They may be the building blocks of most decorating schemes, but pale colours can be a challenge to get right. Here’s how to make them work harder at home
Finding the perfect neutrals for your home isn’t always straightforward – as you’ll know if you’ve ever studied a paint colour card, with its dozens of nuanced options for white. Get the combination right and your room will look magically larger and brighter; choose unwisely, and it could end up feeling too cold, slightly too warm or just flat and monotonous.
When decorating with neutrals, it helps to think of them not as single shades, but as tonal families. So it’s not just a matter of painting a room in one colour: layer different variations of the same hue together and you’ll create something with much more depth and interest. The Mylands paints shown here (£46 for 2.5 litres; mylands.com) are a useful case in point, with several paler and stronger neutrals skilfully combined to form palettes that are anything but one-dimensional. ➤
It is also vital to remember that neutral doesn’t just mean beige. In these pictures, there are barely there pinks, lilacs and peaches, as well as soft greys, putty hues and even the odd hint of blue and green. You can combine them in any way you like – although often it’s best to stick to either cool or warm shades so they work in harmony.
The best way to discover what goes together is to buy tester pots and begin experimenting on your walls. Some brands make paler and darker versions of the same colour, designed to match effortlessly – Little Greene and Paint & Paper Library are great at this.
Lastly, don’t think of paler shades as dull; it’s possible to have a lot of fun with neutrals. Provided you’re thinking in terms of warm or cool families, there’s potential for lovely contrasts. Look to Ellis Paint, which not only organises its neutrals into groups of five sample pots to try out, but also combines shades in thoughtful ways (grey-brown with soft pink or almost-yellow, for instance).
Turn the page for our suggested pale pairings – ideal for adding effortless interest to neutral rooms. ➤