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Home Decor

10 tips to decorate your home in a light, neutral colour

An understated palette proves the perfect backdrop for graceful furniture and playful touches of colour
By Photography by Angus McRitchie; Styling by Nicola Marc
10 tips to decorate your home in a light, neutral colour

Pretty lofty

This room was filled with tractors when we bought the house,” says designer Heidi Smith about her elegant living room. She’s not exaggerating: The entire ground floor of the light-filled conversion in Westmount, Que., was a garage at the time. That’s because the building was actually the stables for a large turn-of-the-century mansion that was torn down in the 1940s. Having previously lived in a dark, formal home, Heidi craved wide-open spaces and a blank canvas that she could use to design a functional home for her family of six. That’s exactly what she got when she stumbled upon this rare find. “There were definite challenges,” she says with a laugh — the stable was a protected historical building, which meant that very little about the exterior could be changed, including small, awkwardly placed windows intended for horses. She carved the ground floor into a large entrance hall, open-concept kitchen, family room and formal living and dining spaces. With her experience and knack for clever design solutions, she also installed 200-year-old salvaged-pine flooring and built a graceful staircase from scratch. You’d never guess this was once an uninspiring, utilitarian space where animals lived.

home, decor, neutral palette, colour, interior design

1. Maximize seating with matching sofas

Create symmetry by choosing identical sofas. (You can also use subtly different fabrics.) With neutral furniture, you can easily change accent colours.

Get this look: Custom upholstery, Heidi Smith Interiors. All fabrics, Barbara Barry, Kravet. Similar rug, Elte. Similar coffee table, Thomas Pheasant for Baker, Kohler Interiors. Similar floor lamp, Elte.

Neutral palette, colour, home, decor, interior design
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2. Cover an antique in modern fabric

Play down the formality of a serious piece with bold upholstery. Ochre velvet is the perfect choice to set off the shape of this art deco settee.

Get this look: Alvine Ruta rug, Ikea. Similar settee, Ribbehege and Azevedo. Similar table, Crate and Barrel.

home, decor, neutral palette, colour, interior design

3. Forgo upper cabinets

Keep the look light and airy in an all-white kitchen by removing upper cabinets and tiling the entire wall. Here, milk-glass matchstick mosaic tiles are almost opalescent.

Get this look: Similar compass clock, Urban Mode. Custom cabinets, Marc Duclos. Similar toaster, Dualit, 1-877-243-9463.

home, decor, interior design, neutral palette, colour, light

4. Sneak in pretty storage

Stack upper cabinets on top of lower ones, with a counter in between, to get the look of an antique hutch and ample storage to boot. A built-in window seat (below) provides opportunity for more storage in the form of large drawers. Feminine fabrics like this polka-dot blind keep the overall feel light and delicate.

Get this look: Barbara Barry Dots fabric, Kravet. Pendant light, Universal Lamp. Similar chair, Ikea.

10 tips to decorate your home in a light, neutral colour

home, decor, interior design, neutral palette, light, colour
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5. Create a display ledge

With four kids in the family, portraits and photos are constantly being taken. A long ledge conceals radiators and provides a place to lean the ever-changing art.

Get this look: Custom millwork, Marc Duclos. Pillows, Restoration Hardware. Karlstad lounger, Ikea.

neutral palette, colour, interior design, decor, home, light

6. Build a room around a favourite piece of art

The strong colours in this 1980s painting work well in the muted living room. The pale blue and green tones are picked up throughout the space in throw pillows and decorative accessories.

Get this look: Custom sofa, Heidi Smith Interiors. Similar pillows, Teatro Verde. Similar rug, Elte.com.

home, decor, interior design, neutral palette, light, colour

7. Instantly transform a dated fireplace with a stone slab

Turn your mantel into a dramatic focal point. This simple marble surround, bordered by demure white shelves and contemporary sconces, brings modern flair to a rustic wood backdrop.

Get this look: Similar sconces, Universal Lamp. Custom upholstery, Heidi Smith Interiors. Similar rug, Elte.com. Similar cable-knit throw, West Elm.

neutral palette, colour, light, home, decor, interior design
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8. Hang a chandelier over a soaker tub

Go for all-out indulgence by placing a chandelier above a free-standing bathtub. Make sure it’s on a dimmer so you can create intimate lighting in the evening with candles.

Get this look: Similar bathtub, Produits Neptune. Similar towels, Home Sense.

neutral, palette, colour, light, interior design, home, decor

9. Try a tall headboard

In a tone-on-tone bedroom, scale and shape are key. The height of the headboard adds visual interest, while the simplicity of its lines keeps it quiet and soft.

Get this look: Similar headboard, Elte. Bedding, Toile Sur Rendez-vous. Similar Barbara Barry night table, Mcguire Furniture. Similar bird, Jonathan Adler.

home, decor, interior design, neutral palette, light, colour

10. Double up your vanities

His-and-hers sinks are the secret to marital bliss. Here, they flank the main entrance to the bathroom. Gooseneck sconces provide flattering accent light.

Get this look: Similar washstand, mirror and sconces, all Restoration Hardware. Similar flooring, Saltillo Imports.

home, decor, interior design, neutral palette, light, colour

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