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Using Color Accents Well: Mostly Sparingly, Occasionally Overwhelmingly

Let’s get really basic for a second here. Color is one of the first things most of us consider when picking out, well, anything. We might find the perfect pair of shoes or style of jeans, but if they are in an ugly or unpleasant color, we pass them over. And even if they are a color we like, colors clash, or wash us out, or just aren’t suited to the situation (bright magenta dress for a funeral, sober black for a garden party, etc.) The same goes for decor. Learning how to use color to your advantage can make or break a room. Here are a few tips and tricks for implementing it well.

An End of Neutrality 

Little pops of color go great with more neutral tones. (Jennifer Brouwer Design inc)
Little pops of color go great with more neutral tones. (Jennifer Brouwer Design inc)

There is a reason that we call unconventional or eccentric people “colorful”. Color just can’t help but command your attention. It can draw the eye faster than even the most outrageous pattern or outlandish furniture choice. Keeping this in mind, a little goes a long way. Little isolated pops of color (especially bright ones like red or yellow) can add visual interest to an otherwise neutral-toned room. In the photo above the decorator has chosen a number of colorful accents–a vase, pillows, and flowers–staying on theme while adding some variety.

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Deck the Halls

The right color can wake up a sleepy section of your home. (By Joe Carrick Design)
The right color can wake up a sleepy section of your home. (By Joe Carrick Design)

Don’t just limit your color harmony to a living room or bedroom. Halls and foyers are the first section of your home your guests will see, and are perfect for playing around with a little. Color motifs don’t only have to come in the form of accents or knick-knacks. Painting a door or a single wall is a great way to use an unusual or shocking hue without it becoming overwhelming. The turquoise in the above picture would be gaudy if applied with a heavy hand, but on the door and rug it’s perfect.

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Upside Down, Topsy Turvy 

Inverting color schemes adds variety to decor. (By Scott Weston Architecture Design PL)
Inverting color schemes adds variety to decor. (By Scott Weston Architecture Design PL)

Alternatively, you could turn all that advice on its head and something completely opposite. A room saturated with color, with little sprinkles of white or grey or some other neutral is a bold, fresh idea. Neutral accents could be anything from a lamp, to a cushion, to a bowl of white lilies, and this motif would probably work best in a room with a lot natural light. You wouldn’t want to go overboard; a house with multiple oversaturated rooms could quickly become oppressive.

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A Little Outside for the Inside 

Tone up your palette of greens with a little bit of green. (By Marthat O'Hara Interiors)
Tone up your palette of greens with a little bit of green. (By Martha O’Hara Interiors)

Looking for something a little more natural, a little more ‘found object’? No better color to add to a room than the most natural color of them all: green. Houseplants are a simple and low-cost choice for breaking up a decor scheme without being ostentatious. In the picture above the style is echoed in the floral patterns of the cushions and drapes, but honestly it’s hard to find a motif that won’t match a plant.

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Unusually Creative

Consider unusual or underutilized color combinations. (By Favreau Designs)
Consider unusual or underutilized color combinations. (By Favreau Designs)

You know those colors that very few people can pull off in fashion–orange, burgundy, lavender, certain tones of off-white? The same goes for interior decorating. There are certain colors that can quickly overwhelm a space when used in too great a concentration, but when applied sparingly can bring out a trendy creativity that you can’t get from more conservative hues. An orange or gold chair might seem like a daring choice, but can work well when paired with more neutral-colored rug or walls.

Color theory is something artists spend years studying and perfecting, so don’t worry if it takes a little while to get things together. When it comes down to it, colors are just fun to play around with.
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