A Word About Neutrals

An office that is light and airy with a wood desk and wood floors. The walls are painted in a light neutral color.

Office – wall: Studio Taupe PPU5-07

Once I heard neutrals described as “People, countries and colors that mind their own business.” It’s a true statement. Neutrals hold their ground and do not waver. To me neutral colors are masters of subtlety, stable as time, aligned with nature and easy to use. I’ve never met a neutral I didn’t like.

So, what defines a neutral color as it relates to home décor?

Neutrals come from the natural world. They range in a variety of white, gray, black, brown, beige, and taupe hues. Words like earth-tone, stony, smoky, foggy, misted, shaded, or wood-toned are often applied to such colors. It often looks like a bit of dust has settled over them, or they’ve weathered storms that have washed vivid color intensity away.

A cozy lit fireplace with a wood beam for the mantel. Walls are painted in a light gray color.

Living Room – wall: Grey Mist HDC-CT-21

Divided into two camps, neutrals can be considered either warm (brown families) or cool (gray families). Everything that falls between are wonderful nuances: driftwood, mushroom, taupe, mist, charcoal, fawn, tan, and sand.

A warm neutral dining area and a cool neutral living room. Images sit side by side.

Dining Room – upper wall: Creamy Mushroom PPU5-13, lower wall: Riviera Beach PPU7-07   

Living Room – fireplace wall: Graphic Charcoal N500-6, back wall: Cool Ashes N520-4

Neutrals are known to have complex compositions, meaning they often hold an undercurrent of another color. For example, a gray married to blue becomes a cool stone gray. Gray carrying a hint of green becomes lichen. A dark brown might be tinged with red to create a rich mahogany tone.

A nursery, living room and library all painted in a neutral wall color.

Nursey – wall: Silverstone PPU26-08

Living Room – wall: Weathered Moss N380-3

Library – wall: Abbey Stone MQ2-56, cabinets: Peppery MQ2-62

Their quiet, unassuming nature makes neutrals perfect for all four walls, and they can be successfully used in any room. They make easy background colors because they don’t fight for attention with furniture, artwork, cabinetry or other materials that may be brighter in color.

a kitchen and bathroom painted in a dark neutral color.

Kitchen & Bathroom – walls: Battleship Gray N360-4

Favored for their versatility, neutrals pair well with almost any other color. Gray or tan walls live perfectly well with white trim around windows, doorways and baseboards. They harmonize with bright, bold colors used for accents, window treatments and upholstery. Tone on tone neutrals sets the mood for serene and tranquil places of relaxation. Make a statement with dark and dramatic colors like charcoal, black or chocolate brown.

An office with a gray wall and white trim. A bedroom painted with one wall as neutral, the other wall is painted with a bright red color. A laundry room with walls painted in gray and cabinets a lighter gray color.

Office – wall: Elephant Skin PPU18-16

Bedroom – brick wall: Baja PPU7-08

Laundry – wall: Creek Bend 790F-4, cabinets: Grey Mist HDC-CT-21

Neutrals are ideal for large open spaces and for connecting one room to another. Use neutrals in traffic areas like hallways, stairway landings to move from public to private areas of the home. They also help transition people from outdoor surroundings to indoor settings.

A hallway showing a peak of a iving room and an entry way. Both rooms the walls are painted in a light, almost white neutral color.

Hallway & Entry  – walls: Almond Wisp PPU5-12, back wall & door: Light Drizzle N480-1

Neutral colors can enhance your home in many positive ways. To find out more about these colors and more visit https://www.behr.com/consumer/colors/paint/explore/all-colors/gray/3 or the Gray and Neutral color sections in the Color Solution Center at The Home Depot.

Colorfully Yours,


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Comments (9)

  • Carol Brown-MacKinnon says...

    I’m looking to paint my entry hallway and wall going up the stairs and the landing at the top of the stairs..the color i’m thinking on is mauve melody..is this a neutral color…just don’t want it to stand out too strong…oh and i’m painting over flex rock would that work out ok..any info would be appreciated..thanks..:)

    • Deanna Torrez says...

      Thank you Carol for your interest in BEHR Products! 🙂 Mauve Melody is a darker gray neutral with a tint of mauve/purple. If you would like more of a tan neutral color then we will suggest neutrals such as Baja PPU7-8, Roman Plaster PPU7-10, Casual Khaki N300-3. All our pleasure to help!

  • Debbie Beamon says...

    I am painting my kitchen cabinets. The walls are Mesa Taupe (ppu5-14) and the bottom cabinets are dark antique red. I have black countertops. I am trying to find a color to match the top cabinets to the Mesa taupe walls. I also have stone colored backsplash so I didn’t know if I should lean toward the brown/grays or just match the Mesa taupe. Any suggestions would be very helpful. Thank you!

    • Deanna Torrez says...

      I will recommend painting the upper cabinets in a different tone than the walls so the cabinets do not get lost with the wall color. For the upper cabinets I will recommend the following hues – Swiss Coffee 12, Almond Wisp PPU5-12, Ashen Tan N220-2, Doeskin Gray N200-2 and Cappuccino Froth N210-2.

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