Neutral vs. Color: The Work of John DeBastiani

I’ve been trying to freshen up our living room and I cannot for the life of me decide whether to keep things neutral or go blue. I have been pondering this for a YEAR!  I can make decisions for everyone else, but for myself…. I’m paralyzed.   And so I’ve been circling the internet looking at inspirational photos, which has only deepened my quandary!  Especially when I can across the portfolio of John De Bastiani-– he has SUCH good examples of both totally neutral and blue based spaces!

Like this Beverly Hills pied-a-terre done in all white, beige and black. Stunning!






But then there’s this house with the prettiest blue shades….



And even a pop of red with the blue (that sink though…wow).



Back to this little gem- a tiny one room studio here in Boston.





Or this coastal home bathed in blue?






The good news- you can accomplish either look with a good base of neutral pieces and suing accents to either pump up the color or just the texture.  You can see here that the middle column (8,9, 10, 11) are good basic items and working right you add more blue and working left keeping it crisp and pale. Which do you prefer?


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  1. Okay normally I am all about the color- but those neutral inspiration pictures are AMAZING! so different from the usual, and would be absolutely amazing. Also fun to decorate for different holidays!

    xo, Brittany
    Prettiest knits roundup for moms and babes on my blog today!

    1. eeek- sorry for the constant use of the word amazing… my daughter apparently thought she was part of the patriots last night and stayed up all night partying, hence my lack of thinking of a synonym!

  2. I actually deal with the same struggle. I am not a designer so completely changing things every few years isn’t feasible but boy would I love to! I’m doing a Florida house now and will be using blue and white I think the blue in some of these rooms is a bit too much though. I’ll be using a lighter dose.

  3. I think it’s better to go neutral. You can always blue things up with some pillows and accessories.

  4. I love the neutral look with pops of color from accent pieces. Having said that, build something that you love to look at but is realistic with a little one and your dog! That way, no stress if something gets spilled, etc.

  5. Both are lovely…but, with a toddler boy around – the light neutrals will be destroyed within the year. I have first-hand experience with this. The blue might have a bit more longevity and help you maintain some sanity!

  6. love both and you can’t go wrong. For some reason the blue and white feels more family cozy to me, but those neutral looks are really sharp looking. And thank you for sharing the great sconce resource. So cheap and good looking! Trying to figure out if I have a place for those in the house…

    1. I love the blue. The inspiration photos are amazing! Using various shades of blue and no other color almost makes the blue a neutral. Either way it’ll be beautiful…

  7. I personally love the blue. But that’s just me. I really like the color blue in many different shades. I think you really can’t go wrong with this choice, though.

  8. This is great! If you are doing a refresh of your living room could you do a blog post on how to manage the kids stuff (toy storage, ok looking kids products, etc) while keeping the space from looking like a playroom??? My daughter is 3 months old and I’m freaking out that my house will never be the same:(

  9. I think you can do a little of both, personally! Do your neutral base with touches of blue in elements that can be easily replaced if you tire of the blue, that is, only if blue is a new want for you, if you have always loved it, chances are you will be able to live with it for a long time. Just be strategic where you put the blue. I am a blue girl and my whole house has a black and white base with blues and whites and then I add touches of greens or pinks depending on the season. I am looking to adding a touch of pink for spring this year. I have a pin board called black and white and blue all over. In fact I pinned a few from this post there. If you have time take a look, it is a wonderful combination and one I never tire of……..

    1. Totally agree with KathySue’s statement/comment, neutral base with blue accents that can be swapped out if you get tired of them.And I also do the same as she does swapping things out during the seasons, I even swap my carpet out summer/winter. KathySue I’ll have to check your link! I also see you in the first two rooms. I’ve had white sofa’s throughout my child growing up and found them very easy to keep white.
      Good luck. Whatever you choose I’m sure it will be

  10. That is one tough decision to make… How about the best of both worlds? A neutral base with beautiful blue accents you can switch out whenever the mood strikes? Blue on the pillows, window treatments, blue and white porcelain jars, artwork, even slipcovers :)

  11. I really like monochromatic. At home, we have lots of ecru, a little softer and more buttery than white but a lot whiter than beige. Though we aren’t completely monochromatic, because of terracotta tiles on the floors, lots of red in the oriental carpets and red marble in the open kitchen.
    OTOH, our rental apartments are naturally moving toward blue, between the antiques, the historic color restrictions, art and carpets. Once it started, we gravitated toward it more and more.
    I could live with either one. Blue and white works for me in a way that other colors just don’t.

  12. I’m with the commenters who suggest a little of both. I’m a blue lover myself but I don’t have any big upholstered pieces in blue. I use blue as an accent with a neutral base … and leopard of course. You’re a designer. In a year or two you’re going to want to change again. You’re exposed to so many wonderful ideas … and will be again and again. Give yourself some flexibility for future change.

