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5 Not-So-Basic Paint Colors That Qualify As Neutrals

FEBRUARY 16, 2021
Photo credit: Design Decorist + Photo by Reid Rolls

Choosing a paint color usually comes with a bit of self-discovery. You might realize that though you’re able to select the perfect side table or sofa confidently, the sheer choices of the paint aisle are paralyzing. When you do get the nerve to pick a color, you might do as the majority does and opt for a neutral.

There’s nothing wrong with beige, white, or gray shades, but they can feel a bit boring at times. (Especially when everyone else is choosing similar colors for their own décor.) Instead, consider a paint color that gives you the benefits of a neutral—namely, the versatility to work with a variety of other hues and an overall calming presence—without fading into the background. From cool blues to a sunny butter yellow, here are our top five favorites that do just that.

Soft Sage

Photo credit: SD Custom Homes

This shade of green doesn’t always have to channel the ‘80s. Dialing down the intensity to a whisper creates a soothing feel, like in this home office by SD Custom Homes. It’s also a great alternative to those who gravitate towards the elegance of gray but want a touch of color. For a similar look, try Tranquility by Benjamin Moore.



Photo credit: Björn Wallander for House Beautiful, Design by Mark D. Sikes

Purple often looks more intense on a wall than it does on a chip, so going a few shades lighter is usually a good idea. For just enough “purple” without a dark result on the wall, lilac is the perfect option. It’s cheerful without being bright, cool without feeling icy, and brings out the undertones of virtually any other color. In this living room by Mark D. Sikes, Benjamin Moore’s Misty Lilac enhances the crisp blue, red and orange accents found in the space.


Blush Pink

Photo credit: Heidi Caillier

The millennial pink trend gave new life to formerly-overlooked soft pinks, helping this color shed some of its “outdated” associations. With hints of peach, blush pink creates an inviting atmosphere—and when light reflects off of walls painted this color, the effect enhances one’s complexion. Why not use it in an entryway or in a guest bedroom, like Decorist Celebrity designer Heidi Caillier. To achieve this look try Pink Ground by Farrow & Ball.


Butter Yellow

Photo credit: Will Wick

Like purple, yellow can appear darker on the wall than on a paint chip. (This might be why we don’t usually see yellow used in interiors, even though it’s a gorgeous color.) Decorist designer Will Wick’s kitchen design for a California home shows how to do it right. The walls, cabinetry, range hood, and ceiling are painted a light buttery yellow that would please even the staunchest beige-lovers. The color maximizes light, has just enough warmth to be considered cozy, yet isn’t too bright or intense. For a close shade of this yellow, try DKC-30 by Donald Kaufman Color.


Light Blue

Photo credit: Erin Kestenbaum

It’s safe to say that blue is universally loved, making it the easiest choice for any space where guests and family gather. Though historically darker shades like navy have been trendy, going for a soft light blue has become very popular and helps bring a bit more light into a space. Plus, it can pair with practically any color, which might be why we’re seeing this color used in places you tend to repaint or overhaul infrequently, like kitchens. In this design by Erin Kestenbaum, the light blue cabinets create a classic, sophicted look and pop against brass and marble accents. For a similar blue, consider Lulworth Blue by Farrow & Ball.

Need help picking the right paint color? Pop over to our Decorist Design Bar for FREE designer Q+A. 

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