Saturday, December 26, 2009

In A Neutral State

Just as the tastemakers are ushering out the appeal of neutral decor, I am rediscovering its beauty. (Ain't that just the way things are?) I've never been one to follow trends and since moving to Toronto I've been experimenting much more with colour and pattern in my little one-bedroom apartment. The foundational tone of the apartment is neutral - a deep tan on the walls with white baseboard and crown mouldings and a honey-brown wood floor. For this reason, I have been more adventurous with the accent patterns and colour choices in the rooms, not to mention the influence of Anthropologie's eclectic and often kitschy housewares, which I'm surrounded by all day long. (The decoration of my apartment is still very much a work in progress, and I will not divulge one iota of it until I feel it is as close to complete as possible. Once I'm there, I'll share photos of the rooms, but there's still a long way to go. Maybe by the summer I will have something to reveal.)

The neutral tones that everyone is claiming to be so bored of will never actually die. I realized this while looking back through some of my design scrapbooks. For years I have been collecting clipped images from magazines, rooms that reflect my taste in decoration and style. In one of the books, I discovered an entire section devoted to neutral tones - a section I had long-since forgotten about. It must have been in 2002 or 2003 that I first realized the classic and timeless appeal of neutral rooms. My homage to beige on these scrapbook pages indicates as much. What I found while looking at the imagery is that they are utterly timeless. Often described as a 'safe' palette, neutrals, I feel provide a sense of ease and comfort, not to mention mostly-carefree maintenance. (The monochromatic earthiness of neutral rooms need only small hits of colour and pattern to make them pop, and houseplants look wonderful against this clean backdrop.)

Below are some images of neutral rooms that have tickled my fancy over the years, as well as several scans from one of my design scrapbooks.

So, even as I venture more into the world of colour and pattern in my own home, I am still feeling the pull of neutrality. Beige, my friends, is a force to be reckoned with.

Pages from one of my design scrapbooks, above and below, reveal a hefty homage to neutrals. Rather than stick my clippings in a folder, I tried to arrange them artfully on the pages. Creating a design scrapbook like this, by the way, is a wonderful way to collect and preserve your inspirations.
What you can see from the pages is that the rooms are traditional but not stuffy - something I like about the neutral palette. Its inherent lightness lends itself to a modern state of mind while still being classical in its roots. Another point to note is how colour, pattern and texture, as well as the anchoring shade of black, really pop in these creamy rooms, giving the eye a place to focus and giving the rooms the features they need to escape blandness.
This design scrapbook had three pages devoted to neutral palettes. The page above reveals how airy tones can accentuate architectural features and allow natural light to flow and fill the space.
Another tip is to use magazine tear sheets completely unrelated to decorating to help determine your colour palette. This image above of various spices is the ideal palette for a neutral colour scheme in a room. With various neutral shades assembled like this on a page, you can visualize how well they will work in your space. You can pluck from the tones in the image to choose paint colours, drapery, upholstery, carpets and rugs, furniture, flooring and decorative accessories.This classic living room is formal without being at all rigid. The soft suede chair, which is echoed in tone by the leather-upholstered coffee table, warms the room and gives it a sense of easy comfort. Dark accents on the fireplace, frame and Chinoiserie screen provide depth and focus.

Cobalt blue, used on the plush dining room chairs in this room, is an ideal accent tone to the sandy shades of beige and brown.A light sky-blue fabric is used on the sofas in this bright living room, which is awash in creamy, beachy tones. A feeling of calm and relaxation defines the atmosphere.Neutral tones do not always have to be beige, cream and brown. Gray, blue and green are also neutral palettes that can be explored. In the lavish dining room above, it is the powdery softness of a light blue that gives it the feeling of lightness and reserve. The black iron of the chandelier and the planters on the table, as well as the bold pattern on the wallpaper, prevent the room from sinking into a state of boredom. Gold accents lend further drama.

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