Just add colour – four ways to make a statement with neutrals in any room

On-trend shades don't have to shout to be heard, when used in the right way

Never underestimate the power of neutrals. While the darker tones of navy, charcoal and even black paint pigments are becoming increasingly popular in the style stakes the right neutral can dramatically alter the feel of a room too.

One such hue is The Dulux Colour of the Year for 2021, Brave Ground. Experts have identified the warm and grounding neutral shade as the colour that will enable homes to draw upon the strength of nature – to help them find the courage to embrace the future. A much-needed sentiment for setting the tone for a happy home.

Related: Paint trends 2021 – the colours setting the tone in our homes for the year ahead

‘For many of us, lockdown has served to emphasise how important our home environment has become,' says Marianne Shillingford, Creative Director, Dulux UK.  'It has been the place where we work, learn, relax. It can lift us up, nurture us, comfort us.'

1. Create a harmonious contrast

living room with sofa and blue wall

(Image credit: Dulux)

The team at Dulux have selected the perfect partnering shades for the warm neutral, for those that still want the on-trend accent colours. The 'Earth Palette' is perfect with its rich blues, chosen to enhance neutral tones without overpowering.

Used in clever combinations with lighter neutrals, such as Brave Ground, these are tones that can lift any interior scheme and work well styled up with natural wood, reclaimed furniture, shapely ceramics and indoor plants.

'Echoing the tones of the sea, the sky and the soil, these earth shades provide a connection to the natural world around us. Bringing the outside in, they are authentic and grounding colours that work naturally together.'

2. Look to the light

room with wooden flooring

(Image credit: Dulux)

Use your palette to improve the light aspects in any room, particularly one you spend the majority of time in during daylight hours. Adapting to its surroundings, Brave Ground flexes in tone depending on the time of day and setting. A characteristic which creates a subtly responsive environment that’s reflective of our need for a nurtured environment.

room with plant on table

(Image credit: Dulux)

The undertones help to add warmth rather than leave the room feeling cold. Using this warm based neutral, instead of say a very pale grey, can improve a seemingly cold and dim north-facing room, for example.

3. Dream up a calming scheme

bedroom with pillow and lamp

(Image credit: Dulux)

Get the balance right for a serene scheme. If the blues and greens of the Earth Palette are a step too far there's also 'The Trust Palette', a selection of clay, peat, chalk, loam colours. These shades are thoughtfully selected warm neutral greys and browns, chosen to complement each other in a softer way.

The contrast is less than that of darker shades, and therefore encourage connection, collaboration and a sense of harmony in the home. Ideal for creating a calm paint pairing for a harmonious bedroom colour palette.

kitchen with counter and white wall

(Image credit: Dulux)

Unlike white or grey, a more defined neutral can soften the hard lines of a contemporary space and bring a sense of warmth and intimacy. A soft shade such as Brave Ground adds warmth without feeling like a dominant colour. When used in the kitchen, the heart of the home, an earthy toned neutral shade helps to effortlessly incorporate wooden textures and surfaces – for a more connected space.

Related: Selling up? Dulux reveals the paint job that could add 25 per cent to the value of your home

Neutral is the new grey for happier homes in 2021.


Tamara was Ideal Home's Digital Editor before joining the Woman & Home team in 2022. She has spent the last 15 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, both now at Future PLC. It’s with these award wining interiors teams that she's honed her skills and passion for shopping, styling and writing. Tamara is always ahead of the curve when it comes to interiors trends – and is great at seeking out designer dupes on the high street.