Color Made Easy: 9 Designer Tips for Working with Color

People are often encouraged to use more color in their homes, but when the time comes to make a decision at the paint store, many fall back to the safety and comfort of neutrals. But since color is one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to personalize a space, it's worth taking the plunge—whether you opt for hues that are bold and invigorating, soft and soothing, or somewhere in between. To boost your color confidence, nine designers offer advice for working with colors they love. Let their examples inspire you.

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  1. Blue

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    "I tend to use blues a lot in my designs as they're very soothing and pleasing to the eye," says Kati Curtis, principal of Kati Curtis Designs, in New York City. "The key to working with something like a bright turquoise is mixing in similarly toned colors along with complementary accents," she says.

    katicurtisdesign.com

  2. Lavender

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    "The key to picking the right lavender is to find a shade with a hint of gray in it so that the purple feels subtle and unexpected," says Amy Elbaum, principal of AE Designs, in New York City. The color used in this room—Benjamin Moore's Winter Gray (2117-60)—works as a quiet background while also adding a level of interest to an otherwise black and white room.

    amyelbaumdesigns.com

  3. Red

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    "When working with a bold color like red, there are two ways to go," says interior designer Jason Landau, owner of Amazing Spaces LLC, in Briarcliff Manor, New York. "You can use the color sparingly and sprinkle it around the room, or you can use it in a larger area but balance the strength of it with neutral materials and colors."

    amazingspacesllc.com

  4. Brown

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    When choosing a brown for the home, "use the darkest and deepest tone you can find," counsels Kristin Petro, principal of Kristin Petro Interiors, in Elmhurst, Illinois. For this elegant dining room, Petro chose Benjamin Moore's Van Buren Brown (HC-70) for the walls.

    kristinpetro.com

  5. Yellow

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    Cheerful and stimulating, yellow can rejuvenate a room. Thomas Jayne, principal of Jayne Design Studio, in New York City, often uses yellow in his historically-inspired interiors, sometimes balancing the color with soothing blues and sage greens. Keep the brightest shades of yellow out of bedrooms and home offices, where they might hinder rest and quiet contemplation.

    jaynedesignstudio.com

  6. Pink

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    Love pink but worry that its effect in your home might resemble a little girl's bedroom? Steer clear of bubble-gum shades, suggests style blogger Holly Becker, creator of decor8blog.com. Farrow & Ball's Pink Ground (#202) was chosen for this gracious dining room by designers at Ellsworth Ford, an interior design firm in Greenwich, Connecticut, because "everyone looks good in a soft pink light."

    ellsworth-ford.com

  7. Orange

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    The family room in this rural Virginia farmhouse, looks bold in Benjamin Moore's 14 Carrots (CSP-1110). When using a color this strong, says Joel Barkley, a partner at the New York City design firm Ike Kligerman Barkley, "it helps to have millwork as heavy as what we had here. The white classical shapes, silhouetted against the vibrant orange ground remove any heaviness the color might have."

    houzz.com

  8. Black

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    Known for his exuberant use of color, designer Jonathan Adler is also a fan of using black in the home. "Houses, entire suites of furniture—even interior walls—look smashing head-to-toe in black," he writes in his book 100 Ways to Happy Chic Your Life. When combining colors, "make sure one color plays the lead and the other a supporting role."

    jonathanadler.com

  9. Green

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    "Green connects us with nature and is rejuvenating," says Sharon Radovich, principal of Panache Interiors, in Austin, Texas. "When using it in a room, bright greens add energy and rich greens add depth." Radovich favors Electric Lime (SW 6921) paired with white for a modern look, or Sherwin-Williams Ryegrass (SW 6423) for traditional style. 

    panacheinteriors.com

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