Beyond White LLC - the right color for the right space
serving some of her favorite neighborhoods of Virginia and Maryland
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Is there any such thing as neutral?
Switzerland was neutral during WWII. But this so-called "neutrality" caused tremendous impact - the opposite of what you'd consider a neutral response. Shouldn't neutral be calm? (One article called them dull and uneventful.) So it is with neutral colors - they are anything but. Because they do make a statement - bold or boring, serene or loud.
Neutrals can't even be located on a color wheel. They're off the chart - literally. Black, white, gray - and some say brown and tan, though others call those "near neutrals." Mix two complementary - opposite - colors on the color wheel and you get a neutral. Orange and blue make a neutral - brown. How odd. Can odd be neutral?
An on-line "House Beautiful" article asked some designers for their "go to" neutral paint colors. One chose a rich black-brown, Benjamin Moore Wenge AF-180. The designer said it looks like dark, bitter chocolate. Imagine walking into a room with dark chocolate walls. Would the room feel neutral to you? (It would send me on a chocolate hunt, but that's a different subject.)
Another chosen paint color was Ben Moore's Pale Vista 2029-60 - light spring green. The color wheel tells us green is not neutral, because there it is on the wheel. To be fair, the designer said he "uses" pale vista as a neutral. Of course he knows the definition. He found a light color that works in many spaces. In common vernacular, neutrals are more than complement mixers; they are colors that can be used with many other colors as workable backgrounds
This example, using "smoky lavender with both refinement and sex appeal" is obviously not a neutral by definition, but by the way it's used.(source)
Tammy, a PhD biologist who describes herself as color-challenged, emailed me the other day and told me she didn't "get" neutrals. "What are they?" she asked. "Every beige I see is warm or cool, but theoretically, shouldn't neutral be neither?"
original photo source / montage by RachelYes, Tammy, there are true neutrals. But any choice we make evokes a response, from ourselves and our viewers. So Switzerland - and lattes, browns and grays - may by definition be labeled neutral - but their impact is anything but.