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Accented Neutral Color Schemes: How to Shine with Little Color

Not a big fan of color? Is your interior design style more minimalist? Accented neutral color schemes are a great way to add interest and contrast to your design without using too much color.

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the basics of accented neutral color schemes. We’ll cover tips on how to use them effectively in your next design. We’ll also discuss using neutrals as your base, adding accent colors for contrast and interest, and how to put it together for an eye-catching design. With these tips in mind, you can add style and sophistication to any space with an accented neutral color scheme.

Creating an Accented Neutral Color Scheme

As alluded to at the start of this blog post, an accented neutral color scheme is one that primarily uses neutral colors as the foundation of a color palette. It also has small touches of bold or rich pops of color.

A neutral palette can be especially helpful in a house with an open floor plan. Neutrals like white, beige, and taupe are all similar in color, so they are capable of grounding an entire space. Consequentially, you can get away with using various pops of color throughout a house.

Let’s take a look at how to select your neutral colors and accent color.

Understanding Neutral Colors

Neutrals are typically recognized as colors that lack a dominant hue or saturation. Thus, you won’t find them on the color wheel. These colors are often referred to as “earth tones” and even “grayscales.” Colors like white, black, gray, beige, and taupe are neutrals.

Brown is sometimes considered neutral too. But, some browns can skew orange, while dark browns like chocolate brown can appear black.

For this reason, depending on the type of brown you use, it could work as either a neutral or accent color.

There isn’t a distinct criterion for deciding what counts as a neutral hue. Yet, below are some common features.


  • Low saturation: Neutral colors typically have a low level of saturation, meaning they are not very vibrant or intense. This allows them to blend well with other colors and provide a calm, balanced backdrop.
  • Low contrast: Neutrals like white, beige, and taupe boast a low contrast level, i.e., not much variation in the color’s lightness and darkness. This makes them easy to pair with other colors without creating too much visual tension. The exceptions to this rule are black and dark gray. They have high contrast.
  • Natural tones: Many neutral colors are inspired by natural materials like stone, sand, or wood. This gives them a timeless and organic quality.

Which neutral colors you choose will be up to you. If you don’t feel particularly strong about any of the neutral colors, then start by selecting an accent color first. You can use this color on accessories like pillows or even on accent chairs.

Ideally, you will have a color scheme composed of three colors. One will be your accent color and the other two will be neutrals like taupe.

How to Choose an Accent Color for Your Space

An accent color is a color that stands out from the neutrals and adds contrast, depth, and interest to a design or space. Accent colors can be used to draw attention to specific elements in a design or add vibrancy to an otherwise neutral space. Accent colors are often chosen for their boldness or even their emotional connotations.

When choosing an accent color, consider both the purpose of the space and the feelings you want to evoke. For example, a dining room might benefit from a vibrant red or yellow accent wall to make it feel warm and inviting. A bedroom may have a baby blue ceiling with white walls to create a sense of serenity and relaxation.

Additionally, you can use your accent color strategically to create a focal point. For instance, if your accent color is pink, you can use it on a coffee table book or through a painting. Once you’ve decided on your accent color, then you can go about selecting complementing neutral colors.

Once you’ve chosen your accent color, you can then start selecting neutrals to use with it. Remember that the purpose of an accented neutral color scheme is to make the accent color stand out from the rest. So, you’ll want to choose neutrals that won’t compete for attention.

Determining Contrast in a Color Scheme

The contrast between colors refers to their difference in hue, saturation, and value. The higher the contrast between two colors, the more striking they appear next to each other.

Hue is the term we use to describe a color’s name. There are three primary hues, which are the primary colors red, blue, and yellow. The secondary hues include orange, green, and purple.

Value refers to how light or dark a color is, while saturation describes how intense or muted it is.

Most neutral colors have no or little hue. Pure white and pure black – and therefore any gray created by the two – are achromatic. However, some tints of white have a tiny bit of yellow to create the color cream. This type of white has a hue (yellow) but not very much.

When creating an accented neutral color scheme, you have some options for creating contrast between colors.

Accent Colors with High Saturation & Value

The easiest way to think of high saturation in colors is to visualize the primary colors. We associate primary colors with boldness. When we place them beside other colors, they stand out because of their brightness.

Colors with high saturation tend to pair well with light neutrals like white, cream, and light gray but also with darker neutrals like black and dark gray. These kinds of color schemes have high contrast that allows the accent color to pop even though it is used sparingly.

