How to Add Color to Your Home

Take a chance on something bold and breathe new life into a room.

By Darren Davis February 15, 2016 Published in the February 2016 issue of Seattle Met

Amp0015 zsdpmh

Photo: Dan Achat Photography

It might be gray nine months out of the year, but that’s no reason to keep it safe and neutral when rethinking paint in your home. Going colorful doesn’t mean painting the whole living room rose quartz and serenity, the 2016 Pantone Color of the Year. A little goes a long way if you follow these tips from three local color experts. 

Choose a Dominant Theme

“There’s no sense having a bazillion colors in the house,” says Elizabeth Brown, so choose one dominant color as a leitmotif, then add darks and accents from room to room. Lately she’s seen homeowners going with lighter off-white palettes over more saturated hues, then adding greens, oranges, and turquoises. Where these colors appear needs to make sense, though. An accent wall should be used to break up a room, direct the eye, or create a natural pathway through a space. A bright backsplash remains one of Brown’s favorite places to brighten up an otherwise neutral kitchen or bathroom. 


Sunlight Is Everything

When picking a color, always take into account from which direction a room receives sun and test the paint at different times of day. Elizabeth Brown doesn’t even offer online color consultations because “it’s important to be in the space and see how the natural light is working.” Light from the east can be harsh and bring out surprising undertones, perhaps an unexpected green in a color that looked more neutral on the swatch. Westward-facing windows let in warm sunlight, like a saturating photo filter. Brown contends that the safest light, or light that reveals true and intended color, is northern light.

Shutterstock 281054213 ehcjtv 

Blue Affects the Brain

While an individual’s emotional reaction to color depends on many variables, including personal memory and culture, certain colors do influence the body’s inner mechanisms. Mehlika Inanici warns against using blues in any room meant for sleep, as blue light suppresses melatonin production in the body and can make it difficult to wind down (looking at laptops and phones before bedtime is discouraged for this same reason). Blue is then a great color for an office, workout corner, or anywhere else you want to stay alert. 

Shutterstock 281054213 qn3zz8

It’s Not Just About Wall Color

In his art, and his job as a home painter, Justin Duffus often places certain colors next to each other in order to “trick” the eye and make one hue look different. For a gray wall with purple undertones, accentuate the purple by positioning something yellow next to it. Or mute those undertones with a chair upholstered in bolder purple. Red accentuates green tones, while blue complements hues of orange. Josef Albers wrote the first definitive source of these color relationships with his Interaction of Color. There’s even an iPad app of the book to help experiment with different pairings.

Shutterstock 281054213 ilbcwv
The Experts


Filed under