Do neutrals go with everything? What the interiors experts had to say about this might surprise you

Experts reveal whether neutrals are really as versatile as you thought

A neutral-coloured hallways with a rug and a bench
(Image credit: Future PLC/Matthew Williams)

As soon as we grasp the concept of colours and colour pairings as children, we are often led to believe that neutral shades go with anything and everything. But do neutrals go with everything?

Neutral shades often make for a favoured living room colour scheme for their innate elegance, while also being a go-to bedroom colour scheme for their calming, soothing properties. But all that really means is that one neutral goes with another neutral.

However, do they go with every colour? To get to the bottom of this, we asked some of our interiors, paint and colour experts to give us their take on this. And we were pretty surprised by what they had to say. And now we’re rethinking some of our paint ideas, among other things.

A rust orange velvet sofa with a neutral fringed throw

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Do neutrals go with everything?

Firstly, let’s establish what neutral colours actually are so that there’s no confusion when you want to turn your neutral living room ideas into reality.

‘In interior design, neutrals refer to colours that are subtle and understated, typically including shades of white, beige, grey, and taupe,’ says Lucy Mather, design expert from Arighi Bianchi.

She continues to explain the recent history of neutrals as home decor trends, ‘Neutrals have always been the most popular colour in interiors, the 80s and 90s was all about Magnolia walls. More recently, grey became the “neutral” to have. Beige and cashmere have now taken over from grey as the preferred neutral in 2024.’

A neutral-coloured hallways with a rug and a bench

(Image credit: Future PLC/Davide Lovatti)

Sarah Lloyd, paint & interiors expert from Valspar Paint, agrees, ‘Beige is a popular choice because of its warm qualities. Beige shades are ideal for the interior as it is soft and soothing, and able to blend with a variety of other colours.’

Alex Stubbs, Flitch interior stylist, adds, ‘Neutrals have the remarkable quality of pairing well with almost any other colour. Their understated nature allows them to act as a backdrop, letting other elements in the space shine.’

A kitchen with open shelving and white-painted exposed brick walls

(Image credit: Future PLC/James Merrell)

Watch out for your neutral colour’s undertone

But while neutral colours are very versatile, they actually don’t necessarily work with literally everything. One of the main things to look out for is the undertone of your neutral shade so that it’s in keeping with the other colours of your space, whether they’re vibrant or neutral too.

‘Mixing neutrals with conflicting undertones can disrupt the overall cohesion of the design. For instance, pairing warm beiges with cool greys may result in a disjointed aesthetic rather than a harmonious one,’ Alex says.

A neutral living room with a cream sofa and many cushions and a matching armchair

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

What colours you shouldn’t pair with neutrals

And it doesn’t stop there. Some bold and bright colours are also not recommended to combine with neutral shades.

‘While neutrals offer versatility, they may not always blend well with vibrant or clashing colours, emphasising the importance of considering undertones for complementarity. Avoid neon hues, oversaturated jewel tones, and mixing neutrals with high-contrast colours,’ Alex says.

Lucy adds, ‘Pairing neutrals with extremely bold or vibrant colours can sometimes result in a jarring effect rather than a cohesive design. It's important to balance neutrals with complementary colours or use them as accents to prevent overwhelming the space. Colours I would avoid would be reds and certain oranges.’

A bedroom in a neutral colour scheme with bright orange cushions and floral wallpaper

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Our favourite neutral homewares

But other than that, neutrals are a fair game – as long as you include enough texture if using a lot of neutrals to avoid the space feeling flat.

News Writer

Sara Hesikova has been Ideal Home’s News Writer since July 2023, bringing the Ideal Home’s readership breaking news stories from the world of home decor and interiors, as well as trend-led pieces, shopping round-ups and more. Graduating from London College of Fashion with a bachelor’s degree in fashion journalism in 2016, she got her start in niche fashion and lifestyle magazines like Glass and Alvar as a writer and editor before making the leap into interiors, working with the likes of 91 Magazine and copywriting for luxury bed linen brand Yves Delorme among others. She feels that fashion and interiors are intrinsically connected – if someone puts an effort into what they wear, they most likely also care about what they surround themselves with.