All Colors Are Neutral


If you follow or have seen any of my work, you will know that I love color!  I mean I REALLY love color, but I love color in a very different way than most people and most designers!


When I approach the development of a color palette, I look for inspiration in a bit of a different way.  First, I open my mind and throw out what I have been taught and told about color.  I try not to get too hung up on the color wheel and instead rely mostly on my intuition and how I “feel’ about color.

You can do this too if you understand your Design DNA and your Design Fingerprint (which you can learn in my Design Superstar Decorating System course for interior design enthusiasts!!)


When all of the above is carefully considered, I begin to dream about a color palette that is unique to the space I am designing and unique to my client(s).

People always marvel when I say All Color Is Neutral but I know this to be true.  Color is all about what you do with it.

Did you know that an apple is not really red?  The apple looks red because it is reflecting back the red color wavelength to our eye.  All of the other color wavelengths are hitting the apple and are absorbed by them.  The red bounces back so red is what you see and is what your brain perceives. 

Now before I lose you in all this color theory, let me tell you why this is important.  I believe color comes to life based on what you “do” with it.

What this means to me is that I don’t paint a wall a bright red if my design DNA and design fingerprint won’t tolerate it.  But If my DNA and Fingerprint information tell me that the space needs to be bright and cheerful and needs to include warm colors like red, then, I might artfully insert splashes of red against other colors that might tame it.  But for sure I know that I can consider that RED is neutral if I want it to be and that I can tame it to be included in a palette if it is compatible and paired with other colors that I am using.  I can also use the following tools if I need to tame or incorporate a strong color like red into any palette.


So based on my theory that color is about what you do with it, then I learned and developed a way to make all color neutral.  All color is adaptable based on how much of it is used and whether or not the colors it is placed with are compatible with it.  If there is a color that you love and you want to incorporate  into your palette consider making it a neutral in the following ways:


You can tone down any color or pattern by inserting more white.  Grays, tans and beiges will do the same. So if you want to incorporate red (strong) but don’t want a jarring energetic space, consider using shades of red that have been tempered with one of the known neutrals.

You can also make grays or tans more of a major statement such as wall color and save shades of red for accent. Red used in large doses, however, such as red walls (a popular Southern Dining Room color) can be tempered by using whites, grays, and tan as the accent.

(TIP:  It’s also wise to temper the neutral with another strong Accent color)


Consider using bolder colors more as a neutral in artwork and on the floor (rugs).  Think about walking through a field of green grass.  While green is a strong color, it seems less strong and a color that everyone goes with everything (neutral) when it is grounded.  In this case,  consider that the trees and sky are part of the artwork and accessories to the green color!  It’s all about what you put and how you use your new neutral color.

By using natural materials such as exposed brick, green plants or linen fabric any color will begin to blend better and feel less contrived.  Think about having a little natural material in any space.

If you are more elegant, this can be accomplished by fresh flowers or live orchids.  If you have more of a rustic vibe, consider plants and artwork made of fibers such as macramé.

Certainly, we don’t feel the same about adding a green plant to our décor as painting a wall plant green!



I weaken strong purples by pairing grays and whites with it.  I then punch it back up with natural materials that include green and I love to “punch” purple with blues.

FAVE:  soft gray walls (with purple or red undertone) with a patterned fabric that includes shades of green and blue and then accents of blues.


Balance with white, gray or tan or consider a soft blue.  I often tame red with another strong color and then a bluer version of gray.  A wonderful combo is red with aqua and a hint of golden yellow (a version of tan).

FAVE:  Red, aqua and white!  Fresh and happy!


I love the blues but sometimes they feel too cool and/or become “moody”.

When I am searching for a strong blue, I often turn to cobalt.  It is lovely when paired with clean white (as in trim) and it becomes glamorous when paired with metallics like gold (frames, accent wallpaper, etc.). I typically keep cobalt balanced by using other strong colors.

Cobalt is best friends with green!  Try strong shades.  If I am warming it up, I use a grassy green or lime (has the presence of yellow).

If I am creating all cool palette and using cobalt, I use a green that has a blue undertone like an emerald.  FAVE:  Cobalt, metallic gold and Turquoise, unexpected elegance!


Most think of orange as more of an accent, however, it can be as much of a neutral as any of the normal neutrals.

If you like this color but are a little afraid of it in large doses, then, consider bring in white and have your orange be represented in a peachier or pumpkin shade.

  • If peachy, then pair with softer pastels for a lovely ethereal look.
  • If more pumpkin, think of earth tones and use this shade of orange as a grounding color.

If you are using orange in a strong way, you might want to consider clean white with a punch of another strong color.

FAVE:  Gray walls, equal punches of orange and navy with white for balance!   


This light blue/green, green/blue hue is to me, the most neutral of them all.  I have no idea why it is not thought of as a neutral because it goes with everything and has magical powers of taming anything it is put with.

Because I live and work as an interior designer in a Coastal area, Myrtle Beach, SC, I am often asked to incorporate a little coastal flair into my designs... and  I often turn to this neutral called aqua!

I have tamed many “too bright” palettes and I have used it to pack punch as an extra layer that just fits right in.  I have used it to invigorate brown and gray and I have used it to freshen up red and gold. I have also used it as a stand-alone with other shades of blue to create gorgeous monochromatic color schemes.

FAVE:  Shades of blue; rich ultramarine blue with shades of blue aqua with splashes of iced green (green/blue)…all monochromatic.  The shades are varied by saturating with various amounts of white. 


I encourage you to step out of your ordinary crayon box and think about how you can take a color you love and make it your own special “new neutral”.

Most people only think of neutral as the normal neutrals and they tend to buy everything in a normal neutral palette and then wonder why their house is “flat” or just feels all brown or all gray or all beige, etc.  They wonder and fret about why their décor has no “juzze”.

I say get your “juzze” on and incorporate your own special version of the NEW NEUTRALS! 

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