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24 November 2015

Designing with a Neutral Palette

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A large, formal living room in a pre-war apartment for a lovely couple who crave a calm, neutral palette with hints of blue.

As colorists, we always find designing rooms with a neutral palette the most challenging. Rooms that achieve the desired effect of monochromatic textiles must have art on the walls and interesting non upholstered pieces to give the environment interest and life. The inspiration images from the clients were of rooms in beach and country homes featuring white walls, neutral linen upholstery fabrics, and an eclectic mix of antiques and art. The client shared with us that she feels happiest at her weekend beach house. Our challenge is to take this feeling and make it appropriate for Park Avenue. We set out to create a furniture scheme that includes interesting furniture shapes (neutral fabrics crave interesting/detailed/sculptural upholstered furniture), vintage and antique pieces with interesting lines, and neutral fabrics that won’t fall flat but give their living room a fresh look that feels a little bit glamorous but still like home. Designer David Kleinberg’s Manhattan living room, recently featured in the new book The Parish-Hadley Tree of Life: An Intimate History of the Legendary Design Firm is a wonderful source of inspiration.

Designer David Kleinberg's Manhattan living room.
The art and introduction of nature makes this neutral scheme come to life.

In this Jacques Grange interior the color scheme is simply tints and shades of cream, butter and, of course, animal print.

The room still feels layered and sophisticated with luxurious velvet damasks and silk velvets. It feels fresh and modern when all of these "fancy" fabrics are put on top of a natural fiber rug.

Below, the palest of white and soft robin’s egg blues prevail. Note that the ceiling is painted blue to add an element of continuity while the dining room is painted a stronger blue to ground the light and airy living room. The upholstered pieces themselves are all very tailored, yet different from each other.

The art is the star in this neutral room — as it should be!

Note the painted silver ceiling, amping up the luxuriousness of the neutral palette.

For this project, we have proposed a wonderful damask in a soft blue green in the dining room which opens up into the living room. The larger of the two sofas will be upholstered in a warm, camel color velvet that has a slight sheen to it, while the pair of square arm lounge chairs will be in a small scale dotted woven silk fabric in muted tones. For the Jansen style sofa on the opposite wall, we’re proposing a subtle geometric print for the Jansen sofa and a large scale Greek key motif custom designed rug. The end result should prove to be very sophisticated, but not too serious. The clients are very warm and inviting, and they want their apartment to reflect their personal style. And it will!

Neutral doesn’t have to mean boring. The right combination of texture and subtle pattern can bring a monochromatic room to life.

Below you can see the furniture plan for the living room. Our client loves to entertain and the husband plays the piano every night when he gets home from work so it was important to be able to incorporate their piano into the furniture plan even if it meant there was slightly less seating in the room.

A grand piano has a prominent place in the room. We found a way to work with it so that we could still find ample seating for entertaining. The clients already have a collection of art, so in this scenario, we have worked with the colors and the orientation of their pieces.  On either side of the fireplace, we added a pair of demi-lune tables, one of our favorite furniture pieces. Aside from adding soft lines to the room, it is the perfect opportunity to introduce additional lighting to a large room.

Grand piano
Client art collection
Demi-lune tables

In the dining room, the client requested a skirted table on her the large extended oval dining table. We saw this as an opportunity to introduce an elaborate damask textile pattern (see above in the fabric scheme).

At the far end of the dining room, we’re planning on including a pair of interesting architectural lamps on this classical console table, again to introduce more light, but also interest. Every piece needs to add a bit of drama when the color scheme is so serene.

Table and roman shade rendering

In the coming weeks, we’ll be finalizing decisions on all of the furniture pieces and corresponding fabrics. Looking forward to sharing all of the elements with you. In the meantime, hope you all have a wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving!

— Lauren & Suzanne
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3 Comments
Absolute love the leopard couches. It goes perfectly with my new area rug. Thanks for sharing. http://www.bargainarearugs.com
That swirl suspension piece in the first image is absolutely beautiful! Unique chandeliers are such a wonderful design option. I agree that neutral can often be a real challenge, but hints of color and interesting textures can still creating a warm, inviting feel and prevent a space from looking like a waiting room. I also love your painting choices on the ceilings. They add such a level of sophistication.
    I know, right?! I appreciate the golden ratio making an appearance in a light fixture, and with light shades that slightly resemble conch shells, the entire piece is very oceanic. I'm sure the client appreciated that elegant nod toward the beach. Then again, they also look kinda like ice cream cones. yum.
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