Power Neutrals

10 of the best serene, composed, and relaxing living rooms.

Transform your living room into a tranquil yet light-filled cocoon that soothes and revitalises its occupants by employing multiple tones of creams and whites – or ultra-pale pastel shades – in combination with natural textures and details.


Production: Sven Alberding, Tille Del Negro, Shelley Street
Photographs Bureaux: Greg Cox, Warren Heath, Elsa Young

Situated in an apartment with a layered aesthetic that is designed for laid-back family holidays, this living room’s original period features – including traditional floor tiles and pressed ceilings – enliven a neutral palette of creams, beiges, and pale bamboo tones. An inviting L-shaped couch prompts thoughts of lazy lounging, and the walls have been plastered but left unpainted, giving them a subtly textured look.

TIP: This effortlessly easy-going apartment is owned by Danish designer Tine Kjeldsen, and the tin-framed mirrors, couch, rattan coffee table, side table, wooden stools, brass table lamp, throws and cushions are all pieces from her eponymous homeware brand, Tine K Home (tinekhome.com).

Combining a secluded location with spectacular views and layered interiors, this holiday home has a glamorous, contemporary spirit. An enclosed porch forms part of the main living space and is light-filled all year round. The French Burgundy stone floor adds texture, while the built-in couches were designed to keep a low line to draw the eye to the horizon beyond the windows. The soft green shades used for the upholstery and cushions help ensure that the space
blends beautifully into its natural surroundings.

TIP: The couches are upholstered in repurposed antique Mallorquin bed linen, hand-dyed with natural pigments by More Decor (moredesign.es) to create the seafoam and olive leaf shades. All the glass vessels and drinking glasses are made from recycled glass and were sourced from Viveca (instagram.com/viveca_spain/).

A boldly conceived holiday home situated on a steep mountainside blends an urbanely contemporary sensibility with elemental ease in its interiors. In the living room, natural textures are deployed with elegant restraint: the floors, for example, are made from polished locally sourced stone that will age naturally, taking on a unique patina as the years go by. Additional natural materials – wood, rattan, woven grass, leather, and linen – add layered depth and subtle sensuality to this beautiful living space.

TIP: The modular sofa covered in natural washed linen, the hanging lampshades and the wood and rattan occasional chairs are all by More Decor (moredesign.es) The painting is by Spanish contemporary artist Guillem Nadal, acquired from Pelaires Gallery (pelaires.com). The scatter cushions are made from collected vintage linen and raw silk fabrics and the luxurious cashmere
throw is by Frette (frette.com).

The main living room in this beachside family home benefits from a double-volume ceiling that creates a spacious feel. Painting the wooden floors, walls, and ceilings all in crisp white pushes the sense of seamless openness to the max, with stacked doors opening up to wooden exterior decks. Instead of using a traditional blue and white “beach” palette, the homeowners chose to punctuate all the white with textures of wood that range from wind-worn and weathered to honed and handcrafted.

TIP: To create similar natural-chic appeal, choose your shade – or shades of white paint with care; more than one might be needed; of white paint with care, then layer your interior with wood and rattan furnishings, plus decor items such as the traditional African wooden mortars and off-white ceramic pieces seen here, which serve to animate the canvas.

A large central living space – open-plan to a dining area and kitchen – forms the heart of this holiday cottage and is slightly raised to ensure its occupants enjoy sweeping views of the nearby coastline. The room combines a casual airiness with an elegant feel, thanks to its all-white walls and high ceilings, exposed roof beams (also painted white) and sand-grey screeded floors. Likewise, the oversized sofa is ideal for holiday lounging, yet also has sleek, urbane lines.

TIP: Each piece chosen for the space gives a nod to the driftwood, sun-bleached pebbles and white sand of the wild coastline the home overlooks. The sofa, circular wooden coffee table and armchair are all from Weylandts (weylandts.co.za), while the wooden footstools-cum-side tables are by LIM (lim.co.za)

This country house teams its idyllic location with an earthy yet contemporary decor sensibility. Of particular note is the all-natural, hand-polished, traditional lime-based plaster – tadelakt – used on the interior walls throughout, including in this secluded living area. Featuring built-in banquettes and designed for relaxing and reading, the space contrasts soft wall, floor, and upholstery tones with a textile wall hanging, cushions, and old glassware that add interest to the scheme.

TIP: The white lime plaster used for tadelakt comes from Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains and can be subtly coloured using pure pigments. It is built up layer by layer, then polished by hand using stones – a key part of the process, as the word tadelakt means “to rub in” or “to massage”. This gives it a handmade, slightly imperfect finish. The final step is a treatment with a natural soap solution that makes the plaster water-resistant.

The living room of an urban cottage reveals its creative owner’s passion for layering earthy elements into a serene, monochrome palette. Light floods the space thanks to large windows, white-painted concrete floors and the high, open-truss ceiling – and the eye-catching centrepiece is a beautiful contemporary chandelier made from clay beads. The wall-mounted mirror is inspired by the form of an anemone and made of coconut sticks. This adds further natural texture to the space, as does the rustic wood side table.

TIP: “My personal aesthetic has been very constant,” says homeowner and design consultant Shelley Street (instagram.com/ shelley.space.solutions). “I’d say my colours are ‘beach pebble’ shades rather than slavishly monochrome: white, obviously, but also charcoals, greys, chalk.” The clay bead chandelier is by Mud Studio (mudstudio.net).

Tucked away behind a stone wall in a lush garden, a discreetly private holiday home celebrates the simple life. It includes this enclosed patio, which is an ultra-relaxed space ideal for laid-back lounging. The pre-existing concrete beams from the old porch were reused – finished in a simple lime wash – for the ceiling, and the elegantly pale floors are made from a lime mortar base, in the family of polished cement.

TIP: The homeowner’s multiple sofa components were reupholstered in a soft green linen by Tapicéria Tomas Riera in Manacor, Mallorca; similar scatter cushions and throws can be manufactured by Teixits Vicens (teixitsvicens.com). Find rustic wooden stools like these at vintage stores or try Tine K Home (tinekhome.com).

In a mountainside holiday home that clings to a terraced hillside and sports spectacular sea views, the cosy living room is situated two steps lower than the dining area and features a sculptural fireplace, curvaceous built-in seating, and floors combining polished stone and micro cement – all in shades ranging from pure white to natural stone. Punctuated by traditional wooden ceiling beams and softened with a grass rug and fluffy sheepskins, it’s a study in effortless ease.

TIP: The built-in seating and plastered fireplace are organic in style and shape, creating an inviting and intimate atmosphere. Find similar sheepskins, which add loads of texture and are also ideal for warming up the space in winter – at Pergarden Produkt (pergarden.com), Scandinavian Skins scandinavianskins.com), or IKEA (ikea.com).

The formal living room of a home that mixes classic elements with vintage and modern pieces features a high ceiling emphasised by off-white walls and full-length curtains in a matching shade of pale, with the entire scheme anchored by a chic Carrara marble coffee table. Inside this refined frame, carefully selected fixtures and furnishings – including an expansively luxurious yet clean-lined sofa, a vintage chandelier, and a contemporary standing lamp – make for a very sophisticated space.

TIP: A gleaming leather wingback armchair is a vintage piece, as is the teak-framed 1957 Boomerang easy chair by Peter Hvidt and Orla Mølgaard-Nielsen, which was reupholstered in Pedroso linen from T&Co (tandco.co.za). The plaster and resin artwork above the fireplace is by Michele Mathison (michelemathison.com).