The 20 Best Neutral Paint Colors for Zero Regrets

Shift into neutral with these designer picks.

benjamin moore hale navy library

They used to take a backseat, but today's neutrals are leading the way in unexpected directions. Lilac, navy, and Estruscan red join the ranks of white, gray, and beige — and the result couldn't be more stunning.

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sherwin-williams sleepy blue living room
Michael Croteau
Sleepy Blue

“People walk into this living room and go straight to the window and the view of Long Island Sound. I wanted to bring the outside in, and this is a very natural color — one of those Swedish blue-grays that’s like an overcast sky. Put a strong, saturated color like tangerine next to it for an unforgettable combination.” —Eileen Kathryn Boyd

Make it yours: Sherwin-Williams Sleepy Blue SW 6225

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sherwin-williams black fox
Erica George Dines
Black Fox

“Whenever I want to compress a space and make it warmer, I go to a darker color. This brown has a tinge of gray, which brings in some light and gives it a sense of plushness. In my butler’s pantry, I paired it with Calacatta Gold marble to create a strong contrast. That gives me the look of an old Dutch painting, which also draws attention away from the imperfect architecture.” —Susan Ferrier

Make it yours: Sherwin-Williams Black Fox SW 7020

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sparkling sage
John Gruen
Sparkling Sage

“In my country house, I turned a stair landing into a special place where I could sit and watch the sun set. The paint color — a light mossy green with a bit of gray in it — comes from the trees outside. I thought it would blend in with the foliage in summer. And in winter, when it’s icy and dreary, it reminds me that spring is on the way.” —Matthew Patrick Smyth

Make it yours: Valspar Sparkling Sage 5005-3

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Björn Wallander

“There’s a luminosity to this gray that reminds me of a Tahitian pearl. Moody, with an old soul, the color fluctuates with the shadows and times of day." —Jill Sharp Weeks

Make it yours: Sherwin-Williams Pussywillow SW 764

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farrow & ball borrowed light entryway
John Healey
Borrowed Light

“This is a good atmospheric blue that’s as light as air. It’s completely enveloping but doesn’t overwhelm you, and that makes it a great backdrop for art — or whatever you want to put in front of it. Unlike white, which is always in your face, this sort of recedes. And that’s what a good neutral does. You want to know it’s there, but you don’t necessarily want to know why.” —David Mitchell

Make it yours: Farrow & Ball Borrowed Light 235

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Trevor Tondro
Ligonier Tan

"Like the warm glow of candlelight, this soft shade — a mix of pumpkin and putty — creates a feeling of coziness." —Cameron Schwabenton

Make it yours: Sherwin-Williams Ligonier Tan SW 771

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ralph lauren paint duck grey
Peter Margonelli
Duck Grey

“In our living room, as we shift and rotate art and furnishings around — equally determined by whim, conquest, and domestic disasters — it was a conscious decision to keep the shell neutral. This warm gray is calm, but it also retains a personality. In bright light it becomes a soft and golden beige, and in dim light it creates lovely depth and shadow without darkening the room.” —Mara Miller

Make it yours: Ralph Lauren Paint Duck Grey RL1205

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small white living room sherwin-williams alabaster
George Ross Photographs

"The charm of this sunroom — and the reason it works so well — is that I didn't treat it like one long, narrow space. Instead, I divided it into individual areas, unified by color. Because the pale whites of the painted floor, the wool curtains, and the upholstery blend together, it doesn't feel crowded. To guide your eye through, there are contrasting woods and intervals of black." —Michael Aiduss

Make it yours: Sherwin-Williams Alabaster SW 7008

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benjamin moore hale navy library
Tria Giovan
Hale Navy

“When people say they want a neutral, they’re usually asking for something that steps back. This is a deep midnight blue, the color of the night sky. It’s not provocative, it’s evocative — referencing something deeper emotionally within ourselves. You feel as if you could float away in it. The dark color erases boundaries and makes this sitting room feel larger than it actually is.” —Ray Booth

Make it yours: Benjamin Moore Hale Navy HC-15

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farrow & ball pavilion blue living room
Neil Landino
Pavilion Blue

“Swedish winters are long and dark, and anything that brings more light into the house — pale paint, chalky-white furniture, sparkling crystal — is embraced. This is the quintessential Swedish blue — very light and ethereal, as if you’re floating in a cloud. A high concentration of mineral pigments reflects more light, so the blue feels layered and translucent, as if it’s not a solid color at all.” —Rhonda Eleish

Make it yours: Farrow & Ball Pavilion Blue 252

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benjamin moore huntington white dc-02
Lara Robby/Studio D
Huntington White

