Natural Beauty: Decorating with Neutral Colors

California decorator and mom of two Lisa Price has more than a few down-to-earth ideas for making a house a home.

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Lisa Price in Cape Cod


Awash in sandy shades of cream, khaki, and chocolate, Lisa Price's Cape Cod-style home feels as carefree as a day at the beach. "I like to think of all the rooms as a neutral whole, as opposed to jolts of different colors," says Lisa, an interior designer and mom to Madison, 17, and Hunter, 14. "It's a comfortable way to live, and the palette also makes any home feel more spacious," she says. Dark woods and white or ivory overstuffed furniture create the backdrop for Lisa's favorite accessories. She combines lively patterns—bold animal prints and graphic medallions—with glamorous elements, like a crystal chandelier found at a flea market. Layering tones and textures, such as linen with leather, ensures that beige is never boring. Lisa's strategy also lets her change the look of a room with little effort. Need extra seating in the living room? Pull in an upholstered bench from the bedroom. Tired of last year's look? Punch it up with contrasting throw pillows. Piles of shells arranged in sophisticated mercury glass containers pretty much sum up Lisa's theory of decorating. "I love to mix casual with elegant," she says. "But mostly, I want my home to be peaceful, a place where we can all relax."

Comfort Zone

Lisa created a living room that's day-to-day relaxed, yet pretty and pulled together enough for entertaining. Her signature elements include buff-hued walls, seagrass carpeting, and generously proportioned furnishings. White denim slipcovers are durable and easy to wash. Against this blank canvas, she layers lively accents like a playful vintage advertising poster and a colorful abstract painting.

Lisa's Little Hints

—Choose an oversize area rug. "I like when all the furniture in the room touches the carpet," says Lisa. A floor covering that stops short of the sofa tends to break up and shrink the space.

—Use contrasting textures, fabrics, and shapes to keep the neutral look dynamic. Introduce hits of color in the artwork and accessories.

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Water Color


In a departure from the rest of her house, Lisa opted to paint the dining room walls aqua. "It's like the sky and sea—and goes beautifully with sand tones," she says. A series of framed drawings of Manolo Blahnik shoes gives the space a fun, feminine feel. "My lifestyle isn't formal, so I don't want serious," the designer says. Ecru upholstered chairs lighten up a dark-wood trestle table, and a vintage crystal chandelier adds sparkle.

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Warm Welcome


A rich cocoa makes the small entryway seem grand. Black semigloss paint on the railing and accents of crisp white create a bold contrast, one of the keys to livening up a neutral palette. Lisa's collection of movie star photos from the 1920s and '30s injects glamour.

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Bright Idea


In the kitchen, a greenhouse window floods the area with cheerful light. For cabinets, furniture, and fixtures, Lisa prefers the clean quality of white. Black granite counters and a farmhouse sink are both functional and design-savvy.

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Sitting Pretty


A geometric-print silk pillow and vivid fuchsia throw on a white slipcovered chair energize a corner of the living room.

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Good Night


"I like to repeat colors from room to room," says Lisa, who used her favorite shade, Ralph Lauren's Stony Mountain, in the bedroom and in the living room. She loves the hue's chameleon quality: "Depending on the light, it can look gray or more like an earth tone." Both complement the sophisticated-beachy vibe she was going for. By pulling the bed away from the wall, Lisa gives the lofty space a more intimate feel. Seagrass floor covering, a nubby, durable, non-scratchy material woven from plant fibers, works with all colors and has the same warm effect as wood floors, at a fraction of the cost.

Swatch Watch: A foolproof method for coordinating paint colors: Select hues from the same swatch, going with a medium beige in the kitchen, a more saturated version in the living room, and so on.

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Details Count


A cluster of black urns and an ebony mirror lend drama to the tawny hues in the bedroom. The rustic dresser was a purchase that reminded Lisa of interiors she'd seen in France.