Pick a Palette


A FRESH COAT OF PAINT is an easy and inexpensive way to finish the design of a new space or simply to refresh an existing décor. I like to narrow the choices by considering: personal preferences (favorite colors, style of décor); lifestyle (how the space will be used and by whom); physical aspects of the space (lighting and architectural details); and the mood or feeling desired for the room. In a master bedroom you might consider softer, more relaxing colors such as blues and greens. For an active family room, go with more vibrant colors like orange and lime.

A color scheme for a room, and ultimately the entire home, can be formulated from the colors found in a patterned fabric on a chair or sofa, an area rug or a piece of art. Then vary them in value (lightness and darkness) and intensity (brightness or dullness). 

Janet Vesterfelt, Design Consultant
Ethan Allen Design Center

YOU MAY LIKE A COLOR from a magazine interior, but is it just the color you like or the surroundings that make the impact? Consider all the variables that affect the color on your walls. Decide on a theme for the room. Flooring and fabrics play a huge role in enhancing a theme so pick these out ahead of time. Assess your lighting situation. Natural light from windows facing north/south will create a cool color whereas windows facing east/west create a warm color. Fluorescent lighting has a tendency to add a green tone to a room. Halogen lighting will give your room a warm glow. Decide whether you want to include stone or wood on your walls. Wainscot, crown molding and baseboards all contribute to the hue, value and saturation of a color.

When you finally pick a color, place three 15-inch-by-15-inch color swatches on the wall in different areas of the room to observe the color in morning, afternoon and evening light. This allows you to determine the right value, saturation and hue.

Beth Lachatié, Allied Member Asid
Portico Paint/Lci Interiors

WHAT COLOR ARE MY WALLS? You may be shocked, but mostly white. This is to offset natural muslin-colored clay walls juxtaposed against magenta silk curtain panels, a Hermes orange custom coffee table and brightly striped chair. White is the best neutral for any color palette. The right white can make or break a space. I use it sparingly in traditional homes. In modern spaces there cannot be enough, which allows for smaller bite-size amounts of brighter hues to shine. There are many shades of white to choose from. It helps if you put your chosen color chips next to the white you are choosing to see if the secondary pigment in it is blue, green, yellow or pink.

White has been used as a safe color but in small spaces it doesn’t necessarily make a space feel larger. White can be sterile or too plain if not paired with colors for contrast. I stay away from warmer palettes in small rooms as they can make it feel smaller. Cooler tones or neutrals can make a room feel larger because the walls recess visually.

Jennifer Guerin, Interior Designer/Color Consultant
Jg Color Studios


I LIKE COLOR BECAUSE IT ENHANCES so many elements of an interior. Color can be bold or it can be soft. Either way, color should be selected and located with great care. Not all spaces need a color accent or the drama created by color.The architecture of a home, the natural and artificial lighting and the shapes within a room must be taken into consideration when contemplating the addition of color. Spanish Colonial Revival architecture with its rounded corners, tile details, arches and wood accents is interesting enough without adding color on the walls.Create drama in a dining room by painting the entire room a strong color, leaving the crown molding, base, casings and doors in white for a crisp accent. Accentuate the architecture in a contemporary home by applying color to certain planes of a room to make it more interesting. A special piece of art can become the focal point of a room if you create a strong color backdrop.

Charlotte Jensen, Fasid, Cid
Charlotte Jensen & Associates

WHEN IT COMES TO color in your rooms, I recommend sourcing inspirational photos from current design magazines or image search on the Internet. Gather images that speak to you and your current décor. Once you’ve got an inspirational theme, you can pull color from the palette of a paint chart that reflects where you want to go.  You don’t have to paint every wall in a room to make a drastic difference. Just highlight the feature wall of a room with an accent color. You can repeat that color hue throughout the room with accent pillows, window treatments, artwork or accessories to pull the room together.  Keep it simple when you embellish with accents. The eye is always looking for a place to rest. You are on the right track as long as the room feels warm and inviting. 

Stephanie Malcolm, Designer 
Room By Room

Front Door: Expert Advice
By Phylis Van Doren 

Categories: Home Design