Kirstie Clements: Forget neutrals. Give me colour, movement and considered clutter

All the rage - beige! The neutral colour palette is torture for someone who adores colour, writes Kirstie Clements.

All the rage - beige! The neutral colour palette is torture for someone who adores colour, writes Kirstie Clements.

Combine a pandemic, skyrocketing real estate prices and a migration of city folk either thinking of moving to regional areas or perhaps downsizing, and almost everyone I know is home decorating. Including me.

The 2021/22 colour palette is easy work to with – beige, beige, natural, beige, off-white, beige, crème, and maybe throw in a bit of ochre. A rough-hewn ceramic objet, a jute rug, a branch, a hand milled soap, a sand-coloured Turkish towel and voila, done.

It’s torture for someone who loves colour. Given that my twins had finally left home in between the two NSW lockdowns at the tender age of 26, I decided to downscale to an apartment and redecorate. I stripped their bedrooms and put the house on the market so fast you’d think they’d never lived there.

There had been a lot of colour and pattern in my home previously: a deep red lounge, a multi-coloured striped banquette with dozens of kilim cushions, a bright Mediterranean blue and black kitchen, a Moroccan-style tiled courtyard. But now, I had no wrestling boys, no dirty trainers in the hall, no grandchildren yet, not even a pet.

The lounge, the cushions, the Indian painted side tables, the red lacquer hall table, out. Goodbye colour, au revoir maximalism. I could have a completely neutral palette in our new minimalist apartment for the first time in my life. How grown up, how serene, how orderly.

ficus decor

Neutral palette, minimalist aesthetic, fiddle leaf fig – decor sorted. Photo: Getty

I bought a beige sofa, a pale wood television unit, a marble and wood table, a white coffee table. The IKEA sisal rug that everyone has. An oversized branch of some random Australian wildflower in a undersized vase ( a decorating tip that I picked up from Instagram). A ficus plant. A scented candle on a stack of fashion books and I was done.

I settled back and looked around.


Add some ambient music in the background and it would have looked and felt like a pretty ordinary wellness retreat on a budget. All I needed was a white linen caftan and some crystals.

I get it, I really do, these spare, rustic environments. I also like caves, they’re very tonal, but I don’t want to live in one. In came a teal blue cushion. A yellow velvet chair. I forced my husband do the Wednesday morning middle aisle pilgrimage at Aldi to buy pale pink and green cookware.

A great splash of colour can never be dull. Photo: Architectural Digest

I put lilac chests of drawers in the bedroom and bright chrysanthemum-yellow towels in the bathrooms. I added red roses and pots of hot pink geraniums on the balcony. I piled books on the floor because it’s a very French look and I’m done with bookcases.

All of a sudden, I felt better. I like colour and movement and considered clutter.

Much like fashion, things often look better in magazine shoots and don’t translate well to real life. Yes, one white ceramic bowl of lemons would be the ideal styling hack for my kitchen island, but the slightly worse for wear toaster has to go somewhere. I’d actually like the twins back too.

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