No color is too bold for decor

Associated PressJuly 10, 2014 

It might be practical to decorate your home with neutral colors and muted earth tones – no need to worry about colors clashing if almost everything is white, beige and light brown.

But what if you’re a fan of vivid orange, lime green or a luscious shade of lavender?

These colors can be tricky to use successfully in decor. But you don’t need to avoid them, says interior designer Brian Patrick Flynn, creator of the Flynnside Out design blog. Just use them carefully.

“It’s a game of balance,” Flynn says. “Once you get that right, just about any color can be spectacular.”

Flynn and designers Kyle Schueman and Betsy Burnham share advice on decorating successfully even with the most complicated colors.

Pick one wild shade

For a client who loved lime green, Kyle Schuneman, author of “The First Apartment Book: Cool Design for Small Spaces,” covered one dining room wall with wallpaper that combined bright lime green with a muted sage green. He painted the other three walls in the neutral sage.

“There can only be one star in a room,” he says. “If you want a bold color, then you already have your star.”

Betsy Burnham of California-based Burnham Design agrees: “Orange next to screaming lime green next to fuchsia,” she says, “doesn’t belong in a grown-up space.” But fuchsia paired with olive green can look chic.

The same approach works for paler colors. Pastel pink used with pastel yellow and pastel blue creates an overload of sweetness. But a light pastel pink can be gorgeous paired with a dark, calming navy blue.

Adjust your shade

When clients are considering a very bright color, Brian Patrick Flynn often advises them to choose one “two shades lighter or less saturated than the one they’re iffy about.”

“Nine times out of 10,” he says, “they end up still getting the effect, but without the color becoming too saturated to live with.”

No matter what the color, pick a shade that’s got some gray mixed in. For a living room done in shades of purple and lavender, Betsy Burnham chose a sofa fabric that was a mix of gray and purple, and used a white paint infused with a bit of gray on the walls.

“Gray has a way of calming a color down,” Kyle Schuneman says, making it “feel velvety and more soothing.”

Accents instead of walls

“There are lots of ways to incorporate color without having to commit to a wall color,” Kyle Schuneman says. “Paint an old media cabinet in a bold purple to make it a hot conversation piece.”

Taxicab yellow walls would be awful, but one bright yellow throw or ceramic lamp could satisfy your desire for that shade without overpowering a room, Betsy Burnham says.

If your heart is set on a tough color and you’re not content with adding just a single accessory, she suggests consulting an expert. Many interior designers will do a color consultation, walking through your home to discuss how favorite colors might work there.

Embrace the blues

Rather than layering a room with creams and beiges, consider blues. Designer Kyle Schuneman thinks of blue as a neutral and has used shades from sky to royal to navy in his home.

Even vivid blues can have a calming effect. “Everyone gravitates to oceans and lakes, and it makes people feel good,” Schuneman says.

Brian Patrick Flynn says the payoff can be fabulous. “To make a splash with blue in a bold way, I suggest using Klein Blue, also referred to as electric blue,” he says. “It’s got a ton of purple mixed in, so it feels rather royal. And when you mix it with red, it’s magical.”

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