For This Raleigh Interior Designer, Neutrals Become The Centerpiece Of The Design Project

Posted on | May 31, 2016 | No Comments

We often think of neutrals as a blank slate, upon which are built the more significant and interesting elements of a design. Neutral colors, however, have their own inherent beauty, that can be drawn out by a skilled and thoughtful individual. Raleigh interior designer Loretta Bell, owner of Bell & Associates Interior Design made neutrals come to life in this project, creating a family room and breakfast room that exuded warmth and offered her clients a feeling of comfort. Loretta is known for her adaptability and keen eye, and she gladly shared with North Carolina Design the challenging details of making neutrals the centerpiece of this design project.

Images Courtesy of Bell & Associates Interior Design ©

“The homeowners bought the house as is, and it was pretty dated,” recounts Loretta. “It certainly didn’t fit their aesthetic. They wanted something fresh and current, but with a very comfortable, relaxing feel. They really wanted their home – particularly these two rooms – to be a true place of respite. It was also a very traditional house, and they are not really traditional people.”

“My goal was to create something that was very serene, and very enveloped. I also had to come up with a way to work a more transitional aesthetic into the existing traditional space.” Assisting Loretta in executing the details of her vision in the project was fellow designer Jacqueline Yow. Loretta chose a blend of neutrals for a tranquil, peaceful effect. To add a sense of warmth and add interest without adding traditional elements, she created a thoughtful balance of hard and soft surfaces, and clean and organic, textured lines.

There are beautiful examples of this balance throughout the space. The family room features a wrought iron cocktail table with antiqued mirror finish on the bottom shelf. The family room cabinets were painted the same color as the wall for a seamless effect, but the backs are papered with highly iridescent textured paper. In the breakfast room, the cool, light floor tiles are balanced by the warm, rustic wood table and the softened chevron pattern of the window treatments.

As evidenced by this project, a neutral palette can be both inspired and lovely. However, there is an art to using neutrals well. “A space with minimal color can look flat if you’re not careful,” notes Loretta. “In this case, I used layers of textures and interesting shapes to create interest and depth. I created a dramatic focal point by taking the tile all the way to the corner on the fireplace wall. And I added contrast by painting the ceiling a darker color than the trim.”

The palette isn’t completely neutral; there is a small, yet strategic burst of color throughout the room. “The clients liked terracotta and orange, so we invigorated the space with pops of those colors,” she tells us. It’s placed in such a way that the eye is drawn all around the space. To change the tone or mood of the room, the pieces could easily be switched out for citron yellow, green, or even blue.”

Loretta always lets clients lead her designs, and never imposes a style on them. However, part of her job is to guide her clients through hesitations. “Clients aren’t experts, and they can’t always see beyond what they know,” she reflects. “It’s really important to develop a rapport with clients, and help them be more open to options. In this case, I had the idea of panting the walls brown. The clients couldn’t see how it would ever work. But they trusted me, so they saw it through.”

Their faith was well-placed. The brown grounds the design, and adds richness, warmth and a cozy feel. In fact, the clients were delighted by the entire space. In the end, it far exceeded their expectations, which delighted Loretta greatly. “In the world we live in, it’s so important to have a home that’s personal and makes us feel good emotionally and spiritually. It’s the fuel we need to function. I was so glad to be able to give them a space they could love living in.”

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