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Warm up to a more colourful home

Sarah Lyon

THE WASHINGTON POST – If you’re tired of having a home full of neutral furnishings and paint – a la the prevailing design trends of recent years – but feel a bit skittish about completely reversing course, you’re certainly not alone.

“Many homeowners tend to stay away from colour. Some may even be fearful of it,” said Robin Gannon, whose firm Robin Gannon Interiors is based in Lexington, Massachusettes.

She attributes this to a few things. “They may not have been exposed to colour or pattern in their formative years, and the homes we were raised in really influence our design aesthetics and preferences. Others like colour but are scared of what the final space will look like, fearing that they will invest time and money to end up with a room they hate.”

Take heart, though: Even the most colour-shy people don’t have to be banished to a home filled with various shades of beige forever. Gannon and other designers said there are plenty of ways to become more receptive to using bold colours – without going overboard.

Whether you’re working with a pro or revamping your space on your own, here are some tips to keep top of mind before committing to that fuchsia powder room.

Before taking on a new project, Denver-based designer Nadia Watts asks her clients what shades resonate with them. “With this information, I will stretch (clients’) comfort zones by suggesting colours just outside of the familiar area,” she said.

She highlights undertones within the colours, “so (clients) are able to digest and support moving in this direction”. Not working with a pro? Simply head to your local paint store, where you can check out an array of colours. “Say you are done with grey and ready for a change,” Watts said. “Grey typically has a cool undertone, so start looking at blues that have a little bit of green in them. You can always go lighter or darker on the spectrum, depending on how dramatic you want your room.”

If you’re having trouble determining your favourite hues, take a peek inside your closet. “If there is a colour or colour family that you seem to enjoy wearing a lot of, this gives you a good indication of what colours you will enjoy having in your home,” said New York-based Emma Beryl Interiors owner Emma Kemper.

Designers agree that gradually introducing small, non-permanent pieces is a good way to dip your toes into more colourful design. Try incorporating throw pillows, accessories and art with vibrant hues. “Adding in these items helps to get a person used to seeing colour,” said Los Angeles designer Linda Hayslett of LH Designs. “Then, after a while, start adding more into the mix.”

Kemper particularly enjoys introducing colour to a space with bedding. “A bed takes up so much surface area in your bedroom and is a perfect canvas to layer in rich colours, textures and patterns,” she said.

“A blank white bed often feels like a hole in the middle of a space to me and is a missed opportunity.”

If you’re considering incorporating a vibrant upholstered piece into your space, remember that balancing bolder colours with more subdued shades is key, Gannon said.

“Think about a movie: There are a few stars of the show and supporting cast members. All are important to make the room successful,” she said.

Gannon suggests going for a forest green sofa, for example, and tying in softer hues, as well as a few patterned pillows, to keep it from being overwhelming.

If you do wish to coat the walls with colour, consider first taking a more subtle approach.

“Introducing vibrant paint colours can be done on a smaller scale, with half-painted walls and painting doors a bright hue,” said Molly Torres Portnof of Brooklyn-based Date Interiors.

In addition, designers frequently recommend going bold in smaller or less frequently used spaces.

The powder room is an excellent place to introduce vibrant colours to the home, said designer at Anthony Wilder Design/Build in Cabin John, Maryland Sydney Markus.

“Because a powder room is a small space, it’s easier to take risks and add colour and pattern for a dramatic impact,” she said.

“Also consider wallpaper, which is affordable in such a small space.”

Additionally, although Markus enjoys designing neutral, serene primary bedrooms, she will take more risk with colour in guest rooms.

“You want to incorporate a colour that lasts many years, one that has longevity, unlike a guest room, where you can take more colour risks and change it up like a hotel room,” she said.

And if you change your mind down the line? Don’t fret, because paint is easily remedied.

“Go ahead and take the leap,” Watts said. “It is just paint, and you can always have a do-over.”

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