Color Injection: Tips for the Timid

March 30, 2011

Every now and then I get an email from a reader that makes for a great post, so rather than a quick email response, I like to answer them here from time to time.  Like this recent question from Jaime:

“Hey Kate!  We’ve been living in our first house for almost a year with mostly leftover furniture from our college days and everything is sooo beige and brown, including our sofa and walls.  I’m really tired of it being so boring, and I’m craving color, but nothing too crazy.  I like neutrals, they feel safe to me, but I’m wondering how to bring some color to our home.  I’m a little afraid of picking something and then hating it.  I’m really not sure where to start.  Could you help, maybe offer a few tips?”  ~ Jaime

Hey Jaime, great question!  I know there are so many people out there who love the idea of color, but tend to play it safe with neutrals.  Having a neutral base in shades of gray, taupe, cream, white, or brown will stand the test of time, and also allow you to experiment with color in different ways.   

First, when thinking about color, my best advice to you is to ask yourself how you want to feel  when you enter your home.  Color is so closely tied to emotion.  Do you want to feel energized, stimulated, and inspired?  Then you’ll likely be looking for bold vibrant colors.  Do you want to be soothed and nurtured?  You are probably more drawn to muted tranquil tones.  Asking yourself how you want to feel is an important first question when looking for ways to bring color into your home.

ideal home magazine wallpaper 2Ideal Home

Next, find your inspiration.   Your source for choosing color can come from absolutely anything, whether it’s a fabric, a favorite flower, collectible, piece of art, a favorite article of clothing or scarf, or even something more intangible like a favorite vacation destination.  Perhaps you love the colors of the sea, or the vibrant hues of a sunset?  The opalescent tones in an abalone shell?  The intensity of a magenta orchid?  The deep red skin of a ripe heirloom tomato?  Nature is always a great source of inspiration.  Choose something in your home that you love, or look to nature.  Find something that makes you feel good when you look at it, that’s your best cue. 

Once you’ve decided how you want to feel, and what specific things inspire you, then it’s easy to choose a favorite color or colors, and you build from there.  Now that you’ve picked your inspiration color or colors, here are a few ways to incorporate them into your home.

1.  Paint One Piece.  Choose a piece of furniture in your house and paint it that color that speaks to you, like this beautiful desk painted an intense peacock blue. 

peacock blue desk elle decorElle Decor

Or this high gloss bold tomato red!

red dresser apartment therapy

Grange via Apartment Therapy


2.  Panel Panache.  Pick window treatments that really stand out against a neutral wall, and complementary pillows in a similar shade. 

yellow floral drapes decorpadvia Decorpad


meg adams atlanta homes and lifestyle 2 via hoturqMeg Adams Design, via House of Turquoise


3.  Accents + Art.   Colorful accent pillows paired with a vibrant piece of art never fail to bring fresh color into a mostly neutral space.  

yellow and pink style at homeStyle at Home


Tobi Fairley Designs


3) Be brave with your chairs.  Keep your furnishings, rugs and window treatments neutral, then add bright accent chairs.  A few more accessories in that same shade will pull the space together. 

style at home persimmon chairs

Style at Home


coral chairs and lantern windsor smith

Windsor Smith

4.  Choose a colorful rug.  A bold color for your accent rug is a guaranteed way to bring color into your home.  The fact that it’s underfoot makes it a bit more subtle, plus you can take cues from your rug’s colors to add a few accents around the room. 

Emily Henderson for HGTV

wallpapered white office via the decorista

via The Decorista


5.  Pick A Pair.  There are many color pairings that always work well together, hot pink + turquoise, yellow + gray, orange + blue, lime green + teal blue, coral + citron, gray + pink, the list goes on!  Pick two colors you love that also work together, and pull both of those colors into your home with accessories and art. 

beach cottage style at home via hoturq


martensen jones interiors bedroom

Martensen Jones Interiors, Manny Rodriguez photography

painted bookcase martha steward

Martha Stewart


6.  Fabric Cue.  Pick a fabric with a pattern you absolutely love, then pull a color from it, and paint the walls that shade.  It works every time!

kate schintzius skinny console via designsponge

Kate Schintzius via Design*Sponge


jennifer flanders bedroom

Jennifer Flanders


7.  Accessorize!  Collect items in your signature color, then play off that bold color in a softer shade on the walls. 

massuco warner miller bookcases via hoturq

Massucco Warner Miller


8.  Color Only Your Walls.  Stick with wood and neutral furnishings, then paint the walls a bold color.  You’ll have tons of impact at minimal cost. 

lonny dining room wingbacksLonny


plain turq wall via hoturq via canadianhouseandhome

Style at Home

green walls and legs elle

Elle Décor


9.  Think Monochromatic.  The restful bedroom uses several shades of green including apple, celadon and spring green. 

phoebe howard green bedroom

Phoebe Howard


Various shades of blue are mixed with white and rich wood in this dining space.

phoebe howard dining room

Phoebe Howard


Rich eggplant and aubergine pop against the crisp whites in this bedroom. 

kishani perera bedroom

Kishani Perera, photography by Jean Randazzo


I hope this has given you a few ideas for your home Jaime!  Always keep in mind how rooms flow together, and ask yourself how the choice to use color in one room can affect the other, and whether those choices reflect your lifestyle and personal style. 

Related articles:

Color Crush: Seaglass

Decorating with White Walls

Color Spotlight: Orange and Blue

Decorating with Yellow


Happy colorful decorating!

cg kate signature





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