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Looking through my blogs on colour I noticed that I’ve concentrated on how to use dark, dramatic colours in interiors and neglected the neutrals. There is a misconception that any neutral colour scheme will work well together but the key to combining neutrals successfully is that you need to make sure the undertones are a similar colour. Sometimes you may have walked into a room and noticed that it just doesn’t look right but you can’t actually put your finger on where the problem lies: usually it is because there is a mix of undertones in the neutrals. In some colours it is really easy to pick out the undertone when looking at the paint chart: with other colours it is much trickier but as with everything practise makes perfect. As an exercise, go through the chips and write down the undertone for each one- do this for colours as well as neutrals (On the F and B chart you will tend to find that most colours with similiar undertones are grouped near each other). This will train you to really look at colour and you will gradually get better at differentiating between very subtle shades.

Neutrals can be split into 3 types: off-whites, beige and grey. (I would probably put a pale cream in the off-white category and a dark cream in the beige.)

Farrow and Ball has the best choice of neutrals so all the paint chips I have used as examples here are from their range. However, it can be difficult to use F and B paints because as they are so complex and light reflective they will look different at different times of the day and places in the room. I always paint up a big A3 board and move it around the room so I can place it next to woodwork, soft furnishings  to see how it reacts in various lights.

I think that beiges can be the hardest and most unforgiving neutrals to use so I have concentrated on them and will leave the greys for another time.


Beige tends to fall into one of three undertones- pink, yellow or green. Pinky beige and yellowy beige don’t work next to each other and its best not to use them in the same room, even if that room is quite large. Cream has yellow undertones and should be used in rooms with lots of natural light, otherwise it can look dull.

Beige with Pink undertones

In this kitchen, the marble work tops and cupboards look right together as the marble picks up the grey-green colour of the cupboards but the tiles look out-of-place as they have dusky pink undertones. A pale grey, cleaner white or metal mosaic tile would have looked much better.

via Maria Killam

via Maria Killam

Beige with yellow undertones

The scheme here is slightly spoilt by the pink toned sofa against a yellow beige wall. It doesn’t look horrible (and the pink is picked up by colours in the artwork) but it could have looked better if the sofa had been a soft green, or a dark honey colour. Or if the wall had been painted in a red based colour such as Dimity.

via Hypeninteriors

via Hypeninteriors

Beige with green undertones

The wall in this dining-room looks like it has been painted in a barely-there shade of off-white with green undertones and provides a harmonious background to the deeper olive table and dresser.

via chicanddeco

via chicanddeco

Your new found knowledge of undertones will also come in handy when matching neutral colours (e.g. for the ceiling, above the picture rails, woodwork) to your main wall colour , as both colours should share an undertone for a co-ordinated look.

If you would like me to help choose a design scheme for your interior, I’d love to help. I also provide an online interior design service if you don’t happen to live locally. Email anthea@dressingroomsinteriors.co.uk for details

All images taken from pinterest