Living with Bright, Bold Color

Spice your space with brave new hues

Bold color pillows

Why is it that choosing a paint color should be so intimidating? When we're kids, we use our crayons and finger paints with abandon and everything seems to look good. Then somehow as homeowners, selecting color becomes a question of what will serve the architecture, set a mood, or reflect our great taste. The pleasure of playing with color deserts us and instead we're left with the conflicting advice of shelter magazines and designers.

If you have painting projects, you've probably picked up a magazine or two to find out what is the latest in color trends. Magazines touting "Surefire Plans" beckon you, so you plunk down your hard-earned cash and thumb hopefully through their pages looking for the right color scheme to take your room from boring to beautifully vibrant. You while away hours watching home shows and marveling as designers do amazing things with colors ranging from chartreuse to fuchsia that are so cool they should be illegal.

Be bright?

When choosing bright color, first consider what the space is for. Is it an office, a bedroom, or a dining room? Are you going to want to be soothed by the surrounding color or stimulated? Is your home a sanctuary from a frenetic professional life, or a creative haven from which you expect to write the Great American Novel?

Another consideration is whether the color will be visible from the outside of your home. You may find that your 60s earth-tone ranch style home just doesn't look good with the vibrant color you crave. Believe it or not, your neighbors might ask you what you were thinking when you painted the dining room sunflower yellow.

Tropical brights
Tropical brights and a neutral
background offer color,
flexibility.

Be bold

One of the problems with all this information about color is that it is often more confusing than helpful. A photo of a chartreuse sofa with orange-red accent pillows set against an eye-popping lemon yellow wall makes for a really cool photograph, but will it work in your house?

Living with bold colors like red, jade green, or citrusy yellows can be difficult. They are intense, saturated colors and their effect can be overwhelming.

Taking cues from nature is often used as a rationale for punchy color choices. A room with blue and green carpeting next to peach-colored walls can be rationalized because "peaches in the tree against a blue sky look good" but it doesn't necessarily mean that it works. Just because Mother Nature can get away with it doesn't mean you can too.

If you have your heart set on bright color, consider the following tips:

Be brave

In the final analysis, nothing you do is permanent. In most rooms, you can spend $50 on a couple gallons of paint and a few hours later have a completely new space. If you make a mistake, paint over it.

If you resist the idea of impetuously jumping in with both feet, rent or buy a small quantity of paint and an 18 x 24 inch prestretched canvas from the craft supply store. Paint it with your background color and move it around the room to see how it works in various lights. After a few days, you'll have a good sense of whether it will work in your room.

If you like what you see, get going.

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