, grey and charcoal, taking care to ensure the colors you choose share a similar tone.

Craving a little more color? Go for it! Used sparingly, a single bold accent color adds drama, bringing life and energy to a neutral palette. You can also use a gender-specific accent color to personalize you baby’s nursery after you bring your little one home. Soft pastels, such as pink and blue, are a lovely addition to an otherwise neutral brown and cream palette.

4. Create Contrast

Black or near-black furnishings and accessories punctuate a space, providing the eye with a natural place to rest in a sea of neutral color. A bold, black rug or dark wood flooring creates a fabulous foundation, while the occasional black lamp or throw pillow serves to ground a design, creating definition. What’s more, the contrast of light and dark keeps somewhat-muddy colors, like beige, looking clean and bright.

5. Incorporate a Variety of Design Elements

In the absence of color, the more subtle elements of design take on new precedence, working together for a complex and elegantly understated effect.

Since color remains largely uniform in a neutral space, it’s important to layer in a variety of textures and patterns to create interest and keep the room from looking flat. Simple patterns in subtle colors work well, as do natural textures, such as hemp, wicker, wood and even stone and metallic accents. You can also generate visual interest by playing with shape and scale. For instance, you might opt for a soft and curvy armchair to offset a sleek crib with hard lines, or pair a slender rocker with an over-sized ottoman.

Whatever elements you choose to explore, variety is a must. An effective neutral space requires an entire ensemble of players, both contrasting and complimentary. The goal - and challenge - of working with neutrals is to combine those elements to create one rich and cohesive tapestry.

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