Like many of us in the past decade, Leslie Corona, senior home editor at Real Simple magazine, has generally avoided using color in her home. White walls, after all, can look better on Instagram.
“But then I bought a condo,” she says, “and I thought, ‘I don’t want to have a boring white box.’ ” So she painted her bedroom walls and ceiling in De Nimes, a blue by Farrow & Ball. She chose spruce-green chairs for the dining area, and she hung navy grass-cloth wallpaper in the office.
Corona is right on trend, according to Libby Rawes, owner of Sharp and Grey Interiors in Philadelphia, who is seeing less white and gray and more olive, rust, ocher, mustard, beige and other “nice, warm colors” in furniture and accessories.
If you’re also ready to add more color, warmth and life to your home, here are some tips on how to do it.
Create a vision
Pick a palette: Think about what colors you like to wear, because these tend to reflect your preferences. From there, look at complementary shades. A piece of artwork featuring your favorite color will probably have complementary hues in it, if you need ideas.
Rawes says red and blue work together, as do orange and green (or a warm terra-cotta and dusty green). Corona likes blue-green and peach; pink and sea foam; yellow, purple-gray and plum; and mossy green and pink.
Test paint colors: When putting colors on your walls, the general advice is to test them with 12-by-12-inch pieces of paper, or even larger pieces of painted poster board. Many companies also now offer pre-painted peel-and-stick swatches.
Move the square around to see how different lighting affects it. “Hold it near the floors, as well as other permanent fixtures, like woodwork or tile, to see how it looks with all the different elements,” Rawes says.
Visualize your space: Online design tools can help you sample a color scheme. Pinterest allows you to combine paint colors, furniture and accessories on a virtual mood board. Another tool is the interior design site Spoak ($15 a month), which allows you to choose furnishings and accessories and see what everything would look like together.
How to add color
Start small: Test-drive your palette with accessories, which are easier to change. Try a colorful pot on the stove, a vibrant scarf draped over the edge of a frame or on a piano top, bold hand towels in the bathroom or a fun doormat.
Fresh flowers are another great option with minimal commitment. Corona recommends monthly flower-delivery subscriptions. Rawes suggests picking up a bouquet at a local florist or farmers market. “They typically last a bit longer from local sources,” she says. For a quick and easy arrangement, she likes hydrangeas, tulips or eucalyptus.
Try wallpaper: Bold, patterned wallpaper is a tried-and-true way to add color and interest to a space. Newer options have made it easier to hang — and remove. But even temporary wallpaper can be costly. Corona suggests using it in small doses, such as inside a closet, in a powder room or on a laundry room wall.
Looking for another less-expensive way to inject color and interest? Many DIY bloggers are painting patterns that look like wallpaper, such as herringbone, or ones with abstract shapes.
Branch out with furniture: “Rich, colored furniture looks great in a neutral space,” Rawes says. But don’t go overboard; it’s important to balance it with lighter or neutral colors and textures.
And try to limit yourself to two or three bold colors in a space, including furniture, textiles and accessories. Think “a bold blue sofa with a floral blue-and-blush chair with a hint of green, paired with a more neutral rug or wallpaper,” Rawes says. She also likes leathers and velvets in warm hues.
Most clients are open to colorful furniture as long as the pieces themselves feel classic, she says. But for those who are hesitant, she suggests experimenting with slipcovers, available from a variety of sources. The company Bemz makes covers specifically for Ikea furniture.
Stain or paint wood floors: Blogger Lauren Comer, of Pinch Plate Party, stained a dark brown diamond pattern onto her laundry room’s plywood floor, a look Corona likes. And you don’t have to limit yourself to a shade of brown, Corona says. Minwax also offers stains in indigo, emerald, onyx and more.
Be sure to test the color first, though. “There’s a good chance the color won’t look like you imagine once it’s been absorbed by the wood, since wood types vary greatly,” she says. Hire a professional for the best results.
Another option for a casual beach house, cottage or studio, Rawes says, is to paint wood floors.
Get creative with paint: Painting porch ceilings (or the ceiling of a room) is a fun option. Rawes also recommends painting trim. Choose a color that contrasts with the color on your walls, especially a darker color.
Or go the opposite direction and paint an entire room — walls, trim, ceiling — with the same color. Rawes says you can create contrast with sheens: flat on the ceiling, eggshell on the walls and a satin or semigloss on the trim.
Sophia Ferrari-Wills, a home renovator and social media content creator in the United Kingdom, has saturated her English cottage in color. One hallway is a bubble-gum pink called Puppy Love by Dulux, her house shutters are a custom sunny yellow, and her stairway spindles have a pink ombré pattern. Her front door is in Satin Rose by Rust-Oleum.
Paint your appliances: Kitchen appliances don’t have to be white, black or gray. More companies are offering appliances in bold colors. And if you don’t want to replace what you have, you can paint them. “It achieves that unique and prettier … look without the price tag of an expensive, colorful brand,” says Ferrari-Wills, who painted her fridge pink. It’s also something you can change if you decide you don’t like it in the future.
First clean the appliance with a degreaser and cleaner, then roll on two coats of an all-surface satin paint with a small foam roller designed for glossy or satin finishes. Ferrari-Wills also sprayed the handles of her refrigerator with Montana Cans’ Frozen Strawberry and hand-painted scallops around the ice maker in Polar Blue.