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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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There’s something very satisfying about using natural materials and textures in design.

Take this room, via Kika Reichart, for instance. A simple color scheme and sparse furnishing leap into life with the use of tactile surfaces and fabrics made from linen, wool, plywood, sisal and hessian. I’ve always loved this look and longed to have the discipline to carry off an all-neutral space dressed with with scrubbed wooden tables and white linen upholstery.

No surprise then that the trend toward using burlap in the home has had me intrigued for a while. Of course, designers, and the more adventurous amateurs among you, have used burlap, linen, hessian, rope and similar materials in all sorts of unusual ways for some time. But now it seems that even the major home stores are going wild for the look. And it’s not just plain linen drapes that they’re pushing. I’m talking straight-from-the-flour-mill, shake-out-the-sawdust, sackcloth-turned-decor here. Welcome to the era of Hopsack Chic.

Take these pillows from Restoration Hardware, for example. Now this is a store that is known for polished fixtures and sumptuous leather sofas. But here we have what appear to be converted (wool?) sacks?

Pottery Barn continues its love affair with numbers and text, this time with a distinctly agricultural feel.

And even more so with these pillows, seemingly made from coffee sacks (also Pottery Barn).

Anthropologie keeps it feminine with these pillows which, despite the floral emblem, still look like they were made from something altogether more utilitarian.

So, if you like the look of Hopsack Chic, what else can you do to apply it at home?

Some simple linen tablecloths would be a good start (via Katy Elliott).

Or, if you want to push the boat out – an elegant chair recovered in coffee sacks, anyone? Via Sumner Design.

A stamped burlap headboard might be more your taste. Via Poppytalk.

Personally, I’d opt for a less literal interpretation and fill my place with beautiful linen tufted sofas like this one from Anthropologie.

Then I’d go for some tree stump side tables, like these from West Elm.

And a twine lamp from Anthropologie to complete the look. And there you go – Hopsack Chic!

What do you think? Chic or eek?

The design discoveries and dilemmas of a Brit in San Francisco as she turns a house into a home.

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