Designing with Neutrals (ft. Clarita Yoder)
words and images by Clarita Yoder
I believe that God – as the Master Designer - created each of us in His image with an inner artist, and that comes out in so different ways for each person! For some people that comes out in the way they serve their family with food, arranging and preparing the meals with great love and care. For others, it could be the way they can set work aside and play with their kids, investing their time and energy into creating fun things together. Another woman may love to see what she can design and fashion for her kids to wear, enjoying the process of styling and putting outfits together. Someone else may be an incredible artist with words, writing beautiful things that are rich or lighthearted, and that bring life to the people around them. There are endless ways, really, and the various ways artistry is shown is so beautiful and fascinating!
The artistry of decorating my home, and more importantly, making it a place where my husband and four kiddos feel welcome and safe, is a passion of mine. I don’t even think I’m the best at it – but I love to make my home a beautiful place, a reflection of the beauty of God. I don’t think there is just one right way to do it – even within décor there are so many various styles that people are drawn to, and that also shows the beauty of uniqueness in the way God created us!
I want to talk about a current design style that I’m enjoying right now, and that’s one of a neutral palate. When I was first married I loved colors on my walls, and various themes through my house. Perhaps it’s the combination of my own tastes changing, being influenced by the Southern, or even the soft Coastal culture I lived in for almost ten years that has changed what I prefer. Or maybe it’s even the fact that I have four kids, and when they are bustling and loud and bursting through the house, I like to have my surroundings at least be serene and restful.
So Let’s talk about Decorating with Neutrals, starting with the obvious.
Paint Colors and Finishes
There are literally hundreds of colors of white paint, believe it or not, and it seems to be a chameleon if you’re not careful!! I like to get ideas from some designers that I follow, either blogs or Instagram, and then instead of purchasing an entire gallon of paint, just get a couple of samples of those in the store, and paint a small section of wall with each sample close to each other. This will save you headache and sweat, because those paint chips sure look different when they’re on your walls then they do in the store. (Trust me, I know from experience, after buying can after can of paint, and it looking entirely different on the wall than I expected! Live and learn!) And then choose your favorite one and purchase the needed paint for your project.
Most time I go with an eggshell or satin finish on the walls, and a semi-gloss on the trim. We’ve even done the same color for walls and trim sometimes if it’s more of a true white we’re going after, but it looks different because of the different finishes, and it’s very pretty.
I choose the eggshell or satin wall finish because of kids, and needing to clean walls and wipe them down frequently because of sticky hands. Maybe white walls aren’t the most practical, but if you love it, then do it anyway! I use a degreaser or Magic Eraser to gently (gently! Or you’ll remove the paint also.) scrub tough spots on walls, but most of them are easily removed with dish soap and a soft cloth. It’s really not as difficult as what you might think!
Adding Textures for Warmth
White or light walls have sometimes gotten the label of being cold and sterile in the past. But whites are very popular right now, and are coming back with a cozy look instead of feeling like you need a sweater just looking at the picture.
Bringing textures into a space is an important and easy way to bring warmth. For example, on a bed: even if you choose bedding that is the same color, mix up the texture of it, and you will bring immediate warmth and coziness to it. If your sheets are cotton, then add throw pillows that are fur, or a neutral floral. Add a crocheted throw with tassels, or a duvet with pleats (for a more formal look) or with pinch-pleats or that is ruched (for a more casual look). Adding lamps at the side of the bed will add texture: and the style and finish of the lamp can greatly influence the look of the entire room!
In my living room, I love to add a cozy throw on the sofas, floral and textured pillows, and a sheepskin draped over the back of a fabric sofa. I have a natural wood coffee table, a sculptured plaster wall piece, and some artwork, and a jute rug on the floor. The elements I’m using there are seven unique textures: fur, cotton, linen, sheepskin, wood, jute, and plaster. Of course, not every room needs so many textures, but making sure it has several different ones adds such a cozy touch.
Make a Design Board
There are so many styles, even within a white/neutral theme. You have Scandinavian, Farmhouse, Shabby Chic, Cottage, or Modern, just to name a few! Just going out and finding things that are white won’t necessarily get you the look you are wanting!
Looking at different style names can be a little overwhelming! How do you know exactly what style you even are? Something that could be helpful for you is make a design board of pictures. If you’re wanting to update your living room, for example, then choose 5 favorite images out of those that you absolutely love of a living room space and print them out (if you’re on Pinterest, or tear them out if you like magazines).
And then evaluate them. Don’t focus on whether you fit the farmhouse or modern style, but take time to think: What is the common theme in all of them? Do you like clean and modern lines on your furniture, or curves and plushness? Does it feel so welcoming with lots of pillows, fun pops of color, or do you like the simple idea of just a toss pillow and a throw blanket? Are you drawn to simplicity, minimalism, with just one statement piece, or do you like the mystery of several things catching your eye? Are you drawn to color, and if so, which ones? Narrow it down to just 1-2 main colors that you can accent with in your space.
There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong, and the important thing is to find what YOU are drawn to; not what is even “in style” or popular at the moment. Finding the common threads in the pictures is key so that you can determine your own personal tastes, so that you can narrow down what YOU love, rather than just what someone else likes, and what to look for to create that in your own home.
How to Begin?
Start with small steps; very few spaces I’ve done are completed in a day! If they are completed in a day, it’s because I’m waited to even start until I’ve hunted and found what I’m looking for for the past few months! Make a list of the most important things you are wanting, and keep that list on the notepad on your phone, or on a paper in your purse. And be specific: rather than just saying, “pillow”, say, “Moroccan style navy pillow, maybe with fringe?” or whatever the details are of your particular hunt.
The end goal is not to have the most fashionable house, or the most popular Instagram pictures, but rather to create a sanctuary for you and your family.
Watch for those things. If you’re on a budget, don’t despair! Search Craigslist if you’re looking for furniture or bigger pieces like area rugs. And if you enjoy Goodwill shopping, you can find treasures there if you’re patient and willing to go often. Many Goodwill stores carry Target overstock or return items, and sell them brand new for discounted prices. View it like a game - replace a pillow here, add a throw blanket or a piece of artwork a little later, and enjoy the process. It’s actually really fun!
The end goal is not to have the most fashionable house, or the most popular Instagram pictures, but rather to create a sanctuary for you and your family. It’s to create a place where they can walk in the door and know they are accepted and valued, where they are loved as they are, even as they are becoming more, and where they feel the presence of the Lord as a little taste of Heaven on earth. This is the whole purpose of a home.
Happy Home-Making and House-Beautifying!
Clarita Yoder is a lifestyle, health, motherhood, and design blogger over at Skies of Parchment, and has lent her creative talents as guest contributor to DOP on a number of occasions. She says, "On a given day, I’m chasing or hugging kiddos, pulling out a can of paint, whipping out my sewing machine for a My Faire Lady Designs order, helping people thrive with my passion for health and wellness, or trying out a new idea for our home remodeling business as we design and style." For a peek into her world, visit her blog or Instagram (@skiesofparchment).