The new neutrals pushing out grey and how to actually decorate with them

Why we're drawn to pale yet interesting colors

salted caramel ceiling pendant in wicker over bedside table with cool colored cushions
(Image credit: John Lewis & Partners)

When you hear 'salted caramel' there's a high chance that you'll think it's in reference to a chocolate bar or coffee-to-go, and we all know that that foodie flavor trend has been overdone.

However, in the world of interiors, hues like 'salted caramel' and 'toasted oatmeal' have taken a leap forward and are now standing proudly amongst the most popular neutrals to decorate our homes with.

We've been questioning whether grey is going out of style now for a while, and it's no secret that neutrals are essential color palette additions if you want to create a clean and classic look. But will 'salted caramel', oatmeal and the like take the world of home decor by storm just like grey and all its shades did?

Neutral home accessories on wooden dining table

(Image credit: Made.com)

Tash Bradley, Home décor brand Lick’s (opens in new tab) Director of Interior Design and Colour Psychologist seems to think so: 'The salted caramel look is here to stay.' Owing this to a bold shift from ancient grey tones. 'What I’m really excited about is that people are moving away from grey and becoming braver. I’m seeing a huge shift in people being bolder in their colour choices and wanting to see more colour and life in their homes.'

The positives of decorating with neutrals

Take a look around the interiors world and you’ll see how decorating with neutral tones is big. Perhaps it's the eco-warrior, conscious vibe that’s ever-growing as we keep mindful living at the forefront of our minds (and our homes), according to Bradley, the reason for us moving more towards 'salted caramel' rooms over grey could actually be for its positive benefits on well-being also:

'Grey doesn’t give any positive psychological connections so I’m excited that this colour is leaving. Other neutral colours such as caramel, beiges, oak and sandy colours are coming in and they’re a lovely warming neutral as a grounding calming space.'

Matilda Martin, Lick’s Trend Specialist says agrees, 'Salted Caramel’ colours and calming neutral tones are not going anywhere. We are seeing more and more people wanting to incorporate earthy, calming colours into their decor schemes.'

salted caramel ceiling pendant in wicker over bedside table with cool colored cushions

(Image credit: John Lewis & Partners)

Another positive of introducing neutrals into your home is that the tones are intrinsically connected with nature and conscious living. Crown Colour (opens in new tab) specialist Neville Knot notes how we're all taking a more considered approach to our interiors and that this is reflected in the colors we want to invite into our living spaces: 

'With the demand for more ethically sourced products, our buying choices have become more responsible and considerate as we demand more from the materials we buy. The neutral and earthy colour palettes evoke a feeling of calm and convey stability.'

How to decorate with the new neutrals successfully

I’ve just decorated my kitchen diner with a warm neutral wall color as I love the soothing atmosphere this look brings. It does need extra layers of texture to bring it to life so I’ve been sourcing these in warming terracottas and caramel tones together with chunky earthenware to give the scheme more depth.

Knot adds how the neutral look can be introduced subtly with creams and light browns. There are lots of stunning beige room looks to recreate too but you can add more color flair and personality if you'd like. 'For a punchier look, bring in deep and rich burgundy and purple tones.'

Knot continues 'Simple yet sophisticated, these colours offer a way to interact with the materiality of individual components within the interior.'

Martin adds: 'They often form the nucleus of a colour scheme, being the tones found in the fixed features of a room; specifically flooring & furniture.'Think oak and walnut wooden floors or tables. However, you can also incorporate them into your home through the use of natural un-dyed linens, wicker, rattan. With the 70s interior aesthetic on the rise, the use of caramel, earthy tones, as well as natural textures and materials, is only going to persist.'

Salted caramel ceiling pendant over dining table

(Image credit: Heal's)

Shopping edit

Whether it's cream living room ideas or full-on salted caramel vibes, we’ve rounded up our favorite pieces that are pale and interesting to help you create the look.

Real Homes spotlight on the new neutrals

So, are you a lover or a naysayer of this look? We asked the team:

Amelia Smith (opens in new tab), Real Homes Content Editor adds how 'This look is so calm and serene, but for me personally, I'd need some pops of color and pattern in the mix too. I see these neutrals as a blank canvas – a splash of burnt orange or olive green would bring the scheme to life for me.'

'I'm actually into salted caramel and I don't think the name does it justice. It's a rich and soft addition that will set off other neutrals, and perhaps one of two brights also, without being too overindulgent.' says Camille Dubuis-Welch, (opens in new tab) Deputy Editor. 

Ellen Finch (opens in new tab) Editor of Real Homes magazine says, 'I'm a sucker for a neutral scheme in principle, but in practice find that an injection of colour through accessories (fun cushions! snazzy candlestick holders!) feels more me. Neutrals as a base? Yes please – but let me have some fun with the toppings!'

'Having a foundation like salted caramel sets you up for a plethora of different trends, and like the capsule decorating trend, this creates a super versatile foundation – it's the chameleon of hues. For example, you could totally swap this scheme from Scandi chic in the spring, to rustic chic in Autumn/winter - simply by subbing out soft furnishings and accessories.' Says digital writer Christina Chrysostomou (opens in new tab).

Anna has over a decade of experience styling and art directing photo shoots of readers homes and of beautiful homeware products. She discovered her passion for interiors after living and working in L.A. and upon her return to the UK, started a career in magazines and photography. She now lives in the Leicestershire countryside with her young family.

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