From the deepest brown to the palest gray -- and everything in between -- neutrals are anything but boring. Browse our gallery of neutral-toned rooms to see all the different effects these shades can impart.
This living room reflects the homeowners' taste for mixing traditional and contemporary styles. The original wainscoting was treated with several coats of paint for a lustrous finish. The sectional sofa, which is upholstered in Belgian linen, combines a modern silhouette with the antique touch of a brass nail-head trim.
With a little doctoring, unfinished bookcases from a furniture store can take on a built-in look, and add architectural interest to a room. In this living room, three units were dressed up with crown molding and platform bases, then painted moleskin gray. Framed photos and bibelots form a library of objects that mingles with the books.
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It's counterintuitive to pair a slim Hepplewhite sofa with giant throw pillows and grand side chairs, but the result is surprisingly effective. Two diminutive tables replace a conventional cocktail table, adding versatility. Even the artwork plays with scale -- expansive shadow boxes that focus attention on the delicate beauty of Chinese porcelains.
Reflections bring a room to life. On this nineteenth-century American table, delicate finishes that capture light -- a gilded mirror, mercury glass vases, eighteenth-century candlesticks, lampshades trimmed with glimmering passementerie -- energize the rugged textures of the house.
The small dining room can be accessed through the double doors in the servery. The space includes freezer drawers for storage, plus an ice maker and warming drawers for entertaining. Two dishwashers ease clean-up, and the marble floor can be vacuumed and washed with a damp mop. The wall color is matched to the cupboards, and the gentle, cool tones make a cohesive whole of many diverse features.
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A baroque wing chair is upholstered in gray linen; the chest is baroque, and the lamp is by Poul Henningsen.
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This upstairs "dormitory" evokes childhood summers, with vintage schoolhouse lights, mosquito netting, and cast-iron beds. White dormers contrast with the original woodwork, which the homeowner oiled but left unpainted. Light-colored bedding gives the room its relaxing air.
Drabware walls warm a room at night, in lamplight. The Araucana Turquoise ceiling keeps the space open and airy, while a rich cream, Silkie White, extends the walls' warmth into trim work. The floor, in Crevecoeur, has the fine gloss of dinnerware. Hallways walls beyond are Araucana Green.
Red browns have a warm, rosy glow. Salvaged doors inspired this Vermeer-like setting: Fabrics were selected for reddish tones that complement the wood. Texture and luster are important here, too: Daylight brings out the sheen of the velvet comforter and satin pillow, lending life to the room.
In a luminous white setting, dark brown has the impact of black, without the harshness. This sofa is upholstered with velvet the color of bittersweet chocolate; white piping makes the fabric look even darker. A varied collection of smoky-glass bottles and vases lightens the mood.
In this very Parisian breakfast room, there is as much cream as there is coffee: An eggshell-colored cupboard, curtains of pale chiffon, light woods, tan piping on the seat cushions, and snowy wainscoting all help to enrich the cafe au lait brown of the walls. The anchor for this dreamy setting is the much darker maple floors.
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