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How to Pop Monotone Décor

November 30 2010

White on white or neutral on neutral is the usual way to do a monotone décor, but how do you make it memorable? You can enrich the look of a calming, neutral monotone décor with a little pop and sizzle.

Decorative pillows

This is an old designer trick, but it’s tricky to do it well. You can take a favorite color like lavender or pick the red from the carpet and create a pop of color with throw pillows. The trick is to remember that colors appear stronger against a white or pale beige background. If you want more pop, pick a vivid color from the opposite temperature. If your room is cool – white or taupe, pop with orange or green. If your room is warm, go for purple or blue. You can also add interest with a patterned throw pillow. Keep balance in mind – the more colors and patterns in a pillow, the more monotone and patternless the background should be.  

Mixing monotone patterns

Texture becomes the star of the show when walls and furniture are done in neutral monotones. By mixing a variety of fabrics and patterns in similar hues, you can create interest and drama without adding unwanted color.  Do one fabric for the sofa, another for accent chairs, and perhaps another for the wallpaper or curtains.   Mix sheers, silks, velvet, and linen.  Mix corduroy, needlepoint, leather, sprigged muslin, and paisley.  Mix florals, toiles, stripes, checks, dots and plaids. 

Use fine woods

Rich mahogany, cherry, pine, oak and other woods can be wonderful accents to your monotone palette.   Keep the same mood with compatible stains and finishes.  A monotone décor is meant to be a statement and having a wide range of wood hues can upset the balance. 

Vary the hue

Neutral monotones can be more interesting if you vary the shades of white, beige or whatever monotone color you selected.  Use lighter shades as accents and darker shades of the monotone for drama.  No two whites are the same anyway, so add off-white, ivory and pumice to your whites, and mushroom, stone and skin-toned colors to your beiges. 

Bright metal accents

You can draw attention to neutral elements with the jewelry of home décor – metals. Brass, nickel, stainless, oil-rubbed bronze, pewter, or wrought-iron accents are abundant in lighting, drawer pulls, accessories, table or chair legs, picture frames, and curtain rods. 


A neutral monotone room can be a wonderful backdrop to art collections, family portraits and photos, and other accessories. A stronger statement can be made when the accessories are the same color, but all black frames and hardware can look too deliberate. Throw in some silver.


Accent lighting can enhance the mood of a monotone room.  Colored bulbs can make a room more romantic and warmer.  Overhead lighting will cast a harsher light that makes a room cooler in feel.  If you are decorating with a cool monotone such as white, choose table lamps and floor lamps to soften the room. 

A neutral monotone room can be elegant, as an oasis of calm that is rich with texture. Just keep in mind that when you put in an element to pop the monotone, that’s where your eye will go whenever you enter the room.

If you want the portrait of your family to be the first thing visitors see when they enter the living room, then keep color around the portrait neutral. Place more vivid elements such as lamps or pillows to lead the eye to the picture. If you have too much pop, your eye will travel the room like a pinball, never knowing where to rest.

Always design with a focal point, even in a neutral monotone room.