Working with Bold Colors: Four Tips for Color-Shy Homeowners

Although bold colors have been trending the last few years, many homeowners wonder, “How much is too much?”

In my design work, I have been including more color lately. I thought that readers would appreciate some tips on working with bold colors in a balanced way.

Starting small

If you’re new to using bold paint or wallpaper colors, try them in a smaller space like a powder room first. Brightly colored accessories such as throw pillows, stools, ottomans, blankets, etc. also can be swapped out easily or repainted if you get tired of them.

Picking the dominant color

The size of your room determines how much color you can comfortably accommodate. In a large room, it would be overwhelming to use a bold paint color on all four walls. In small and medium rooms, however, you can get away with a bold base color.

Some colors can function as neutrals, even if they aren’t traditionally thought of as such. For example, navy blue and moss green are soothing to the eye and often used as base colors.

Picking your secondary colors

Before you commit to a bold color, pick out your secondary colors to go with it. One good formula is to have 60% of your room be in a neutral color, 30% in a stronger color, and the last 10% for your boldest colored accessories.

Artwork, like this floral painting over the sofa, adds a burst of color to a room.

You can get away with very vibrant shades of blue by pairing them with white. After all, it’s a color combination that our eyes are used to seeing — think of white clouds in a blue sky. If you want your room to be energizing, decorating with one bold color and lots of black and white will give you the high-contrast look you need.

For balance and depth, use different, less-intense tones of your boldest color throughout the room.

Coordinate the rest of your home

While not every room in your home needs to have the same color scheme, it’s important that the colors flow naturally. For example, if your sitting room has green walls and white accents, the next room over could be mostly white with bright green accents.

Although every year sees new colors come into fashion, try not to focus exclusively on what’s trending. A room with a well-balanced, aesthetically pleasing color scheme will always look great no matter the year.

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Margaret Chambers

Margaret Chambers, a registered interior designer (RID) and member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), leads Chambers Interiors and Associates. Her colleague Caitlin Crowley helped edit this column. Find more design advice at

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