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The new neutrals: Infusing bold color into the home

Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 1:57 p.m. CDT

Neutral shades such as white and beige will always work in a home, but sometimes a space calls for bolder colors.

orange room

Orange punches up a guest bedroom, pictured above, by San Francisco designer Kimball Starr.

In fact, couches, walls and even appliances are showing up in hues of orange, emerald green, lavender and peacock blue. Named the “it colors” for spring by Pantone, these shades are surprisingly easy to work with and, when used as a base or accent, are nearly a neutral, says designer David Scott.

“I love orange,” he said. “I’m always constantly trying to work it into every interior. Persian blue, peacock blue [too]. I love mixing them and the warm and cool together.”

People, overall, are becoming more comfortable with using color in the home, says designer Chris Barrett.

“People are becoming more aware how color can be used. Where a lot of people felt beiges and taupes were easier to live with, now people can see color. Even strong color can be almost a neutral if you use it right,” she said.

chris barrett

Barrett added a coat of orange-red paint to liven up the vanity in the bathroom of a modern boutique hotel she designed in California.

Here are a few tips from designers on how to add these new neutrals to your home.

Start with shades and swatches

If you’re set on adding peacock blue to a space, how do you find other colors to pair with it? Barrett says the easiest way is to layer various shades of that color in the space. If you want a bolder, yet cohesive look, search for the color’s complement on the color wheel. Blue, for example, pairs well with orange, and purple pairs well with touches of yellow.

Still lost? Start with a swatch of fabric you love.

“Often we find just one fabric or one rug that has all the colors we like and build off of that,” Barrett said.

chris barrett 2

Cheerful printed pillows provide the palette for a sunny room designed by Barrett.

Add colorful furniture

Non-traditional colors, such as lavender, can become neutrals if you use them where you may have used beige in the past, explains Barrett.

“You use it as a background, say a sofa, and you can accent it with other colors,” she said. “If you do use it as a neutral, it isn’t trendy — it’s just very chic because you are using it in balance with other colors.”

Green couch
This dark green couch becomes a neutral against the brighter pink wall and gray rug.

light green couch
Another green couch, this time in a lighter spring green, works as a neutral when it’s paired with white, brown and black in this contemporary living room, designed by John Willey.

Paint

Whether you coat your walls or cabinets, paint is an easy way to add bold color to a space.

blue cabinets
Painting the cabinets below the counters is a subtle way to infuse color into an otherwise all-white kitchen.

green lacquer
If you’re bold, says Barrett, add a lot of color to a space by painting the walls. Make a statement with a shiny, lacquered green on the walls, as seen above.

blue white bath
Or, use a coat of blue paint to make a bathroom cottage-chic and kid-friendly.

Accessorize

“If you want to add color slowly, slowly use it in small touches such as accent pillows,” advises Barrett.

orange and white bath
Touches of color — such as an orange towel and piece of art — add interest to an all-white space.

purple pillows
Taupe couches get an update with green and purple pillows in this design by Scarsdale interior designer Claire Paquin.

orange lamp
Red-orange lamps are unexpected additions in a green entryway.

Get more colorful inspiration on Zillow Digs!

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