Q-Week 8: It’s Time to Neutralize

first published May 8 2020

Quarantine Week 8: It’s Time to Neutralize

Time is crawling. Time is flying. Time is meaningless. Time is precious. We are all living in a world filled with contradictions and now more than ever our homes are working overtime. We work, play, eat, sleep and socialize from within our interior spaces. Moreover, we have a lot of time to get inspired and improve the rooms within our homes.

For me, this has meant an increased desire to simplify and neutralize my interiors without stripping them of character or color. Neutral interiors can provide a calming space to dwell while remaining inspiring. They are a wonderful canvas from which to build upon and lead to some fun “research” in the Hammertown photo archives and on Instagram and Pinterest. After falling down the rabbit hole as they say, I isolated some interior designers who have clearly mastered the Neutral Interior as well as some common themes that lead to interiors that are both complex and varied, but neutral and calming at the same time.

Here is what I discovered:

1) Wood and Natural Fibers Add Depth and Texture.
A successful neutral space is a layered one filled with variety. Calming and pleasing to the eye, but filled with nuances and subtle shifts in texture and form. From grasscloth walls and chunky wood tables to sheepskins and rattan, incorporating natural fibers and wood pieces into your neutral interior plays with the eye and gives your space layers of character.

Amber Interiors makes it happen when it comes to textures, wood and natural fibers. Here we see woven leather and rattan commingling with a nature textures and textiles.

This Hammertown interior by Wanda Furman may be neutral but is anything but boring! From the subtle texture in the wood walls to the layered chunky pillows and wood table, this interior has all the makings of a simple yet storied room.

This lovely interior from Sarah Norwood (a fabulous designer and Hammertown Rhinebeck customer) shows you how it’s done. It’s texture and natural fiber used minimally but perfectly.  Photograph is by Sarah’s husband, Todd Norwood.

 2) Color and Pattern Can Work Wonders.
While not for everybody, I really enjoy neutral interiors that have hints of color and pattern. Even in an otherwise quiet space, these moments can be comforting and calm. From rusty reds to ochre and indigo, bringing color into a space via textiles and artwork can add an element of surprise without distracting. The same is true for pattern. At Hammetown we can’t see any reason a vintage rug or textile is not at home in a neutral space. The muted tones of aged rugs or the calming texture of a vintage grain sack bring life and soul to any room.

Here Bunny Williams works her magic placing a colorful Ikat ottoman in the midst of an otherwise neutral interior.

In this Hammertown Interior, a large canvas by Karen LeSage provides a splash of color without overpowering the neutral tones.

Again, we see Amber Interiors bring this calm space to live via the subtle pattern and color of vintage rugs and textiles.

3) A Touch of Black ALWAYS Works.
Punctuating a space with black is NEVER a bad idea, especially when it comes to an otherwise neutral space. This theory also extends to metallic and metal finishes as well. These touches draw the eye and are grounding…it’s the punctuation that takes an otherwise neutral space to another level.

Our Hammertown master of the use of black in neutral spaces is clearly Drew Evans. His home, featured in Joan’s second book, ticks all the boxes when it comes to neutrals punctuated by darker moments. (Photo by John Gruen)

Daryl Carter is the master of drawing the eye through a neutral space using black.

This Hammertown Vingette from our Rhinebeck store relies heavily on black to create it’s neutral moment.

4) Play Around with Shape and Silhouette.
When you have a neutral palette another way to pull the eye through the space is via furnishings with quirky and unexpected shapes.

Here we see Nate Burkus, another true master of the neutral interior, show us how it’s done. Frankly, this living room in his LA home ticks ALL the neutral door rule boxes, but it especially plays well into the shape and silhouette category. I could go into details but the space speaks for itself. I am in love with the unexpected charm that is spilling out of this room.

This calm and intriguing bedroom from Nordic Design (nordicdesign.ca) also masterfully marries a neutral color palette with varies shapes and silhouettes. Right down to the knot pillow on the bed, this room uses unexpected moments to draw you throughout the space.

So, as you see, neutral is not about being ambivalent…at least when it comes to design.  It’s all about making thoughtful, inspired choices. As long as we have time on our hands, I encourage all of you design enthusiasts to play around with some of these ideas. Send us photos of your results…we’d love to see them!