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I am a huge fan of neutral interiors. Huge. Those people who say beige is boring can’t have seen it done right. To me, nothing is more soothing and elegant than a beautifully balanced scheme with whites, grays, taupes, chocolates and charcoals. So this post is both a defense and a celebration of neutral interiors. Here (in no particular order) are my top ten all-time favorite neutral interiors.

1. Contemporary cool

Neutral modern living roomModern living room with tan leather sofas

My number one room is actually two adjoining rooms, designed by Charlie & Co Design in Minneapolis (via Houzz). Each has a slightly different feel but the overall effect is very cohesive. I love the concrete fireplace, tan leather sofas and mixed material cabinetry.

2. Eclectic organic

Hallway with neutral Moroccan tiles

Entry halls are difficult to make interesting because there’s limited space for furniture and accessories. So making the most of the surfaces is important. This hallway uses an eclectic mix of Moroccan-inspired tiled floors, period molding and organic materials and shapes such as the branch mirror (and the woodblock table and Jonathan Adler lamp in the adjoining room)  to make a stunning neutral space. Apply the same lessons to other spaces and use pattern and texture to liven up a neutral interior. Via The Marion House Book.

3. Modern lodge

Contemporary ski lodge

I’ve featured this room before but had to include it here because it’s such a great example of neutrals done right. The only splash of ‘color’ is in two tiny pillows, but this space is anything but drab. That’s because the color actually comes from the use of lots of honey-hued wood. Interesting shapes and lots of tactile materials such as linen, rope (or cane?) chairs and felt. House designed by John Maniscalco Architecture via Houzz.

4. Fashionable classic

Collette Dinnogan living room

Here’s a neutral space with a completely different vibe. This is the former living room of fashion designer Collette Dinnigan, featured in Elle Decor (via LiveBreatheDecor). There’s virtually no color here at all (unless, is that a pale lilac throw…?) and yet the space is both interesting and beautiful. The pale furniture lets the period fireplace take center stage, while the modern floor lamp keeps it all from looking too saccharine sweet. If you have a strong feature like this mantelpiece, an uncluttered neutral scheme – with plenty of negative space to let it breathe – is a good way to make the most of it.

5. Upscale artistic

white living room

This space is a work of art – and not just because of the huge canvases. I love the herringbone wood floors, gently curving staircase, uneven turned wood floor lamp and the balance of black, white and beige. This is a great example of how unique shapes can enliven a very straightforward color scheme. The bentwood ball, on the other hand, just makes me think of tumbleweed… Via Canadian House and Home

6. Urban luxury

Klly Hoppen loft

No neutral round-up would be complete without a room from the Queen of Taupe herself, Kelly Hoppen. This designer is renowned for her stunningly luxurious interiors, characterized by acres of taupe linen, black wood and polished crystal. I personally like her own London loft (above) best as it’s more accessible and yet still inspirational. This is one room to study if you want to know how to make beige sumptuous.

7. Nature-inspired

white living room with plants

One way to bring a neutral interior to life is with lots of plants. The greenery adds color without it actually ‘counting’ as color. I love the way this contemporary space uses frothy ferns, a hide rug and sequined pillows to make a more industrial loft friendly and inviting. Via Apartment Therapy

8. Understated glamor

Neutral living room

The thing about neutral spaces is that you can go completely OTT on glamor, but it will never look kitschy. Take this stunning apartment, featured in Lonny Magazine. Opulent chandelier? Check. Herringbone hide rug? Check. Faux antlers? Check. Both Bertoia AND Calvin chairs? Of course. This is the epitome of glamor and yet it’s tasteful (and gorgeous) because the palette is so subtle.

9. Relaxed Californian

White and wood living room

Well, if you know me, you know I love this room and come back to it time and time again. OF course, it’s the living room of Julie from Remodelista. What do I not love about this space? White cathedral ceilings, wood shelves, an Eames rocker. But the reason I think it’s a great example of a neutral room is that it shows how the right layout and the emphasis on a few key features (in this case the shelving) can make all the difference.

10. Hamptons classic

Thomas O'Brien Hamptons living room

Where else to search for the ultimate neutral interior than a designer’s Hamptons retreat? This is the home of Thomas O’Brien, via Habitually Chic, and is a great example of how different warm whites, layered expertly, with a little dark brown or black to anchor it, can create a casually-styled look. O’Brien is a collector at heart and his rooms always have an inspiring mix of pieces – from stacked books to unusual lamps. If you want to make a neutral space warm and personal, start here.

So, what have I missed? Any other stunning neutral spaces that should make it into the top ten list?

