You may be a powerhouse at work, or your neighborhood’s most resourceful “go-to” person when something needs to be done. Maybe you’re in line for the most creative mom award too, with holiday decorating and Halloween costumes part of your DNA. But what does your home really say about you? Do your rooms and their spare use of color need a boost?
Most people fear color, according to expert interior designers, but a few strategic practices and items–painting your headboard, kitchen table, the trim on your windows, kitchen and bathroom cabinets, using bright pillows and, yes, even colorful kitchen appliances– can make your nest pop. These tips from celebrated interior designers can help transform your home environment from so-so to spectacular–just like you!
The New Black
“In decorating a home, I look at what people wear, or the very favorite things that they wear,” said Beverly Glover-Wood of Glover-Wood Interiors, a Bethesda, Md.-based interior design firm. “Very often these are the same colors they’re comfortable looking at and feel comfortable living with.”
Asking clients to look through magazines with her, Glover-Wood said she can tell from their reactions–even if the client picks out monotone rooms–that there may be a specific color in those rooms that keeps appearing in their choices. “There might be a pillow in red or blue that just draws them into the space,” she said, noting she begins to increase their color vocabulary by using these approved bolder hues to help redesign spaces.
The Art of the Room
“If a person wants to bring color into a drab space, I say they should think about what they wear or a favorite piece of artwork that they own,” said Carol Freedman of Carol Freedman Design, also in Bethesda, Md. Credited for her knack for using a client’s favorite painting as a springboard for the home’s color palette, Freedman said you can select one, two, or three colors from your artwork to highlight a room, and that where you use these colors is the next step.
While painting an entire room is a possibility, the designer said in some cases doing just an accent wall is another option depending on the room’s configuration, furniture layout, etc. If you have some neutral colors you want to maintain in your walls and trim, painting the interiors of some nice bookcases “a fun, punchy color” is another way to express yourself, per Freedman, using that same shade for other accents in the room like pillowcases, ornamental items, painted antiques or a flower arrangement.
Dipping That Toe
According to Glover-Wood, if color-shy, sometimes it’s best to start slowly or with a room that is somewhat out of the way. Recalling a client who was hesitant about considering even off-white or cream-colored walls (as opposed to white), the designer encouraged her to paint one room–in her basement–a spicy red, which she ended up embracing. A bathroom is another space that leaves room for experimentation, Glover-Wood explained, as it is smaller and less visible. “I’ve seen people go from painting a bathroom green and deciding they loved it to moving out into the hallway with a softer green. You do it in steps.”
As another introductory color option, the designer endorses taking an object of which you’ve wanted to dispose, such as an old kitchen table, and sanding it lightly before applying a bright coat of paint. From there you may want to move on to the cabinets, which are larger but still do not involve the entire kitchen. Spray-painting a plain wicker chair or some inexpensive shelves you might find in a hardware store in a bold color is still another idea to brighten up a bedroom or bathroom without diving full bore into the color palette pool. “It’s that burst of color,” Glover-Wood said.
Along those lines, Freedman advocates visiting kitchen accessory stores like Sur La Table or Crate & Barrel. “They have amazing utensils, bowls, and accent pieces in great colors, and those colors change semi-annually or by the season,” she said. “If you don’t see what you like right away, you might see it later on.” Citing mixers, toasters, and other small appliances she’d first seen in citron green and eggplant, the same objects were featured in orange and blue the next time she went. “If you have utensils in a jar somewhere, and then an appliance that you need or want to update somewhere else, it’s great fun without spending the money to paint the room.”
Size and Shine
When considering painting an entire room, Glover-Wood recommends homeowners start by purchasing a large piece of foam core (“large” being the operative word). Paint the color you are considering on one side, and perhaps something else you are exploring on the other, and place it against different walls in the morning, afternoon, and evening to get the full effect. While a swatch of color may look desirable in your hand, once you cover a large space, it can have an entirely different effect so it’s best to test size-wise by the largest means possible.
Finally, it’s very important to have the right lighting when redesigning with color. If you’re using a 60-watt bulb (and some less expensive lighting fixtures do not recommend going any higher for fear of becoming a fire hazard), you may want to purchase another fixture where using a 100-watt bulb is not an issue.
“I’ve gone into homes where they’ve done nifty colors on the walls, yet they’re very bland-looking because they haven’t put the right lamps around,” said Glover-Wood. In fact she recommends uplighting, or using a lamp that is open on top and shines toward the ceiling, whereby light bounces off and illuminates the room.
“You have to look at your spaces with a very fresh eye,” Freedman said, noting it’s often hard to do, so bringing in a friend can help. “Sharing a fresh perspective can make it so much easier.”