Neutral living room ideas: How to create a restful retreat

neutral living room scheme with leather armchairs and glass internal doors
Neutral living room ideas can include furniture that 'pops' against the neutral background (Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

If it is neutral living room ideas you are after then you are definitely in the right place — our collection of inspiration has something for everyone, no matter what your budget, or the style or size of house you have.

Perhaps you are after modern living room ideas for your self build project or maybe you are after something a little more traditional to tie in with the period of the house you are renovating — whatever it is you are aiming for, we have some great suggestions. 

Our living rooms tend to be the spaces to which we retreat to at the end of the day, either to chill out and breathe or to come together with our families, loved ones or friends to socialise and share snippets of our days. 

As such, this is a room that needs to feel both warm and welcoming, as well as calming and relaxed — a neutral decor scheme is the ideal way to achieve both.

How to use neutral living room ideas for any style home

One of the best thing about neutral living room ideas is that they can be adapted really easily for any kind of interior scheme — plus they are super adaptable should you decide to change your furniture or decorative accessories at any point in the future.

This type of design is also perfect for those after small living room ideas as the nature of a subtle, understated decor scheme won't make a space feel cluttered or enclosed in the same way that bold colours and very busy patterns sometimes can.

It is important to bear in mind that neutral doesn't have to equal boring. Although white is a crisp, classic choice, there are many more neutral colours out there, from creamy vintage shades to cooling greys.

Take a look at what we've come up with and then get busy creating a living room full of charm and calm. 

1. Opt for a rustic finish

neutral living room with open fire

This neutral living room idea, from Pepper Sq, frames a glorious open fire (Image credit: Pepper Sq Ltd)

Neutral schemes are actually ideal if you are looking for ways to cut the cost of decorating your living room as they can be easily achieved on a DIY basis, using paints and materials that are readily available, plus they are easy to tie in with what you already have in place. 

For a cosy, rustic feel in your living room, consider painting exposed brickwork an off-white and combine it with other shades of cream and white for added interest. 

This is a great one for those after chimney breast ideas — a painted brick chimney combined with alcoves in a creamy shade will add a soft warmth that isn't overwhelming and is easy to pair with furniture in bolder shades. 

2. Keep it calm with shades of grey

grey living room with grey sofa

Subtle differences in shades can create a relaxing space (Image credit: Loaf)

Grey is the perfect neutral for creating a calming, tranquil feel in the living room — plus it comes in a shade to suit all kinds of spaces. 

When it comes to your living room paint ideas, bear in mind that lighter shades of grey will really help a gloomy space feel more airy, while darker tones, such as blue grey and charcoal can add atmosphere and a sense of intimacy.

Here, Loaf's Crumpet sofas in subtly different shades of grey have been paired with crisp white walls and painted floorboards.

3. Think beyond white

neutral living room with sage green wall panelling

Pick a neutral shade with a hint of colour like with this sage green wall panelling (Image credit: Snug)

Neutral schemes are about so much more than plain dazzling white. Everything from soft pinks and blues through to mushroom and biscuit beiges can be used to create this kind of look.

Expand your wall panelling ideas to think about how they could add interest and character to your living room. Here, a powdery sage green has been used to paint the contemporary vertical wall panelling, while a deep shade of grey has been used on just a small section of built-in shelving, picking up on the grey of the Maverick sofa from Snug

The neutral-coloured floor covering and expanses of glazing ensure the space feels well-lit. 

4. Combine contemporary with classic

neutral living room with brown chesterfield sofa and large fireaplace

Chesterfield sofas blend with contemporary features using a neutral backdrop (Image credit: January Furniture Show)

One of the best things about a neutral decor scheme is that it is so easy to find ways to adapt the look to any style of house, be that a traditional farmhouse or a new build.

This space is a real mix of contemporary and classic — meaning both styles stand out all the more. The tall black-framed windows make a real statement against the classic white fireplace, while the soft brown Chesterfield-style sofa and armchair give the space a reassuringly traditional feel. 

5. Enjoy a blast of fresh air

white living room

Using neutral living room ideas can let architecture speak for itself in a room (Image credit: ercol)

Minty green and crisp white are a match made in heaven when it comes to ensuring a space feels fresh, airy and chic. What's more, these are shades that can work well in both large rooms with high ceilings as well as more compact spaces. 

In this beautiful living room, a rich wooden floor warms the entire space up, while the fresh green Marinello sofa, footstool and snuggler, all from ercol, and white walls give the space a pared-back and simple finish, allowing the architecture of the room to take centre stage. 

6. Keep it toasty with shades of cocoa

cream and brown living room

You can add warmth to neutral living room ideas by contrasting paler shades with deeper colours (Image credit: Caffe Latte)

For a really inviting and warm living room, look no further than a cookies-and-cream colour scheme, using chocolatey browns and top-of-the-milk whites. These shades are so easy to live with and can be used in both modern and classic rooms alike.

Here, a combination of warm earthy and neutral tones add a cosy feel that is elegant and relaxing too. Caffe Latte's Gommosa Modular Sofa, with its marshmallowy form, really stands out, along with their Demitasse Armchair and Macchiato Stool.

Using a mixture of natural and organic materials and fabrics will help create a modern boho look that is both casual and inviting.

