Cindy and I love receiving emails, comments and questions from all of you. And we love being able to offer our advice and suggestions to help you all resolve whatever issues you’re encountering while trying to decorate your homes. Recently we heard from a couple of readers and so I thought I’d share their questions and my answers. Feel free to chime in with your opinion or follow-up questions. We love the community we’re building here and we’re all better for the sharing.
Jennifer writes: “I just discovered your site and fell in love. The information is priceless. I want to ask you a question about the color griege and what colors go with it… In this photo of our family room, the paint we used is Behr’s Barley Field which is a grey/beige combo. Their website puts it in the yellow undertone neutral category. I want to keep the room relaxed and airy, so no red or black. Are there any colors that won’t work with greige? Thanks for your help.” -Jennifer
As you can see from her photo, greige is a warm neutral color. This version of the color (always a challenge on computer monitors) appears to be stronger gray than beige so most colors that work with gray will work here. I would suggest avoiding muddy colors since they will look dull and unappealing. Choose rich, clear tones of just about any hue for best results. Any of the fresh green colors like lime, apple or grass green would work beautifully and paired with a crisp white would certainly create the light airy look you want. You could accent with oranges to rust or deep rich gold rather than a pastel yellow. For your grounding color I recommend choosing rich dark chocolate over a mid-tone brown or tan or a dark navy instead of a wimpy blue.
I’ve taken a few ‘fabric’ samples to illustrate my suggestions. The white background with blue and green would set the tone for a bright and light scheme; the lime in the middle feels modern and gardeny; the stripe plays up the greige, has a touch of white, but introduces plenty of options for accent colors.
For me the vine pattern on the left is not a good option - even though the rusty color appears to work well with the floor, the tan base of the fabric is too muddy and doesn’t play well with the wall color. The lighter yellow with touches of gray and purple is a better choice, fresh, light and airy, blends with the floor and works much better with the wall color.
In this last sample, the swatch on the left is again unsuccessful – and for the same reason. The tan is too close in tone to the greige and rather than blending together, seems to fight it. However, the yellow and rusty patterns are bright and vibrant and are better options. I know you mentioned no red or black – rust or orange aren’t as strong as red and would be worth considering as an accent color.
Jennifer, I hope this helps you visualize some color options. As you can see, most hues have a range that will work with your neutral walls. If you want to do a little testing before committing to a whole scheme, go pillow shopping and buy a stack of pillows in a range of colors. Try them out for a couple days, move them around in different pairings until a scheme comes together for you. Then return the pillows that didn’t work. Good luck and we’d love to hear back or even see photos of the room as it develops.
Black and White Floor
Kelly has a similar problem. She writes, “I currently have a long, narrow basement room with a black and white tile floor. The walls are painted gray. We want to make a family room /man cave with lots of comfortable seating. Most of the sofas I like seem to be camel or beige color microfiber or black leather. Would a tan or beige sofa look good against the black/white/gray already there? I think red would look good but has been vetoed for the man cave. My plan is to use dark woods and bring in color with accesories to build my theme idea of movies since we already have a couple of framed posters. Any ideas would be welcome.” -Kelly
Black and white checkerboard flooring is a classic design and actually pretty easy to work with. You have the advantage of being able to use just about any color since it works mostly as a neutral. And the short answer is, yes, a camel sofa will work with those colors and could actually be quite sophisticated. A tan sofa is also neutral enough to work with any future scheme you may decide on if/when you change your flooring. You’re right to think about adding your bright spots of color with accessories and pillows.
Since this is a basement room, there may not be any windows (or they’re really small), but I’d definitely recommend using draperies. The draperies will provide some sound absorption with the expanse of tile flooring and will provide a major softening element. Even if there’s no window, hang draperies over bare wall if necessary to create the illusion of a window – it will give you a way to beef up the color scheme and introduce a pattern that will tie all your colors together.
Although this is not a photo of Kelly’s room, it does have a similar vibe to what I understand it to be. As you can see, a good rich shade of camel or tan will work just fine. To create a movie room theme, a couple of great movie posters and a whimsical popcorn machine really set the mood (and color scheme). (Ikea table, World Market pillows, ManufacturersClearance.com popcorn machine)
Even though red is often the first thought when wondering how to decorate with black and white checkerboard, you can see here that just about any color can work. Any clear, fairly bold color that is. Like my advice to Jennifer above, I would avoid muddy, greyed down colors or very pastel colors. To hold its own against the dominance of the floor, I think a little boldness is in order. (Chair from Overstock.com, LampsPlus pillows)
Another option to consider for your family room is to add an area rug – it’s another way to add sound absorption, give a soft surface underfoot and break up the big expanse of checkerboard. If you add a rug, make sure to get one large enough to reach at least under the front edge of the seating area furniture so it unites the space.
Online color advice is challenging. Actually, giving the advice isn’t always challenging, but interpreting the many shades of colors and sharing pictures is challenging since we all know that every monitor displays colors differently. We do the best we can. Hopefully Jennifer and Kelly have found the advice helpful and meaningful. If you have any additional suggestions, please feel free to share in our Comments section (located just below the ads); I’m sure they’d love the input.