How to Accent a Neutral Color Scheme with Pops of Color

Jen Chinburg
Written By: Jen Chinburg

Are you looking to change up all the gray, beige, or white in your home? Are you considering a complete room redesign but aren’t sure where to start? Tackling your own interior design projects can seem challenging, but the answer is all about adding pops of color that enhance — but don’t overwhelm — your space.

Creating an accented neutral color scheme is the perfect way to transform any room, and it’s a lot easier than you may think. Plus, you can experiment with different color combinations and patterns, and it’s a great excuse to try out any bold accents you’ve been thinking about but have been hesitant to try.

From throw blankets and accent pillows to painted walls and indoor plants, you can easily accessorize any space with pops of color — no interior design experience required.

15 Ways to Accent a Neutral Color Scheme With Pops of Color
5 Tips for Adding Color

15 Ways to Accent a Neutral Color Scheme With Pops of Color

  1. Enhance with accent pillows. Looking to add a bright splash of tangerine or baby blue to your space? Accent pillows come in a rainbow of solid colors and bright patterns (plus a variety of shapes and sizes). This makes them an easy and inexpensive way to elevate, for example, a neutral living room with pops of color.
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  2. Blanket yourself in color. Throw blankets are a fun (and functional) way to incorporate color within living rooms and bedrooms. From faux fur and chunky handknits to buffalo plaid and patchwork patterns, these cozy accessories come in a range of colors, patterns and textures that will instantly add style to any space.
  3. Paint an accent wall. Choose a solid color or opt for a decorative design, such as stripes, circles, chevrons or herringbone. Paint is also an inexpensive way to spruce up any space; just make sure to select a hue that works with your color scheme since a painted accent wall will become the new focal point.
  4. Decorate with wallpaper, stencils and wall decals. Go for funky and bold or simple and classic with a variety of colorful wallpaper, stencil selections or wall decals. These are also cute decorating ideas for a baby or toddler’s room, and the options are endless.
  5. Furnish with color. You can either paint or reupholster existing furniture, such as chairs or stools, or shop for new pieces. Tables, bookcases, sofas, and ottomans are larger, bold statement pieces that come in a range of colors and patterns.
  6. Hang photography, paintings or unique wall art. Instantly transform a blank wall with framed photos, one larger painting, or a collection of smaller works of art. You can also opt for experimental or abstract pieces such as dinner plates or a wall of antique mirrors. Looking for something more functional? Consider adding a decorative memo board that can double as a spot to tack family photos and your to-do list.
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  7. Go green. Embrace sustainability and decorate at the same time by adding some greenery to brighten up your space. Plus, many indoor plants have proven health benefits, including air purification properties. And don’t worry — even if you don’t have a green thumb, there are plenty of low-maintenance (or even artificial) options.
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  8. Pick your favorite (artificial) flowers. Channel your inner florist and create a beautiful bouquet that will liven up any empty table or counter. You can incorporate even more color by using a vase or container in a bright shade. Looking to get even more creative? Mason jars and vintage bottles are fun vase alternatives.
  9. Transform your sofa with a slip cover. If you want to change up the color of your sofa but don’t want to spring for a new piece of furniture, consider a colorful slipcover, which is inexpensive and easy to wash.
  10. Change your bedspread with a duvet cover. Similar to slipcovers, a duvet cover is an inexpensive way to elevate a neutral bedroom with pops of color. These covers also serve double duty: Not only are they decorative and stylish, but they also protect duvets and comforters, which can be expensive and hard to clean.
  11. Bring bold color to the floor. Tonal, stripes, geometric patterns, floral designs and patchwork — these are just some of the many options when it comes to rugs, which are also helpful ways to define areas within a space and complement your overall color scheme.
  12. Swap out your curtains. From solid shades and bright florals to multicolored geometric designs and trendy patterns, there are numerous styles to suit any color palette.
  13. Lighten up. Lighting can be both functional and decorative since lamps come in numerous shapes, varieties and colors. If you enjoy a good DIY project, consider updating an existing lamp by replacing the lampshade or adding a fresh coat of paint. You can also create a lamp out of fun and unique household objects, such as glass bottles, lanterns, mason jars or terrariums.
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  14. Mix it up with mirrors. Bring depth and brightness to a room by adding a mirror. From full length options to stylish mirror sets, many feature decorative, colorful frames. Plus, mirrors are an effective way to integrate light and make spaces appear larger.
  15. Incorporate a colorful collection. Perhaps you have a collection (or have always wanted to start one) of interesting objects, such as bottles, vintage china or ceramic figurines. Group the objects by color and display your collection on a table or bookshelf for a nontraditional decoration. If you’re a literary lover and own a lot of books, you can even color coordinate your bookshelves.

5 Tips for Adding Color

Even though there are many ways to add color to a space, figuring out what works best (and even where to start) may be overwhelming. As you consider all the ways color can transform your home, here are 5 tips to keep in mind:

1. Remember the 60-30-10 rule.

If you’ve watched HGTV at all, you may have heard about this popular decorating concept that’s used to balance color. Here’s what it means, and why it’s so important:

  • 60% of the room is the main color (this usually includes walls, large area rugs, sofas, etc.)
  • 30% of the room is the secondary color (accent chairs, painted furniture, lighting, an accent wall, etc.). This color should vary from the main color but also complement it.
  • 10% is the accent color (throw pillows, artwork, a table lamp, etc.). This is also the time to play around with patterns and textures with the idea that a few bold pieces can add a lot to a space.

Interior designer Maria Killam puts the 60-30-10 rule another way: “Three is a really good rule for formulating your color palette,” she explained in an HGTV article. “More than three colors can feel folksy and too busy.”

2. Explore color pairings.

Do you remember the color wheel from high school art class? It still rings true, and it’s a good place to start if you aren’t sure about color combinations. Here are some suggestions that work well:

  • Complementary colors: Pick two colors on the opposite side of the color wheel (red-green, yellow-purple, and blue-orange).
  • Monotone colors: Select varying shades of one color, but just make sure they have enough contrast. Interior designer Taniya Nayak “advises clients to use five to seven variations of the same color. Think of it in terms of choosing a full paint strip – on one end, you’ve got a really light color, and the other a dark color.”
  • Analogous colors: Find three shades in a row on the color wheel.

At the end of the day, designer Amanda Nisbet says you should choose what makes you happy. “Go with your gut,” she says. “Do not be afraid to play with colors in unexpected ways. If you are naturally drawn to a particular color combination, there is a reason why!”

3. Find budget-friendly ways to add color.

Bringing color into your home doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor. Painting an accent wall or bookshelf, reupholstering chairs, and adding throw pillows to your sofa are just some examples of DIY color-friendly options that won’t break the bank.

4. Connect an open floor plan with color.

In order to create a connection between your rooms, choose a color you’re using in one room and use it in a different way in another. For example, if your dining room chairs are blue, find that same (or similar color) in an accent throw blanket you can drape over your living room sofa.

5. Consider the emotional impact of color.

Color has the ability to evoke different emotions, so it’s important to think about its impact in your home. For example, reds and oranges are more high impact and energetic, while greens and blues are often considered soothing and relaxing.

Whether you’re starting with an empty space or looking to add a few simple design touches to an already-decorated room, there are many ways to accent a neutral palette by fusing color, style and intrigue with your personal touch.