7. Add colour with accessories

blue sofa with cushions in living room

Add cushions and throws to neutral schemes (Image credit: Norsu Interiors)

If you are worried about your neutral living room looking a little too...neutral, fear not. You can incorporate pops of colour and interest all while keeping the overall feel one that is easy-to-live with and subtle.

Turn to soft furnishings such as curtains, throws, cushions and lamp shades for your colour hit. Here, a selection of furniture and accessories from Norsu Interiors really livens up the space without being overwhelming.

8. Go for contemporary chic with marble

contemporary living room with marble fireplace

The stone used for this fireplace adds luxury to this neutral space (Image credit: Caffe Latte)

Neutral schemes can be luxurious too — and if it is a more opulent feel you are aiming for in your living room, then this one is for you.

Think about combining high-end materials such as rich timber and natural stone with eye-catching furniture. In this minimalist living room a striking curvy sofa from Caffe Latte sits in nice contrast with the sleek marble-clad full-height fireplace. 

9. Opt for lots of relaxed layers

neutral living room with large corner sofa

All the materials in this neutral living room idea work together (Image credit: Sweetpea & Willow)

The key to creating a relaxed, comfortable neutral living room is to include lots of different materials and textures within the scheme. You can do this using an array of throws, blankets and cushions, as well as through your living room flooring ideas — layers of rugs over either pale carpets or wooden floors add another level of cosiness. 

Vary the colours used on the walls too to create even more of a layered look and mix up your textures. Here, soft linens and powdery shades on the walls sit in contrast with the more polished finish of the Theodore Alexander Fisher Round Coffee Table, in marble and brass, from Sweetpea & Willow

10. Go for a total white out

luxury living room

A 'white-out' can be very effective (Image credit: Rug'Society)

While we've talked a lot about using off-whites and various other 'warm' neutrals, don't discount an all-white scheme altogether.

Fresh, crisp and the perfect backdrop for all kinds of decor styles, an all-white scheme need not feel cold or impersonal in any way. The key lies in choosing furniture that begs to be lounged on, seeking out great living room lighting ideas, and making the most of areas of architectural interest, such as alcoves, mouldings and large windows.

This striking space features a rug from Rug'Society called White Garden. This is a square-shaped rug using different shades of white that is perfect for neutral decor schemes.

11. Make the most of natural light

natural light in living room

The neutral colours in this room give the natural day light centre stage (Image credit: Caffe Latte)

If you are lucky enough to have plenty of natural light entering your living room, be sure to really optimise it through the use of textured walls, which can create some lovely effects when the sun falls on them. There are many types of plaster available to create interest and warmth to a neutral scheme. 

In this relaxing Japandi-style space, the Siphon Modular Sofa, by Caffe Latte, is the main statement piece, although the beautiful off-white, textured wall behind gives it a run for its money. 

12. Get fresh with painted wall panelling 

small grey sofa in living room with painted panelling

Wall panelling can become an interesting design feature with a neutral colour scheme (Image credit: Made Fine & Co)

Painting wall panelling in neutral shades is a great way to achieve a little Scandinavian chic in your living room, whether you use half wall panelling ideas, go for an all-over look or fix panelling to just one feature wall. 

This space has loads of great ideas to steal, from the painted grey skirting boards to the fresh white window shutters. The Cloud 9 sofa from Made Fine & Co adds a nice Mid-century modern feel. 

13. Create an oasis with blue and grey

large living room with stone fireplace and blue dressers

Pastel colours complement each other in this neutral living room idea (Image credit: The Painted Furniture Company)

Baby blue, powdery grey and white — a brilliant trio of shades for anyone wanting to conjure up a neutral and relaxing living room scheme. 

The living room here is a great example of how to use this colour scheme to the best effect. The pretty dressers, either side of the chunky sandstone fireplace, and the central coffee table are from The Painted Furniture Company and add a lovely burst of colour.

The tall lollipop tree, huge mirror and statement pendant light all make the most of the soaring proportions of the space.

14. Create interest using textures

cream living room with pink sofa

Textured walls and materials work well with neutral schemes (Image credit: Loaf)

Neutral shades can be very warming visually if chosen well — as this cosy room proves. Buttery-coloured walls and a selection of squashy furniture in pastel shades, plus a cosy rug, all from Loaf, add the comfort factor, all while maintaining a soft, subtle feel. 

It is useful to think outside the box a little when creating a neutral scheme — consider using shades often found outside in the natural world and look at how they work together and ways you can incorporate this into your home. 

15. Use warm woods with white walls

neutral living room with wooden floor and modern fireaplace

The neutral colouring in this scheme turns this wooden floor into a feature (Image credit: Tile Mountain)

Natural materials really can be your best friend when it comes to creating a pared-back, subtle and calming decorating scheme. They are timeless, offer classic appeal and combine well with both modern furniture as well as heirloom pieces. 

In this stunning open-plan living room, Graziella Roble Oak Wood Porcelain Effect Tiles from Tile Mountain replicate characterful timber planks, while the rustic stone used within the fireplace adds an earthy feel to the space as a whole. 

Natasha Brinsmead

Natasha is Homebuilding & Renovating’s Associate Content Editor and has been a member of the team for over two decades. An experienced journalist and renovation expert, she has written for a number of homes titles. Over the years Natasha has renovated and carried out a side extension to a Victorian terrace. She is currently living in the rural Edwardian cottage she renovated and extended on a largely DIY basis, living on site for the duration of the project. She is now looking for her next project — something which is proving far harder than she thought it would be.