Monday Inspiration: Pink is a Neutral

Goooooooood Morning everyone and Happy Monday – or whatever time or day you are choosing to read this. I thought we would have a little look around the happy neutral that is soft pink today as it’s the most perfect background colour that you can tone down or punch up depending on your mood. It’s friends with everything else on the colour spectrum from dark orange and bitter chocolate to all the greens and and yellows. It’s also very adaptable so you can easily pick a shade that isn’t too strongly pink but just creates a warm background shade. Think of it as the new white.

zebra print rug image via wendymorrison
zebra print rug image via  @wendymorrisondesign

First up is this maximalist room by the rug designer Wendy Morrison. That woke you up didn’t it! Now this will be too much for many of you, it’s probably a little too much for me if I’m honest, but, that said, the colours are all soft and tonal and while many of us would choose to go either leopard OR zebra, this is still a spectacular room. Wendy worked in fashion before moving across to rugs, so she is bound to be a little bolder than the rest of us. However, the colours all work from the green of the plants, to the green in the rug and the fringing on the sofa, which is also picked up by the pink fringing on the pendant lamp.

The plants are large and sufficiently jungly to work with the jungle animal theme and gold storks on the mantelpiece are symmetrical (if not identical twins) which is a good way to induce a feeling of calm. The brain likes symmetry so if you tend towards a maximalist style but find that it doesn’t quite make you as relaxed as you would like, try building up the look in pairs and that will help. Once you start to look closely at this image you can see that Wendy has a pair of gold framed doors either side of the mantelpiece, the plants mirror each other (and actually there is a third black and white palm between the two zebras on the rug) so while the designs are punchy, the overall look has been calmed with a restricted colour palette of soft tonal shades and objects working in pairs.

kitchen of beth dadswell of imperect interiors taken by snook photograph
kitchen of beth dadswell of imperfect interiors taken by snook photograph

Now to the wonderful kitchen of Beth Dadswell, whose home featured on Grand Designs and who runs the interior design firm Imperfect Interiors. Although, I have to say I find this very perfect indeed. Once again the walls are a soft pale pink but the colour palette is otherwise minimal – consisting of cream, black and grey with natural wood and sisal rugs to warm it all up. This is a room that would work if the background colour was a more traditional white but using pink gives it instantly more character and warmth and you could build up the colours if you felt like it.

Rose Uniacke Cast Wall Light, Hans Christiansen table & Cubosfera table lamp by Mendini - in a RU project in London
Rose Uniacke Cast Wall Light, Hans Christiansen table & Cubosfera table lamp by Mendini – in a RU project in London

Here, rather than keep the pink as a background colour so you hardly notice it, the designer Rose Uniacke has added a burgundy table and a softly pink striped rug to the scheme to layer up the tones. In fact, if I’m being entirely honest I’m not sure the wall is pink but the idea is that the dark pink table is reflecting against the wall and building the sense of warmth. This is a great way to do subtle decor as you can keep the walls pale – in any colour you like – and then add punches of the same shade in darker to bring drama. Again, it’s restful because the colours are variants of of the same thing but it makes a statement. Which is always a good idea. A statement doesn’t have to be shouted after all, it can be just quite firmly said, if you see what I mean.

Kate Watson-Smyth looks at ways of adding pops of colours to room. The red velvet bench cushion in this kitchen nook isn’t a change of colour but more an intense version of what is already there like the plaster coloured wall and dark wood tones,and it really makes the space pop. #kitchen #madaboutthehouse
New styling work by rebecca wakefield, shot by @annastathakiphoto. farrowandball setting plaster on the walls.

Here’s another example by Rebecca Wakefield, which I have shown you before but it makes the point here very well. A similar colour scheme to Beth’s kitchen above but the dark red bench cushion does the same trick as the Rose table above. Another trick, if you had a modern or cheap table would be to paint it, and the chairs, in a deep burgundy to bring out the colour of the walls.

painting a gallery wall frame by bianca hall of french for pineapple
painting a gallery wall frame by bianca hall of french for pineapple 

This is another idea you can use in so many different ways. The walls in Bianca’s house aren’t pink but painting this giant pink frame around the gallery wall gives it focus and makes it even stronger as a decorative device. The pink will also reflect out into the room and makes the pictures stand out more. It also works if you have a favourite picture that’s too small for the spot you want to hang it in. Just pick a complementary colour and create a frame around it. It goes without saying this can be any colour you like but we are talking about pink today. I might do something similar in my office above the fireplace, which currently has a couple of pictures propped up on it. It’s painted burgundy (the walls are dark pink) and I think I might create a matching burgundy rectangle and hang a picture in the middle. It is, for the sake of argument, a modern version of the feature wall – painting a feature ON a wall rather than making the whole wall the feature. You can see below. I think it might look rather good and would definitely bring a bit more presence to this part of the room.

yes Sir I can boogie print from rockett st george
yes Sir I can boogie print from rockett st george

Finally, another example of layering paint shades this time with the darker version on the ceiling. Here the colours are all very soft and there is no pattern to speak of. These pink walls are in complete contrast to Wendy’s at the top but hopefully this has been useful in showing you, not just that pink is a neutral but how it can replace traditional white in a scheme and create so many different looks depending on how you dress the rest of the room from maximalist print and pattern to layers of the same colour all over.

