Monday, May 23, 2011

Neutrals are nice. But sometimes they need a little lift.

Your living room walls are sand. Your carpeting is a neutral taupe, too. Your furniture is upholstered in khaki. You want to add some pizzazz to the room with the proper accessories. But you just don’t know where to start.

Here’s advice on accessorizing the neutral living room from three interior design experts: Shoshana Gosselin, an interior decorator in Breinigsville; Donna Turner, in-home design consultant for Eisenhard’s Decorating Center in Emmaus; and Sheryl Boltze, strategic adviser for Sure Fit.

Bold pillows on your sofa and chairs will make the room pop. Throw pillows can be an inexpensive way to add pizzazz to a room, Gosselin says. The pizzazz can come from color (bold oranges or reds) or texture (silks and linens).

Area rugs are one of the simplest ways to add depth and drama to the neutral living room without overwhelming it, Gosselin says. You can put rugs on top of hardwood flooring or even on top of carpeting.

“Frieza (also known as California shag) and long shags are back so you can really get a wow factor from the texture and color alone,” Turner says.    

A bold rug will “ground” the room. 

A quilt, old or new, is the perfect accessory for a neutral living room. You can have it stretched over a frame like a painter’s canvas and hang it on the wall. It will give you an instant shot of pattern and color.

Mirrors are a great accessory to any room. “They help you to bounce the natural light around the room and make it look bright and cheery,” Turner says. Use different woods for the frames to add texture. Silver and gold frames also work well.

A small piece of antique painted furniture is a neat accessory to play with. You might find a side table or bookcase in a thrift shop that you can paint or pinstripe and it can become a focal point of your room.

Slipcovers on a sofa or chair can bring color to a neutral room. “Slipcovers come in a wide array of colors, materials and designs and can fit over furniture from couches to loveseats and recliners to ottomans,” Boltze says.

If your slipcovers are taupe or beige, it is much easier to find accessory colors, Boltze says. “However, picking a more dominant color such as green requires more careful planning as a color like orange would not blend so well.”

You can change the slipcovers with the season, Turner says. “Go from ivory or camel for winter to greens and blues or reds and pinks for spring,” she says. The advantage to slipcovers as accessories, she says, is you can change the whole look of a room at minimal cost.

You can have fun with slipcovers, too, Boltze adds. Try bold checks or stripes in crisp clean colors. Or you might want to pick a favorite, large-scale print for one of your chairs or sofas.   

Lampshades are another accessory to consider, Gosselin says. Lampshades can be custom-made with almost any fabric or paper. You also can find them in a wide range of colors.

Artwork will add drama to your neutral room. Choose a mat for the artwork that matches one of its dominant colors, Gosselin says. Likewise, family photos are a great way to accessorize a neutral room and add a focal point that’s meaningful.

Plants and flowers are a good way to bring some oomph to a neutral room, Turner says. Plants can be live or artificial and can be green or with some colorful flowers. “One of my favorite plants for decorating is orchids,” Turner says. “They’re fairly easy to maintain – you put stones in the bottom and water them once a week.”

Vases and ceramic bowls are yet more accessories that can make a neutral room pop, Gosselin and Turner agree. Choose colors within your scheme. “The best rule-of-thumb is to stay within a color range, either the warm colors or the cool ones,” Boltze says. 

When accessorizing, you don’t want to go too overboard or your room will look like a flea market, the designers say. The bottom line, they say, is to keep it simple.

“It’s OK to have several colors in the room, but it’s very important that the colors don’t clash,” Boltze says.

“You can have more than four colors in a room, but they should all complement each other – for instance, use all light colors such as baby blue, pink, bright yellow and light green,” Boltze says. “They are all spring colors and go together well. Burgundy, gold, orange and brown are autumn colors and would look great together in a living room combination.”  

There are times, however, Boltze says, when the colors are not direct complements. For example, blues can work with yellows, she says. However, “to play it safe, colors should always complement each other in some way.”

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