Tips for Complementing Neutral Furniture

If you aren't a fan of the mint and turquoise palettes that have dominated the décor industry since 2016, you're in luck. “Serious shades” are back in the headlines. Pantone loves burnt Autumn hues for the season, and Carmel Greer prefers deep grey. Christine Markatos Lowe is emphasizing stone white, but if you prefer a little lusciousness, gold and silver will serve you well.

Neutrals aren’t easy to work with. You must find their primary undertones and develop an intuitive feel for contrasts. As with most things, there are technological tools to help you tackle the challenge and inspire your inner artist.

When Brown is Red

There’s no such thing as a pure neutral. That cup of coffee you’re holding has red in it, and your black tresses probably have a little purple. Oak has orange, and ash has yellow. The trick to creating a palette entirely made up of neutrals lies in identifying those undertones. From there, choose a contrast that’s warmer or colder than your primary shade. This is why chocolate and powder blue work so well together: they balance warmth and coolness. Don’t forget to include your wood furniture in your palette, which might need to be re-stained to suit your new look.


A palette without contrast is washed out. Light and dark colors create much-needed emphasis while grounding your palette. They also make your choice of complementary hue easier. If your neutral is a light taupe, your complementary shade needs to be deep and vice versa. Complete your look by balancing your textures. Too much of the same consistency will obliterate your palette.

Color Matching Life Hacks

There are enough color scheme generators online to put professional decorators out of business, so if you can’t tell taupe from stone, there’s no shame in cheating.