Kate Watson-Smyth looks at painted ceilings and using them as the fifth wall. The Pale pink walls and the ceiling in a darker version of the same leads the eye away from the corners, making the dining room appear larger. #ottohouse #madaboutthehouse #diningroom #pinkceiling
pink ceiling by @theottohouse

That’s all for today. Back tomorrow with the first of the Christmas gift guides. As usual I will be tackling them room by room and we will start with the kitchen. Not least because the biggest item on my own wish list is for that room and I need The Mad Husband to see in plenty of time….


PS: I’m never quite sure how big the crossover between Instagram and the blog is but for those readers who don’t do instagram, I wanted to tell you – and actually specifically you my blog readers – that we won three awards last week. Firstly The Good Web Guide which recognised both commercial websites and blogs in related categories. The blog won in its home and garden category and also took the overall blog of the year award. Then, on Friday, at the Vuelio online influence awards, I was surprised and honoured to be inducted into the new Hall of Fame ( I think that means they don’t want me to win my category any more!) which was an incredible recognition, not just of the work that has gone into this site over the last eight years but also of your loyalty and continued support day in and day out. Thank you all so much. Without you there would be no blog and there would be no trophies. I am thrilled and grateful for your engagement and support XK


Tags : decorating with pinkpinkpink decorpink is neutralpink is the new white
Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. Hi Kate,

    Nobody deserves the awards more than you – so many congratulations ! Your blog is absolutely inspiring.

  2. Congratulations on the awards! Your blog has been instrumental in helping me identify my own tastes in decor; the way I’ve done my house has barely any common elements to yours (I lean more towards Sophie’s end of the spectrum) but you’ve showed me how to think about my home and how to decide what I like.

    1. And that’s all it ever sets out to do. We don’t all have the same style and nor should be but if these pages have helped you work out what you like in any small way over the years then they have done their job.

  3. Congratulations and well done – very much deserved! I don’t really do Instagram as I prefer the narrative blogs offer. Thanks for your posts and always offering up lots of inspiration

  4. Congratulations, Kate, on winning three awards. Very well deserved.
    I love pink and all shades of pink. Trying to introduce more of it into my sitting room.

  5. I listened to your advice several years ago and introduced a very soft pink into my smallish kitchen, it sits against solid oak units and looks really well.
    Congratulations on your awards. I do Instagram, Facebook and Twitter but it is all too much. Something must go.
    This damned world of hi tech has us all jumping to its tune, instead of waking up and smelling the coffee and or looking at the roses and the beautiful outside world.
    Happy days!

  6. Loved Beth Dadswell’s Grand Design – one of my favourites from all the seasons – I remember her crittal windows leading out to the most gorgeous, intimate, private courtyard – beautiful!

    I am considering a similar pink to Beth’s kitchen in my office, which sounds very grand, but its not. Its the boxroom which has a desk and lots of built in storage. Im thinking pale rose pink walls, a large black and white rug and the built in storage in a mid grey. The pink walls will then be filled with lots of artwork (in a salon hang style) that is currently propped up in a pile against two walls!

  7. Congratulations on your awards, and thank you for the blog post! I’m excited to add pink to my home in unexpected ways.

  8. Congratulations on well deserved recognition. Your blog is a daily respite for inspiration and encouragement. Also for fantasy on Fridays! Thank you for your time and effort each day to brighten my day.

  9. So that mantle piece in your office room will have to make space for your well deserved trophies Kate.
    Exceptional Blog due to your commitment and hard effort. Congratulations!

  10. Absolutely love all this pink – beautiful. Congratulations on all the awards, very well deserved. I love reading your daily posts, they are the highlight of my day!

  11. Congratulations on all of these awards. They are all very throughly deserved. Your posts are always a very informative and interesting read and even though I’m not very brave with interiors you give me a lot of inspiration.

  12. Congratulations on your awards! (Not enough time in my life to instagram!). AND thank you personally you are ysually my first port of call in the mornings.

  13. Wahey congratulations on the awards. Very well deserved. I absolutely love the blog and it makes my Monday morning commute much more bearable. Personally I am no longer on Instagram – it just made me constantly dissatisfied with my own home, life etc so now back to reading blogs, listening to podcasts (your own included) and reading interior magazines – much happier! Xx

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