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I recently received an email from a reader who wanted to issue me a challenge: find some images and ideas to inspire the decoration of a house for three 21-year-old guys. Always up for a challenge, I decided to give it a try. As soon as I started hunting, I could see the quandry for men interested in design, especially younger guys and those renting or sharing a place. Most spaces that have been designed specifically for men seem to follow one of a very limited number of formulas.

There’s the industrial loft space:

Industrial-loft

The sleek, gadget-centric seduction zone:

Studio

Or the gentleman’s club, like this modern interpretation of a wood-panelled library:

Club room

Now, while all these styles can be great for inspiration, the reality is that it’s going to be very hard to recreate any of these looks faithfully in most homes. If you live in a three-bedroom house with two other guys, there’s little to be gained from studying pictures of an open-plan studio loft. If your place is a rental, you can’t exactly put up floor-to-ceiling wood panelling or scrape off the plaster to reveal raw brick walls.

So, let’s see what elements can be used – and what alternative styles are possible.

Strong wall colors are the easiest way to create a unified, impactful look that is still masculine. Whether furnishings are spartan or mismatched, the look will still be pulled-together. Grays and browns are ideal options and there’s so much inspiration at the moment for these two hues.

Gray study

gray living room

bedroom

gray dining room

Gray bedroom

Many of these rooms also have strong, sculptural elements. The easiest (and cheapest) way to achieve this is with sculptural lighting pieces, like the Nelson Saucer bubble lamp in the bedroom image, or the large pendant shade over the dining table.

If you really want to go with lighter colors (tough in a house-share) then these sculptural elements will be even more important. Keep the space simple, colors uniform and the focus on a few pieces with interesting shapes.

black and white room

Living room

white bedroom

Texture is an often over-looked element in decorating. Stereotypical bachelor pads feature a lot of smooth chrome and black leather. But this approach means you miss out on the benefit that a combination of rich textures can provide. Grainy woods, scuffed leather and thick wool can create a masculine and stylish look without too much effort. And you can do it without spending a fortune by buying second-hand furniture. Check out the impact of these wood pieces:

Steven Gambrel

sideboard

And the use of leather, wool and stone in these shots:

leather chair

home-for-hire-by-londons-graham-atkins-hughes-3

The other challenge facing house-sharers is where to store all your ‘stuff’. Fortunately, books, art, photos and other artifacts (maybe not snowboards or boat oars – I’m not kidding, our first tenants in our house in London were three male rowers!) can be a real design asset. It’s also a great look for the thinking bachelor’s pad. Industrial-looking shelves are a good option, like these:

Library

Or wood shelves (to borrow from the gentleman’s club look):

Library

I also really like the use of bookshelves surrounding a wall-mounted TV. So much nicer than just having the TV lurk there all alone.

TV and shelves

Similarly, group several photos or pictures together to create a more cohesive, strong display. Making these personal items a deliberate part of the scheme will definitely help the overall effect be more streamlined, even when you need to combine three people’s bits and pieces.

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Picture wall

Office

When it comes to finishing touches, there several trends right now that have a masculine vibe without being cliched. Skulls, flags, maps, globes and vintage lightbulbs are all making appearances in homes. I’m personally a big fan of the Brit-chic look (no surprise there, as I’m British!)

Flag pillows

British flag pillow

So it seems that there are lots of ways to go when decorating for an all-male household after all. As long as you remember the four ‘S’s – Strong colors, Sensory elements like texture, Storage for books etc, and Sculptural pieces.

Anyone designed a house for guys and got any other tips?

Credits:

1 – Apartment of designer Christina Rodriguez via Design for Life; 2 – Freshome; 3 – Living Etc; 4 – Office of designer Monique Lhuillier’s husband, and CEO of her firm, as seen in Elle Decor, photos by Roger Davies, via ChicFreak; 5 – Living Etc; 6 – Artist Lincoln Shatz’s apartment via Apartment Therapy; 7 – via Vintage + Chic; 8 – Apartment of fashion designer Franciso Costa and De John Stefano via DigsDigs; 9 – photo by Patric Johansson via slipcoveryourlife; 10 – photo by Per Magnus Persson; 11 – Loft of designer Frederic Mechiche, via Door Sixteen; 12 – Room designed by Steven Gambrel on 1st Dibs, via Anh Minh;  13 – Living Etc; 14 – via CasaSugar; 15 – Home for hire by photographer Graham Atkins Hughes as reported on Por Homme (more photos featuring this home at Graham’s web site); 16 – via From the Right Bank; 17 –  via DigsDigs; 18 – Living Etc; 19 – Thomas O’Brien’s studio apartment as seen in Australian Vogue Living, via Design Files; 20 – via Vintage + Chic; 21 – via Apartment Therapy; 22 and 23 – via Living Etc.

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