“I am historically prone to a neutral palette, and this white has been my go-to for years. It’s dead center between warm and cool, and it works equally well in traditional or modern settings. And it’s a chameleon, taking on subtle changes in shade over the course of the day.” —Darryl Carter

Make it yours: Benjamin Moore Huntington White DC-02

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benjamin moore revere pewter HC-172​​
Lara Robby/Studio D
Revere Pewter

“The warmth of this gray comes from the addition of a splash of beige. It’s a greige that feels as comforting as a bowl of homemade chicken soup. I love using it in large open spaces, where your perception of the color changes as the light changes. Accent it with turquoise, scarlet, or tangerine.” —Patrick Baglino

Make it yours: Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter HC-172

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benjamin moore gray 2121-10​​
Lara Robby/Studio D

“This saturated gray-brown-black is really an off-black — not that intense fortune-teller black but soft and sun-bleached, with depth and mystery. In a matte finish, it looks like a slightly smeared blackboard. It reads as black but it’s not quite as hard, so it’s easier to live with. And anything you put against it looks amazing.” —Peter Dun

Make it yours: Benjamin Moore Gray 2121-10

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sherwin-williams doeskin sw 6044​
Lara Robby/Studio D

“This mauvey taupe is as warm as a cable-knit cashmere sweater. You could use it all over a bedroom, not only on the walls but also on Roman shades, a duvet, and a throw. It would turn the room into a cocoon ... very peaceful. Bring in ivory, gray, eggplant, or chocolate for contrast.” —Brett Beldock

Make it yours: Sherwin-Williams Doeskin SW 6044

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donald kaufman color dkc-17
Lara Robby/Studio D

“This bold color is surprisingly neutral. It’s the same earthy red that you see in pre-Columbian art, or an Etruscan mural, or a Turkish rug — it’s universal. And it goes with anything. We used it in our front hall as a backdrop to a Chinese coromandel screen and a huge African wooden sculpture. It creates this incredibly warm, inviting entry that draws you into the rest of the house.” —Carey Maloney

Make it yours: Donald Kaufman Color DKC-17

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farrow & ball pale powder 204
Lara Robby/Studio D
Pale Powder

“For a house in the country or by the sea, aqua is the new white. It’s the perfect complement to greenery or an ocean view. The idea is for the wall color to be quiet so it can blend seamlessly with the outdoors. This blue-green is a pastel with personality. Keep the overall feeling serene with light floors, white trim, a touch of deeper aqua, and a few dark accents to anchor the room.” —Jonathan Rose

Make it yours: Farrow & Ball Pale Powder 204

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farrow & ball stony ground 211
Lara Robby/Studio D
Stony Ground

“Drab colors are far more interesting when they’re elusive, and this is one of those marvelous chameleon colors — it can read as gray, taupe, or green, depending on the light. I’d use it in a matte finish on walls, where it would be a great foil to warm whites, or in a high-gloss finish on trim. It’s soothing, never murky.” —Robin Bell

Make it yours: Farrow & Ball Stony Ground 211

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sherwin-williams wallflower sw 6281
Lara Robby/Studio D

“Although typically considered feminine, lilac performs beautifully as a neutral when paired with strong, deep colors like charcoal, black, or navy. And this shade is the perfect balance of saturation and tone, like seeing a sunset through a soft filter. Try it in unexpected applications — the ceiling of a moody, masculine library; the interior of creamy cabinetry in a kitchen.” —Laura Burleson

Make it yours: Sherwin-Williams Wallflower SW 6281

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benjamin moore barista af-175
Lara Robby/Studio D

“People always think neutral means beige. Beige isn’t a neutral. It’s ‘blah blah blah.’ A good strong color can also be a neutral — just look at nature! You’ll see forest green, sky blue, and this luscious brown, which also reminds me of a melting pot of chocolate. I have used it in foyers, dining rooms, and even in my own bedroom. For a crisp effect, paint the ceiling and trim a bright white.” —Gary McBournie

Make it yours: Benjamin Moore Barista AF-175

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benjamin moore hush af-95
Lara Robby/Studio D

“Years ago, a Fiorucci salesperson stared at my all-beige outfit and said, ‘Well, beige is the rage.’ I say yes! Beige is my dependable neutral that marries any white, even a white gone wrong. Best on walls in washable matte, this changes hues with the light, warms a chilly entry hall, and whispers ‘Shhh’ in the master suite. It’s nearly foolproof.” —Jonathan Taylor

Make it yours: Benjamin Moore Hush AF-95

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WATCH: A Drab Living Room Gets Polished and Playful Makeover
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