Which Neutral Hue Best Suits You?

When it comes to color preference, opinions about neutrals are as fiercely debated as they are on primary hues. Learn why you gravitate toward beige, gray, brown, black or white in your decor.

Emily Summers Studio stuck to a palette of crisp neutrals to keep the focus on the circular design of this Colorado Springs, Colorado, vacation home (photo by Laura Wilson)

Neutral tones have a reputation for being boring, but they don’t have to be! Many interior design professionals will tell you that bold isn’t always better. A neutral palette generally signifies a monochromatic scheme, but there’s always room for a few colorful accent pieces to bring some zest into your life. Neutral tones also say a lot about who we are.

Grays, beiges, creams, and whites have a crisp, classic look. If they appeal to you, then you probably even-tempered and practical in nature. These subdued hues are extremely versatile since they can be paired with a range of other colors. Neutral tones offer limitless possibilities when it comes to interior design.

Still, the question remains: What kind of neutral hue are you?


Clockwise from top: A London contemporary bedroom by Taylor Howes (photo by Tom Sullam); carved and dyed stone sculpture, 1990s, by Sikhulile Precious Sibanda; Italian couch, 1950s; Venfield Z desk, new.

A favorite color among designers, gray is for the conservatives and the introverts. These individuals are composed, committed and loyal. They make delightful, dedicated employees and life partners. Combined with colorful furnishings, a soft gray will allow for an elegant, sophisticated bedroom.


Clockwise from top: The living room of a Watermill, New York, beach house by Huniford Design Studio (photo by Tara Striano); Aranda\Lasch Scallop coffee table, 2014; Stilnovo pendant light, 1960s.

White represents knowledge, purity and cleanliness, therefore it’s usually reserved for the neat-freaks and the astute. It should come as no surprise that family, friends and coworkers lean on you for answers and sage advice. For smaller rooms, paint your walls white to make your space seem larger and brighter.


Clockwise from top: The living room of a family home in L.A. by Kim Alexandriuk (photo by Oberto Gili); Nigerian Hausa pillow, mid-20th century; Italian canapé in Fortuny fabric, 18th century.

A mixture of white and brown, beige is a grounding color easily found in nature. Variations of beige are earthy, warm and comfortable — the perfect backdrop for the confident, poised and self-assured individuals who crave simplicity in their lives. Combine lighter shades of beige with darker ones to create a relaxed and tasteful space.


Clockwise from top: A Los Angeles den by Mark Boone (photo by Mary E. Nichols for Architectural Digest); Louis XIV Baroque cupboard, 1680–90; Brown Saltman Art Deco coffee table, 1930–40

If brown is your color, then you are a salt-of-the-earth person with both feet firmly planted onto the ground. You like physical comfort and simplicity — favoring quiet, rural areas to the hustle and bustle of the big city. An earthy richness is just what you need for a warm and welcoming den.


Top: An industrial-meets-Spanish-style bathroom in L.A. by Deirdre Doherty (photo by Ryan Phillips). Bottom: Louis XVI chair, ca. 1820, reupholstered in linen.

Black is reserved for those with refined tastes and a penchant for luxurious furnishings. These folks are natural-born leaders — strong-willed, independent and extremely organized. If you are a fan of the color black, then you may be too serious for your own good. (If that’s the case, it might be time to bring some color into your life!) A touch of black will give your space a chic, elegant and more intimate appearance.

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