Eve Ashcraft's 6 Inspirations for Choosing a Color Palette

Color specialist Eve Ashcraft offers six inspirations to help you choose a color scheme for any space in your home.

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  1. Six Inspirations

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    In her new book, "The Right Color," color consultant Eve Ashcraft provides an inspiration-filled look at her world; from the basics of color theory to how best to use color to define space, enhance light, and accentuate ceilings, trim, furnishings and art. If you're wondering where to begin in choosing the right color for you, perhaps Ashcraft's Six Inspirations for a Palette will help you on your way.  

    Excerpted from The Right Color by Eve Ashcraft (Artisan Books). Copyright 2011.

    The Right Color

  2. A Work of Art

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    One of my favorite sources of inspiration is art. Think about it: you’re served up a palette on a platter because the artist has already done all the hard work of narrowing down colors and combining them in successful composition. Here, a Giorgio Morandi painting is the jumping-off point for a room: the blue and gray vessels suggest colors for dominant surfaces like walls and ceiling, and the small sliver of orangey-red works like an accent color one might find in a vase or a throw pillow.

    The Right Color

  3. A Favorite Color

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    If blue’s your color, run with it. I love to use variations of a color in the same room. Layering several shades of a single color—from light to dark, bright to somber—can create a visually stimulating effect. Consider all the ways in which you can introduce a color—paint, textiles, ceramics, artwork, even hardware. The swatches for my blue palette include striped rugs and several color tones to test for walls, trim, and ceiling, plus some patterned fabrics.

    The Right Color

  4. A Souvenir

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    Pull a palette together based on the essence of a place. India, for instance, conjures spice colors of yellow; brown, and red as well as jewel tones of garnet, emerald, and sapphire. For a more specific inspiration, I started with a favorite postcard that features a portrait of an Indian prince. To it, I added feathers, ribbons, and other ephemera, like turquoise-colored game titles, to create an exotic palette. The warm yellows and orange act as a rich, vibrant backdrop for the fabrics in cayenne red and sage green.

    The Right Color

  5. A Piece of Fabric

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    I love rooms that have balance and tension. One of my tricks is to take a somber, earthy, or dark palette and wake it up with an unexpected color. For a home office, I combined handsome materials like perforated stamped suede, charcoal-gray pinstripe flannel, chocolate-brown wool carpet, steel curtain rods, and deep brown textured wood cabinets with a very pale, slightly grayed lavender for the walls and a more vibrant violet for a closet interior. The cream and brown ikat fabric was chosen for curtains.

    The Right Color

  6. An Icon

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    Some colors and combinations are so classic, like the orange and brown Hermes box, that there’s no tipping them. I look to all sorts of paper goods—artfully designed packaging, stationary, posters, and wrapper paper—for color ideas. In this case, the tangerine of the banded box was the inspiration for a palette using orange, cream, gray, and brown. Putting a bold color on the wall is especially effective when you balance it with pattern, materials, and textures.

    The Right Color

  7. A Place in Time

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    Old houses are graced with the lovely patina of years. Draw from elegant aged materials like porcelain tubs and worn floors for subtle, neutral tones to build a quiet but stately palette. This postcard image of an old Federal-era house has been pinned on my studio bulletin board for years; I love the limestone building blocks and the tall, dark, and handsome windows. In this scheme I pulled pale grays and taupes for wall colors, extending the palette with linen upholstery fabrics and driftwood-colored floors.

    The Right Color

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