Muted color palettes, though currently trending, have real staying power in home design. Because of their subtle hues, dynamic uses, and endless pairings, you can adapt muted colors to fit nearly any design style. If you are searching for a timeless look that can easily transition to another style, a muted color palette may be perfect for your home.
Identifying a Muted Color
Muted colors are defined by their desaturation. Desaturation simply refers to the presence of an added base color (like black, brown, or white) to make a color less vivid. For example, when you add a bit of black to a bright blue, you are left with a grayer shade of blue that has lost a large portion of its vibrancy.
Because muted colors are defined by their lack of vibrancy and not by their hue, almost any color can exist as a muted shade. Neutrals and colors alike can be considered muted. If you're trying to determine if a color is muted, try evaluating the clarity of the color in question. Is the color bright and clear? If so, it isn't muted. Is the color muddy or washed out? Then it's likely a muted shade.
Design a Timeless Muted Color Palette
Muted color palettes can be created from any combination of neutrals or colors. Some muted color palettes may even have more saturated colors present, depending on your style and the goals you have for the space. Muted color palettes can also have any combination of dark or light colors. Modern muted color palettes might contain more cool colors or shades of gray, while more traditional muted color palettes have a larger concentration of warm or neutral colors. Minimalist muted color palettes could be strictly neutral or appear more monochromatic.
For a muted color palette with plenty of variety, try combining dark and cool muted colors with warmer and lighter muted colors. This combination of charcoal, cream, and terracotta is neutral and can be used in a large variety of styles. For a darker look overall, use cream or terracotta as your accent color. For a softer look, reserve the charcoal shade for small accents like lighting fixtures and cabinet hardware.
Amplify With Colors
The complete opposite of neutrals, this muted color palette, relies entirely on muddy shades of otherwise vibrant colors. A muted teal, muddy mustard, and dusty blush create a contrasting and colorful palette that is far from overpowering. Use each color interchangeably as a primary in the palette or ground everything with the teal and use blush as your accent.
Leave It Light
If you prefer a traditionally soft look or simply feel your style is better expressed with light shades, try a combination of muted light neutrals. Use similar shades of cream, beige, and greige to create a neutral monochromatic color palette that's light and airy. Because these colors are so similar in hue and shade, you can use them interchangeably in the color palette.
Try Subtle Contrast
A contrasting color palette is not out of the question for a muted color scheme. Try combining light and dark colors that are all muted and opposite one another on the color wheel. This allows you to have depth without compromising the essence of your muted color palette. Use a muddy olive and muted sage alongside a warm beige for subtle contrast and color.
Mix Warm and Cool Neutrals
Another way to add dimension and subtle contrast to a muted color scheme is to combine cool and warm neutral tones. Choose neutrals you may reach for often like brown, beige, and gray but diversify them with muted qualities. Swap your traditional rich brown for one that is desaturated. Make your beige muted by choosing one that is muddied into a mauve. Swap your go-to gray for one with a touch of brown, creating a greige. Subtle contrast of temperature is still present, but it isn't overwhelming thanks to muted versions of your usual neutrals.
Make It Monochrome
A monochromatic color palette is easily achieved with muted colors. This is a great way to add depth to a color palette made with only muted colors. Combine a muted shade of plum with a muted purple-gray and washed-out navy. This color palette is moody and elegant without the presence of rich or saturated colors.
Add a Pop of Muted Color
Muted color palettes do not have to be devoid of colorful accents. Try adding a muted shade of burnt orange to a slate and gray color palette for a pop of fun color that is still muted enough to feel calm and welcoming. The subtle blue in the muted slate color also provides nice contrast, so your burnt orange clearly stands out as an accent color.
Mix Dark and Light
An easy way to give your muted color palette plenty of dimension and interest is to combine muted dark colors with muted light colors. Try using a muted navy alongside a pale shade of yellow for a dynamic color combo. Add your favorite light or dark neutral like charcoal or cream to ground the space.
Combine your favorite warm colors in muted shades for a color palette that is inviting and comforting. Use a neutral tan as your base and complement it with shades of muted gold and creamy white. Because of the muted quality of each of these colors, they still appear somewhat neutral. This allows you to add in other colors or deeper accents later.
Darken With Deep Colors
A muted color palette lends itself perfectly to a dark and moody color scheme with plenty of depth. Because these colors are so similar in shade, be sure to choose hues that vary enough to create dimension. A muted berry shade like plum complements both a deep muted green and a subtle shade of navy. Use this color palette in rooms where both color and depth are important to the overall atmosphere.
Make Your Home a Welcoming Oasis With Muted Colors
Muted colors, in any combination, have the ability to create welcoming and comforting spaces in your home. Whether your goal is to design a warm kitchen for entertaining guests or to create a home office that's moody and sophisticated, a muted color palette can be the foundation for your design vision. Choose any combination of muted colors to create a color palette that takes your space from an ordinary house to an unforgettable home.