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For a whole-house scheme, Zimmer suggests using the same three colors but varying which ones play the starring and supporting roles. If you’re thinking on a smaller scale, consider adding a single dose of a color you love to just one element in a room, such as the inside of a built-in bookcase. “Painting one surface or an interesting architectural detail is such a great way to get some bold punch,” says Ann McGuire, a color consultant for Valspar and founder of Beehive Studios. Wall colors that relate to each other draw the eye from one area to the next, creating a harmonious flow.

An entry hall and adjacent room in soft shades of complementary red and green—opposites on the color wheel—has a soothing effect. Paired with a honey-hued wood floor, the brick red and olive green work as neutral earth tones.

Here, a door casing acts as a frame, cleanly setting off the dining room’s warm yellow walls and the foyer’s cool green. A single field of color can set off a room’s best assets—both the built-in details and the artwork and furnishings you introduce. Painting the exterior wall of this all-white studio a leafy green draws attention to its peaked ceiling as well as the outside views glimpsed through the French doors and windows. Bold red on this accent wall puts the focus on a collection of framed photos while providing a warm and energizing foil to the room’s pale neutral furnishings. Here, grayish green behind the dining table helps carve out a distinct eating area within a whitewashed kitchen. While white on high may make rooms feel airier, color can add comfort and personality where it’s least expected.

Painting this tongue-and-groove ceiling bright red lowers it visually, making the glass-walled room feel cozier. A red area rug, chairs, and table lamps reinforce the effect at ground level.

An activity-oriented gathering space, the kitchen is ideal for energetic color, a lively departure from traditional white.

Saturated hues are often found in the lower portion of paint strips, with lighter tints—such as this lemony trim—at the top.

Beige walls and a caramel-tinted floor bring out the warm yellow undertones in the cabinetry’s scene-stealing green paint. Black counters and stainless-steel appliances give what might otherwise seem like an old-fashioned paint palette an updated and sophisticated look.

Red paint on the dining table and yellow on the cabinet doors’ window muntins add cheery accents for the last 10 percent. A hit of color can turn the functional elements in a room into eye-catching focal points.

A minty hue inside this corner cupboard echoes the green paint on the dining chairs and highlights the array of dishes and decorative objects displayed on the shelves.

Crisp white paint on the outside, surrounded by natural pine wall paneling, gives the built-in a fresh, cottage-style look. Painting the back panel of this shelving unit the same sunny yellow that’s used on the surrounding walls gives the built-in a light, airy look to balance the heft of the attached wardrobe. Instead of the typical arrangement of white trim set against a colored wall, a glossy pumpkin-colored paint—selected to match the laminate countertop—highlights crown molding, open shelving, and door casing.

Using the same paint for wall paneling, doors, and moldings, such as the fiery tomato gloss used here, adds drama to a room, says Debbie Zimmer.


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