Why: Natural materials are the perfect foundation for a neutral scheme that’s packed with texture – far from a boring option.
How: Combine neutrals – no more than three or four shades at one time, though – for a calming, sophisticated space.
Layer up plenty of textures to add as much interest as possible: consider jute, sisal or real-wood flooring and soften with slubby linens and smooth leather.
The rich diversity of stone finishes are a fantastic place to find inspiration. Find a flooring option you like (limestone, travertine, slate…) and use it as your starting point.
Top tip: When combining painted and natural-wood surfaces in a kitchen choose plain accessories to keep the look clean.
Walls painted in Shaded White estate emulsion; woodwork painted in London Stone; both from £29.50, Farrow & Ball
Why: When it comes to sheer sophistication with a warm finish grey-based neutrals are a great place to start. Stick to shades with a brown (rather than blue) base to optimise that cocooning effect.
- Avoid tones that are too similar (they will create a flat, dead surface) as well as brilliant white (it dilutes the subtle effect and makes neutral shades appear murky).
- Stick to matt finishes and natural textures, and highlight the understated beauty of these shades with prominent wood grains and heavily woven fabrics.
- Hand-drawn designs used in moderation on wallpapers or soft furnishings will add interest and unique character to otherwise plain decor.
Top tip: Rich-red wooden furniture adds life to grey-based schemes. Check out Fifties-inspired designs in rosewood for a retro impact.
Heath Stripe wallpaper, £38 per roll, The Little Greene Paint Company
Why: To imbue a room with character and mood without any strong sense of a particular colour, variations on a cream or white theme should be your first call.
- In an all-white room, prevent a clinical look by varying your finishes for a subtle lustre. So mix ultra-matt and eggshell paint and layer silk and damask with glass and chrome.
- Ensure all-round harmony by sticking to either a palette of warm off-whites (think vanilla or antique white) or one of cooler shades (dove or chalk).
- Texture is the key to avoiding a stark bedroom – fine, embroidered bedlinen and carved, painted furniture should do the trick.
Top tip: A combination of matt and shiny finishes will boost a totally neutral room – matt stained floor and leather upholstery work well with soft-sheen fabrics and glass accents.
Malaya fabric, £34 per m, Casamance
Why: Emulate the Art Deco era with luxurious shades of brown and grand dramatic greys for an interior with Jazz-age impact.
- Think comforting and inviting, think coffee, chocolate and cocoa. Mix with white or cream for a classic finish, or gold for a little glitzy glam.
- Go for an old-school library or colonial vibe with an abundance of wood-clad surfaces. Wooden shutters, flooring, and even panelled walls can create a cool cocoon.
- Deep neutrals, such as cocoa and charcoal, look smart when used together. Be careful to pick cool-grey or blue-based shades in sunny, south-facing rooms.
Top tip: For a sexy looking living room layer moody neutrals of varying intensities. Polished metal details and lush silks complete the dreamy design.
Why: Divided into warm or cool shades, these tones help to break up and tame the liveliest of palettes, or enrich and enhance more subdued rooms.
- Using mid-toned neutrals with denim blue is an instant recipe for coastal chic. Stick to stripes and checks, and consider liming or waxing wood for a sun-bleached finish.
- In a dark-red living room or bedroom, touches of chocolate and stone ramp up the glam factor – think boutique hotel style.
- Plum blends beautifully with silver and stone for a rich yet understated sophistication.
Top tip: Blend pale neutrals into a monochrome scheme to add character, while a mix of pattern and texture increases the eclectic feel.
Hampstead wallpaper, £44.50 per roll, The Little Greene Paint Company