Black and highly saturated accent colors will have more contrast than that same accent color and dark gray. Similarly, white and highly saturated accent colors will have more contrast than the same accent color and cream.

You can achieve the maximum amount of contrast within all three colors in your color scheme if you choose black and white as your neutral colors and a primary color like red as your accent color. A high-contrast color palette is one way to add depth and interest to a neutral space.

Accent Colors with Low Saturation & Value

Accent colors with low saturation tend to be more subdued than bright colors. This can be a great option if you prefer a color scheme that is subtle yet impactful.

Hues with low saturation or value include pastel colors or light variations of colors. Pink for example is a tint of red with low value. Magenta on the other hand has a higher value than pink.

Accent colors with low saturation and/or value are good for people who like color but not too much of it. Pale blues, pinks, and soft yellows are some examples of colors that can be used as an accent in a neutral color scheme.

When selecting neutrals to use with these colors, you want to choose light grays or whites so that the accent color can shine despite its low saturation. Using black or dark gray tones would create too much contrast, and the accent color wouldn’t be as visible. This is because our eye would be drawn to the colors black and/or dark gray.

When you have a low contrast neutral, it is important to think about other ways of creating interest and contrast in the design. Accentuate forms, textures, and patterns to create visual interest without relying too heavily on saturated accent colors.

An Accented Neutral Palette with the 60-30-10 Rule

Earlier I mentioned that three colors are best for a color scheme. This is because it offers just enough variety to be interesting, without it feeling overwhelming.

Additionally, three colors work best when applying the 60-30-10 rule. This rule suggests that 60% of your space should be occupied by your main color, 30% by a secondary color, and 10% by an accent color. This rule can help to create visual harmony and balance in a design without having to overthink your color options.

To apply this rule when designing, make sure your two neutral colors make up 90% of the color in your home, while your accent color makes up 10%. This ensures that your neutral colors remain the backdrop to the bolder colors in the color palette.

Accented Neutral Color Schemes for Various Styles

Interior design styles usually have particular color schemes that work well with them. That said, designers can use an accented neutral palette to achieve a variety of looks, such as farmhouse, mid-century modern, and traditional.

For example, farmhouse-style homes popularly use white, light gray, and light blue for their color schemes.

Mid-century modern homes on the other hand tend to use white, gray/silver, and browns with orange undertones.

Accented neutral color schemes can be adaptable and versatile. Thus, if you’re an interior designer or a homeowner interested in updating your home, then designing color schemes with accented neutral colors can be handy.

How to Add Interest to a Neutral Color Palette

Your neutral colors will be used heavily on walls, flooring, and large pieces of furniture or accessories. These elements compose most of a room, so your neutrals will naturally be present there.

But, despite the lack of color, a mostly neutral color palette does not have to be boring. You can play around with neutral-colored patterns on wallpaper, a sofa, or pillows.

Incorporating a variety of materials and textures will liven up your home as well. Cream marble stone on a kitchen wall can be interesting and stylish. Living rooms with textured throw pillows or accent rugs will add some life to your design as well.

Check out the post on color schemes and how to craft them for more tips on creating effectively color palettes.


Accented neutral color schemes are an effective way to add contrast and interest to interior designs without being too overwhelming. By using two neutrals as the base, you can bring in small accents of bright or bold colors for maximum impact.

We’ve discussed how to select neutral and accent colors, apply the 60-30-10 rule, and create various style looks all with accented neutral color combinations. Whether you’re designing your home or creating visuals for marketing materials – if done correctly, these techniques will help make sure your designs shine no matter what type of styling you use. So go ahead – start experimenting!


Accent colors can be chosen by considering the saturation and value of the colors. Accent colors with low saturation and/or value, such as pastels, are best used with light grays or whites as neutrals. This allows the accent color to be effectively visible without creating too much contrast. You can use bold accent colors, but keep in mind they tend to create the most contrast when paired with neutral colors.

You can use multiple accent colors in an accented neutral color scheme, though you run the risk of the color scheme transforming into a normal color scheme. The best way to utilize more than one accent color is by selecting two accent colors that are the same hue (light blue, bright blue) and then sparingly use both of them. Make sure you incorporate your neutral colors into most of your home so that the overall color scheme still feels neutral.

Accented neutral color schemes are incredibly versatile because they are mostly composed of neutral colors. This means that we can apply them to a variety of interior design styles. Often, it will be the accent color that will capture the essence of the design style, though this may not always be the case. For example, interiors in the Hollywood regency style often use lots of black and white with touches of gold.

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