The Insider: How to go neutral without going bland

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The Independent Online

Neutrals? Ach. Cream and beige are dull! But Pale & Interesting (Ryland Peters & Small, £19.99, out now) could turn me. Its authors, Atlanta Bartlett and Dave Coote, are to neutral what Gok is to high street – so try their tips for exciting yet muted rooms...

Go off palette

Neutrals go beyond the obvious hues: think warm greys; soft, chalky whites; duck-egg blues.

Get battered

Even whites can be "relaxed, warm and welcoming"; tongue-and-groove panelling softens things – and remember that "any room devoid of texture will feel hard and cold".

Just a splash

Gentle pastel hints and muted vintage brights prevent a washed-out look. A pretty 1930s dress on the back of a bedroom door is a simple way to introduce colour to a neutral palette – or prop a paint-peeling, reclaimed door against pale walls.

Go mould-y

Bathroom from scratch? Consider a cast concrete bath and/or sink: the chalky-grey finish, rather than being cold and hard, adds a tactile quality – it's a bit Turkish hammam.

Size up

Improve proportions by painting walls co-ordinating colours; battleship grey on a pale pebble background, say, or different shades of off-white.

Dyeing inside

Fabric dye is a great way to refresh tired bed linen. Try Dylon's "antique grey" (

Crisp and even

If you go for white sheets, liven up with a bolder wallpaper, such as the pale-blue Manuel Canovas design at Colefax and Fowler ( Alternatively, soften with an antique eiderdown on top.

More, more, more

Find more inspiration – and do some shopping, at

Find Kate's blog on affordable interiorsat