  13. The blue living room is beautiful and probably more practical for a home with a toddler! I’m sure whatever you choose will be lovely.

  14. Love both inspirations!

    My opinion:

    When layered neutrals are done well, they are SO superior to any other color scheme. Especially in a designer’s home. Anyone can layer colors, but when people come into your home they will always be wowed by how you can still make a colorless space look texturally interesting and beautiful. (And it works best with vintage and antique pieces…)

    That being said, I think sometimes we go crazy for neutral spaces because they photograph SO WELL. But they don’t always “live” as well as we hope they will. Blues will look good all day, every day–regardless of changing light, baby toys, clutter, etc.

    Can’t wait for Book 2!

  15. I like both, but for a calm environment I like the pale neural colors. I think they are classic. I have too many colors in my house , and wish I had kept it all white ivory and grey .

  16. I like both, but for a calm environment I like the pale neural colors. I think they are classic. I have too many colors in my house , and wish I had kept it all white ivory and grey .

  17. Ugh, I’m having the same issue. I so badly want to incorporate color into my living room but then I always gravitate to the neutral with black looks. So I’ve done nothing either and I’m starting to get frustrated with myself. It really is so hard deciding on your own spaces. I’ve had gray grasscloth samples taped to my dining room wall for months and still no decision. But honestly you always do amazing work so whatever you decide I’m sure the outcome will be beautiful.

  18. Both looks are gorgeous! I especially like the neutral rooms because you can always add blue to change things up. No matter which you choose I’m sure you will make it beautiful!!

    By the way, I LOVE my Spa Blue gourd lamps!!! I found the perfect spot for them in my home.


  19. Both are lovely, but I couldn’t live with either. I must have colors! (Alex Papachristidis and Miles Redd kinda color!) The neutrals are probably just too sophisticated for me. (Also, 60 pound pup and a grown man who spills like a toddler…) Regardless, decisions are tough, but you’ll make it wonderful.

  20. Blue isn’t you. It’s just a fringe interest lol. I would never think Erin Gates and blue. Neutrals, yes, you’re the queen, but blue? Maybe in a powder room? Hope this helps somewhat.

  21. I remember how much your island vacation evoked a feeling of relaxation for you. For myself, I prefer a collected cool environment– but since I’ve really taken consideration of how I want my house to feel to my 5 kids, I knew lots of color would make it a happy place. Hope this helps!

  22. I would go with neutrals with pops of blues and greens. Fresh for spring and summer. Add rusts and corals for fall. I like to be able to change up accessories. I thought the wall paper was a bit to strong. In the long run, do what makes you smile as you enter the room!

  23. Whatever is the bigger risk for you, I say do that! Risks do tend to pay off, they get us out of ruts, and they can be our favorite areas. I took a risk and painted my bathroom black and I absolutely adore it! I do think the photos with blue are more inspiring here, so I think blue hands down, especially with that touch of red. (One exception…love that first neutral kitchen, but I do think the open door at the end becomes part of the design that keeps it fresh.) But again…take a risk…whatever that is for you. Stretch thyself :)

  24. While I love the idea of neutrals and black, it always looks too designed to me. I love color – it has more heart and soul INHO. My house is filled with different blues and greens on neutral – aquas, denim, sages, and blues on top of linen white and monroe bisque….touches of black and pops of brights here and there…but then, I am prob more traditional too….not sure if that matters…

  25. A few years ago, I changed from a blue living room to a neutral one (cream with black for contrast). I had navy gloss walls and LOVED them for about a year, after which point I began to see them as oppressive. At the same time I went neutral in the living room, I painted my dining room peacock blue, and haven’t tired of that after several years. We eat in our dining room every morning and night, but still spend less time there than in our living room, so I think for us, a bolder dining room and a calmer living room work really well!

  26. Have it both ways: blue now while you’re parenting, and neutrals when your son is grown and out on his own! Beautiful rooms–great post, Erin.

  27. You can’t go wrong with a neutral room. I find them restful. If you deal with colour all day, it is so very nice to come home to a clean palette. You can always add in touches of blue, if desired.

  28. As I near the age of 60, grown children gone and completely self sufficient, I pondered this very subject time and again throughout the decor of my many homes throughout the years. I finally gave in and realized, as long as I had dogs and children in every age bracket, and their friends in and out of my home, color would remain as a staple to soften the blow of what comes along with their hands, shoes, clothing, purses, etc. Now, I can go neutral and not worry as much and love the serenity of having options in this field of neutrality, even with grandchildren.

  29. So fun this morning! I was transported back to my grandma’s your bathroom better managed yoyr small space in bathroom. I have confidence! We will all be wishing for one before it’s over. Have a blessed day <3 Yiu started mine off with a smile.
    i love your all designs till first one to last one. i have really no words to say somethig about are amazing….
    john peter at Mandala Wall Tapestry

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