With many of us taking, or considering, the opportunity to move further out of cities within the last 18 months, interiors trends have taken a turn towards, well, the countryside.
But if, like us, this all fills you with horror, thinking about beige - we've enlisted the help of Kristine Hall, interior designer, stylist and blogger behind @restoringlansdowne, who has recently taken the plunge and moved from East London to a Georgian country house in Suffolk.
Through her blog, Kristine explains how she's embracing New Neutrals.
"For most of my life I’ve been a staunch supporter and probably even an honorary member of the Beige is Bland club. Hearing the word neutral is more likely to make me think of tubs of trade white and decorating indecision than sheepskin-lined Nordic cabins or plush Kelly Hoppen pads."
"But having just swapped a Victorian terrace in the city for a Georgian country house, the style I loved in our East London life doesn’t necessarily translate in an historic home with roughhewn oak beams and ombre sunsets in giant Suffolk skies. My old go-to neutral, a soft pure white, feels a little too clean for muddy boots and gravel drives."
"So I’ve been pondering ways to nail these earthier neutral schemes without a result that’s too safe or soulless. And because art is an affordable and impactful way to set the tone, I’ve teamed up with Artfinder to share my tips for creating a subtle space that’s warm and cocooning yet sophisticated. With a dash of the dramatic too."
"And whether you’re in a gritty warehouse conversion in Bermondsey or a quaint Cotswold cottage I hope my curated collection of pieces by Artfinder artists in fawny earth-inspired hues will help you find the perfect piece for your café au lait space."
Okay, so…what are the new neutrals, then?
"Think warm stone, ecru and muddy taupe shades for your base. Like unbleached linen, fields of wheat and pebbles on the beach. With earthy accents – mounds of moss on the damp forest floor, rusty wrought iron gates creaking in the breeze and the golden browns of fluttering, falling leaves. Annnnd relax."
"Right. Well that sounds idyllic and all but won’t it look (circle as appropriate) uninspired / dull as daily Zoom calls / the interiors equivalent of existential boredom?
Aha! Great question but the answer is no. Read on, dear reader, read on and I’ll tell you all you need to know."
"This is where you’ll get that little bit of mischief. A hint of home design danger. A dose of Villanelle for your Eve-y digs. If the walls/ceilings and other large elements in a room are light neutrals, go on and embrace that sinister darkness. Blacks, browns, murky olives or deep amber like Corten steel. Pick your favourite and add it generously with furniture, lighting, art, contrasting woodwork or accessories."
"Consider this the plot thickener. When you’re going for a mostly monochromatic colour scheme, texture is everything. Avoid beige blandness by layering on loads of texture. Pair linen with corduroy or velvet, wood grain with woven baskets or cane. Mix subdued matte finishes with concrete or a patinated, flaky-painted antique. Tactile surfaces are the dramatic twists and turns whilst the limited colour palette will keep the storyline feeling cohesive."
"This is your cinematography and it’s all in the composition. Avoid any hint of humdrum with some zeitgeisty contours. Shape defines the times in any design genre and homeware is no exception. Add some updated art deco arcs and scallops or channel your inner harmony with organic Japandi pebble shapes and minimalist freeform lines."
With appearances in Ideal Home and Style at Home magazines, Evening Standard Homes & Property, MADE.com, Buzzfeed, Hunker, Sheerluxe and on the BBC, Kristine Hall provides design and styling services in London and across the UK. Her Instagram account, @restoringlansdowne, has a following of almost 50,000.
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Cover image c. Kristine Hall