If you’re someone who has been bookmarking and pinning photos of maximalist rooms splashed with varying colors, patterns, textures, and even motifs from floor to ceiling, it may be easy to mistake this kind of aesthetic as effortless. But experts would argue otherwise, and this can be especially true when it comes to choosing your hues. While the beauty of eclectic interior styles arguably lies in the fact that it seems to defy rules, there are some key color rules in interior design to learn before you dramatically change your own space.
Yes, there’s a method to the madness of a boldly colorful room, and this can be true whether you’re starting small (by adding in accents like artwork, textiles, and creative storage solutions) or going for broke (painting the entire room a dramatic shade). Interior designers will tell you this is particularly true because color can have such a personal, emotional effect on you. You want the choices you make to not only be ones you can live with, but that sincerely bring you joy (or whatever mood you’re looking to create — but more on that later).
Thankfully, even if you’re not collaborating with an expert for a color makeover in your home, there are some tips and tricks you can heed that will make committing a whole lot easier — and make the overall effect feel like you. Ahead, find out what some designers believe you need to know before breaking open that can of fuchsia paint or spending a small fortune on rugs and wall art that ultimately don’t play well together. With a few of these color lessons applied to your home, you can finally nail that “accidentally chic” maximalist look that’s actually anything but accidental.
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Seek Out Inspiration
Your color inspiration could come from anywhere: a travel souvenir, a family heirloom, a children’s drawing. Anything, really. But not to fear if you haven’t yet found your design muse. According to Mel Bean of Mel Bean Interiors, it might be as easy as looking through photos on your phone. “Create an album on your phone where you save photos of any color combinations that speak to you, no matter the content,” she tells TZR. “Some recent combinations I’ve saved are the purple fading to green found in an artichoke; the cream, caramel, black, and icy blue colors found in a jaguar with piercing blue eyes; and the textural teal, red, lavender, and aqua of a wall of graffiti we saw on a trip to Athens.”
Another common inspiration source could be a piece of furniture or accessory you already own. “Most often, a client has something special to them, like a vintage rug, an antique, or a piece of art that helps launch their color story,” says Georgia Zikas of Georgia Zikas Design. If it is art you’re pulling from, Melanie Thomas of Melanie Thomas Design has some advice for keeping the space harmonious. “Find your favorite piece that suits the space and start picking out colors from the art (no more than three or four for safety right now),” she explains. “For a bold choice and extra contrast, choose the less used color in the piece to paint your walls. If the artwork is particularly bright, go one or two stops more muted from the art to paint your walls.”
Choose Your Mood
“Color, wielded properly, can be used to create any atmosphere you desire,” says Bean. “Understanding the impact a specific color palette will create is largely intuitive. A room wrapped entirely in blush will create a soft atmosphere, but that can be changed by what is added to it. Deep navy, with touches of coral and red, can feel sophisticated and dramatic. But choosing lavender, aquamarine, and black changes the same atmosphere dramatically.”
That popular green decor trend? According to Aimee Wertepny of PROjECT. Interiors, this is a great option for anyone looking to create a space that feels calm and grounded. “As a reflection of nature, green can literally soothe the soul,” she explains. As for something that’s more moody, Wertepny loves playing with black in a room, even if it’s just setting off a nook. “We’re all about high-contrast design and high drama, and black is a sure way to set the mood if done correctly.”
And if your bedroom is the spot you are revamping with color, Grace Brackman, an interior designer at Maggie Griffin Design, says you can never really go wrong with blue — a hue she believes creates a soothing effect. And who couldn’t use a little more of that in their sleep sanctuary?
Try Complementary Combos
In the traditional sense, complementary colors are those opposite of one another on the color wheel. For example: yellow and purple, blue and orange, and red and green. This is one way to consider combinations for your boldly colored room’s palette, but experts also say there are other ways to choose duos (or trios, and so on) that are going to complement one another. Elisa Baran of Elisa Baran, LLC loves the idea of playing with primaries — but with a twist. “The classic primary colors (red, blue, and green), but in less vibrant pigments, are a great way to add depth, uniqueness, and fun to your space,” she explains. “Think ruby red, royal blue, and forest green. Adding pops of these colors through upholstered chairs or pillows will be sure to get the attention of your guests.”
Andi Morse, founder and principal designer of Morse Design, adds that “complementary” could also simply mean colors that work with the rest of your home. “If you have a gray home, choose colors with gray in them,” she tells TZR. “For example, lots of blues have a gray tint. Blue and gray work well together.”
Or Go For Major Contrast
Of course, part of the fun of a creating a maximalist effect is choosing colors that are deliberately more shocking. Thomas suggests that you can go this route by pairing bright, punchy colors with muted, muddier colors. “Examples are olive with highlighter yellow, lilac with burgundy, mustard with chartreuse, chocolate brown with sky blue,” she shares. “The muddy color will mellow out the brighter color and the brighter color will liven up the darker color and make your space feel more layered.”
Start With A Small Space
While it may seem intimidating to try out a dramatic color in a small space, interior designers like Zikas actually recommend such areas of the home as a starting point. Think entryways, galley kitchens, vanities, and bathrooms, where you can create an intimate and immersive environment more easily through color and pattern. “I love to doll up an entry vestibule and I love to use bold color or interesting wallpaper or textures,” she suggests. “The depth of color creates a vortex that can ‘suck you in’ to the space, inviting you in, almost to say, ‘come further, I have more to show you.’”
As for some specific recommendations, Thomas tells TZR she’s got a few current favorite colors for such spaces. “Lean into the smallness and go bold with terracotta, grayish blue, rich buttery olive green, or vermillion,” the interior expert says.
Commit To One (Bold) Color
Go a step further than an accent wall and commit to one impactful floor to ceiling color. While this sounds simple enough, there’s actually a lot to consider here. For one, how much natural light you have in the room can help you determine how deep of a shade to use. And experts say it’s incredibly important to swatch before you start, as a can of paint you buy online can look very different in your home. “Paint a swatch on your wall and observe the color at different times of day,” suggests Summer Jensen of Hawk & Co. “With the lights on and off, in shadow and direct sunlight.”
Brackman’s favorite use of this this consuming color method is in a study, or any place you want to feel “moody and handsome.” In these cases, she opts for a dark green or navy to really pack a punch. You can leave the room mostly monochromatic, or break up the color with plants and other accents for a little more variety and balance.
Experiment With Unexpected Places
Why stick to just the walls when you’re painting? “Don’t forget to add color to your cabinetry,” Brackman says. “Ditch white cabinets and go for a more impactful color. In the kitchen, think about using a taupe or sage green. This will help you stay neutral but bring more interest to your space.”
Another unexpected place to add color to a room? Paint the ceiling! According to the interior expert, this can greatly enhance a space.
Don’t Forget The Finishes
Matte, satin, semi-gloss, the sheen (or lack thereof) of your paint can have more impact than you think, as it can change how a certain color is read completely. “When using bold color, the finish helps the paint fit the space,” says Nina Grauer, Dekay & Tate. “For instance, in one of our clients’ dining room, the color palette includes black, white, mahogany, and gold. The open floor plan leads into the living room, where a bit more color is at play: a lot of greens, oranges, rust tones, black, and ivory, which help bring the rooms into more of a cohesive space. The two bold colors we went with [in the living room] were a rusty orange with a venetian finish and olive green with a semi-gloss finish for shelving. If a lacquer/high gloss finish were to be used in the dining room, the color would overwhelm the space. If the same venetian finish were to be used on the shelves in the living room the space wouldn’t look as polished as it could.”